Group of Five 2020-21 Bowl Week 1 Recap & Highlights

Liberty finished their second season of full FBS bowl eligibility with a 10-1 record, winning the FBC Mortgage Cure Bowl (over Coastal Carolina 37-34 in OT) for the second year in a row. Liberty is just the second team (also Appalachian State) to win bowl games in each of its first two seasons of bowl eligibility following a transition from the FCS. (Courtesy of Liberty Athletics)

What a first week of bowl action of the first ten bowl games of the season! Two games really caught my attention in UCF playing BYU and Coastal Carolina playing Liberty this week before the games started.

BYU throttled UCF 49-23 in what looks to be QB Zach Wilson’s final collegiate game in the Boca Raton Bowl. Wilson finished 8th in the Heisman Trophy voting an was the only non-Power Five conference player in the Top 10 voting. The top four vote getters will are invited as the finalist to be announced on Jan. 5th.

But the game of the week had to be the final one with one-loss Liberty playing undefeated Coastal Carolina in the FBC Mortgage Cure Bowl in what was basically a make-up game for this two former FCS Big South conference mates. The two teams were scheduled to play Dec. 5th but was canceled due to COVID-19 concerns within the Liberty program an Coastal instead hosted and defeated BYU that date.

Lady luck seemed to be with Coastal Carolina as it has been all season in their 11-0 regular season finish as the co-Sun Belt Conference champions battled back from an early deficit. Coastal Carolina overcame an early 14-0 deficit, and drove 72 yards to tie it in the fourth quarter. QB Grayson McCall ran in a 2-point conversion to make it 34-34 after throwing a 5-yard touchdown pass to WR Greg Latushko with 3:01 remaining. And on the Flames next drive Liberty RB Joshua Mack fumbled inside the one-yard line with 41 seconds left in the fourth quarter. Coastal S Alex Spillum recovered the fumble to end the long drive.

But that luck ran out as the two teams went to overtime and luck turned to Liberty. The Flames took the lead in the first frame of overtime on K Alex Barbir’s 44-yard field goal. Then in the second frame, Coastal looked to tie the game to send it to a second overtime period. But the Flames’ DT Elijah James blocked Coastal K Massimo Biscardi’s 42-yard field goal attempt in overtime to give Liberty a 37-34 victory.

Liberty finished the season 10-1 with its only loss at the ACC’s North Carolina State ironically coming just a field goal away from being undefeated when Barbir had his what would be game winning attempt block in a 15-14 loss to the Wolfpack.

The Sun Belt’s other co-champions of Louisiana went to what in their eyes was a lesser match-up against Conference USA West Dvision second place UTSA in the SERVPRO First Responder Bowl in Dallas, Tex.

After the Roadrunners tied things up with a 20-yard field goal mid-way through the fourth quarter, the Ragin’ Cajuns put together a 12-play, 72-yard drive that was capped off by a powerful one-yard touchdown run by RB Trey Ragas to push Louisiana back in front 31-24.

Louisiana’s defense came up big at the end of the contest, making a critical stop on fourth down to turn the ball back over to the offense, which successfully milked the clock to secure the bowl victory.

Yes, COVID-19 did play a role as Army was a beneficiary of Tennessee having a COVID outbreak and will next week play next week versus West Virginia in the Autozone Liberty Bowl. But COVID-19 also cost UAB a bowl game as the Union Home Mortgage Gasparilla Bowl with South Carolina was canceled due to COVID-19 reasons with in the South Carolina team.

Four more bowl games involving Group of Five schools including Army’s game, as well as the New Year’s Six Peach Bowl involving Cincinnati versus Georgia are scheduled for this upcoming week.

Below are highlights from all 10 bowl games this week with a full game recap in the hyperlink.

Myrtle Beach Bowl (Conway, S.C.) Mon., Dec. 21
Appalachian State 56 North Texas 28

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl (Boise, Idaho) Tues., Dec. 22
Nevada 38 Tulane 27 Boca Raton Bowl (Orlando, Fla.) Tues., Dec. 22
BYU 49 UCF 23

R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl (New Orleans, La.) Wed., Dec. 23
Georgia Southern 38 Louisiana Tech 3

Montgomery Bowl (Montgomery, Ala.) Wed., Dec. 23
Memphis 25 Florida Atlantic 10

New Mexico Bowl (Frisco, Tex.) Thurs., Dec. 24
Hawai’i 28 Houston 14

Camellia Bowl (Montgomery, Ala.) Fri., Dec. 25
Buffalo 17 Marshall 10

LendingTree Bowl (Mobile, Ala.) Sat., Dec. 26
Georgia State 39 Western Kentucky 21

SERVPRO First Responder Bowl (Dallas, Tex.) Sat., Dec. 26
Louisiana 31 UTSA 24

FBC Mortgage Cure Bowl (Orlando, Fla.) Sat., Dec. 26
Liberty 37 Coastal Carolina 34