The west coast – Pac-12 in particular – seemed to struggle on defense this bowl season, but the game has shifted to be more offensive oriented now. This doesn’t mean the defense laid down; there were some great performances, especially at the linebacker position.
Before diving into this, make sure to check out our offensive All-Bowl Team.
That aside, here you go:
Josh Shirley, Washington – The redshirt freshman simply dominated the game, wreaking havoc on Heisman winner RGIII all game by getting three sacks for minus-14 yards. Two of Shirley’s sacks came on third down and forced the Baylor Bears to punt.
Shea McClellin, Boise St. – We’re pretty sure Arizona State’s linemen are still having nightmares about McClellin after his bowl performance. The Bronco recorded three tackles for loss – a sack included – for a total of negative-37 yards and forced the Sun Devils to play away from him.
Tevita Finau, Utah – Finau had a big task at hand, anchoring the line against a Georgia Tech offense that executes the option to perfection. He finished the day with 10 tackles with one for a loss. But more importantly, he ate up blocks and helped the front seven put disrupt the option attack.
Derrick Shelby, Utah – Finau’s teammate was a benefactor and was able to get off the edge to record 10 tackles. He stayed home when necessary and was able to rush to the outside to cut off running backs.
Trevor Guyton, Cal – Hey, our first Cal player! It was a rough day for the Golden Bears, but Guyton ended up with five tackles and a sack that drove Texas back nine yards.
Kiko Alonso, Oregon – The Rose Bowl Defensive MVP earned the honors alright, making big plays throughout the contest. With the game tied at 21 late in the first half, Wisconsin decided to go for fourth-and-one on the Oregon 17. Instead of handing it off to Montee Ball, QB Russell Wilson dropped back for a pass and Alonso came around to sack him and force a turnover on downs. Later in the game, Oregon Trailing 38-35, Russell Wilson dropped back and threw a pass right into Alonso’s zone and the junior came away with the pick. Oregon went on to score the go-ahead touchdown and sealed a win in the Grandaddy of Them All.
Michael Clay, Oregon – Clay was reading the defense all night, accumulating 13 tackles with two of them being for a loss. His biggest play of the night came late in the game when the team was up 45-38. Russell Wilson and the Wisconsin offense had the ball with less than six minutes to go and were driving down when receiver Jared Abbrederis fumbled the ball next to the Oregon sideline. Of all people, Chip Kelly spotted it and pointed it out for Clay to see and he jumped all over it. The play essentially ended the game for Wisconsin.
Kyle Van Noy, BYU – The BYU star completely broke down the Tulsa offensive line and finished with 10 tackles with five of them being for a loss. To go along with it he had two sacks and forced a fumble to help lead the team to victory.
J.M. Johnson, Nevada – The big fella played exceptional against Southern Miss, recording 11 solo tackles and getting to the quarterback for a 13-yard loss. He finished the game with two more assisted tackles and an 11-yard tackle for loss.
Cort Dennison, Washington – The most impressive thing about Dennison’s performance is that he was to keep up with Baylor’s offense all game. He mixed up coverages and moved around the field, ending the day with 15 tackles and 1.5 for a loss.
Chris McCain, California – The freshman was impressive in San Diego and while he only had four total tackles, they were all solo. Two of them were for loss and included an 11-yard sack.
Jamar Taylor, Boise St. – Only notched two tackles but had a great read on ASU quarterback Brock Osweiller in the redzone and took a short pass back 100 yards for a touchdown. The play seemed to sum up the Sun Devils’ night, as coach Dennis Erickson realized the play had been read but couldn’t get a timeout called.
Larry Parker, San Diego St. – The SDSU secondary had a great game and Parker was a top performer, breaking up two passes and recording nine tackles.
John Boyett, Oregon – Boyett was being moved around throughout the game and came up with 17 tackles – 13 were solo. He was also used in blitz packages and assisted on a sack.
Travis Stanaway, Boise St. – Another BSU player who helped the team completely dominate Arizona State. Stanaway tied for a team-high five tackles and returned a fumble 26 yards to the house.
Nat Berhe, San Diego St. – Berhe played close to the line and was able to record 10 tackles and was able to get it on one for a loss. He also had one pass breakup.
Terrance Brown, Stanford – Brown was able to pick off Brandon Weeden as well as break up another pass.
Alejandro Maldonado, Oregon – It was a rough bowl season for west coast kickers, but Maldonado showed poise. He was six-for-six on extra points and hit a 30-yard field goal to give the Ducks a seven-point lead to close out the game.
Sean Sellwood, Utah – The junior saw a lot of action, punting eight times for 396 yards – an impressive 49.5-yard average – and pinning two inside the 20.