Greatest bowl performances from all 14 Big Ten schools
College football’s bowl season is just around the corner. A total of 10 Big Ten teams are set to take the field and compete in bowl games over the next month.
This got me thinking about past Big Ten bowl games and who had some of the greatest bowl performances in the conference’s history.
I got in touch with media members from every Big Ten school and asked them for their picks of the top Big Ten bowl performers.
Here’s what I got.
RB Bill Tate – He rushed for 150 yards and two touchdowns, paving the way for a group that put up 434 yards of total offense in a commanding 40-7 win over Stanford in the 1952 Rose Bowl game.
Bob Asmussen, Champaign News-Gazette:
RB Bill Tate – Tate ran for 150 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the 1952 Rose Bowl. Illinois wiped out Stanford 40-7.
RB Mikel Leshoure – He scored three TDs and ran for 184 yards in the 2010 Texas Bowl win against Baylor. The Bears had RG III, but Leshoure was the best player on the field.
RB Jim Grabowski – In the 1964 Rose Bowl, Grabowski ran for 125 yards and a touchdown to be named MVP in a close win against Washington.
QB Dave Schnell – In the first-ever meeting between Indiana and South Carolina, Schnell completed 16-of-31 passes for 378 yards and two touchdowns while leading the Hoosiers to an impressive 34-10 win over the Gamecocks in the Liberty Bowl.
David Woods, Indianapolis Star:
QB Dave Schnell – You can’t go wrong with Schnell, who completed 16-of-31 passes for 387 yards and two TDs in Indiana’s 34-10 victory over South Carolina. He was MVP.
QB Chuck Long – Long had one of the most outstanding performances in Iowa football history in the 1984 Freedom Bowl. The Hawkeyes’ quarterback completed 29-of-39 passes for 461 yards and an eye-popping six touchdowns in the Hawkeyes’ 59-17 win over Texas in the inaugural Freedom Bowl.
Scott Dochterman, The Gazette:
QB Chuck Long – Long passed for 461 yards, six touchdowns and no interceptions in a 55-17 clubbing of Texas in the 1984 Freedom Bowl. Long’s performance built high expectations for both the quarterback and the football program for the 1985 season, which were fulfilled with an outright Big Ten title and Long’s second-place finish to Bo Jackson in Heisman Trophy voting.
LB E.J. Henderson – The 2002 Butkus and Bednarik Award winner spearheaded Maryland’s incredible defensive effort in the Terps’ 30-3 commanding win over Tennessee in the 2002 Peach Bowl. Henderson recorded 12 tackles, four of which were for a loss, two sacks, and held the Volunteers without a touchdown in a bowl game for the first time since the 1957 Gator Bowl. What a special talent.
Roman Stubbs, Washington Post:
QB Scott McBrien – The immediate one that comes to mind was quarterback Scott McBrien in the Gator Bowl against West Virginia in 2004. He threw for a career-high 351 yards and three touchdowns and ran for another to lead the Terps to a 41-7 win.
QB Tom Brady – This former Michigan quarterback was near unstoppable in the 2000 Orange Bowl game. Brady completed 34-of-46 passes for 369 yards and four touchdowns in the Wolverines’ impressive 35-34 victory over Alabama.
John Bacon, New York Times Bestselling writer:
RB Butch Woolfolk – He was outstanding in the 1981 Rose Bowl, which was Bo Schembechler’s first Rose Bowl victory in six attempts.
LB Percy Snow – This former Spartan All-American linebacker was all over the field in Michigan State’s 20-17 win over USC in the 1988 Rose Bowl. Snow, who was named the Rose Bowl MVP, recorded 17 unassisted tackles and helped the Spartan defense force four interceptions in the win.
Jack Ebling, The Drive with Jack:
K Dave Kaiser – On Jan. 1, 1956, without his eyeglasses, backup placekicker Dave Kaiser booted a last-snap 41-yard field goal in a 17-14 Rose Bowl win over UCLA.
LB Percy Snow – On Jan. 1, 1988, middle linebacker Percy Snow was named the Rose Bowl MVP after making 17 unassisted tackles in a dramatic 20-17 win over USC.
WR Andre Rison – Rison capped his career with nine catches for 252 yards and three scores in a 34-27 loss to Georgia in the 1989 Gator Bowl.
RB Blake Ezor – Ezor backed up his pre-game talk and rushed for 179 yards and three touchdowns in a 33-13 win over Hawaii in the 1989 Gator Bowl.
WR Courtney Hawkins -On Dec. 31, 1990, Hawkins had 216 all-purpose yards, including a 21-yard TD grab, to beat USC 17-16 in the John Hancock Bowl.
WR Plaxico Burress – Burress had 13 receptions for 185 yards and three scores in a 37-34 last-second win over Florida in the 2000 Citrus Bowl.
WR Charles Rogers – Rogers caught 10 passes for 270 yards, including two long TD grabs, in a 44-35 win over Fresno State in the 2001 Silicon Valley Bowl.
RB Marion Barber III – This former Gopher back saved his best for last. Barber rushed for 187 yards and a touchdown in Minnesota’s memorable 20-16 win over Alabama in the 2004 Music City Bowl.
Joe Christensen, Star Tribune:
RBs Marion Barber III and Laurence Maroney – Barber had 37 carries for 187 yards in a 20-16 win over Alabama. Maroney added 29 carries for 105 yards. That was Minnesota’s last bowl victory.
QB Tommie Frazier – Frazier had one of the most memorable single-game performances in college football history in the 1996 Tostitos Fiesta Bowl. The Huskers’ dual-threat quarterback rushed for a Fiesta Bowl-record 199 yards and passed for 105 yards as Nebraska steamrolled the Florida Gators 62-24 and took home the national championship, Nebraska’s second-straight.
Lee Barfknecht, Omaha World-Herald:
RB/WR Johnny Rodgers – A few weeks after being voted the Heisman, Rodgers ran for a touchdown, passed for a touchdown and caught a touchdown pass in a 40-6 win over Notre Dame in the 1973 Orange Bowl.
RB Darnell Autry – This former All-American back was outstanding in Northwestern’s 41-32 loss to USC in the 1996 Rose Bowl. Autry carried the ball 32 times for 110 yards and three touchdowns in the game. He also added six catches for 38 yards. Autry is considered one of the greatest players in Northwestern football history.
Teddy Greenstein, Chicago Tribune:
WR Mike Kafka- The most memorable bowl performance for Northwestern has to be Mike Kafka in the 2010 Outback Bowl versus Auburn. Check out this stat line: 47-for-78 passing, 532 yards, 4 TD passes, 5 (!) picks. At one point during the game, coach Pat Fitzgerald made a joke to his players along the lines of: “Hey, Mike’s trying to win the game for the other team!” Kafka’s completions, pass attempts and passing yards remain school records.
QB Troy Smith – There are so many to choose from here, but Smith’s performance in the 2006 Tostitos Fiesta Bowl really stood out above the rest. The former Heisman Trophy winner completed 19-of-28 passes for a career-high 342 yards and two touchdowns, while also adding 66 yards on the ground in the Buckeyes’ impressive 34-20 victory over Notre Dame.
Doug Lesmerises, Cleveland.com:
RB Fred “Curly” Morrison -He was named the MVP of the 1950 Rose Bowl after rushing for 113 yards on 25 carries in a 17-14 win over Cal. It was Ohio State’s second bowl game ever and first bowl win, after losing the 1921 Rose Bowl. There have been a lot of other guys over the years, but I can say that when the Buckeyes went back to the Rose Bowl after the 2009 season, their first Rose Bowl in 13 years, Morrison still resonated with OSU fans. Here’s what he told me before that Rose Bowl in 2010, when he was 83.
“Ohio State had been out there in 1921 and they got the poop kicked out of them. So it was a chance for us to make redemption. We were the underdog, I think Cal was about 14-point favorites. The thing I remember the most was the night before, I wanted to be sure everything was right, and I kept reviewing in my mind everything that we knew about Cal’s defense.
“We were determined that we were not going to lose that game. We were not going to come back to Columbus defeated, as a losing team. We were going to win, whatever it took, and we had a bunch of guys that felt that way. And that’s why we won.”
Steve Helwagen, 247Sports.com:
QB Craig Krenzel – Probably the biggest performance in Ohio State bowl game history was Craig Krenzel against Miami in the 2 OT win in 2003 Fiesta Bowl for national title. His stats weren’t great but he made plays when he had to (converted fourth-and-16 in OT) and also ran the ball against the Miami defense, he basically willed them to the program’s biggest win since 1968.
RB Ki-Jana Carter – Carter closed out his college career at Penn State with a bang. The Nittany Lions’ star back rushed for 156 yards and three touchdowns in Penn State’s 38-20 win over Oregon in the 1995 Rose Bowl game.
Mark Wogenrich, Allentown Morning Call:
LB Shane Conlan – With 44 bowl appearances, Penn State has plenty of postseason history. But Penn State’s most iconic postseason performance belongs to Shane Conlan in the 1987 Fiesta Bowl. The All-America linebacker, who battled knee and ankle injuries in that game, made eight tackles and had two of Penn State’s five interceptions. Conlan returned his second interception to the Miami 5-yard line, setting up the go-ahead touchdown of Penn State’s 14-10 victory that secured its second national championship. Conlan was named the Fiesta Bowl’s defensive MVP. At his induction into the College Football Hall of Fame this week, Conlan was asked what he remembered about the game. “Just that [Miami quarterback Vinny Testaverde] threw it to the wrong team,” he said.
QB Drew Brees – Brees engineered a stunning comeback for unranked Purdue vs. No. 4 Kansas State in an epic 37-34 win in the 1998 Alamo Bowl. Brees drove Purdue 80 yards in 54 seconds to forge the upset, with the capper being a 24-yard pass to Isaac Jones with 30 seconds left for the winning touchdown. Brees completed 25-of-53 passes for 230 yards with three touchdowns.
Kyle Rowland, Journal Gazette:
QB Drew Brees – The 1998 Alamo Bowl is one of the great wins in school history, so you could say Drew Brees from that game. The win over Kansas State in the Alamo Bowl was against the No. 4 team in the country. Very dramatic ending. Whole game was great. I remember watching it live.
RB Ray Rice – Rice’s performance in the 2008 International Bowl will go down as one of the most dominant individual performances in Big Ten history. The Scarlet Knights’ star back rushed for an eye-popping 280 yards and four touchdowns in Rutgers’ 52-30 blowout win over Ball State.
Dan Duggan, NJ.com:
The greatest player in Rutgers history saved his greatest performance for the final game of his career. Running back Ray Rice scored four touchdowns and set a school record with 280 yards rushing in a 52-30 win over Ball State in the 2008 International Bowl.
RB Ron Dayne – This former Heisman Trophy back had one of his biggest games on the biggest stage. Dayne rushed for 246 yards and tied a modern Rose Bowl record with four rushing touchdowns as the Badgers defeated UCLA 38-31 in the 1999 Rose Bowl game. This was the first year that the Rose Bowl became part of the Bowl Championship Series.
Jeff Potrykus, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
QB Ron Vander Kelen -In the 1963 Rose Bowl game, Vander Kelen passed for a Rose Bowl record 401 yards and end Pat Richter caught 11 balls for 163 yards for UW, which almost overcame a 42-14 deficit with 23 points in the fourth quarter.
RB Ron Dayne – Dayne rushed for 246 yards, 1 shy of the Rose Bowl record, and four TDS, to lead UW to a 38-31 upset win over UCLA in the 1999 Rose Bowl.
RB Brian Calhoun – Calhoun rushed for 213 yards and a TD and John Stocco passed for 301 yards and two TDs as UW rolled up 548 yards in a 24-10 win over Auburn in the 2006 Capital One Bowl game. This came against an Auburn defense allowing an average of 294.1 yards per game. Calhoun became second player in FBS history (then I-A) to finish with more than 1,500+ rushing yards and 500+ receiving yards in a season.
Wide receiver Jared Abbrederis – Abbrederies finished with 346 all-purpose yards in Wisconsin’s 45-38 loss to Oregon in the 2012 Rose Bowl game. Abbrederis caught 4 passes for 119 yards, returned eight kickoffs for 201 yards (25.1 average) and two punts for 26 yards (13.0 average).