No. 14 TULANE 46, No. 8 USC 45
ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Tulane tight end Alex Bauman caught a 6-yard touchdown from Michael Pratt with 9 seconds left to cap a frantic finish by the 14th-ranked Green Wave in a 46-45 win over Heisman Trophy winner Caleb Williams and No. 8 Southern California in the Cotton Bowl on Monday.
Bauman’s contested catch, with linebacker Eric Gentry draped over him, was initially ruled an incompletion, but a replay review showed the ball never touched the ground as the players rolled over in the end zone. The Green Wave scored 16 points in the final 4:07, the game-winning touchdown coming after they got the ball back following a safety.
Williams was 37-for-52 passing for 462 yards and a Cotton Bowl-record five touchdowns, exactly one month after the quarterback suffered a hamstring injury in USC’s loss to Utah in the Pac-12 championship game that kept the Trojans from making the College Football Playoff.
Tyjae Spears ran for 205 yards and his career-best fourth touchdown started the final scoring surge for the American Athletic Conference champion Green Wave (12-2), who completed an FBS-record 10-win turnaround around after going 2-10 last season. They were in the New Year’s Six game as the highest-ranked Group of Five team.
After Spears’ 4-yard TD with 4:07 left, the Green Wave opted to kick deep. Mario Williams signaled for a fair catch, but fumbled the ball out of bounds at the 1. Two plays later, defensive tackle Patrick Jenkins met Austin Jones in the end zone and smothered him for a safety.
Pratt completed only 8 of 17 passes for 234 yards, but had two 24-yard completions after the safety.
After Williams followed coach Lincoln Riley from Oklahoma, the Trojans (11-3) matched the biggest turnaround in school history.
NO. 24 MISSISSIPPI STATE 19, ILLINOIS 10
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Massimo Biscardi made a 27-yard tiebreaking field goal with 4 seconds left, Marcus Banks returned a fumble 60 yards for a touchdown on the game’s last play, and Mississippi State rallied to beat Illinois in the ReliaQuest Bowl in the Bulldogs’ first game since coach Mike Leach’s death.
Banks’ score came on Illinois’ fifth lateral following a completed pass after the Fighting Illini got the ball at their own 29. There was a scrum on the field as the game ended, but order was restored after a couple of minutes.
Will Rogers was 29 of 44 yards for 261 yards and one touchdown for Mississippi State (9-4).
Tommy DeVito completed 23 of 34 passes for 253 yards for Illinois (8-5), and Reggie Love III rushed for 53 yards on 12 carries.
Illinois’ Chase Brown, the nation’s second-leading rusher in the regular season with 1,643 yards, sat out to prepare for the NFL draft.
Mississippi State was held without a touchdown until the first play of the fourth quarter, when Rogers connected on an 8-yard throw to Justin Robinson that tied the game at 10.
NO. 16 LSU 63, PURDUE 7
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Malik Nabers threw for a touchdown, caught one and had 163 yards receiving in LSU’s rout of Purdue in the Citrus Bowl.
LSU never trailed against the Boilermakers, recording 594 yards of offense and concluding the scoring with Quad Wilson’s 99-yard interception return for a touchdown.
The Tigers (10-4) finished with at least 10 wins for the first time since the 2019 season, when Joe Burrow, Ja’Marr Chase and Justin Jefferson led undefeated LSU to a national title.
The Boilermakers (8-6) were led by interim coach Brian Brohm after his brother, Jeff, left at the end of the regular season to take Louisville’s head coaching job.
LSU controlled the game from the start. And nothing changed when starting quarterback Jayden Daniels was relieved by backup Garrett Nussmeier. After punting on their first drive, the Tigers scored touchdowns on seven of their next eight possessions to take a 49-0 lead.
Nabers, LSU’s leading receiver this season, had season highs in yards and catches (nine), and his TD toss wasn’t even his most impressive pass of the day. After running wide on a jet sweep, he threw an on-target deep ball to Kyren Lacy for a 45-yard completion that set up a touchdown in the first half.
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