5 Thoughts On The Raycom Media Camellia Bowl

5 Thoughts and what's next for the Raycom Media Camellia Bowl

Dec. 20 Raycom Media Camellia Bowl
Bowling Green 33, South Alabama 28
And You Care Because …Just 16 seconds after Bowling Green squandered the lead for the first time all night, WR Roger Lewis wrested it back on a 78-yard touchdown catch from James Knapke with 1:04 left. An interception from Bowling Green’s Jude Adjei-Barimah on the ensuing drive ended South Alabama’s final bid for the victory. Lewis opened the scoring well, hooking up with Knapke from 44 yards out to stake the Falcons to a lead it wouldn’t relinquish until RB Terrance Timmons plunged into the end zone with 1:20 remained in the game.
What Else? Knapke completed 25-of-39 for 369 yards and the two scoring strikes to Lewis to earn game MVP honors.
- South Alabama almost pulled this game out, despite being outgained by more than 100 yards, 516-414.
- Knapke’s top two receivers were Lewis and SMU transfer Gehrig Dieter, who combined for 11 catches for 245 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
- South Alabama QB Brandon Bridge connected on 20-of-37 passes for 279 yards, a touchdown and a pick. He also ran for 41 yards and a score.
Game Rating: B

1. Under no circumstances, none, can you allow Roger Lewis to get behind the secondary late in a tight game. It’s as fundamental as guarding the line in extra innings. South Alabama may be a bowl rookie, but there’s no excuse for letting Bowling Green’s most dangerous offensive weapon win the game from 78 yards out with just over a minute left on the clock. It was a costly breakdown that’s going to haunt the Jaguars in the early stages of the offseason, if not longer. For the Falcons, getting out of Alabama with a first bowl win in a decade is reason to exhale. For a while, it looked as if a blown fourth-quarter lead would result in a season-ending four-game losing streak. But Lewis, with help from QB James Knapke and the Jag secondary, penned a different ending for the 2014 season.

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It may have taken all day, but we finally got our first white-knuckler of the bowl season. It was the first ever Raycom Media Camellia Bowl, and you could play another 30 years and have a hard time topping the ending in the inaugural edition. Bowling Green got up early and looked like it was going to coast to victory, but South Alabama got all “USA” on the Falcons and wouldn’t go down without a fight. Alas, in the end, the Jags just made too many mistakes, including a blown coverage that led to the go-ahead bomb with under two minutes to play, followed up by a forced throw that led to the clinching interception when there was still plenty of time to mount something against a Falcon defense that seemed to be tiring. With the win, it’s BGSU and not South Alabama that gets to wash the bad taste out of its mouth for a dismal end to the regular season.

3. If I’m an NFL GM, I’m taking a flyer on South Alabama QB Brandon Bridge, either on Day 3 or as a priority free agent. Bridge is clearly raw, much the way an underclassmen at the position is unpolished. But, boy, could he ever become a diamond in the rough with intense coaching over the next two or three years. Bridge showed flashes of his potential tonight in the Camellia Bowl, and he has the requisite measurables, arm strength and athleticism to evolve into a next-level playmaker for the organization that can patiently wait for him to develop. The former Alcorn State transfer will be missed, but he can still help the Jaguars’ evolution by continuing to develop, while carrying the USA banner into the NFL.

4. What’s next for South Alabama
This was the year when it was supposed to come together for the offense, and it did in several ways. Now the O has to replace QB Brandon Bridge and top back Kendall Houston. The big issue is on the line where Ucambre Williams and Drew Dearman are gone from the left side. Losing top two receivers Shavarez Smith and Jereme Jones isn’t a positive, either, and not having safety valve TE Wes Saxton around anymore will hurt.

As rough as the rebuilding might be on offense, that’s nothing compared to a defense that loses five of its top six tacklers ad eight of the top ten. Three of the four starters up front are done, and Maleki Harris, Davin Hawkins and Desmond LaVelle are all gone from the linebacking corps. Both quarters have to be replaced, but E.J. May should be ready to do more. The safety tandem of Roman Buchanon and Antonio Carter should be a good one. PK Aleem Sunanon and P Brandon McKee are back.

5. What’s next for Bowling Green
Compared to replacing a head coach last year, this offseason should be a breeze with Travis Greene leading one of the MAC’s best set of running backs. The top three runners return along with starting QB James Knapke and his four top receivers. Making life even better is a line with all five starters back after going through a year of growing pains.

The top four tacklers are gone. Defensive end will be a priority with Bryan Thomas and Charlie Walker needing to be replaced, while three of the four starters in the secondary are gone. The big issue? Linebacker with leading tackler Gabe Martin gone along with D.J. Lynch. Both kickers – PK Tyler Tate and P Joe Davidson – are back.

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