The following are updates on area athletes at the collegiate level.
James Williams (Burbank High, 2015) Washington State football sophomore: For a second straight season, the former All-Area star is returning to Southern California for a bowl game.
The No. 21-ranked Cougars finished 9-3 and 6-3 in the PAC-12 to place third in the rugged North Division and earn a berth to the Holiday Bowl at San Diego’s Qualcomm Stadium on Dec. 28.
Washington State will face No. 16 Michigan State, which finished 9-3 and 7-2 in the Big 10 to take third in the East Division. The game is at 6 p.m. and will be aired on Fox Sports 1.
“It’s amazing to be close to home again,” Williams said on Wednesday afternoon. “I’m only two hours away from Burbank, so my family, friends and old coaches will be able to sit there and watch it.”
Williams turned in another impressive season, finishing second on the team with 61 receptions for 417 yards and three touchdowns. On the ground, the sophomore running back carried a team-leading 89 times for 406 yards and one touchdown.
There were plenty of highlights this season for Washington State, with maybe the biggest coming Sept. 29 when the Cougars upset then-undefeated No. 5-ranked USC, 30-27.
“I literally had chills the whole time,” said Williams, who contributed 58 yards of total offense. “Me and some of my teammates who I’m really close with from Southern California, we literally talked about it the whole week.
“We grew up watching USC. I was a USC fan. I [wore] all their stuff and we used to watch all their games in high school and the fact that we were about to play them that night was literally unreal.”
Williams will look to even up his bowl record as Washington State fell in last year’s Holiday Bowl to Minnesota, 17-12.
John Carroll (St. Francis High, 2014) San Diego State redshirt sophomore: Last season, Carroll saw action in the final four games for the Aztecs.
This year, the special teams player and fullback played in all 12 of his team’s contests as San Diego State finished 10-2 and 6-2 in Mountain West Conference play to finish second in the Western Division.
San Diego State’s prize is a trip to the Armed Forces Bowl on Dec. 23 at 12:30 p.m. versus Army (9-3) in Fort Worth, Texas. The game is set to be televised on ESPN.
“We went against Air Force this year and it was pretty special, too,” Carroll said on Tuesday when asked what it was like to play a service academy. “At the end of the game, they sing their fight song and we stand behind them and respect them. It’s just pretty cool to go against those guys because they’re special people. To play against them is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
Though he didn’t register an official stat, Carroll blocked for Aztecs running back and special teams star Rashaad Penny, who finished fifth in the Heisman Trophy voting.
“Rashaad has been awesome and I’m around him every day because I’m a fullback and he’s one of the most humble guys I’ve ever met,” Carroll said. “It’s such a blessing to be around this guy because I know he’s going to the NFL and will do amazing things.”
Burroughs High alumnus Chance Bell is on the San Diego State roster, but did not play this season, and neither did former Burbank High player Max Weisman.
Avery Williams (St. Francis, 2015) Boise State redshirt freshman: After sitting out last season, the three-year St. Francis player made a splash with the Broncos.
Williams, who transferred out of St. Francis before his senior season, was named an All-Mountain West Conference second-team selection on special teams Nov. 29 and was chosen as his squad’s special teams most valuable player at the team banquet Dec. 3.
Williams is a kick and punt returner and cornerback.
“My position as a returner means I have to catch the ball and make great decisions,” Williams said Thursday afternoon. “You just have to make smart plays. Special teams is a big game-changer for us.”
In his college debut, Williams broke an 81-yard punt return for a touchdown in Boise State’s 24-13 season-opening victory against visiting Troy.
This season, Williams has returned two punts for touchdowns and is averaging 11.2 yards per punt return, which leads the conference.
On kickoffs, he’s averaging 24.9 yards per return and has totaled 647 yards on returns.
On defense, Williams is sixth on the squad with 40 tackles, two interceptions, 10 passes defended and eight passes broken up.
No. 25-ranked Boise State (10-3) earned a Mountain West Conference championship after defeating Fresno State, 17-14, in Idaho on Dec. 2.
Boise State starts the bowl season Saturday versus Oregon (7-5, 4-5) at the Las Vegas Bowl at 12:30 p.m. The contest will be shown on ABC.
“I’m really excited about this game because we have history with this team,” Williams said of the match-up with Oregon. “It’s going to be an exciting game.”
Former La Cañada High freshman Drake Beasley is also listed as a running back on the Boise State roster but did not record a stat this year.
Trenton Irwin (Glendale native) Stanford University junior: The wide receiver continued to be a dependable producer for the run-heavy Cardinal.
Irwin, who was a prep start at Hart High, played in all 13 games for Stanford and finished second on the squad with 40 receptions for 444 yards and two touchdowns.
Maybe Irwin’s biggest accomplishment is being named an honorable mention on the PAC-12 All-Academic team, which requires a student-athlete to maintain at least a 3.0 GPA and participate in at least half the team’s games.
“It’s an amazing group of people actually,” Irwin said of his Stanford experience. “If you think about it, you have the best of the best in each category. So, it’s a very humbling experience being here.”
The Rosemont Middle School product and former Glendale Bear is part of a Stanford squad that finished runner-up in the PAC-12 with a 9-4 record and 7-2 mark in conference play.
No. 15 Stanford will travel east to take on No. 13 Texas Christian University (10-3), the Big-12 runner-up, in the Alamo Bowl on Dec. 28 at 6 p.m. The game will be broadcast on ESPN.
“Hey, TCU is a good team and they have some explosive players,” Irwin said. “On defense, we have to hold them from too many explosive plays and on offense we have to do our thing, make some plays in the passing game and let [running back Bryce Love] get loose.”
La Cañada High alumnus Robbie Fuelling did not record a stat this season, but is a member of the TCU squad.
Kekoa Crawford (St. Francis High, 2014) Michigan sophomore: Playing time increased for the former All-Area standout known as Dylan Crawford in his two seasons at St. Francis.
The sophomore saw time at wide receiver along with his usual duties on special teams.
Crawford, who transferred out of St. Francis before his senior season, played in 10 games and hauled in 12 catches for 182 yards and one touchdown — versus Cincinnati on Sept. 9 — while he returned eight kickoffs for 139 yards this season. Crawford also tallied one tackle.
Michigan went through an up-and-down season under coach Jim Harbaugh as the Wolverines posted an 8-4 mark and 5-4 record in conference play to finish fourth in the East Division.
Michigan will be in action on New Year’s Day as the Wolverines take on South Carolina (8-4, 5-3), which finished second in the SEC East Division, in the Outback Bowl in Tampa, Fla.
Game time is 9 a.m. and the contest is set to be aired on ESPN 2.
Robert Awunganyi (Burroughs High, 2015) Colorado State University sophomore: It’s been a year of change for the former Indians standout.
In late September, Awunganyi switched from cornerback to receiver, while still remaining on special teams.
Awunganyi ended up playing in 10 games — one more than last year — but did not register an official stat.
As for Colorado State, the Rams posted a 7-5 season and were 5-3 in Mountain West Conference action, which saw them finish third in the Mountain Division.
The Rams will play in Saturday’s New Mexico Bowl at 1:30 p.m. in Albuquerque, N.M. versus Marshall, which finished 7-5 and 4-4 in Conference USA action to take third in the East Division.
The game will be on ESPN.