by CFP Staff
December 31, 2010
New Year's Eve bowl games began with the Meineke Car Care Bowl in Charlotte where USF ran its bowl winning streak to three with a 31-26 win over Clemson.
The final score wasn't indicative of the beatdown administered by the Bulls who led 31-13 until the Tigers added two touchdowns in the final two minutes. It would have been an extremely interesting finish, however, if Clemson hadn't touched the ball on the last onside kick attempt 1/2-yard before it became legal.
USF quarterback B.J. Daniels threw 2 TD passes and ran for another score as it finished 8-5 under first-year head coach Skip Holtz. It was the 5th straight season of at least 8 wins for the program and the 3rd consecutive 8-5 campaign. The Bulls were 9-4 in 2006 and 2007.
USF's bowl record improved to 4-2 in its sixth straight bowl appearance. It was the second trip to Charlotte for the Bulls who lost here to N.C. State in their first-ever bowl game in 2005.
Clemson finished 6-7 for its first losing record since 1998. The Tigers fell to 16-17 in bowl games.
Clemson QB Kyle Parker was knocked out of the game with a cracked rib, but his team trailing just 17-13 after Jamie Harper scored on a 1-yard run with 30 seconds left in the half.
USF began the second half with the football and promptly marched 83 yards in 5:13 to stretch the lead to 24-13 on Mo Plancher's 2-yard run. The Bulls opened a 31-13 advantage on Daniels' 8-yard run on the second play of the 4th quarter.
That score stood until Clemson backup QB Tajh Boyd hit Brandon Ford on a 6-yard scoring pass with just 1:47 left. The touchdown seemed completely meaningless until the Tigers recovered the onside kick and Boyd hit Ford again, this time from 10 yards out, with 43 seconds still on the clock. The drama ended when Clemson fielded the next onside kick a foot-and-a-half too soon.
The bowl victory was USF's first over a team from a BCS automatic-qualifying conference.
Clemson was the preseason forecasted winner of the ACC Atlantic. CollegeFootballPoll.com's Congrove Computer Rankings projected a 9-3 season and a 6-2 conference record. However, the Tigers lost road games to Boston College, North Carolina and Florida State by 6 points or less, fell at Auburn, and also dropped home games to Miami and rival South Carolina. A 30-10 win at Wake Forest in the next-to-last game of the season was the Tigers' only road win.
Big East teams have now won the last three Meineke Car Care Bowls with Pitt (2009) and West Virginia (2008) each downing North Carolina in the previous two seasons.
It was the first-ever meeting between these teams. In its relatively short history, USF has also beaten ACC members Florida State (1-1), Miami (1-2), North Carolina (2-0) and N.C. State (1-1). The Bulls took Boston College's place in the Big East after the Eagles moved to the ACC in 2005.