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Carlisle Earns 500th Win in Mavericks Victory

Jalen Brunson shoots a jumper. Photo by Ariawna Talton

Dallas, TX – Rick Carlisle earned his 500th victory as coach of the Dallas Mavericks while his team defeated the Atlanta Hawks 123-100 Saturday night. The win is also Dallas’ 30th victory of the season.

Without an injured Luka Doncic or a resting Kristaps Porzingis, Dallas was still able to dominate a struggling Atlanta team throughout the night.

Seth Curry

Jalen Brunson led all Mavericks players with 27 points, four rebounds and eight assists, scoring all around the court. Dorian Finney-Smith added 22 important points and Seth Curry scored on five of his seven three point attempts for 15 points.

Returning to Dallas for the final time before retiring from the league, former Dallas player Vince Carter provided a 10-point spark off of the bench for the Hawks. After spending three of his 22 NBA seasons in Dallas, Carter was both greeted and bid farewell with a standing ovation by the Dallas crowd.

Trae Young had a quiet 12 points for the Hawks, spending much of the second half on the bench once the game was decided. John Collins led all Atlanta players with 26 points in his 33 minutes on the court Saturday night. Dallas is set to play the Pacers in Indiana Monday night

Trojans Get Win and Honor Kobe

Pepperdine Waves vs USC Trojans PAC-12 Basketball game on Tuesday November 19, 2019 at the Galen Center. (Photo by Jerry Kelly)

LOS ANGELES, CA — The USC Trojans paid homage to the late great Kobe Bryant the best way anyone can… by getting a win.  Big O, Onyeka Okongwu, comes up Big on D to help the Trojans escape with a 56-52 victory over the Utah Utes Thursday night.

In game that was controlled by the Utes for the most part, the Trojans relied on their Pac-12 leading defense to keep them in the contest, holding the visitors to 32 percent shooting for the game and hoping the offense can make plays.

“When you can’t score yourself, you better defend,” said Trojans coach Andy Enfield. “We’ve done that and I’m very proud of our young men for staying in the game and defending it for 40 minutes.”

The defense was especially crucial in the last meaningful possession.  With the Trojans holding a slim 2-point lead, the Utes’ Timmy Allen drove the lane for a layup but was met with an incredible block by Big O to force a jump ball.  With the arrow in their favor, the Trojans gained possession with 6.0 left on the clock.

As good as the defense was, you can’t win without scoring baskets. Down by nine points midway through the second half, the Trojans marched on a 15 -2 run to take its first lead of the game. Sophomore guard Elijah Weaver called on the Mamba Mentality as he scored 10 of those points.

“I was just being aggressive,” said Weaver. “I think that’s my new role. People have been talking about coming off the bench and bringing energy. That’s all it was, energy and confidence.”

Both teams donned number 24 with Bryant on the back of their warm-up shirts to honor the late Lakers legend. USC had the words “Fight On Forever” above number 8 on the front side.  Prior to the singing of the National Anthem, the Galen Center crowd stood for a moment of silence as 24.8 seconds ticked off the clock.

“We’re at home and today is a special day, we’re playing for Kobe,” said Weaver. “So it was like ‘We’re not losing at home,’ it was in our mind already. Let everybody know we’ve been here before and it’s time to fight back.

Trojans got off to a cold shooting start as they only made 2 of its first 16 shots from the field and were down 16-6 midway through the first half. 

They continued to fight on and went on a hot run of shooting where they made 5 of 6 shots and trimmed the deficit to three at 21-18. The visiting Utes held a 29-23 lead at halftime, led by Riley Battin’s eight points, including two from behind the three-point arc. Nick Rakocevic kept the Trojans in the game with 12 points on 5 of 8 shooting.

The game was played dead even through the first 10 minutes of the second half, as both teams scored 11 points on 4 of 14 shooting at one point. Then the Trojans ratcheted up its defensive pressure, forcing five straight misses and a turnover over the next four minutes of play.

Utes baskets by Branden Carslon and Timmy Allen drew the game even at 46 a piece at the 4-minute timeout to set the stage for the showdown at the end.  The teams went tit for tat on the scoreboard and were still tied when Carlson went to the free throw line and missed both freebies with 42 seconds on the clock.

Big O caught a pass on the left block, took a hard dribble to the right side for a layup that bounced off the rim. Luckily, by his own recollection, the ball bounced right to Rakocevic for an easy put back to secure the game-winning points. Big O was fouled with six seconds and iced the game by making both free throws.

Rakocevic led the Trojans with 16 points and 12 rebounds. Okongwu also had a double double of 11 points and 11 rebounds. Weaver finished with 14 points.

USC is now 17-4 on the season, 6-2 in Pac-12 play. The face the number 20 ranked Colorado Buffaloes, who just lost to UCLA.

Kobe Bryant Dies In Helicopter Crash

Kobe Bryant spent part of his Father's Day watch WNBA at Staples Center in Los Angeles, Ca on June 18, 2017. (Photo by Jevone Moore/Full Image 360)

LOS ANGELES, CA- Profound tragedy strikes as NBA icon Kobe Bryant is one of nine victims including his 13-year old daughter Gianna perished in a devastating helicopter crash in Calabasas on the morning of January, 26. The doomed helicopter was in route to one of Gigi’s games at Mamba Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks for a youth basketball game.

Words fail to explain and comprehend how the beloved Kobe truly was in The City of Angels – his magnitude transcends the world of sports. Who else has two numbers retired? Both his #8 and #24 jerseys hang in the rafters at Staples Center. Thousands of grief stricken fans stunned by the news made makeshift tributes adorned with flowers, jerseys and heartfelt ‘M-V-P’ chants in honor of the NBA superstar.

NBA Basketball game action between the Boston Celtics vs the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center in Los Angeles, Ca on April 3, 2016. (Photo by Jevone Moore/Full Image 360)
Kobe Bryant during last game vs Boston at Staples Center, in Los Angeles, Ca on April 3rd, 2016. (All Photos by Jevone Moore / Full Image 360 / fi360 News)

Bryant, 41, played his entire twenty year NBA career with the Los Angeles Lakers, winning five NBA Titles. Here is a brief list of his accolades: 18 time All-Star, 11 time All NBA First Team, NBA MVP in 2008, NBA Finals MVP in 2009 and 2010. He is the fourth leading scorer in NBA history, as well as a two time Gold Medal winner in 2008 and 2012.

Other victims include John Altobelli, the head baseball coach at Orange Coast College, his wife Keri and their daughter Alysa. Also on board was 13-year old basketball player Payton Chester, her mother Sarah, youth coach Christina Mauser and pilot Ara Zobayan was also killed.

The Sikorsky S-76B was given permission to take off despite foggy conditions, crashing in a remote field off Las Virgenes before 10:00am, the investigation is ongoing. 

The 62nd  Grammy Awards, which were held at Staples Center paid tribute to the fallen hero. Grammy host Alicia Keys, proclaimed Staples Center, “The house Kobe Bryant Built.” After Boys II Men joined Keys on stage to sing their moving, ‘It’s So Hard To Say Goodbye’ to open the show. Lizzo declared, “This night is for Kobe,” before singing ‘Cuz I Love You.’ 

The crash came the night after LeBron James passed him for 3rd on the All Time scoring list in his hometown of Philadelphia. A video surfaced of James getting off the team plane in tears.

Bryant’s teammate Shaquille O’Neal, who won three straight NBA Championships wrote, There are no words to express the pain I’m going through now with this tragic and sad moment of losing my niece Gigi & my friend, my brother, my partner in winning championships, my dude and my homie. I love you and you will be missed. My condolences goes out to the Bryant family and the families of the other passengers on board. I’M SICK RIGHT NOW !!”

Kobe Bryant and GiGi at Staples WNBA All Star Game 2019. Photo by William Johnson

This week marks the fourteenth anniversary of his 81 point performance against the Toronto Raptors, the second most points in an NBA game. Bryant was drafted 13th overall in the 1996 NBA Draft. In his final game in 2016, he scored 60 points against the Utah Jazz. 

Kobe Bryant’s legend far surpasses the court, his fierce competitive drive served as life lessons. In 2018, he won an Academy Award for his animated short, “Dear Basketball.” Kobe was apart of the fabric of the nation. Bryant also championed women’s sports. 

A conversation with Kobe Bryant about his career. Photo by Nyema Vernon-Jackson

Everyone’s first reaction was disbelief. Not possible; someone who conquered any obstacle life presented. Compounding this unspeakable tragedy is the loss of his daughter Gianna. Bryant was an excellent father, Gigi dreamed of following in her father’s footsteps. Explaining to Jimmy Kimmel, “The best thing that happens is when we go out, and fans will come up to me. And she’ll be standing next to me, and they will be like, ‘You gotta have a boy, you and V gotta have a boy, man, to have somebody carry on the tradition, the legacy.’ And she is like, “I got this.”

We will never see the next chapter in his incredible life.

Kobe Bryant 1978-2020

NBA Basketball game action between the Boston Celtics vs the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center in Los Angeles, Ca on April 3, 2016. (Photo by Jevone Moore/Full Image 360)
Los Angeles Lakers Kobe Bryant acknowledging the crowd at Staples Center in Los Angeles, Ca on April 3, 2016. (Photo by Jevone Moore/Full Image 360)

Clippers Outlast Mavericks in Dallas

Los Angeles Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard looking to score during the Dallas Mavs. (Courtesy photo Nick White)

Dallas, TX – Tuesday evening began with a huge welcome back for Kristaps Porzingis after missing the last ten games. The evening, however, concluded with Dallas losing center Dwight Powell for the season along with a 110-107 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers.

With just a few minutes remaining in the first quarter, Powell made a move to the basket. His right leg made a noticeable pop and he fell to the hardwood in agony. The 28 year-old critical role player was assisted off of the court and it was later revealed that he suffered a season-ending torn right Achilles tendon.

While visibly upset by the injury, the remaining Mavericks players would rally against a Clippers team competing without the injured Paul George.

Both Kawhi Leonard and Luka Doncic finished the night with 36 points for their respective teams. Doncic was actually one assist short of another triple-double. After the injury to Powell, Dallas Coach Rick Carlisle moved Porzingis to the center position. He finished the night with 10 points and nine rebounds in his first game back.

After the lost, Dallas is now 27-16 for the season. The team is set to face Portland Thursday night with its new lineup adjustments.

Lakers Frustrate Mavericks in Another Road Win

Dallas, TX – Neither Luka Doncic nor the Dallas Mavericks could ever get on a real roll Friday night in a 129-114 losing effort against LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers.

Shots weren’t falling, free throws were off and tempers definitely flared as the Mavericks lost their second consecutive game at home.  

James, who appeared to not be feeling well early in the game didn’t let that stop him from logging 35 points, 16 rebounds and 7 assists. While the Lakers were without Anthony Davis, a 26-point performance from Kyle Kuzma and 10 points from each Rajon Rondo and Dwight Howard filled the gap.

The Mavericks were once again without Kristaps Porzingis, who is still sidelined with right knee soreness. The attention was definitely on Doncic and the expectation was that he would have a brilliant night scoring. That was simply not the case. After one of his missed free throws in the first half, a frustrated Doncic ripped his own jersey.

There were indeed questionable calls throughout the night – many in favor of Los Angeles; however, Dallas just did not score consistently. After two technical fouls, a frustrated Coach Rick Carlisle was ejected from the game.

Doncic did finish the night with 25 points and 10 rebounds, but never really found his offensive rhythm. Tim Hardaway Jr. scored 22 points and big man Boban Marjanovic added 14 points and 10 rebounds.

With the win Los Angeles improves to 31 – 7 and remains atop the Western Conference. The Mavericks fall to 23-15 and are set to face the Philadelphia 76ers Saturday evening.

Tulane claims the bell over Southern Miss in Armed Forces Bowl

2020 Armed Forces Bowl Tulane vs Southern Miss on Saturday January 4, 2020. (Photo by Kevin Boakosy)

On Saturday, the “Battle of the Bell” rivalry revived during the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl when Southern Miss and Tulane hit the field. The rivalry initiated in 1979 as both programs met every season for the first twenty-seven straight years. The schools are separated by a little more than 100 miles apart; therefore, it’s an intense and local rivalry that the fans enjoy.

2020 Armed Forces Bowl Tulane vs Southern Miss on Saturday January 4, 2020. (Photo by Kevin Boakosy)

 However, due to conference realignment, Saturday’s game became the first meeting in over nine years for the two schools. Southern Miss Head coach Jay Hopson talked before the game about the rivalry between the two programs. “I had my first job at Tulane, and the two schools are right next to each other. It has always been a fun game for the fans. Local games are fun.” The Golden Eagles came into Saturday, winning six consecutive games against the Green Wave. However, it was the Tulane Green Wave that broke the string and eventually rang the bell by defeating Southern Miss 30-13 in the 2020 Armed Forces Bowl.

 As the clock hit five and a half minutes in the first quarter, Southern Miss quarterback Jack Abraham ran it outside to the end zone to put the Golden Eagles up 13-0. It was at that point; Southern Miss outgained Tulane 164-5 with Abraham throwing for 142 yards, and the Green Wave crowd became silent. However, Tulane started to gain momentum slowly with a couple of field goals in the second quarter, cutting the Golden Eagles lead to 13-6 at halftime. Once halftime hit, Tulane turned on the jets and outlasted Southern Miss. In the third quarter, the Green Wave outgained the Golden Eagles 214-49 along with a takeaway as Tulane outscored Southern Miss 24-0 in the third, taking a 30-13 lead and ending the game by the same score.

2020 Armed Forces Bowl Tulane vs Southern Miss on Saturday January 4, 2020. (Photo by Kevin Boakosy)

After the two Golden Eagles scoring drives, Tulane’s defense forced eight punts, two interceptions, and two turnovers by downs. In that span, Tulane outgained Southern Miss 374-195.

Green Wave head coach Willie Fritz talked after the game about the message he gave his players at halftime, “A lot of bad words. We got after them. We don’t want to go out like this. I’m tough on these kids sometimes, and they responded.”

Tulane’s defense held Jack Abraham to 25 yards after the two scoring drives. The Golden Eagles made a quarterback change at halftime due to a shoulder injury to Abraham, replacing him with Tate Whatley. Whatley finished the day completing nine of twenty-two for 134 yards and the two second-half interceptions. Tulane’s senior quarterback Justin McMillian had a successful and conservative afternoon. The Armed Forces Bowl MVP completed thirteen of eighteen passes for 215 yards and three touchdowns.

2020 Armed Forces Bowl Tulane vs Southern Miss on Saturday January 4, 2020. (Photo by Kevin Boakosy)

McMillian was quick to give credit to his teammates after the game and point out a historic win for the Tulane football program, “It’s not the same team that we were last year, this team won two bowl games straight. We made history with this team this year.”

In the 2018 College Football season, Tulane knocked off the Ragin Cajuns of Louisiana Lafayette 41-24 in the Cure Bowl.

2020 Armed Forces Bowl Tulane vs Southern Miss on Saturday January 4, 2020. (Photo by Kevin Boakosy)

The victory snapped a three-game losing streak for the Green Wave while Southern Miss finished the college football season on a three-game losing streak of their own. For fans curious about the next meeting, the “Battle of the Bell” renews again on Saturday, September 24, 2022, at Tulane.

Wisconsin defense can’t slow down Oregon ground game

Wisconsin Badgers vs Oregon Ducks at the Rose Bowl NCAA college football game on Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2020, in Pasadena, Calif. (Photo by Jevone Moore)

PASADENA- A 30-yard touchdown run by quarterback Justin Herbert late in the fourth quarter proved to be the difference, as Oregon defeated Wisconsin, 28-27 in the 106th Rose Bowl. It was an epic seesaw contest which truly lived up to the hype and expectations befitting “The Granddaddy Of Them All”. Oregon (12-2) captured their fourth Rose Bowl victory, while Wisconsin(10-4) have lost their fourth Rose Bowl in a row. 

Wisconsin Badgers vs Oregon Ducks at the Rose Bowl NCAA college football game on Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2020, in Pasadena, Calif. (Photo by Jevone Moore)

It seems Wisconsin shut down Herbert’s powerful arm, it was his legs that ultimately propelled the Ducks to victory. Herbert threw for only138 yards, while the offense gained a measly 204 yards. The game had everything a football fan craves; turnovers special teams blunders and six lead changes in this thriller. 

Oregon opened the game with an early touchdown before Wisconsin’s Aron Cruickshank returned a 95-yard kickoff to even the score at 7-7. The Ducks capitalized off three Badger turnovers to generate twenty-one points. One pivotal play was the botched punt by Wisconsin punter Anthony Lotti, who inexplicably dropped the ball. Oregon’s Brady Breeze palmed the pigskin with one hand as if it were a basketball, then ran 31-yards for a touchdown early in the second half.

Wisconsin Badgers vs Oregon Ducks at the Rose Bowl NCAA college football game on Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2020, in Pasadena, Calif. (Photo by Jevone Moore)

Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor ran for 94 yards and wide receiver Quintez Cephus hauled in seven receptions for 59 yards and a score. The Badgers held a narrow 24-21 edge in the fourth quarter and were going in for the kill. Yet Oregon’s defense came through in the red zone, holding Wisconsin to a field goal. 

Wisconsin Badgers vs Oregon Ducks at the Rose Bowl NCAA college football game on Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2020, in Pasadena, Calif. (Photo by Jevone Moore)

With 7:41 remaining, Herbert faked a handoff and darted 31-yards to immortality. His 31-yard scamper put Oregon up for good. On the following possession, Wisconsin quarterback Jack Coan struggled all afternoon. A controversial pass interference called on the offense wiped out any chance of a last second win. 

Wisconsin Badgers vs Oregon Ducks at the Rose Bowl NCAA college football game on Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2020, in Pasadena, Calif (Photo by Jevone Moore)

Never knew Ducks enjoyed cheese!

Oregon Natives Lead the Ducks to Rose Bowl Victory

PASADENA, CA – Four years ago Justin Herbert and the Oregon Ducks were 4-8, and the University’s football program had a cloudy future coming off a string of National Championship contending seasons. Tonight, Herbert led the No. 6 Ducks (12-2) to a 28-27 victory over the No 8. Wisconsin Badgers (10-4) in the 106th Rose Bowl Game, and the program’s future looks brighter than ever.

Rose Bowl 2020 Wisconsin vs Oregon (Photo by Megan Connelly)

Oregon started the game strong, marching 75 yards in 4:30 min to take an early 7-0 lead after Justin Herbert kept the ball on a read option for a 4-yard touchdown run, but Wisconsin quickly answered. Aron Cruickshank returned Oregon’s kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown, and sophomore linebacker Jack Sanborn intercepted Herbert the next play setting the Badgers up for a 44-yard field goal to take their first lead of the game at 10-7.

After the quick start Oregon’s offense stalled, finishing the night with only 204 total yards which is the least of any team in a Rose Bowl Game in the last 40 years, to Wisconsin’s 322. Despite the offensive struggles Oregon had plenty of opportunities to score thanks to their defense who forced 4 turnovers.

Rose Bowl 2020 Wisconsin vs Oregon (Photo by Megan Connelly)

The biggest of which came when Wisconsin botched a punt, and junior safety Brady Breeze picked the ball up and ran 31 yards for a touchdown, regaining the lead for Oregon at 20-17. Breeze stepped up again late in the fourth quarter when he caused a fumble, which was recovered by Bryson Young giving the Ducks the ball on the Wisconsin 30-yard line.

Rose Bowl 2020 Wisconsin vs Oregon (Photo by Megan Connelly)

Herbert capitalized on the opportunity the very next play, taking off for 30 yards after stiff arming a defender and scoring what would become the game winning touchdown giving the Ducks their final lead at 28-27. In total, Herbert rushed 9 times for 29 yards and 3 touchdowns.

Brady Breeze and Justin Herbert were named the Rose Bowl MVPs, a surreal moment for two kids who grew up in Oregon watching Rose Bowl games as fans, dreaming of playing for the Ducks themselves. “Now I’m scoring touchdowns in a Rose Bowl like a little kid always dreamed about” Breeze stated after the game.

Rose Bowl 2020 Wisconsin vs Oregon (Photo by Megan Connelly)

Reflecting on the moment Mario Cristobal said “It’s hard to even script this kind of Hollywood story, right? Right down the road, born and raised, just like Brady, been watching Oregon Duck football forever. And they’re sitting here in front of you as Rose Bowl champions -­not only as Rose Bowl champions but as MVPs of the Rose Bowl after winning the Pac-12 Championship.”

Mario Cristobal has rebuilt the Oregon football program in only two full seasons as a head coach, and with back to back top 10 recruiting classes things seem to only be getting started. The Ducks offense will look significantly different next season as Justin Herbert heads to the NFL, and offensive coordinator Marcus Arroyo takes over as the head coach at the UNLV, but the next chapter in Oregon history is ready to be written.

Rose Bowl 2020 Wisconsin vs Oregon (Photo by Megan Connelly)

Rose Bowl Hall Of Fame Induction Ceremony

(PHOTO: Michael C. Floch)

PASADENA, CA – Outside the iconic Rose Bowl at Lot K on Tuesday, December 31st,  four college football luminaries were enshrined in the Rose Bowl Hall of Fame. The class of 2019 are Harvard’s Eddie Casey, Ohio State Quarterback Cornelius Greene, Washington Huskie Jacque Robinson and legendary USC Trojan Quarterback Matt Leinart. 

The family friendly event was held outside the iconic venue, one day prior to “The Granddaddy of Them All”. An In-N-Out Burger truck was on site handing out their juicy, world famous burgers. This HOF bash had the vibe of an upscale tailgate party, a wonderful precursor to the 106th Rose Bowl presented by Northwestern Mutual on January 1st. When the NO. 6 Oregon Ducks battle the NO. 8 Wisconsin Badgers.

SportsCenter anchor, ESPN’s flagship sports news program John Anderson hosted the HOF ceremony. Anderson’s reverence for the history of the Rose Bowl, as well as his terrific sense of humor made him a wonderful emcee. 

fi360 News caught up with Leinart as he was sipping a 7-Up prior to being inducted. Leinart fondly remembered conducting the Trojans marching band after defeating the Michigan Wolverines, 28-14. 

“After the ’04 Rose Bowl I got to lead the marching band, there is a picture of me standing on a ladder with a sea of 100,000 people in the stands,” explained Leinart. The Heisman Trophy winner orchestrated one of the greatest dynasties in the history of college football, Leinart earned MVP in the Rose Bowl victory over the Wolverines. 

His next Rose Bowl was the 2006 BCS National Championship against the University of Texas, considered by many to be the greatest game in the history of college football period! Although Leinart completed 73 percent of his passes, fellow Rose Bowl HOF inductee Texas QB Vince Young ripped the heart out of die hard Trojans fans running into the end zone in the final minute EN route to a 41-38 victory and the National Championship.

“The epic back and forth even though we lost, I can’t escape the game so many memories.” Leinart was inducted into the USC Athletic Hall Of Fame in 2007, as well as having his #11 Jersey retired.

Three other gridiron legends were honored. Eddie Casey was a diminutive Tailback and Defensive Back from Harvard. After nobly serving in World War I, he returned to the Crimson in 1919, leading them to a 9-0-1 record. His bursting speed combined with his agility paved the way for a 7-6 victory over the University of Oregon. His 205 all purpose yards earned him MVP honors. More importantly, the win introduced the Tournament of Roses to the New England States.

Corneilius Greene is one of the lucky few to appear in four Rose Bowls. The OSU Quarterback played from 1973-1976, receiving MVP honors for his performance in the 1974 Rose Bowl. The Buckeye QB defeated the USC Trojans, 42-21. Greene threw for 129 yards, running for 45 yards and a touchdown. 

Jacque Robinson was the freshman to hoist the MVP award for his outstanding performance in the 1982 Rose Bowl. Crushing the University of Iowa 28-0 behind Robinsons 142 yards on 20 carries and two touchdowns. Robinson was just getting started-earning MVP honors in the 1985 Orange Bowl. Robinson became one of only four players to ever win MVP in both the Orange and Rose Bowls.

President of the Tournament of Roses Laura Farber opened up the ceremony. The Rose Bowl Hall of Fame was established in 1989 to honor individuals connected with college football’s oldest Bowl game. The Rose Bowl HOF has 133 members to date.

The honorees will receive a blazer, a permanent plaque at the Court of Championship at the Rose Bowl, appear at the Rose Parade and are recognized on the field during the Rose Bowl. 

Big plays fuel Wyoming in Nova Bowl win over Georgia State

Nova Home Loan Bowl 2019 between Wyoming vs Georgia State on Tuesday December 31, 2019. (Photo by John Hays)

TUCSON, AZ – New Years Eve in Tucson, AZ? Why not? And for the Wyoming Cowboys (8-5, 4-4), they were all about it as both the fans and team traveled well, coming away with the 38-17 win over the Georgia State Panthers (7-6, 4-4).

Nova Home Loan Bowl 2019 between Wyoming vs Georgia State on Tuesday December 31, 2019. (Photo by John Hays)

The Cowboys would turn to freshman quarterback Levi Williams to hopefully jump start the offense, and the decision certainly paid big dividends, as Williams finished the game with an impressive 234 yards passing with three touchdowns to just one interception.

“I think it was the right move,” said Wyoming head coach, Craig Bohl. “He [Levi] was composed and made a lot of big plays… but for a freshman and really any quarterback I thought he played with great poise and composure.”

That of course was to be outdone by running back Xazavian Valladay. The redshirt sophomore and do-it-all workhorse, would arguably have the biggest day for the Cowboys, rushing for 204 yards and a touchdown, to go along with his 91 yards receiving and touchdown through the air as well.

Nova Home Loan Bowl 2019 between Wyoming vs Georgia State on Tuesday December 31, 2019. (Photo by John Hays)

Together the two capped a terrific season for the Cowboys in which they ended the year with not only their eighth win of the year, but more importantly the first bowl win since 2017, with a win in the Arizona Nova Home Loans Bowl.

Following the win, senior safety Alijah Halliburton was full of emotions, capping not only a terrific senior season, but a fantastic career in Laramie. “I’m just like happy, excited, sad, it’s just all over the place,” he said. “It’s my last game, but it was just such a big game.”

For the Cowboys, it’s a big step in the right direction, especially for a program that went 2-10 just a few seasons ago. And for the third time in the last four years, Wyoming has gone bowling.

Nova Home Loan Bowl 2019 between Wyoming vs Georgia State on Tuesday December 31, 2019. (Photo by John Hays)

“This program just flipped,” Halliburton said. “Coming in 2-10… I could just tell from the other seniors and the others players, they wanted to change, they wanted to get better, they wanted to get wins.”

However, the win wouldn’t come easy at first as Georgia State would start this game strong! Opening the game on a six-play, 75-yard drive, the Panthers would take the 7-0 lead early with just over two minutes into the game after a Dan Ellington rushing touchdown from four-yards out. Unfortunately for them, that was about the best thing the Panthers did all day.

Wyoming would respond quickly, connecting on a 53-yard, Cooper Rothe field goal with 9:01 to go in the first quarter to pull the Cowboys within four.

Just a few series later, they would gain the lead at 10-7 after a Williams would connect with Austin Conway from 18-yards out with 2:12 to go in the first, and from there Wyoming wouldn’t look back, cruising to a commanding 24-10 halftime lead.

Nova Home Loan Bowl 2019 between Wyoming vs Georgia State on Tuesday December 31, 2019. (Photo by John Hays)

Georgia State would put up a bit more of a fight in the second half, but it was too little too late as they ultimately fell sort in this one.

Wyoming would score early in the second half, extending their lead to 31-10 before the Panthers would find the endzone again, but that would be the last time they scored in this one.

Despite playing on a torn ACL, Ellington would finish his day with 156 yards passing with a touchdown and an interception to go along with his 70 yards rushing with a touchdown.

Nova Home Loan Bowl 2019 between Wyoming vs Georgia State on Tuesday December 31, 2019. (Photo by John Hays)

For Wyoming, they end the year at 8-5 and have a bright future with some young players, while Georgia State will look to rebound and finally get over the hump and continue to build their program.

Panthers head coach Shawn Elliott is certainly optimistic about it all. “We have some of the biggest wins in school history, and you go 5-1 at home, I mean there’s a lot of firsts that we’ve done here,” he said. “So people are taking notice of Georgia State.”

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