How many times have you heard "big time players make big time plays in big time games"?
You can add Jeremy Eddington to the big time player list. With the Owls holding a slim 26-24 lead late in the 4th quarter, clinging to bowl aspirations, Eddington did what no Owl has done since 1984; he returned a kickoff for a touchdown.
The junior Running Back from Paris Chisum took a Steven Valadez kickoff 97 yards to not just a touchdown, but bowl eligibility.
It's been 320 games since an Owl has done that, and if you had to choose when it would happen again, this time, with sooo much riding on the outcome of the game, would be undoubtedly be the time.
The Owls would hold off UTEP to win 33-24 and gain not only bowl eligibility, but complete a turnaround of a season that looked doomed after Rice started it 1-5.
The Owls finished the season 5-1 after that difficult start; and with last night's victory will go to a bowl again for the first time since 2008 - likely to face either Air Force in the Armed Forces Bowl in Ft. Worth; or Louisiana-Lafayette in the New Orleans Bowl.
Just as important going to a bowl means the team will get another month of practices - critical for the development of a young team. I spoke to Coach David Bailiff earlier this week and he said the additional practice time is like "having two spring practices".
And with losing only a handful of senior starters - the best could be yet to come for the Owls.
But for now, the celebration continues.
- Eddington wasn't the only one responsible for the Owls' victory over UTEP. RB Charles Ross had a career high 154 yards rushing on 23 carries. He averaged 6.7 yards per carry and also scored 2 touchdowns.
- Taylor McHargue did a great job of protecting the football for the second straight game despite being sacked 4 times. McHargue also kept the chains moving as he led the Offense to 58% 3rd down conversion rate. He completed 21-of-30 passes for 207 yards.
- With Luke Willson slowed with injury, senior Vance McDonald carried the receiving load for the second straight game. Vance had a career high 9 catches for 99 yards. He was also clutch on several of those 3rd down conversions.
- Though he wasn't selected as a Lou Groza finalist, Chris Boswell continued to be the big time kicker he is, making field goals of 43 and 51 yards. Boz has connected on 6 field goals from 50+ yards this year.
- UTEP entered the game #1 in the country in kickoff coverage. Jeremy Eddington changed that. Not only did he have the 97 yard return for a score, he averaged 53 yards per return on 4 attempts. JEdd also had 60 yards on 13 carries and scored another TD on a 6 yard run.
- The Owl Defense recorded 3 more quarterback sacks - giving them 25 for the season. They are tied for 50th in the NCAA in that category.
Owl Sports Watch