Scottsdale, AZ – Blinn (TX) held off a late Scottsdale (AZ) rally in the 38th edition of the Valley of the Sun Bowl on Saturday afternoon to win 23-20.
The scoring opened soon after Scottsdale's second play from scrimmage when Blinn Defensive MVP Darius Milton pressured the Artichoke quarterback to force a fumble that was recovered by teammate Djuan Matthews. The Buccaneers capped off a quick four-play, 28-yard drive with a keeper from Blinn quarterback Brock Landis to go up 7-0 just 2:05 into the game.
The game would remain scoreless for nearly the rest of the first half until Scottsdale's Kare Lyles connected with Joshua Daniels for a short touchdown to even the score heading into the break.
Four minutes into the third quarter, Landis connected on a 15-yard touchdown pass to Keric Wheatfall after leading the Buccaneers down the field to regain the lead at 14-7. Kicker Emerson Garcia added a field goal two minutes later to extend the lead to 17-7 heading into the fourth.
Early in the final quarter, Blinn added what would prove to be all the Buccaneers needed when Brock Landis got his third passing touchdown of the dayt – this time via an 18-yard toss to Xavier Hutchinson for a 23-7 lead with 12:37 left.
Scottsdale wasn't done though. The Artichokes responded three minutes later when Alec Wyble-Meza broke through for a 36-yard touchdown to cut the deficit down to 10 points.
A pair of following possessions came up empty, but the Artichokes operated a big two-minute offense drill to cut the Blinn lead to 23-20 with 10 seconds left when Lyles completed a touchdown pass to Daniels for the second time of the day.
The Artichokes recovered the onside kick, but on the final play of the game, Daniels' hail mary pass was intercepted as Blinn won their first bowl game since 2011.
"Defensively we played lights out the entire game and our secondary played their best game of the year, and offensively we started making plays that we needed to in the second half," Mahon said. "I am really proud of our guys for working hard all year long and to conclude the season with a bowl game win, [I] couldn't be more excited."
- Blinn wins their program's 10th NJCAA bowl game, winning their first since the 2010 C.H.A.M.P.S Heart of Texas Bowl (now 10-4 in bowl games).
- Today marked the first bowl win for Blinn head coach Ryan Mahon after he took over the program in 2016
- Scottsdale made their first appearance since topping Central Lakes in the 2015 Valley of the Sun Bowl.
- With three passing touchdowns in today's game, Brock Landis takes home Offensive MVP honors for Blinn.
- Recovering a fumble and several other game-defining defensive plays, Blinn's Darius Milton collected Defensive MVP honors.
- Scottsdale wide receiver Devin Neal and cornerback Tavion Allen earned respective MVP honors for the Artichokes.
- Appearing in the Artichokes' eighth NJCAA bowl game, Scottsdale is now 2-5-1 in those contests.