December 29, 2010
2010 Texas Bowl
A torrential downpour and weather advisory did not dampen the play of the 2010 Texas Bowl on December 29 at Reliant Stadium. Though fans had to wade their way through parking lots, the advanced decision to close the stadium’s retractable roof allowed for the game to be played without delay.
TexFest – the bowl game’s pregame party – was moved inside where fans enjoyed live country music from the Cody Johnson Band and Roger Creager.
In a decidedly Baylor-dominated crowd, the Fighting Illini got on the scoreboard first with three field goals by kicker Derek Dimke. Illinois went on to take a 24-0 lead in the third quarter behind the play of running back Mikel Leshoure who finished the night with 184 yards and three touchdowns.
Baylor was poised for a comeback in the second half as Jay Finley made a 4-yard touchdown run midway through the third quarter. Quarterback Robert Griffin III, who threw for a total of 306 yards, later connected with Kendall Wright for a 39-yard touchdown pass early in the fourth quarter to bring the Bears within ten points at 24-14.
The Illini were not finished as Leshoure responded with a touchdown run to make it 31-14. Freshman quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase, who completed 18 of 23 passes for 242 yards, capped off the night with a 55-yard touchdown run with 41 seconds on the clock for a 38-14 final.
As part of the post game ceremony, Chair of the Texas Bowl Board of Directors John Huff handed the bowl trophy to Illinois Head Coach Ron Zook who earned his first postseason victory.
“I don’t know that there were a lot of people who gave us a chance in this,” Zook commented. “If you prove people wrong, you get some satisfaction, but that’s not why you do it. I’m happy for our players, their parents, people who spent money to come down here.”
Leshoure was named MVP of the game and continued in the tradition of donning a Stetson cowboy hat for the honor. Leshoure set the Illinois single-season rushing record with 1,697 yards and was the first running back to win MVP since Ray Rice earned the title with Rutgers in the 2006 inaugural game.
“We came down here with the goal ‘business first,’” said Leshoure following the game.
Texas Bowl Executive Director Heather Houston was thrilled with turnout for the game and the continued success of the bowl.
“We are so happy to have partners like the Big Ten and Big 12 for the bowl game,” Houston said. “With their help, we have made this a game the city of Houston can look forward to year after year.”