Wide receivers: This season Ole Miss ranked ninth in the nation
in passing defense, but nobody told West Virginia junior Antonio
Brown. He caught six passes for 156 yards and two touchdowns in
the Mountaineers' 49-38 victory in the Music City Bowl. Once
North Carolina State spotted Minnesota a 24-0 lead in the
Micronpc.com Bowl, sophomore Koren Robinson went to work. He
finished with seven receptions for 157 yards and a touchdown,
added a 19-yard score on a reverse and gained 151 yards in kick
returns as the Wolfpack rallied to win 38-30.
Tackles: Senior Elliot Silvers opened one hole after another on
the weak side as Washington pummeled Purdue into submission,
34-24, in the Rose Bowl. In rushing for 268 yards, the Huskies
nearly doubled the average (139.1 yards) that the Boilermakers
gave up during the season. North Carolina State senior Jarvis
Borum, a 6'7", 341-pounder known as Big Earth, held Minnesota
defensive end Karon Riley, the 1999 Big Ten sack leader, to two
tackles and no sacks in the Micronpc.com Bowl.
Guards: Nebraska senior Russ Hochstein bulldozed the left side of
the Northwestern defensive line as the Huskers rushed for 476
yards in winning the Alamo Bowl 66-17. In his 45th start for
Michigan, senior Steve Hutchinson helped create the holes through
which Anthony Thomas rushed for most of his 182 yards and his two
touchdowns in the Wolverines' 31-28 defeat of Auburn in the
Florida Citrus Bowl.
Center: Georgia junior Curt McGill made four knockdown blocks and
didn't allow a pressure of quarterback Cory Phillips in the
Bulldogs' 37-14 rout of Virginia in the Oahu Bowl. McGill also
threw two important blocks--one at the line, one downfield--on
Terrence Edwards's 40-yard first-quarter touchdown run on a
Tight end: Sophomore Jeremy Shockey caught two of the biggest
touchdown passes of the season for Miami--the winning score
against Florida State in October and the first touchdown in the
37-20 defeat of Florida in the Sugar Bowl. Shockey had four
catches for 47 yards against the Gators.
Quarterback: Junior Brad Lewis of West Virginia completed all
seven of his first-half attempts for 216 yards and four
touchdowns to give the Mountaineers a 35-9 lead over Ole Miss in
the Music City Bowl. Lewis, who had only eight touchdown passes
during the regular season, threw for 318 yards and five TDs
against the Rebels.
Running backs: South Carolina coach Lou Holtz knew how to
motivate sophomore Ryan Brewer, a native of Troy, Ohio, before
the Gamecocks played Ohio State in the Outback Bowl. Holtz
reminded Brewer, who had rushed for 7,656 yards at Troy High,
that Buckeyes coach John Cooper had passed on him. After playing
wideout all season, Brewer returned to the backfield to gain 109
yards and score two touchdowns on 19 carries and catch three
passes for 92 yards and another touchdown in the Gamecocks' 24-7
win. The last thing a tackler trying to gain traction on a snowy
artificial surface needs is Texas A&M junior Ja'Mar Toombs
bearing down on him. The 6-foot, 275-pound Toombs became the
first two-time SI All-Bowl selectee in the three-year history of
this mythical team by rumbling for 193 yards and three
touchdowns in the Aggies' 43-41 overtime loss to Mississippi
State in the Independence Bowl.
Ends: Because of Nebraska senior Kyle Vanden Bosch, Northwestern
left tackle Leon Brockmeier will remember the Alamo Bowl. Three
of Vanden Bosch's five tackles were behind the line, and he
swatted down one pass in the Huskers' rout. If Tennessee freshman
quarterback Casey Clausen can resist the urge to burn the
videotape of his Cotton Bowl performance (seven completions in
25 attempts, three interceptions), he'll see Kansas State senior
Chris Johnson sack him twice in the Wildcats' 35-21 win.
Tackles: Mississippi State senior Willie Blade, after making 16
tackles in regulation, including four behind the line of
scrimmage, made his best Independence Bowl play in overtime. He
sliced up the middle and blocked a Texas A&M point-after attempt
that was returned 85 yards for a defensive two-point conversion,
the final margin in the Bulldogs' win. Thanks to David Pugh,
Virginia Tech didn't need to blitz Clemson to control the line.
The 6'3", 271-pound junior, who had one sack and two hurries of
Tigers quarterback Woody Dantzler plus four other tackles, spent
the day in the Clemson backfield as the Hokies' defense led the
way to a 41-20 Gator Bowl victory.
Outside linebackers: Oregon State senior Darnell Robinson forced
two turnovers to fuel the Beavers' 29-point third quarter in
their 41-9 Fiesta Bowl thumping of Notre Dame. Marshall junior
Michael Owens scored a safety by tackling Cincinnati tailback Ray
Jackson in the end zone, blitzed his way to two sacks and had 11
tackles, three for a loss, in the Thundering Herd's 25-14 triumph
in the Motor City Bowl.
Middle linebacker: Southern Mississippi freshman Rod Davis
stalked TCU Heisman finalist LaDainian Tomlinson for four
quarters in the Mobile Alabama Bowl, and it paid off with a
28-21 upset victory. Davis made 14 tackles, including 10 of
Tomlinson, who rushed for a season-low 118 yards.
Cornerbacks: Oregon junior Rashad Bauman stands only 5'8", but he
held 6'5" Texas freshman Roy Williams to just two catches in the
Ducks' 35-30 victory in the Holiday Bowl. Bauman also made five
tackles, and his interception at the Oregon 15-yard line with
1:24 remaining sealed the win. After Reche Caldwell of Florida
burned Miami for six catches and 110 yards in the first half,
sophomore Phillip Buchanon got busy. Caldwell caught no passes in
the second half, and Buchanon's fourth-quarter interception set
up the Hurricanes' final touchdown in their Sugar Bowl victory.
Strong safety: The last of senior John Howell's eight tackles
helped Colorado State seal its 22-17 Liberty Bowl victory over
Louisville. On fourth-and-seven at the Cardinals' 40, Howell
stopped quarterback Dave Ragone for a one-yard gain with 3:46 to
Free safety: Oklahoma senior J. T. Thatcher made sure no Florida
State receiver filled the shoes of academically ineligible Marvin
Minnis as quarterback Chris Weinke's go-to guy. Thatcher, who
recovered quickly from a jarring hit in the first half of the
Orange Bowl, had six tackles and broke up two passes in the
Sooners' 13-2 victory.
Kicker: Miami sophomore Todd Sievers made three field goals, but
none were as long as the 50-yard extra point he booted following
two 15-yard penalties after Miami's last TD.
Punter: Boise State senior Jeff Edwards averaged 42.6 yards on
seven punts, but it was his 22-yard run on a fake punt early in
the fourth quarter that set up the touchdown that broke open the
Broncos' 38-23 Humanitarian Bowl win over UTEP.
Returner: East Carolina generously lists senior Keith Stokes at
5'8", 180 pounds. Take away an inch and 10 pounds, and you'll
have the guy who floored Texas Tech in the Galleryfurniture.com
Bowl the first two times he touched the ball. His 37-yard kickoff
return to start the game set up the Pirates' first touchdown, and
his 71-yard punt return for a TD minutes later set the tone for
their 40-27 victory. Stokes finished with 187 return yards and
266 all-purpose yards.
Coach: Fresno State's Pat Hill kept his players focused after
they fell behind Air Force 34-7 in the Silicon Valley Bowl, and
when the Bulldogs pulled to within 37-34 he disdained a 33-yard
field goal attempt with 14 seconds to go and called for a fake
kick. The ensuing pass fell incomplete, but what kid wouldn't
want to play for a coach like that?
COLOR PHOTO: SCOTT MARTIN/AP EXTREME BOWLING South Carolina's Brewer (21) and Oregon State's Robinson ended the year with striking performances.
COLOR PHOTO: JOHN W. MCDONOUGH [See caption above]