Utah State wins Jimmy Kimmel LA Bowl, which embraces fun and keeps things weird
Jimmy Kimmel sprinted across the field at SoFi Stadium alongside the Oregon State marching band, clarinet in hand. He centered himself inside the “OSU” formation and began to play, ducking and clapping similar to the band’s routine.
A few minutes later, he stood on the sideline with “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” compatriot Guillermo Rodriguez and cracked jokes about the inaugural Jimmy Kimmel LA Bowl. A camel mascot named Jimmy Kammel, sporting a black beard and blue tie in a crude Kimmel imitation, stood next to them and began twerking.
This was not a fever dream.
“I was wondering when they were out there, I was like, ‘Who is that?’” fan Valinda Johnston said of the oddly dressed mascot.
Some in attendance at Saturday’s LA Bowl, which featured the Mountain West champion Utah State taking down the Pac-12’s Oregon State 24-13, may have also been scratching their heads at the game’s presentation. Yet many were enthralled by the goofy atmosphere — indicating the historic Rose Bowl has a worthy companion for a college football bowl game in Los Angeles.
Lincoln Riley has raided SoCal for football players before for Oklahoma but says most of these players would rather stay local and play for USC.
“It’s new, so you’ve got to get your feet under, but this is fun,” said fan Randy Troy, who said he’d been to two Rose Bowls. “It’s more lighthearted.”
The weirdness translated to the field too.
At the end of the first quarter, star quarterback Logan Bonner was knocked out with a knee injury. So coach Blake Anderson inserted sophomore Cooper Legas, who hadn’t thrown a single pass in his college career.
But Legas was more than ready, according to defensive end Nick Heninger and wide receiver Deven Thompkins — and an underdog suddenly being thrust into the limelight was about as perfect a summation of Utah State’s season as one could get. The Aggies had gone from 1-5 the previous season to 10-3 and a Mountain West championship, with one final chapter to write, as Anderson put it postgame.
“I went over and grabbed Coop, and I just told him, ‘It’s time to step up,’” Thompkins said.
On Legas’ first attempt of his Aggies career, he delivered a 62-yard touchdown bomb to Thompkins.
Legas finished 11 for 20 for 171 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. Thompkins had 115 yards and a touchdown through the air to be named offensive player of the game, while junior Calvin Tyler Jr. ran for 120 yards and a touchdown in 26 carries.
The Beavers mounted furious pressure on Legas, tallying four sacks. But Utah State’s defense countered by keeping Oregon State’s offense out of the end zone the rest of the way.
With the Beavers threatening to get back in the game at the start of the fourth quarter, down two touchdowns with the ball at the 11-yard line, the Aggies forced a field goal thanks to a big sack from Heninger. The senior was all over the field, tallying three sacks and five tackles for loss to be named the defensive player of the game in his final outing.
“Hopefully I left a legacy,” Heninger said, choking down tears, “that won’t be forgotten.”
Barring a COVID-19 disruption, UCLA will play No. 18 N.C. State on Dec. 28 in the Holiday Bowl — the first bowl game for nearly the entire Bruins roster.
Anderson apologized Friday through Utah State after the Salt Lake Tribune reported he told players it “has never been more glamorized to be the victim” of sexual assault. Heninger acknowledged the reports after the game, but praised Anderson’s character, saying, “This is the real man right here.”
Players on both sides had the opportunity to bask in the unique environment of a Los Angeles bowl game, with appearances on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” and trips to Universal Studios Hollywood in the week leading up.
“These are good distractions to have,” Oregon State coach Jonathan Smith said Friday. “You recognize that there are some good distractions that are going to take place during a bowl game.”
There were a lot of distractions Saturday. At halftime, Kimmel and his mascot counterpart unveiled a cannon that shot a T-shirt into the top deck of SoFi. The comedian’s face was plastered on the padding of the goalposts. Men using the bathroom throughout the stadium found themselves urinating on the face of actor Matt Damon — his picture was on custom urinal cakes, to be clear — in keeping with a long-standing Kimmel bit.
“I’m heading in there to find out what’s going on,” fan Dale Rynott joked after learning of the bathroom situation.
Rynott came to the game with his daughter, Megan Hannum, whose husband is the director of Oregon State’s marching band. Hannum got him tickets for Christmas for some “father-daughter time,” he said.
“I’m a happy dad right now,” Rynott said.
Attendance was low at 29,896, when considering Sofi can hold about 75,000.
“I never imagined that we’d be here, in front of a sold-out crowd — and I was right, it’s not even close to sold out,” Kimmel quipped on the JumboTron before the game.
But those who did buy tickets filled the stadium with noise, waving customizable towels and signs provided at the “Fan Fest.”
Oregon State will face Utah State at SoFi Stadium on Saturday in the Jimmy Kimmel L.A. Bowl, which the comedian has promoted on his late-night show.
Makayla Cox, there as part of the Girl Scouts of Greater Los Angeles, scribbled, “I sold 4,242 boxes of Girl Scout Cookies” on one such sign. Her secret to such impressive numbers — upselling when people just wanted one box, the girl said.
Kimmel centered much of the promotion for the event on the concept that it was the first-ever bowl game to be named after a person. Consequently, the LA Bowl carried much of Kimmel’s oddball comedy. But some enjoyed the uniqueness.
“I think it should be me,” Troy joked of the sponsorship, “but I don’t have the dough.”
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