Bowl roundup: Houston scores late to beat Auburn in Birmingham Bowl

Houston wide receiver Jake Herslow (87) catches a pass for the go-ahead touchdown in the Birmingham Bowl.
Houston wide receiver Jake Herslow (87) catches a pass for the go-ahead touchdown in the Birmingham Bowl on Tuesday.
(Butch Dill / Associated Press)

Jake Herslow caught a 26-yard, go-ahead touchdown pass from Clayton Tune with 3:27 left to help lift No. 20 Houston to a 17-13 victory over Auburn on Tuesday in the Birmingham Bowl.

The Cougars (12-2) marched 80 yards on eight plays to cap the third season in program history with at least 12 wins. They snapped a four-game bowl losing streak and won 12 of their final 13 games, the only loss coming to No. 4 Cincinnati in the American Athletic Conference championship game.

The Tigers (6-7) went in the opposite direction in coach Bryan Harsin’s first season. They ended a season with five straight losses for the first time in 71 years and dropped their third bowl game in a row.


Game MVP Tune completed 26 of 40 passes for 283 yards and two touchdowns with an interception while also rushing for 43 yards. Nathaniel Dell caught 10 passes for 150 yards, while Alton McCaskill ran for 66 yards and caught a touchdown pass.

Auburn, which fired offensive coordinator Mike Bobo after the regular season, had one more chance but couldn’t get a first down. Tank Bigsby ran for 8 yards on first down and then T.J. Finley threw three straight incompletions on short passes.

Houston ran out the clock.

Finley completed 19 of 34 passes for 227 yards and a touchdown in his third start since replacing injured Bo Nix. Bigsby had 88 rushing yards and 68 receiving yards.

The Cougars had moved across midfield for the go-ahead score after Auburn’s second targeting ejection, this time against Jaylin Simpson.

Tune set it up with a 20-yard pass to tight end Christian Trahan.

The Tigers rallied from a 10-0 deficit to take the lead late in the third quarter on Kobe Hudson’s 12-yard touchdown catch from Finley on third and goal.

Air Force uses rare passing game to win First Responder Bowl

Air Force quarterback Haaziq Daniels runs in for a touchdown.
Air Force quarterback Haaziq Daniels (4) runs in for a touchdown as offensive tackle Adam Karas, right, looks to set a block on Louisville defensive back Josh Minkins (25) during the first half of the First Responder Bowl on Tuesday in Dallas.
(Jeffrey McWhorter / Associated Press)

DALLAS (AP) — Haaziq Daniels threw for two touchdowns and ran for two others as Air Force beat Louisville 31-28 in the First Responder Bowl on Tuesday.

Daniels completed 9 of 10 passes for a season-high 252 yards, leading a triple-option offense that came into the game averaging an FBS-best 340.8 rushing yards and the second-fewest passing yards at 82.5 per game.

Brandon Lewis had touchdown catches of 64 and 61 yards for the Falcons (10-3), finishing with five receptions for a career-high 172 yards. That’s the most receiving yardage for an Air Force player this season and the most ever in the Falcons’ 28 bowl games.

Matthew Dapore kicked a 26-yard field goal with 5:28 left to give the Falcons a two-score lead.

Malik Cunningham threw a 34-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Harrell and ran for a 22-yard touchdown with 2:57 to play for Louisville (6-7). Jawhar Jordan returned a kickoff 100 yards and Trevion Cooley had a 1-yard run for the Cardinals’ other touchdowns.

Daniels ran for a 5-yard touchdown in the first quarter to give Air Force a 7-0 lead and a 1-yard score in the final minute of the second quarter to put the Falcons ahead 28-14.


One of three Louisville players listed as out because of illness was redshirt freshman running back Jalen Mitchell, who led the team in rushing during the season with 722 yards.

Donovan Smith leads Texas Tech past Mississippi State in Liberty Bowl

Texas Tech quarterback Donovan Smith warms up before the Liberty Bowl against Mississippi State.
Texas Tech quarterback Donovan Smith warms up before the Liberty Bowl against Mississippi State Tuesday in Memphis.
(Mark Humphrey / Associated Press)

MEMPHIS — Donovan Smith threw for 252 yards and a touchdown and ran for another score, and Texas Tech beat Mississippi State 34-7 in the Liberty Bowl on Tuesday night.

Tahj Brooks rushed for 107 yards and a touchdown and SaRodorick Thompson ran for 80 yards and a score for the Red Raiders (7-6), who finished with a winning record for the first time since 2015. They were appearing in their first bowl game since 2017.

Mississippi State (7-6) fell short in coach Mike Leach’s first game against a former program of his. Leach, who went 84-43 at Texas Tech from 2000-09, fell short in his bid to become the first Bulldogs coach to end each of his first two seasons with a bowl victory. Mississippi State was playing in its 12th straight bowl game.

Red Raiders interim head coach Sonny Cumbie, a former player at Texas Tech under Leach, ended his five-game run with a 2-3 record. Cumbie, who is departing to become Louisiana Tech’s coach, took over for Matt Wells in October.


Leach’s prolific offense never could get rolling against the Red Raiders and the resulting lopsided loss dropped the Southeastern Conference to 0-4 in the postseason. The Bulldogs were held scoreless in the second half and finished with 344 yards, 105 below their average.

Texas Tech put the game out of reach with two third-quarter touchdowns. Smith scored on a 1-yard run to cap a 95-yard drive, the Red Raiders’ second-longest of the season. Smith, who was named the game’s MVP, completed passes of 39 and 52 yards during the drive. He added a 14-yard touchdown pass to J.J. Sparkman with 2 seconds remaining in the quarter.

Thompson scored his touchdown on a 1-yard run midway through the final quarter for a 34-7 lead.

Texas Tech established the run at the outset, gaining 145 yards in the first quarter and using its physical play to take a 10-0 lead. The Red Raiders moved 75 yards — all on the ground — on the game’s opening possession, scoring on a 19-yard run by Brooks. Texas Tech added a 31-yard field goal by Jonathan Garibay later in the quarter.

Mississippi State answered on its next series with Will Rogers converting on third-and-11 on the Red Raiders 38 to extend the drive. Rogers evaded a strong rush before finding Jo’quavious Marks for 18 yards to the 20. Two plays later, Rogers fired a 17-yard scoring pass to Rara Thomas.

The Red Raiders took advantage of a Bulldogs miscue in the closing seconds of the half to go up 13-7. Mississippi State punt returner Austin Williams muffed a Texas Tech punt inside the Bulldogs 20-yard line and Jake Bishop recovered at the 14 with 31 seconds remaining. Garibay added a 26-yard field goal with 13 seconds left.


Mississippi State was held to 126 yards in the first half. Rogers, averaging 372 yards passing per game, managed 103 yards on 10-of-17 passing in the half and finished with 290.

Minnesota beats West Virginia in Guaranteed Rate Bowl

Minnesota running back Ky Thomas runs away from West Virginia safety Alonzo Addae and safety Sean Mahone.
Minnesota running back Ky Thomas runs away from West Virginia safety Alonzo Addae and safety Sean Mahone (29) during the first half of the Guaranteed Rate Bowl Tuesday in Phoenix.
(Rick Scuteri / Associated Press)

PHOENIX — Ky Thomas ran for 144 yards and a touchdown, Mar’Kiese Irving added 129 yards rushing and Minnesota shut down West Virginia on defense to win the Guaranteed Rate Bowl 18-6 on Tuesday night.

Thomas and Irving became the Gophers’ 1-2 punch after Mohamed Ibrahim and Trey Potts sustained season-ending injuries. The two running backs carried most of the load offensively against West Virginia (6-7), accounting for 273 of Minnesota’s 358 total yards.

The Gophers (9-4) overwhelmed the Mountaineers defensively, holding them to 206 total yards to win their fifth straight bowl game, third under coach P.J. Fleck.

It wasn’t much of a surprise. Minnesota finished fourth nationally in total defense, allowing 284.8 yards per game, and was ninth against the pass and run.


West Virginia was without leading rusher Leddie Brown, who opted to skip the bowl game to prepare for the NFL, and struggled to find much of an offensive rhythm early against the swarming Gophers.

The Mountaineers finally clicked a little in the second quarter, moving 75 yards in 12 plays. Jarret Doege capped the drive by diving for the pylon on 4th-and-goal from the 1. They were moving the ball again later in the second quarter before Doege threw an interception at Minnesota’s 14-yard line.

West Virginia couldn’t get anything going against Minnesota’s defense in the second half, crossing midfield only once while being held to 79 yards.

Minnesota’s offense did a little pounding of its own.

The Gophers got in their own way after getting good field position on their first two drives, missing a 33-yard field goal and losing a fumble by Thomas at West Virginia’s 6-yard line.

Then they turned to someone who could move everyone out of his way: Daniel Faalele.

The 6-foot-9, 380-pound offensive lineman lined up at fullback, took the handoff and bulled his way into the end zone for a 2-yard touchdown. Minnesota threw in a fake extra point for good measure, going up 8-0 after converting the 2-point conversion.

Thomas put the Gophers up 15-6 at halftime, scoring on a 5-yard run two plays after bursting up the middle for a 50-yard gain.


Minnesota reached West Virginia’s 3-yard line in the final minutes, but opted