I'll start by heaping the praise on the Scarlet Knights because they really deserve that. They went out there in hostile territory and brought it to the house. Just as they did four other times in 2006, the Scarlet Knights went into hostile territory and came away with a win. Reliant Stadium should have been neutral territory, but with a 3-1 difference in crowd size, it really wasn't. Ray Rice and Tim Brown showed the world (or as much of the world that receives the NFL Network) their stuff and the seasoned veterans, particularly Brian Leonard, Ramel Meekins and Clark Harris went out in style.
Too bad those veterans were cheated.
They deserved to go to a bowl game, instead they were sent to a farce.
The city of Houston, so desperate to replace the long-deceased Bluebonnet Bowl after the demise of it's replacement, the Houston Bowl, replaced it with a shadow of it's former self. The Bluebonnet bowl had some great times such as SMU's 1-point victory over Oklahoma in 1968 and Alabama and Oklahoma's mutual struggle to a 24-24 tie just two years later. Thirteen years later, The Houston Bowl struggled to get a consistent sponsor (it was called the GalleryFurniture.com Bowl and the EV1.Net Houston Bowl at various times), and struggled to achieve a balanced contest, with the best being last year's 27-24 victory over Iowa State.
The Big 12 was happy to have another Houston Bowl, but only placed their 7th place finisher in the bowl against the 3rd place finisher in the Big East. The Houston Bowl's Big East affiliation was a symptom of the general lack of faith in the Big East after it's recent restructuring. The Insight Bowl didn't feel that the Third Place Big East team would be competitive, and the Texas Bowl, struggling to find a conference willing to take a chance with them was willing to take the Big East ... for a reduced payout.
This was all decided a year ago, but nobody considered if it made any sense for a 7-win team to take on a 10-win team, regardless of Kansas States' 45-42 victory over #4 Texas, which took place only 2 days after Rutgers historic victory over #3 Louisville.
It made no sense.It was a blow-out. It was exactly what was expected. It certainly didn't serve Kansas State very well. They may have deserved to play in a bowl game, but not a mismatch. For the great Rutgers senior class, it was a shadow of what they really deserved. Just as the football world refused to give them credit earlier in the season for wins over Ohio and Illinois, the final result of the 2006 Texas Bowl will not be long remembered by the football world, and once this pitiful excuse for a bowl finally expires in a few years just as it's predecessors did, this win will be little more than a line in a stat sheet. That's hardly what Brian Leonard expected or wanted when he returned for his Senior year on The Banks.
Brian Leonard and the rest of the departing Seniors made it perfectly clear since before the season that they wanted a bowl win, yet upon reflection, the Texas Bowl victory was worth little more than any road win during the season. The players may have enjoyed their week, and the experience may have been good, but it was hardly the fitting reward that they deserved.
The reward of a BCS Bowl and a National Championship will have to be earned by a future Rutgers squad. Maybe next year or the year after the dreams of a young man from Gouverneur, New York will be realized. Brian Leonard and the rest of men who started the Scarlet Knights on this path will gone, and will not be able to fully enjoy those victories. We can only hope that these men who were failed by the system will be able to receive as much vicarious joy as they would have if they had received their just rewards.
Around the Big East
The Big East continues it's domination in Out-of-Conference play.
Little-noticed among the bowl games, South Florida dispatched East Carolina in the inaugural PapaJohns.com Bowl in Birmingham, Alabama, by a score of 24-7. USF only converted 3 of 15 third downs, but converted 5 of 5 forth down attempts.
The Bull offense faltered as Quarterback Matt Grothe missed the entire second half after being injured before halftime, but the defense managed to keep the Pirates out of the end zone for the final three quarters of the game.
On New Years day, #13 West Virginia will take on ACC Runner-ups Georgia Tech in the Gator Bowl. Redshirt Freshman Quarterback Jarrett Brown, who led the Mountaineers to their victory over the Scarlet Knights in the regular season will not play, returning the reigns to starter Pat White.
Finally, next Saturday, Cincinnati will take on Western Michigan in the inaugural International Bowl in Toronto, Canada. The Bearcats will be led by new head coach Brian Kelly who replaced Mark Dantonio who left for Michigan State. Kelly will be assisted by Dantonio's old coaching staff, most of whom are expected to be dismissed after the game.
In case you had any doubts, all of those games will be available on free cable television.
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