The San Diego Bowl Game Association's two marquee productions — the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl and Bridgepoint Holiday Bowl — are more than just college football games dressed up in bright wrappings at Qualcomm Stadium.
Yes, there is atmosphere with large crowds, marching bands and fireworks aplenty. Cooler wintertime temperatures even add a bit of welcome crispness — and in specific regard to last year's Holiday Bowl game, a bit of frostiness — to the proceedings.
But the two bowl games are cheered on by more than screaming fans. They constitute a celebration of community, which is heightened by their proximity to the holiday season.
The pre-game Parade of Wishes has given the Poinsettia Bowl an emotional tug since the bowl game's inception in 2005. The Poinsettia Bowl has once again designated Make-A-Wish San Diego as its beneficiary, and $1 from every game ticket will be donated to the foundation.
A crowd of 40,000 is expected to attend Thursday's game (Dec. 20) between Mountain West Conference co-champion San Diego State and the Brigham Young Cougars. Kick-off is 5 p.m.
“Make-A-Wish is so grateful to be a part of the magic the Poinsettia Bowl continues to bring to our San Diego Wish families,” said Alex Cano, the foundation's community development manager, in a prepared statement. “Our families are so blessed by this opportunity and every moment is a memory they talk about for years.”
More than 500 members of the “wish family,” including wish children, their parents and siblings, and dedicated volunteers will attend the Poinsettia Bowl as special guests. They will enjoy a private tailgate party and be provided sweatshirts, prizes and block of seats.
Besides participating in the pre-game on-field parade, six wish children will serve in roles of honorary team captains and coin toss participants. One young man will be chosen to sing the national anthem.
For the first time, Rady Children’s Hospital has been chosen as the beneficiary for the 2012 Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl game. Bridgepoint Education has pledged to donate $1 for every Holiday Bowl ticket sold to the local hospital. Last year, nearly 60,000 Holiday Bowl tickets were sold.
UCLA and Baylor, the 2012 bowl teams, will each bring their team captains to the hospital for a visit during bowl week and Rady Children’s will be recognized throughout the game.
“On behalf of the 155,000 patients at Rady Children’s Hospital, we are honored to be the beneficiary of the Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl this year,” said Carol Damon-Scherer, interim executive director for the hospital, in a prepared statement. “We wish the best of luck to both UCLA and Baylor.”
The Holiday Bowl kicks off at 6:45 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 27.
Both games will be televised nationally. ESPN and ESPN3 will broadcast the Poinsettia Bowl while ESPN will broadcast the Holiday Bowl.
Both bowl games have tie-ins to a plethora of fun-filled community events such as the upcoming 17th annual Bumble Bee Foods 5K run/walk and the Port of San Diego Big Bay Balloon Parade for the Holiday Bowl.
The 5K run/walk steps off at 9:45 a.m. on Dec. 27 on the corner of Harbor Drive and Ash Street; participants will be cheered on by an estimated crowd of 100,000 assembled for the 10 a.m. parade, which is billed as America's largest balloon parade.
Channel 4 San Diego is set to telecast the parade.
Nearly 600 boys and girls, ages 5 to 14, participated in the Kaiser Permanente NCAA Football Youth Clinic held July 28 at the rugby fields at Qualcomm Stadium. The Poinsettia Bowl event was the largest such clinic in the country.
Bruce Binkowski, executive director of both San Diego bowl games, called the turnout "amazing."
"Thanks to the support of NCAA Football and all our coaches, this event was able to provide a truly memorable experience for all our young participants," said Binkowski, a South County resident.
Kids also had a chance to participate in the Chargers' second annual Punt, Pass & Kick contest. Winners included Zakary Darling (5-7), Dakari Allen (8-10) and Rodrigo Reyes (11-14).
Also tied in with this week's Poinsettia Bowl festivities were Team Day at SeaWorld on Monday and Team Day at the San Diego Zoo on Tuesday.
Tuesday evening saw marching bands and spirit squads from the two participating teams take part in the Five Star Tours Poinsettia Bowl Gaslamp March.
Holiday Bowl community events began as far back as April (Wells Fargo Outrigger Challenge and Luau) and May (Jack in the Box Hoops at the Beach) and continued with June's Wells Fargo Golf Classic and August's 16th annual Wienerschnitzel Wiener Nationals dachshund race at Qualcomm Stadium.
The Tilted Kilt $1 million hole-in-one shootout took place in September.
Besides the fun-filled events, both bowl games also steer themselves into the inspirational realm by recognizing deserving youths from the region.
The 2012 Dr. Pepper Ten Most Inspirational Player award-winner will be recognized at the Holiday Bowl. It recognizes a high school student-athlete who program chairman LaDrue Jordan said may not get all the accolades and attention as the best players on their team but who "fly under the radar screen, yet play invaluable roles on their football teams."
A $2,000 scholarship goes along with the award.
Sweetwater High School's Luis Venegas was last year's award recipient.
Football players south of the border are also recognized for their excellence. Two high school players from Mexico will be honored on the field at Qualcomm Stadium during this year's Holiday Bowl.
This year's offensive MVP award went to Oliver Alejandro Barajas Magana of Zorros Cetys Mexicali while the defensive MVP award went to Sergio Diaz Luevano from Preparatoria Federal Lazaro Cardenas.
Magana, a running back who led his team to a perfect 8-0 record this season, finished the season with 1,110 total yards and 12 touchdowns.
He called the award a "great honor" and wished to dedicate it to his team, his coaches and especially his family. "Without them, none of this could have happened," he was quoted as saying in a press release distributed by Holiday Bowl officials. "It motivates me to be the best player, but most important, the best student, person and citizen."
Luevano, who led his team to an 8-2 record this season, recorded six interceptions, including two in one game, and had 27 tackles over eight games. He added a sack and a touchdown as well.
He said he will remember receiving the award at the Q for the rest of his life.
"I'm a Chargers fan, I have been there to watch the big stars," he said. "I can't believe that I will be the star for a moment."
Each school received a $1,000 grant for their respective football programs.
Besides being recognized at the stadium, both young men will also be recognized on a float in the Big Bay Balloon parade.
The Holiday Bowl scholarship award carries a $10,000 grant and is presentedannually to a high school senior from San Diego County who has excelled academically and within his or her community. Citizenship and leadership in extracurricular activities are important criteria for this award.
Bonita Vista's Mailyn Nishiguchi won last year's scholarship award while Midway Baptist's Da'rell Andrews won the 2009 award.
Other South County recipients of the prestigious scholarship award include Mar Vista's Claudia Sevilla (2002), Chula Vista's Kelly Smith (2000) and Hilltop's Pedro Sandoval Jr. (1994) and Stephanie Meifert (1993).
John Wertz, a member of the San Diego Bowl Game Association since 2001, is serving as the president of both bowl games in 2012, while former San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders has been named the 2012 holiday Bowl's honorary chairman.
The bottom line for both bowl games is to generate tourism, exposure, economic benefit and civic pride for San Diego and its citizens through the actual games and festival events, according to association officials.
The Texas Longhorns defeated the California Golden Bears, 21-10, in front of 56,313 fans at the 2011 Holiday Bowl while the TCU Horned Frogs topped the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs, 31-24, in front of 24,607 fans at last year's Poinsettia Bowl.
The 2010 Poinsettia Bowl set an attendance record at 48,049 when SDSU defeated Navy 35-14.
The two bowl games combined to produce an economic impact of $26.1 million in 2011, according to a study conducted by SDSU's Center for Hospitality and Tourism Research. The 2011 Holiday Bowl generated an economic impact of $18.6 million while the Poinsettia Bowl generated an economic impact of $7.5 million.
The study said $13.5 million was due to direct visitor spending and $12.6 million to indirect spending.
The study found that more than 25,000 fans traveled from outside San Diego County to attend the 2011 Holiday Bowl, while more than 9,000 out-of-county fans attended the 2011 Poinsettia Bowl.
Wertz said both bowl games are an obvious "boon" for the local tourism industry.
"We are proud that our year-round efforts provide tremendous results for our community during the region's two slowest tourism weeks of the year," he said in a prepared statement.
Since its inception in 1978, the non-profit SDBGA has created an economic impact of $639.1 million.
That's a touchdown in anyone's play book.
Game Report: Poinsettia Bowl
This game featured three NFL Draft Prospects: tight end Gavin Escobar and cornerback Leon McFadden from San Diego State and BYU linebacker Ezekiel Ansah.
Entering Thursday's game, Escobar had 41 receptions for 519 yards and six touchdowns while McFadden had 59 total tackles and three interceptions in 2012.
BYU’s Ansah, who is a possible first round draft pick, had 57 total tackles and 4.5 sacks.
SDSU entered the game with a seven game winning streak after earning a share of the Mountain West Conference championship with a 7-1 record. The Aztecs dropped their conference opener to Fresno State, then won their next seven conference games, including victories against Nevada and Boise State, teams picked to finish ahead of them in the standings.
The Aztecs set a school record this season with 2,750 rushing yards. Midway through the season, the Aztecs lost starting quarterback Ryan Katz and Walter Kazee to injuries, but still managed to finish the season with a 9-3 overall record.
BYU was playing in its eighth consecutive bowl game and has now won their last four, including Thursday's Poinsettia Bowl by a 23-6 rout following a 20-point fourth quarter. While this is the first Poinsettia Bowl appearance for the Cougars, BYU has played in 11 Holiday Bowls in San Diego. The Cougars won the 1984 National Championship with a victory over Michigan.
This was the 36th meeting between former conference foes BYU and SDSU. The Cougars have won the last six games against the Aztecs.
First half highlights:
Ansah intercepted SDSU quarterback Adam Dingwell on the Aztec’s first offensive series.
SDSU tapped in a 27-yard field goal on its second drive to take an opening 3-0 lead. The Aztecs added a 23-yard field goal in the second quarter to lead 6-0.
SDSU’s Eric Pinkins intercepted a pass late in the second quarter and returned it for an apparent touchdown. But a penalty for blocking below the waist was accessed on the Aztecs, placing the ball at the BYU 29. However, the Aztecs could not take advantage of the gift and were forced to punt.
That opened the door for BYU.
Tight end Devin Mahina of the Cougars hauled in a key 38-yard pass on third down to set up first-and-goal from the SDSU 6 with nine seconds left in the opening half. An incomplete pass on first down left BYU with five seconds left on the clock, which brought in Justin Sorensen for a 23-yard field goal as time expired.
Halftime score: Aztecs 6, Cougars 3.
Rene Siluano (Oceanside) picked off a BYU pass on the Cougars’ first series of the second half. But the Aztecs couldn’t capitalize and the ensuing punt was blocked, placing the ball on the SDSU 35.
BYU was unable to score but pinned the Aztecs at the one-yard line with a punt.
The defensive nature of the game was surprising considering that both offenses had lit up the scoreboard during the regular season. But at the same time, the defenses of both teams had excelled. The game pitted SDSU’s No. 16 rushing offense against BYU’s No. 2 rushing defense.
The Cougars pinned the Aztecs once again at their one-yard line late in the third quarter, forcing a punt from the end zone on the first play of the fourth quarter.
BYU started at its own 50 and used a 30-yard pass caught by Cody Hoffman (10 catches, 114 yards) to move to SDSU’s 20-yard line.
Two plays later, the Cougars had a first-and-goal. But defense prevailed again as the Aztecs' King Holder (Oceanside) picked off a pass on the 2-yard line.
Defense figured in the first touchdown of the game as Kyle Van Noy recovered a fumble in the end zone after Dingwell was hit as he was attempting a pass. The fumble was reviewed and appeared to show Dingwell’s in a forward motion but the ruling on the field was upheld.
BYU 10, SDSU 6
The Aztecs promptly fumbled on their first play after receiving the kickoff. Jamaal Williams took the ball in from 14 yards on the Cougars next play with 12:15 remaining in the game. The PAT was no good.
BYU 16, SDSU 6
Later in the fourth quarter, BYU pinned the Aztecs once again deep down in their own territory, this time at the nine-yard line. Déjà-vu occurred when SDSU turned over the ball with an intercepted pass made by Van Noy, which was returned for a touchdown to give him two total defensive touchdowns in the game and recognition as the game's defensive MVP.
BYU 23, SDSU 6
Honors for players of the game go to BYU’s Hoffman (offensive MVP), Van Noy and punter Riley Stephenson. Hoffman caught 10 passes for 114 yards and Van Noy had eight total tackles, 1.5 sacks, a blocked punt and two defensive touchdowns. Stephenson had a total of six punts inside the 20-yard line, three of them inside the three-yard line.
Defense and field position proved to be the X-factor in this game. SDSU’s poor field position forced Dingwell to make some bad throws that proved to be costly for the Aztecs.
If you like games with a lot of defense and strategy then this one was for you. SDSU finishes the season 9-4 while BYU, playing its first season as an independent improved to 8-5.
Overall, six picks were recorded in the game -- three by BYU against Dingwell in a sloppy offensive showing by SDSU. Dingwell completed just 12 of 29 passing attempts for 144 yards, fumbled twice deep in his own territory and was sacked three times.
Adam Muema led the Aztecs with 103 rushing yards; BYU quarterback James Lark threw for 244 yards.
Despite the lop-sided nature of the game in the late going, the Aztec defense did turn in some positive numbers by limiting the Cougars to 52 rushing yards and recording two sacks.
SDSU coach Rocky Long said the turning point in the game was the penalty call on Pinkins' TD return. Had there been no penalty, the Aztec coach felt the momentum would have remained with his team the rest of the way.
In all fairness, however, it was BYU's dramatic finishing touch that saved this game from being a total dud.
Game report: Holiday Bowl
UCLA enters the game with a 9-4 record after winning the Pac-12 South Division. The Bruins are led by senior running back Johnathan Franklin, the Westwood school’s all-time leading rusher, who has carried the ball 268 times for 1,700 yards and 13 touchdowns this season, and freshman quarterback Brett Hundley, who has passed for 26 touchdowns against 11 interceptions.
The UCLA defense is keyed by linebackers, Eric Kendricks, a redshirt sophomore, and Anthony Barr, a junior. Kendricks has amassed 137 tackles (fifth in the FBS) while Barr leads the nation with 13.5 sacks. Barr also has four forced fumbles and two blocked kicks to his credit this season.
Baylor brings a 7-5 record to this year’s Holiday Bowl game and has won three consecutive games. The Bears rank first in the nation in total offense behind senior quarterback Nick Florence (387.7 yards per game) and senior receiver Terrance Williams (1,764 yards). Baylor ranks fifth nationally in scoring, averaging 44.1 points per game.
The Bears defense boasts three of the top tacklers in the Big 12: linebacker Bryce Hager (9.6 tackles per game), linebacker Eddie Lackey (8.2 tackles per game) and nickelback Ahmad Dixon (8.2 tackles per game). Baylor ranks 10th nationally with 18 interceptions and is 15-2 when forcing two or more turnovers over the past two years.
Baylor took a 7-0 lead on a four-yard run by Glasco Martin with 8:01 left in the opening quarter to cap a six-play drive.
UCLA fumbled the ensuing kick-off but retained possession at the Bears’ 49-yard line, giving the Bruins their best field position of the game. However, Baylor’s defense held, forcing a punt.
Starting at their own 16, the Bears popped off a 48-yard gain on a pass play to Williams. Baylor continued to move the ball forward on the ground, earning a first-and-goal from the 8. Lawrence then hit Antwan Goodley in the corner of the end zone for a 14-0 lead. The scoring drive went 84 yards in seven plays, bringing the clock down to 4:22 in the first quarter.
With 11:08 in the second quarter, Florence threw a 55-yard pass to Tevin Reese for another Bear touchdown, enhancing the Bear lead to 21-0.
Baylor’s Florence completed a short 4-yard pass to Xavien Howard, who was then stripped of the ball by UCLA’s Kendricks. The fumble was recovered by Randall Goforth of the Bruins at the Baylor 21-yard line. Two plays later, Hundley connected on a 22-yard touchdown pass to Joseph Fauria making it 21-7.
On the next drive, the Bears quickly advanced down the field with the help of a 15-yard personal foul on UCLA. On the very next play, Baylor’s Martin dashed for the end zone on a 26-yard run, increasing the Bear’s lead. The drive took six plays for 53-yards, making the score 28-7.
With 1:58 remaining, Baylor Bear Lache Seastrunk burst through a wide hole and scored on a 43-yard mad dash for the end zone to make the score 35-7 Bears. The drive lasted four plays for 56 yards.
With 1:21 remaining on the clock, UCLA punter Jeff Locke faked a fourth down punt and picked up eight yards on the ground for the first down.
Hundley completed on a 28-yard pass to Jerry Johnson to the Bear 12-yard line. The play set the Bruins up for a 30-yard field goal, making the score 35-10.
UCLA's Ka'i Fairbairn kicked a 40-yard field goal to open scoring in the second half. The Bruins would follow with two second-half touchdowns -- a 24-yard scoring pass to Shaquell Evans and a 34-yard TD pass to Logan Sweet. But Baylor answered with two scores of its own to close out the game with a 49-26 victory.
Martin scored on a one-yard run to increase the Bears' lead to 42-13; Florence scored on a one-yard keeper to lift Baylor to a 49-19 lead.
Sweet scored on the final play of the game, sliding into the endzone and planting the ball on the goal line, allowing Fairbairn to boot the point-after conversion with time expired.
Baylor's offense and defense proved too much for the Bruins to handle. The Bears rolled up 306 rushing yards and 494 total offensive yards to UCLA's meager 33 rushing yards. The Bruins did win the battle of the airwaves with 329 passing yards.
Seastrunk was voted the game's offensive MVP with 139 rushing yards while teammate Chris McAllister (two sacks) was voted the game's defensive MVP.
Trent Warren contributed to this story