Bowl season is officially over, so it’s time to take a look back at the postseason by recounting the best and most notable bowl moments for the Big Ten this year.
The league’s 3-7 record in bowl games ended a good season for the Big Ten on a sour note, but there were still plenty of strong individual efforts and outstanding plays worth remembering. Here’s our short list of Big Ten bowl superlatives.
Best offensive performance: Northwestern running back Justin Jackson piled up 224 rushing yards and three touchdowns to cap off his third consecutive 1,000-yard season with the Wildcats. He’ll be back again in 2017, and he’ll have a chance to become the program’s all-time leading rusher. More performances like his dominant day in the Wildcats' 31-24 victory over Pitt in the Pinstripe Bowl will help toward that end. Jackson, though, was most excited about getting to suit up in the home locker room at Yankee Stadium. “Great people have gone through here,” he told reporters in New York. “Like, Derek Jeter has peed in that urinal.”
Best defensive performance: One of the Big Ten’s other victories came thanks in no small part to Minnesota walk-on linebacker Blake Cashman. The Golden Gophers’ rising force in the middle of the defense made 12 tackles (nine solo) and added a sack early in the third quarter as his team pinned down Washington State for a 17-12 win in the Holiday Bowl to finish the season at 9-4.
Best run: Penn State running back Saquon Barkley might have been our top offensive performer had he not had so much help from quarterback Trace McSorley in a thrilling losing effort in the Rose Bowl. USC outlasted Penn State 52-49. Barkley did provide one of the better touchdown runs that the Granddaddy of Them All has ever seen. The sophomore bounced a run outside to start the third quarter before threading his way back through the Trojans' defense for a 79-yard score that gave the Nittany Lions a lead early in the second half.
Best catch: Who needs all five fingers? Wisconsin tight end Troy Fumagalli started the Cotton Bowl with a diving one-handed catch on a third-and-long to help the Badgers on their first scoring drive of a 24-16 win over Western Michigan. Fumagalli laid out and corralled the ball with his left hand, which is missing a finger.
Best bounce: Minnesota running back Shannon Brooks won’t get more of a gift-wrapped touchdown than the one that literally dropped into his hands during the third quarter of the Holiday Bowl. Brooks ran under a Washington State defensive back, who tipped an errant throw from quarterback Mitch Leidner into Brooks' hands at the goal line. The result was the first touchdown of the game for either team and a second-half lead for the Gophers.
Best pre-bowl activity: No bowl coverage is complete without some type of talent show or wing-eating contest so the two teams can compete off the field. The Quick Lane Bowl in Detroit went to nearby Hamtramck, Michigan, where Boston College and Maryland competed in fowling -- a fantastic matchup of football, bowling and Midwestern cornhole. The Terps ended up as losers, thanks to the heroics of Boston College’s long-snapper.
Best bowl-appropriate celebrations: Northwestern’s underclassmen have made a habit of dancing on the sideline. And yes, the Wildcats may have missed Christmas at Radio City Music Hall by a couple of days, but their homage to the Rockettes was still a perfect way to kick off a win in the Pinstripe Bowl.