Arkansas State got by FIU in a fun battle for the Camellia Bowl. What are the five things that matter?
Arkansas State vs. FIU: 5 Things That Matter
Final Score: Arkansas State 34, FIU 26
CFN Prediction: SMU 41, Florida Atlantic 28
Line: FIU -1, o/u: 59
5. A little love for the kicking game
There was plenty of offense and a whole lot of big performances, but the kickers played a massive role, too.
FIU’s Jose Borregales missed a 29-yard field goal, but he bailed out the offense time and again connecting on two 25-yard shots along with second half bombs from 48 and 52 yards away.
Arkansas State’s Blake Grupe nailed his kicks in the second quarter from 46 and 37 yards out, and punter Cody Grace came up with two good kicks to pin FIU deep. FIU punter Tommy Heatherly only had three punts, but he averaged over 49 yards per kick.
4. Camellia Bowl went Camellia Bowl
It’s sort of impressive that this game has managed to be among the consistently best of the bowl season year after year – and this one didn’t disappoint.
It wasn’t always scintillating, and it wasn’t the sharpest played game, but there was fight from both sides, it was competitive, and FIU had the ball in its hands in the final moments with one last desperate chance to try pulling out something miraculous.
And with this game decided by eight points, it was the worst of the recent Camellia Bowls – the last five were each decided by five points or fewer – and this at least technically kept the final score to within a touchdown and conversion.
There were close to 1,000 yards of total offense, a few major mood and momentum swings, and enough to make this a decent early game.
It was competitive and worth the watch. You can’t say that about all the early bowls.
3. Omar Bayless went Omar Bayless
At least statistically, the Arkansas State star receiver was the biggest snub among the finalists for the Biletnikoff award. Explosive, consistent and productive, he caught 84 passes for 1,473 yards and 16 scores on the season, and he was the one guy FIU had to stop.
That didn’t happen.
He started out the scoring with a four-yard touchdown grab, came up with a big 52-yard play, and finished with nine catches for 178 yards and a score.
Bayless was brilliant, Layne Hatcher completed 27-of-51 passes for 393 yards and four scores, and the ASU passing game was able to overcome a slew of key mistakes on both sides to pull this off.
2. FIU decent season ends with a thud
It’s a loss.
FIU rallied with a big passing day – James Morgan threw for 312 yards and a score, and Austin Maloney caught ten passes for 178 yards and a touchdown – but it’s the second bowl loss in three tries under Butch Davis, a third loss in the last four bowls, and a third loss in the final four games to close out with a losing season.
The win over Miami will forever be what this year was remembered for, but it’s the first losing season in three at FIU under Davis.
After a rough start to the bowl game, the Golden Panthers scratched and clawed their way back, but they settled for way too many field goals. They grabbed the momentum on a bomb of Borregales field goal to pull within one early in the fourth, but …
1. It was a special finish for Arkansas State
And not just because the offense went on a late march for a touchdown that ended up putting the Red Wolves up eight with a little breathing room.
Nothing against FIU and all the work the program went through to get to this game, but good for Arkansas State. The team – and especially Red Wolves’ head coach Blake Anderson – got to close out with something special after a nightmare start.
Anderson’s wife passed away just as the season got going, on the field the team hit an early lull in a 3-4 start, and then came the second wind over the back half of the season with a four-game winning streak with three of the victories in tight fights.
And now, after going 1-4 in bowl games under Anderson – including a gut-wrenching overtime loss to Nevada in last year’s Arizona Bowl, ASU is 8-5 for the third time in four years.
Camellia Bowl History
Dec. 21, 2019 Arkansas State 34, FIU 26
Dec. 15, 2018 Georgia Southern 23, Eastern Michigan 21
Dec. 16, 2017 Middle Tennessee 35, Arkansas State 30
Dec. 17, 2016 Appalachian State 31, Toledo 28
Dec. 19, 2015 Appalachian State 31 Ohio 29
Dec. 20, 2014 Bowling Green 33 South Alabama 28