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Ihmir Smith-Marsette's three-TD performance ignites Iowa in Holiday Bowl triumph over USC


A tough month for the Iowa Hawkeyes ended with a rousing Holiday Bowl victory over Southern California that would have made Hayden Fry and Bump Elliott proud.

Ihmir Smith-Marsette scored on a 6-yard run, a 98-yard kickoff return and a 12-yard reception — all in the second quarter — to lead No. 19 Iowa to a 49-24 rout of No. 22 USC on Friday night.

Senior Nate Stanley threw two touchdown passes and the Hawkeyes (10-3) won their fourth straight game for their sixth 10-win season in coach Kirk Ferentz’s 21 years.

The Hawkeyes honored both Fry, the former coach who died Dec. 17 at age 90, and Elliott, a former athletic director who died Dec. 7 at 94.

“It’s been a really challenging month in Iowa athletics with the passing of Bump and Coach Fry,” said Ferentz, who was an assistant under Fry. “When you think about both of those men, what they stood for and what they taught, was competing at a high level and doing it with great competitiveness, but also with integrity.

“That’s one of the reasons I’m just so proud to be at Iowa and hopefully this is one they both enjoyed tonight, and more importantly their families.”

The Hawkeyes even did the Hokey Pokey during a locker room celebration, continuing one of many traditions Fry started during his tenure from 1979 to 1998.

“We felt to honor him, we would do that,” Stanley said.

Smith-Marsette, the offensive player of the game, was late getting into the locker room because of the trophy presentation. “I thought we were going to sing the fight song, and all you hear is, ‘Put your right foot in. … Just being able to part of that, like Nate said, it was a tradition for Coach Fry. It was a special thing.”

USC freshman quarterback Kedon Slovis, who threw two touchdown passes, was knocked out of the game with an injured right elbow in the third quarter. The Trojans (8-5) fell apart after Slovis left and had their three-game winning streak snapped.

Smith-Marsette helped the Hawkeyes to a 28-17 halftime lead.

Smith-Marsette scored on a 6-yard sweep for a 14-7 lead. After USC tied it on Slovis’ 16-yard pass to Vavae Malepeai, Smith-Marsette returned the kickoff 98 yards to give the Hawkeyes the lead for good.

Smith-Marsette, a junior wide receiver, also had a 95-yard kickoff return for a score in the regular-season finale, a 27-24 victory over Nebraska.

He credited his teammates on special teams. “They work their (rear) off to go out there, sacrifice their body for me. Just being able to run behind them is incredible. They set me up perfectly tonight. All I did was follow my blockers. Credit to them.”

Stanley found Smith-Marsette on a 12-yard scoring pass on Iowa’s next possession for a 28-14 lead.

Chase McGrath kicked a 32-yard field goal as the clock expired to pull USC within 28-17 at halftime.

The Trojans cut it to 28-24 on Stephen Carr’s 2-yard run to cap the opening drive of the second half. It followed a 55-yard pass from Slovis to Amon-Ra St. Brown to the Iowa 5. Jack Koerner was called for roughing the passer when he slammed down Slovis, whose head hit the turf.

Kicker Michael Brown then recovered his own onside kick. Slovis was hurt two plays later when he was sacked and fumbled, which was recovered by USC. Slovis came out and was replaced by Matt Fink.

Slovis took over after JT Daniels suffered a season-ending knee injury in the opener and threw for 3,242 yards and 28 touchdowns, against nine interceptions in the regular season. He threw for a school-record 515 yards as well as four touchdowns in a 52-35 victory over UCLA.

“I mean, nothing really changed,” USC receiver Michael Pittman Jr. said. “It’s just we kind of got shocked because our starting quarterback had gotten out, then it kind of deflected our, like, flow. Just one thing led to another. That’s what happened.”

Iowa put it away with a 90-yard drive capped by Tyler Goodson’s 1-yard run for a 35-24 lead late in the third quarter. Stanley had a 34-yard pass to Smith-Marsette and also gained 8 yards on a sneak to the USC 3.

The Trojans lost two fumbles late in the second half, including when a high shotgun snap went off Fink’s hands, with Iowa’s Kristian Welch recovering at the USC 6.

“We’ve been in that situation with him before,” Trojans coach Clay Helton said of Fink. “He has absolutely excelled. Tonight just wasn’t our night.”

Iowa converted on Stanley’s 6-yard TD pass to Brandon Smith to make it 42-24.

Iowa’s Nick Niemann intercepted Fink and returned it 25 yards for a TD with 1:43 left.

Iowa’s Tyrone Tracy Jr. scored on a 23-yard run on the game’s first drive and USC answered with Slovis’ 4-yard scoring pass to Drake London.

Slovis completed 22 of 30 passes for 260 yards.

Pinstripe Bowl

Michigan State 27, Wake Forest 21

In New York, Mike Panasiuk ripped off his Michigan State helmet and hoisted it in the air, unleashing the hidden part of his scruffy beard that’s normally a no-no at Yankee Stadium. Facial hair is banned for all Yankees, and so, for the Spartans, are the kind of acts of unsportsmanlike conduct that get a big guy like Panasiuk penalized.

The penalty was worth it for the burly Spartans defensive tackle, who rumbled 14 yards on an interception for his first career touchdown. His brother, Jacub, triggered the pick when he swatted the ball at the line. It took a bounce off a fallen player, and into Panasiuk’s hands.

“Shoutout to Mike,” Michigan State’s Kenny Willekes said. “That’s pretty damn cool to score a touchdown at Yankee Stadium.”

Brian Lewerke took it from there in his final game. Lewerke threw for 320 yards and a touchdown and ran for a score in the Spartan’s victory over Wake Forest.

“When you’re a senior and you play your last football game, you want it to be your best,” Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said.

Lewerke threw a 10-yard pass to wide receiver Cody White in the third quarter to put the Spartans (7-6) ahead 27-21 and they survived down the stretch to give Dantonio his sixth bowl victory.

Texas Bowl

Texas A&M 24, Oklahoma State 21

In Houston, Kellen Mond ran for a career-high 117 yards and threw a touchdown pass as Texas A&M scored 24 straight points to overcome an early deficit and beat Oklahoma State.

Mond ran 67 yards to give the Aggies (8-5) a 21-14 lead early in the fourth quarter. Mond cut to the right to avoid a couple of defenders and outran everyone else. Tre Sterling had a shot to tackle him around the 25, but Mond ran away from his diving attempt.

The Cowboys (8-5) went for it on fourth-and-1 from the Texas A&M 34 on their next possession, but Spencer Sanders was stopped for no gain.

The Aggies added a 24-yard field goal to make it 24-14 with about three minutes to go.

Oklahoma State cut the lead to three on a touchdown reception by Braydon Johnson with about a minute left. The Cowboys attempted an onside kick, but A&M recovered it to secure the victory.

Chuba Hubbard, who finished the regular season as the nation’s leading rusher, ran for 158 yards, and Johnson had 124 yards receiving and two touchdowns for the Cowboys.

Hubbard finished the seasonw with 2,094 yards rushing to become the second player in school history to reach 2,000, joining Barry Sanders, who did it in 1988 when he won the Heisman Trophy. Sanders tweeted congratulations to Hubbard after he reached the mark and said: “I know the effort it takes to get there.”

Military Bowl

North Carolina 55, Temple 13

In Annapolis, Maryland, Freshman Sam Howell threw for 294 yards and three touchdowns in addition to catching a TD pass, and North Carolina blew out Temple to cap a satisfying return season for coach Mack Brown.

Howell completed 25 of 34 passes and ran for 53 yards on three carries to help the Tar Heels (7-6) secure their first bowl victory since 2013. North Carolina was 4-6 before winning its last two regular-season games to qualify for a bowl bid.

Temple (8-5) has gone to a bowl game five years in a row — and lost four of them. This was the Owls’ first trip under coach Rod Carey, who came to Temple after a run of six-plus seasons at Northern Illinois in which he was 0-6 in the postseason.

North Carolina went 3-9 in 2017 and 2-9 last year before hiring Brown, who coached the Tar Heels from 1988 to 1997 prior to heading to Texas for a 16-year stay. Coming off a five-year absence from coaching, the 68-year-old Brown can attribute a portion of his success to securing Howell, a high school star in North Carolina who initially committed to Florida State.

Closing out a sensational debut season at the college level, Howell threw a pair of touchdown passes before halftime to stake the Tar Heels to a 20-6 lead. UNC pulled away early in the third quarter by scoring two touchdowns in a 12-second span, the last on a 20-yard interception return by Storm Duck.

Cheez-It Bowl

No. 24 Air Force 31, Washington State 21

In Phoenix, Kadin Remsberg ran for 178 yards and stretched to the pylon for a 3-yard touchdown late in the fourth quarter, lifting Air Force to a 31-21 victory over Washington State.

The Falcons (11-2) had their triple option working to near perfection, grinding out 371 yards rushing while setting a Cheez-It Bowl time of possession record of 43:24.

Donald Hammond III scored two touchdowns and Remsberg had his fourth-down TD confirmed by review to help the Falcons close the season on an eight-game winning streak.

Anthony Gordon, the FBS passing leader, kept the Cougars within reach, throwing for 351 yards and three touchdowns. He hit Brandon Arconado on a 13-yard TD early in the fourth quarter to pull Washington State (6-7) within 24-21, but the Cougars had no answer for Air Force’s triple-option attack.