The NFL Draft is almost upon us and the preparation for the upcoming college football season will be right around the corner. It is a good time to recollect some of the outstanding offensive performances from the Bowl games from this past season.
There were many solid, and even spectacular, performances from players who are entering the 2014 NFL Draft to players who are next year’s Heisman hopefuls and even from players who simply rose to the occasion to have a big game at the right time. There were big games on the ground, big games through the air and even performances that combined a little of both. Most of these performances, however, shared one thing in common. They were integral parts of the performance of their respective teams as a whole and either allowed their teams to stay in the game or pull out the victory.
There were some other performances that certainly deserve to be considered for this list, but these performances seemed to exemplify the ability to rise to the occasion for the big game. For many of these players, their performance in their team’s bowl game was one of their highlights of the season. This is a big determining factor for being one of the ten on this list.
1o. Connor Shaw, QB, South Carolina
Connor Shaw might not be one of the quarterbacks at the top of draft boards, but his performance in the Capital One Bowl should warrant some extra attention. Shaw only had three incomplete passes while passing for over 300 yards and 3 touchdowns in leading the Gamecocks to a 34-24 victory over Wisconsin. Efficient and in control, Shaw also had a rushing touchdown while gaining 47 yards on the ground.
Shaw was not exactly a gunslinger this past season as he only threw 284 passes the whole year. He was, however, efficient with 24 touchdowns, only 1 interception and 2,447 yards passing. Shaw also used his legs to gain 558 yards on the ground with 6 touchdowns.
9. Adam Muema, RB, San Diego State
Although this was not a major Bowl game and the participants were not national powerhouses, one performance stood out in the game. San Diego State’s running back, Adam Muema, had a monster game gaining 229 yards and scoring 3 touchdowns to lead the Aztecs to a 49-24 win over Buffalo in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. Muema had just about half of all of San Diego State’s offensive yardage.
Muema might be better known for missing the NFL Combine and losing contact with the outside world for a little while in the process, but he did have a nice season, gaining 1,244 yards and finding the end zone on 15 occasions.
8. Davis Webb, QB, Texas Tech
Davis Webb had a solid game for Texas Tech in their 37-23 victory over Arizona State in the National Univesity Holiday Bowl. He threw for 402 yards while throwing 4 touchdown passes in the first half. He even completed passes to ten different receivers throughout the game. Webb controlled the game with his passing as the Red Raiders were held to 81 yards on the ground.
The freshman quarterback had a solid season, throwing for 2,718 yards and 20 touchdowns despite limited action in two games and not playing in three games. He still managed to pass for over 400 yards on four separate occasions during the season. Look for him to continue to improve next year.
7. Blake Bortles, QB, UCF
Blake Bortles had a big game against a favored Baylor Bears squad in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl. Bortles had two key consecutive touchdowns in the late third quarter and early fourth quarter that helped break a tie and propel Central Florida past the Bears 52-42. He averaged 9.7 yards per pass attempt and even 11.6 yards per carry, while helping UCF convert 29 first downs and dominate Baylor in time of possession for the game by almost 10 minutes.
Although Bortles had 2 interceptions in the game, he did very little to tarnish his position as one of the top quarterbacks entering the 2014 NFL Draft. He finished the season with 3,581 yards passing, 25 touchdowns and only 9 interceptions, while also rushing for 6 touchdowns.
6. Dak Prescott, QB, Miss. State
In the less prestigious AutoZone Liberty Bowl, Dak Prescott was unstoppable. He led his team in rushing with 78 yards and 2 touchdowns, while also averaging over 10 yards per pass to go along with 3 touchdowns passing. He helped Mississippi State rack up 27 first downs and more than 35 minutes in time of possession as the Bulldogs crushed the Rice Owls 44-7. Prescott accounted for 5 of 6 Mississippi State touchdowns in the game.
Prescott might have had some better games rushing this past season, but his performance in the Liberty Bowl was his best game of the year throwing the football. He finished the season with 1,940 yards passing, 10 touchdowns and 7 interceptions to go along with 829 yards rushing and 13 touchdowns on the ground.
5. Brett Hundley, QB, UCLA
Brett Hundley recently excited many UCLA fans when he decided to come back to school for his junior season next year. Many people thought that Hundley’s dominant performance against Virginia Tech in the Hyundai Sun Bowl was going to his last hurrah as a Bruin. Hundley threw two touchdown passes and ran for 7 and 86 yard scores in UCLA’s 42-12 victory over the Hokies. Hundley had several big plays, including a 59 yard touchdown pass to Shaquelle Evans in the fourth quarter.
Hundley went from moving up the draft board to moving into next season’s Heisman race with his 3,071 yard passing season. He also threw 24 touchdown passes, while running for 11 more (748 yards rushing) and only had 9 interceptions.
4. Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
Despite all the criticism about Teddy Bridgewater’s performance at the NFL Combine or at his Pro Day, he still had a great performance in the Russell Athletic Bowl. Bridgewater completed 78% of his passes, helped Louisville rack up 28 first downs and helped the Cardinals dominate the time of possession with over 38 minutes of ball control. Louisville jumped out to a 22-2 halftime lead over the Miami Hurricanes and never looked back, winning the game by the score of 36-9. He ended up with three passing TDs, one rushing TD and over 400 yards passing.
Bridgewater at least has plenty of solid game film to look at in a season where he passed for 3,970 yards with 31 touchdowns and only 4 interceptions. He was initially projected as the top pick in the draft and only went out and had his best collegiate season. All this success on the field has somehow led to questions about his ability to play at the next level.
3. Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
Sammy Watkins had a huge game against Ohio State in the Discover Orange Bowl. His 16 reception, 227 yard game pretty much equaled the production from all of Ohio State’s receivers together (16 receptions, 234 yards). Watkins even had two long touchdown receptions of 30 and 34 yards to leave his mark on Clemson’s 40-35 victory over the Buckeyes. His performance helped solidify his position as the projected number one receiver in the 2014 NFL draft.
Watkins ended up catching 101 balls for 1,464 yards and 12 touchdowns in his junior season with the Tigers. He finished his Clemson career with 240 receptions for 3,391 yards and 27 touchdowns.
2. Tajh Boyd, QB, Clemson
Tajh Boyd has kind of been the forgotten quarterback in the upcoming NFL draft, but he certainly made a statement in the Discover Orange Bowl against Ohio State. Boyd accounted for 505 of Clemson’s 576 yards, while being a part of all 6 touchdowns. Boyd threw a 5 yard touchdown pass to Stanton Seckinger for the go ahead score to rally Clemson to a 40-35 win over the Buckeyes.
Boyd finished the season with 3,851 yards passing, 34 touchdowns and 11 interceptions to go along with 400 yards rushing and 10 touchdowns on the ground. He might just become a gem in the 2014 draft after his big performance in the Orange Bowl.
1. Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
In a Chick-fil-A Bowl game that had very little defense, Johnny Manziel made sure he was part of the offensive show. Manziel accounted for 5 touchdowns to help lead Texas A&M to a 52-48 win over Duke in a game that was full of highlights. Manziel accounted for 455 of the Aggies 541 yards, while averaging over 10 yards per pass and 6.6 yards per rush. Manziel was close to perfect, completing 79% of his 38 passes without throwing an interception. He ended the game with 382 yards passing, 4 passing TDs and one rushing TD.
Manziel had an amazing year throwing the football, finishing the season with 4,114 yards passing with 37 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. Despite much criticism for running too much, Manziel finished the season with fewer carries than his freshman season and also fewer yards on the ground (759 yards rushing) spending more of his time in the pocket.