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A look at the 24 previous Outback Bowls

The Jan. 1 Outback Bowl between Penn State and Florida is the 25th bowl game staged in Tampa (not including the old college All-Star contests at Tampa Stadium).

What was called the Hall of Fame Bowl from 1986-95 has evolved into the Outback, with capacity crowds (most of the time) and an afternoon time slot on ABC.

To commemorate the occasion, we rank the first 24 Tampa bowl games in order of excitement.

1. 2010: Auburn 38, Northwestern 35 (OT)

In their final game B.C. (Before Cam Newton), the Tigers had to snuff out a Northwestern fumblerooski attempt on the final play to escape.

The Wildcats, down by 14 points with 71/2 minutes left, made a two-point conversion to tie the score with 1:15 left on a reverse pass by receiver Andrew Brewer.

Northwestern quarterback Mike Kafka set Outback Bowl records for completions (47), attempts (78), passing yards (532), total yards (566) and interceptions (five).

One interception was returned 100 yards for a touchdown by Auburn cornerback Walter McFadden.

2. 2002: South Carolina 31, Ohio St. 28

Trailing 28-0, the Buckeyes rallied to tie the score behind Steve Bellisari (320 passing yards, three total touchdowns), playing for the first time since his arrest on drunken-driving charges in November. Bellisari was picked off in the final minute by the Gamecocks' Sheldon Brown, whose return to the Buckeyes' 29-yard line set up Daniel Weaver's 42-yard field goal with no time left.

3. 2000: Georgia 28, Purdue 25 (OT)

Boilermakers quarterback Drew Brees, who set or tied six Outback Bowl records, propelled his team to a 25-0 first-half lead. But when he was intercepted in the second quarter inside the Georgia 15, the momentum shifted. By the time Georgia's Hap Hines nailed a 19-yard field goal in overtime, 22 Outback records had been set or tied, and one of the greatest comebacks in bowl history had been staged.

4. 1986: Boston College 27, Georgia 24

The first postseason bowl game in Tampa was worth the wait and weather. On a rainy Dec. 23 night at Tampa Stadium, the Eagles' Shawn Halloran hit Kelvin Martin with a 5-yard touchdown pass with 32 seconds to play. The score capped a 76-yard drive taking 2:06.

5. 1988: Michigan 28, Alabama 24

Heart surgery forced Michigan coach Bo Schembechler to miss this one. His fill-in (and eventual successor) was Gary Moeller. On fourth and 3 from the Tide 20 with 50 seconds to play, Wolverines quarterback Demetrius Brown found diving John Kolesar in the corner of the end zone for the winner.

6. 2003: Michigan 38, Florida 30

This 60-minute microcosm of the Ron Zook coaching era is remembered for the Gators' final play from scrimmage, when 5-foot-8 receiver Vernell Brown lobbed a duck on a reverse flea-flicker intended for quarterback Rex Grossman. The pass was picked off. "I okayed that call," Zook said.

7. 2005: Georgia 24, Wisconsin 21

Georgia built a 24-6 second-half lead but struggled to close the door on the Badgers. Three plays after All-America Bulldogs defensive end David Pollack forced a fumble inside his 10, Wisconsin linebacker Andy Crooks intercepted a David Greene pass and returned it for a touchdown with 4:13 to play. Nursing a three-point lead, Georgia leaned on freshman Thomas Brown (111 rushing yards) to run out the clock.

8. 2008: Tennessee 21, Wisconsin 17

The Vols' defense, nursing a four-point lead, held twice when the Badgers moved inside the red zone down the stretch. On the initial drive, with a little more than six minutes to play, Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema opted to go for it, and failed, on fourth and 2 from the 10 instead of allowing Taylor Mehlhaff, a semifinalist for the Lou Groza Award given to the nation's top kicker, to try a 27-yard chip shot and make it a one-point game.

9. 1992: Syracuse 24, Ohio St. 17

The Buckeyes tied the score at 17 when Tito Paul recovered a blocked punt in the end zone with less than eight minutes to play. Roughly a minute later, however, they bit on a Marvin Graves play-action bomb to Antonio Johnson for what turned out to be a winning 60-yard touchdown.

10. 1997: Alabama 17, Michigan 14

Fittingly, Alabama coach Gene Stallings' final game was determined by a defensive play. With the Tide trailing 6-3 at the start of the fourth quarter, Alabama linebacker Dwayne Rudd stepped in front of a Brian Griese pass and went 88 yards for a touchdown. Shaun Alexander tacked on a 46-yard scoring run to seal things.

11. 2007: Penn St. 20, Tennessee 10

On an overcast day rife with precipitation and play reviews by the officials, the Nittany Lions broke a 10-10 deadlock when cornerback Tony Davis scooped up an Arian Foster fumble and returned it 88 yards for the go-ahead score with 10:01 to play.

12. 1995: Wisconsin 34, Duke 20

With his team clinging to a seven-point lead late, the Badgers' Terrell Fletcher ran untouched for a 49-yard touchdown to put the game away. Fletcher's 241 rushing yards remains an Outback/Hall of Fame bowl record.

13. 1990: Auburn 31, Ohio St. 14

The Tigers rang in the new decade auspiciously. With Auburn trailing 14-3 in the first half, Tigers running back Stacy Danley was clocked by safety Zack Dumas on a screen pass and lay motionless for several minutes. He got up, pointed at Buckeyes players as he exited, then helped his team score 28 unanswered points.

14. 1999: Penn St. 26, Kentucky 14

Wildcats quarterback Tim Couch threw for a then-Outback record 336 yards but was sacked five times. Two of the sacks were on consecutive plays in the fourth quarter by end Courtney Brown, thwarting a 17-play drive that had reached the Nittany Lions' 7.

15. 2006: Florida 31, Iowa 24

In Urban Meyer's first bowl game as coach, Dallas Baker (10 catches, 147 yards) scored on receptions of 24 and 38 yards as the Gators built a 31-7 lead. Vernell Brown even earned some Outback atonement (see No. 6) with a 60-yard interception return for a touchdown.

16. 1989: Syracuse 23, LSU 10

Before a meager Tampa Stadium crowd, game MVP Robert Drummond broke a 10-10 tie in the third quarter with a 1-yard touchdown run. Drummond (23 carries, 122 yards) and Florida's Emmitt Smith were the only players to run for 100 yards against the Tigers all season.

17. 1993: Tennessee 38, Boston College 23

Behind quarterback and game MVP Heath Shuler (276 total yards, four touchdowns), the Vols built a 31-7 lead before the Eagles scored 16 unanswered fourth-quarter points. Point of trivia: This was the first game Phillip Fulmer coached for Tennessee without an "interim" label. The school had ousted Johnny Majors 11/2 months before.

18. 2001: South Carolina 24, Ohio St. 7

The Gamecocks, 0-11 in the previous season, capped their turnaround with a big second half to finish 8-4. A Gamecocks field goal was the only score of the first half.

19. 2004: Iowa 37, Florida 17

The website operated with far more proficiency than the Gators' offense. Iowa built a 34-10 third-quarter lead en route to its first January bowl triumph in 45 years.

20. 2009: Iowa 31, South Carolina 10

Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier later acknowledged he pondered retirement after this humiliation. Gamecocks quarterback Stephen Garcia, a former Jefferson High star playing in a homecoming game, was intercepted on his first pass and eventually yanked.

21. 1998: Georgia 33, Wisconsin 6

A year before winning the Heisman Trophy, Ron Dayne struggled for 36 yards on 14 carries behind an all-freshmen line. Bulldogs quarterback Mike Bobo completed 19 passes in a row at one point.

22. 1996: Penn St. 43, Auburn 14

In the first game sponsored by Outback, the Nittany Lions, in torrential rain, scored 40 unanswered points after spotting Auburn a 7-3 lead.

23. 1994: Michigan 42, N.C. State 6

In the most one-sided game in Outback/Hall of Fame bowl history, Michigan's scoring methods included a Todd Collins-to-Amani Toomer Hail Mary on the first half's final play.

24. 1991: Clemson 30, Illinois 0

On a steamy New Year's Day (85 degrees at kickoff), Illinois' defense at least made a cameo appearance with a goal-line stand on the game's first possession. The Illini offense never showed.

>>Fast Facts

Outback Bowl

Who: Florida vs. Penn State

When/where: 1 p.m. Jan. 1; Raymond James Stadium, Tampa

TV/radio: Ch. 28; 620-AM

A look at the 24 previous Outback Bowls 12/24/10 [Last modified: Friday, December 24, 2010 8:50pm]
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