Wide receivers: There are two ways for a receiver to score a
long touchdown on a pass play: run and catch the ball, or catch
the ball and run. Texas senior WANE MCGARITY scored both ways in
the Longhorns' 38-11 rout of Mississippi State in the Cotton
Bowl. McGarity beat two Bulldogs defensive backs on a post
pattern for a 59-yard touchdown and later took a pass in the
left flat and raced 52 yards for another score. Tennessee senior
PEERLESS PRICE closed his college career in grand style by
catching four passes for 199 yards against Florida State. A
76-yard reception set up the Vols' first score, and then a
79-yarder for a TD clinched the national title for Tennessee.
Left tackle: All-SEC senior ZACH PILLER of Florida led a line
that allowed Doug Johnson and Jesse Palmer enough time to throw
for more than 100 yards each and created the holes for tailback
Terry Jackson, who rushed for 108 yards in the Gators' 31-10
defeat of Syracuse in the Orange Bowl.
Left guard: How much has Miami junior RICHARD MERCIER meant to
the Hurricanes over the past four seasons? Ask Miami offensive
line coach Art Kehoe. "When he was injured, we were 4-6," says
Kehoe. "When he has started, we're 26-8." Mercier, an import
from Montreal, led a line that helped produce 594 yards of total
offense and didn't allow anyone to come close to sacking
quarterback Scott Covington in Miami's 46-23 thrashing of North
Carolina State in the Micron PC Bowl.
Center: Four years ago, Ole Miss coach Tommy Tuberville asked
MATT LUKE to walk on, and the 6'2", 260-pounder became a stalwart
in the Rebels' climb to success. In his final game he shut down
Texas Tech All-America lineman Montae Reagor in Mississippi's
35-18 Independence Bowl upset.
Right guard: TCU senior GREG DAVIS, who was suspended by the
NCAA for 11 games over the last two seasons after testing
positive for steroid use in 1997, found some redemption in the
Sun Bowl when he helped the Horned Frogs rush for 314 yards in
their shocking 28-19 defeat of USC. After the game TCU coach
Dennis Franchione made special mention of Davis's blocking for
tailback Basil Mitchell, who ran for 185 yards and two touchdowns.
Right tackle: Thanks to some gigantic holes created by 372-pound
Wisconsin senior AARON GIBSON, the Badgers controlled the ground
and shocked UCLA 38-31 in the Rose Bowl.
Fullback: Ohio State shut down Texas A&M's offense, except for
260-pound freshman JA'MAR TOOMBS, who rumbled for 62 yards on 10
carries, caught two passes for 19 yards and laid some crushing
blocks in support of tailbacks Dante Hall and Sirr Parker.
Tailback: What is the exchange rate for rushing yards against
UCLA? Do they count as much as yards gained against a team that
can tackle? Maybe not, but Wisconsin junior RON DAYNE's 246 yards
and four touchdowns against the Bruins were still remarkable.
Quarterback: For all the stellar plays Tulane senior SHAUN KING
has made in his career, his best may have been persuading
offensive coordinator Rich Rodriguez not to join former Green
Wave coach Tommy Bowden at Clemson until after the Liberty Bowl.
With Rodriguez calling the plays, King threw for 276 yards and
two touchdowns while rushing for 109 yards and a third score in
Tulane's 41-27 defeat of BYU.
Tackles: While UCLA focused on stopping Wisconsin All-America
end Tom Burke, Badgers freshman WENDELL BRYANT came through the
Bruins line to make four tackles and a sack, a fourth-down bear
hug of Cade McNown that sealed the win. Florida freshman GERARD
WARREN was a disruptive force with two tackles and a sack in the
Gators' blowout of Syracuse.
Ends: Kansas State allowed only 14 sacks in 12 games before the
Wildcats ran into Purdue seniors ROSEVELT COLVIN and Chike
Okeafor in the Alamo Bowl. They combined for five sacks of
Michael Bishop, but we put Colvin on our team because he also
blocked a field goal attempt and forced a fumble that led to a
Boilermakers field goal in the 37-34 upset. Virginia Tech junior
COREY MOORE blocked a punt to set up one TD and spent much of
the day in the Alabama backfield as the Hokies romped 38-7 in
the Music City Bowl. Moore also had one sack in earning game MVP
Linebackers: In the first quarter of the Sugar Bowl, Ohio State
ran away from Texas A&M senior DAT NGUYEN, the Lombardi Award
winner, and he made only two tackles. But by the end of the
game, Nguyen had his typical 14 tackles and an atypical two
sacks (he had only four all season). Florida senior MIKE
PETERSON spent his career in the shadow of teammate Jevon
Kearse, but Peterson led the Gators this season with 127 tackles
and added 12 more against Syracuse. Tennessee sophomore ERIC
WESTMORELAND had one sack, three tackles for losses and
delivered a menacing sideline hit to Florida State quarterback
Cornerbacks: Anyone could have predicted that Arizona
All-America CHRIS MCALISTER would intercept two passes and
recover a fumble in the Wildcats' 23-20 victory over Nebraska in
the Holiday Bowl. But no one could have predicted Missouri
sophomore JULIAN JONES's impact against West Virginia in the
Insight.com Bowl. Jones, who started because coach Larry Smith
had suspended Wade Perkins for violating team rules, made 10
tackles, intercepted a pass, blocked a punt for a safety and
returned a free kick 39 yards to begin a touchdown drive in the
Tigers' 34-31 victory.
Free safety: Texas A&M couldn't run against Ohio State (96
yards), and with junior GARY BERRY on patrol, the Aggies didn't
pass well, either. A&M's Branndon Stewart completed 22 of 39
passes for 187 yards, a meager 4.8 yards per attempt. Berry, with
a team-leading 12 tackles, made yards after the catch hard to
Strong safety: Colorado beat Oregon 51-43 in an Aloha Bowl
shoot-'em-up. Imagine how many more points the Ducks could have
scored if Buffaloes sophomore JOHN SANDERS hadn't intercepted a
pass, forced one fumble and returned another 23 yards.
Kick returner: After Colorado sophomore BEN KELLY ran back the
opening kickoff 93 yards for a touchdown, Oregon learned its
lesson. The Ducks kicked off six more times but allowed Kelly to
get his hands on only two of them.
Placekicker: TRAVIS FORNEY booted four field goals for Penn State
in the Nittany Lions' 26-14 Outback Bowl victory over Kentucky.
Punter: North Carolina junior BRIAN SCHMITZ mastered a 50-mph
wind at Sam Boyd Stadium and averaged 44 yards on five punts,
four of which pinned San Diego State inside its 11-yard line.
The Tar Heels won the Las Vegas Bowl 20-13.
Coach: Someday, coach JOE TILLER and the Boilermakers will get
some respect. Until then, they'll continue to sneak up on teams,
much as they did against Kansas State.
COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPH BY RICHARD MACKSON RUSH HOUR Dayne ripped through UCLA's porous D for 246 yards in the Rose Bowl. [Ron Dayne]