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College football bowl roundup: Florida Atlantic handles SMU in Boca Raton Bowl

Florida Atlantic's Ray Ellis tries to pump up his team before playing SMU in the Boca Raton Bowl, Saturday, December 21, 2019, at Florida Atlantic University.
Florida Atlantic's Ray Ellis tries to pump up his team before playing SMU in the Boca Raton Bowl, Saturday, December 21, 2019, at Florida Atlantic University. (Michael Laughlin/South Florida Sun Sentinel)

Chris Robison passed for 305 yards and two touchdowns and Florida Atlantic scored two touchdowns in a 24-second span late in the first half to take control on the way to beating SMU, 52-28, in the Boca Raton Bowl on Saturday night.

It was FAU’s first game since Lane Kiffin left the Owls to take over at Ole Miss — and the Conference USA champions, playing on their home field, didn’t miss a beat under interim coach Glenn Spencer.

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James Charles ran for two touchdowns for FAU (11-3), which tied a school record for wins in a season and improved to 4-0 in bowl games. The first of Charles’ scores came with a minute left in the first half to break a 14-14 tie, Robison found Brandon Robinson for another touchdown 24 seconds later after an SMU interception and the Owls were off and running.

Rashad Smith ran a fumble back for a score in the third quarter to help FAU blow the game open. Robison completed 27 of 37 passes for FAU.

Shane Buchele completed 27 for 47 passes for 303 yards for SMU (10-3). The Mustangs were seeking their first bowl win since 2012, this game coming a day after they gave coach Sonny Dykes — who has gone 15-11 in his first two seasons with the team, including the 2017 Frisco Bowl loss — a contract extension.

Xavier Jones had a pair of rushing touchdowns for SMU. James Proche, who entered as the NCAA’s active career leader in receptions and receiving yards, had nine catches — giving him 301 for his career — for 86 yards and a score for the Mustangs.

Cure Bowl

Liberty 23, Georgia Southern 16: Frankie Hickson picked up 120 yards rushing on 22 carries, Stephen Calvert went 16 of 35 passing for 270 yards and two touchdowns for Liberty.

Hickson became the first Liberty running back since Rashad Jennings (2006-08) to have back to back seasons of 1,000-yards rushing.

Flames coach Hugh Freeze, who began his first season coaching Liberty from a hospital bed in the press box following back surgery on Aug. 16, got his 50th career win.

Liberty (8-5) joined Georgia Southern and Appalachian State as the only teams to move from FCS to FBS and win a bowl game in its first season of eligibility.

Shai Werts completed 10 of 19 passes for 95 yards and gained 57 yards on 22 carries for Georgia Southern (7-6). Wesley Kennedy III had 104 yards on nine rushing attempts.

New Mexico Bowl

San Diego State 48, C. Michigan 11: Ryan Agnew passed for 287 yards and three touchdowns, Jesse Matthews caught three passes for 111 yards and two touchdowns and San Diego State won a bowl game for the first time since 2016, beating Central Michigan.

Jordan Byrd ran for a career-high 139 yards and a touchdown to help the Aztecs (10-3) cap their 10th straight bowl appearance with a victory. San Diego State opened 7-1 record, then dropped two of its last three conference games to fall out of contention for a Mountain West title game berth

It was a homecoming for San Diego State coach Rocky Long. He last won the New Mexico Bowl in 2007 as New Mexico’s coach. Long is 4-9 in bowl games.

San Diego State prevented Central Michigan (8-6) from sustaining consistent, with quarterback Quinten Dormady under pressure and forced to throw into tight coverage. He passed for 164 and threw three interception.

Central Michigan’s Jonathan Ward, who came into the game with 1,082 yards and 15 touchdowns, was held to 7 rushing yards and 26 yards receiving.

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Kobe Lewis ran for 97 rushing yards, with a 66-yard rushing touchdown in the third quarter.

Camellia Bowl

Arkansas 34, Florida International 26: Layne Hatcher passed for 393 yards and four touchdowns, including a late 13-yarder to Jonathan Adams, and Arkansas State beat Florida International in the Camellia Bowl.

The Red Wolves (8-5) came back to life offensively for a final big drive, highlighted by All-American and game MVP Omar Bayless’s 52-yard catch down to the 12. Then they had two interceptions in the final minutes.

The Panthers (6-7) converted a fourth-and-5 play with a pass to Austin Maloney, who matched the huge game of Bayless. But James Morgan’s overthrow on the next play was intercepted by Jeremy Smith, who returned it 21 yards into FIU territory.

Celebration Bowl

N.C. A&T 64, Alcorn State 44: Kylil Carter passed for six touchdowns and North Carolina A&T racked up enormous offensive totals to beat Alcorn State for the Aggies’ third consecutive HBCU national championship title.

Carter completed 18 of 30 passes for 364 yards, and added 96 on the ground. Korey Banks and Elijah Bell each caught a pair of scoring passes for NCA&T, which has beaten Alcorn State in three of the five Celebration Bowls — including two straight.

Alcorn State quarterback Felix Harper passed for 341 yards and three scores, but the Braves trailed 24-10 at halftime and NCA&T steadily stacked points from there.

The teams combined for 49 points in the third quarter, when NCA&T scored touchdowns on its first four possessions of the period and Alcorn State banked touchdowns on its first three drives. The Aggies rolled to 290 yards in the quarter, and Alcorn State added 238.

NCA&T took the lead when senior Bell ran past the Alcorn State secondary and pulled in a 53-yard touchdown pass with 13:03 left in the second quarter. That was good for a 7-3 edge and extended Bell’s school record to 32 career touchdowns receiving.

Alcorn State moved ahead briefly when Harper found wide receiver Chris Blair wide open for a 59-yard scoring pass with 7:55 left.

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