Bo's Blog: Bowl Serves as Proving Ground for Future Team Champs, Stars

By Bo Carter

Does the SERVPRO First Responder Bowl serve as a springboard for conference champions and future NFL standouts?

Yes, in the case of this now-eight-year-old postseason tussle at historic Cotton Bowl Stadium, there are previews of league title games and showcase performances by young players who have established themselves among the nation’s elite.

Take, for example, the 2018 Pac-12 Conference championship encounter. Washington (44-31 winner over Southern Miss of Conference in the 2015 contest in Dallas) and Utah (30-14 victor over Big 12 Conference power West Virginia in 2017) paired up in Santa Clara, Calif., for the Pac-12 crown, and Washington edged the Utes in a 10-3 defensive dandy.

Or look to a young freshman RB named Myles Gaskin of Washington in 2015 when he made his bowl debut with First Responder Bowl records for carries with 26, rushing yards with 181 and rushing touchdowns with four and earned game Most Valuable Player laurels.

Some 5,202 career rushing yards, 921 rushing tries and 55 TDs (all Huskies school records) later, Gaskin is preparing to complete his UW career against Ohio State in the Rose Bowl. That breakout game against USM still resonates in Washington and area bowl circles.

A glance at some of the other standouts in the First Responder Bowl again proves that this bowl has hosted and continues to host many of the top performers in NCAA FBS annals.

Another literal “case in point” is former Houston quarterback and current NFL star Case Keenum of Houston. The sterling Cougar still holds bowl marks of 45-for-69 passing, 532 aerial yards, 76 total offense plays, and 542 total offense yards during a 30-14 win over Big Ten Conference power Penn State in the second First Responder Bowl at Fair Park in 2012.

That initial return to the bowl business annually in 2010 also produced a classic matchup of strong-armed quarterbacks in Texas Tech’s Taylor Potts (game MVP) and Northwestern and NFL performers Trevor Simien and Kain Colter. The 45-38 Red Raiders triumph ended with a composite 700-plus passing yards and seven scores.

The contest also has served as mini-preview for great defenders, talented specialists and national Top 25 contenders.

In just eight years, six different conferences and NCAA FCS independent Army West Point (a perfect 3-0 in DFW Metroplex bowl tests prior to the Dec. 22 Army-Houston Lockheed-Martin Armed Forces Bowl in Fort Worth).

Conference USA teams have had the most success in this classic with a 3-2 record while Pac-12 (2-0) and Big 12 Conference (2-1) representatives have gone onto to league championship appearances and traditional New Year’s Day bowl clashes after playing in the Cotton Bowl Stadium fracas.

Boston College brings the conference total up to six along with the three aforementioned circuits, Big Ten (four different members have played here) and the Mountain West. The Eagles will be locking horns with Boise ate for the second time in both teams’ annals after BC edged BSU 27-21 in a 2005 intersectional matchup.

The Eagles also are playing their third all-time game at Cotton Bowl Stadium with the previous two showings here both involving the Goodyear Cotton Bowls on 1940 (6-3 loss to Clemson) and 1985 (45-28 verdict over Houston). Boise State will be competing at the 88-year-old football venue for the first time with legendary Broncos radio voice Bob Behler making his first on-site broadcast in Fair Park. Behler watched the Georgia 10-9 upset over Texas in the ’84 GCB while he was a graduate student assistant for the Bulldogs.

Regardless of the outcome, fans can count on some aspiring national title and NFL team and individual contenders when the SERVPRO First Responder Bowl kicks off two weeks from Monday (Dec. 26) in Dallas.

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