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Senior Bowl Final: North Wins 34-24

Recapping the showcase game...

NCAA Football: Senior Bowl John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

The 70th Reese’s Senior Bowl ended with a 34-24 win for the North team, but it’s not the score that matters. Over 100 players were vying for one last opportunity to make their impression on those in attendance at Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile, Alabama.

In the final portion of a week long job interview the South scored on a 75-yard drive to open the game. The drive was capped off by a 1-yard touchdown by Temple running back Ryquell Armstead. It was set up by a 21-yard chunk gain by Slippery Rock running back Wes Hills.

Boston College defensive end Zach Allen got a finger on the extra point attempt to keep the lead to 6-0 early in the first.

The South began to sputter in their second drive but they got a spark when Clemson WR Hunter Renfrow brought down a prayer from West Virginia quarterback Will Grier. The play went for 34 yards and highlighted an underrated aspect of Renfrow’s game.

The drive would stall after Texas defensive lineman Charles Omenihu beat Utah State tight end Dax Raymond for a 3-yard loss. Omenihu played big all series despite an incorrect hands to the face penalty early in the drive. LSU kicker Cole Tracy would extend the South’s lead to 9 points with a 33-yard field goal.

The North would look to get on the board late in the first as Missouri quarterback Drew Lock led an efficient drive. He nearly hit Ohio State wide receiver Terry McLaurin down the seam for a touchdown but it was dropped. McLaurin had one of the best weeks of any prospect in Mobile, but failed to help himself on a potential score. He would come down with a contested catch on a flea flicker later in the game to help even things out.

Oklahoma kicker Austin Seibert missed the ensuing 44-yard field goal to keep the North scoreless in the first quarter. Seibert would punch through a 20-yard chip shot on the next drive to inch the North closer at 9-3 in the second quarter. The score would stay that way until 43-yard field goal from the South’s Tracy to extend their lead 12-3 before the end of the half.

It was about as exciting as a second quarter as it sounds as Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley and Washington State quarterback Gardner Minshew failed to do anything of note. The offensive woes were made worse by a lost fumble by UCLA tight end Caleb Wilson, which summed up his week.

Duke quarterback Daniel Jones kicked off the second half with a long scoring drive for the North, making it 13-10. It totaled 10 plays and 84 yards and highlighted both the good and concerning aspects of his game. He displayed a lack of velocity with some serious ducks and nearly threw an interception directly to Virginia safety Juan Thornhill.

After a pass interference against Temple cornerback Rock Ya-Sin, Jones would keep a read option for a 1-yard touchdown. Jones amassed 17 rushing touchdowns in college and it remains a solid piece of his game.

Charles Omenihu strip sacked Auburn quarterback Jarrett Stidham, which set up another scoring drive for the North, putting them up 17-12. UMass wide receiver Andy Isabella smoked the South defense on a screen for a 19-yard touchdown.

Isabella’s tiny arms and hands caused problems for him throughout the week but there’s no question about his play-making ability. He claimed to have run a hand-timed 4.26 40-yard dash and will light up the NFL Combine.

NC State quarterback Ryan Finley led a field goal drive to end the third quarter that ended in a 29-yard Seibert field goal. Washington tight end Drew Sample and UC Davis wide receiver Keelan Doss got plenty of work during the series. On the day, Doss impressed with 4 catches and 55 yards. Sample built on a strong week with 4 catches and 39 yards.

A late addition, Buffalo quarterback Tyree Jackson entered the game and showed a great rapport West Virginia wide receiver Gary Jennings. They connected on a 54-yard bomb and finished the drive for the South on a 10-yard slant and score.

The South failed on the two-point conversion, keeping them behind 2 points in a 20-18 game early in the fourth quarter. The North quickly countered with an 8-play, 75-yard drive capped off by 3-yard touchdown run from Notre Dame running back Dexter Williams. The entire series was a dominant performance by the North offensive line, who gave them a 26-18 lead with 8:05 remaining.

Tyree Jackson’s day went from good to bad on an errant pass intercepted by Delaware safety Nasir Adderley of the North. Memphis running back Tony Pollard would close the door on the South with a 21-yard touchdown run to make the score 34-18. Jackson would add a garbage time touchdown to West Virginia wide receiver David Sills V to give the game a final of 34-24 for the North.

Daniel Jones was named MVP of the game because valuing the results over the process is a thing that happens with awards and really there weren’t many challengers that stuffed the box score.

Additional Notes...

  • Mississippi State defensive end Montez Sweat put together a solid drive early in the game with a run stuff and doing well to not bite on play-action. His day would come to a halt when he was matched up with Kansas State offensive tackle Dalton Risner, which wasn’t a repeat of their regular season encounter. Risner’s practice week included choke-slamming Northern Illinois linebacker Sutton Smith, exchanging hay-makers with Zach Allen, and excitedly shoving Jon Gruden after a dominant rep on day one.
  • Texas cornerback Kris Boyd had bad 2018 film, a bad week of practice, and compounded all of that with three penalties on the first two drives. He’s a long way away from his solid 2017 tape and teams will have to be confident they can get him out of a serious funk if they decide to select him.
  • New Mexico State linebacker Terrill Hanks was up-and-down. He did well on one play to stack and disengage for a stuff, but issues with his reckless, lunging tackling technique popped up when he whiffed on Memphis running back Tony Pollard.
  • Western Illinois defensive tackle Khalen Saunders had an impressive day, including a club-swim sack on Grier early in the game. Showing any pass rush juice as a 320-pounder is always going to be a check in the positive column.
  • Louisiana Tech defensive end Jaylon Ferguson finished a coverage sack on Daniel Jones and followed up by staying disciplined on a play-action boot. Ferguson accumulated an NCAA-leading 45 sacks in college but still has plenty to prove before teams will invest a high draft pick on him.
  • USC offensive tackle Chuma Edoga continued his impressive week and showed off his athleticism once again. His block outside of the core of the formation helped spring Andy Isabella on his 19-yard touchdown.
  • Texas A&M defensive tackle Kingsley Keke vs. Northern Illinois tackle Max Scharping was good comedy. Keke showed well enough throughout the week while Scharping should go undrafted.
  • Offensive line dominated the day due to a lack of premium pass rushers, but Iowa’s defensive end Anthony Nelson did end up whooping the impressive Washington State tackle Andre Dillard for a sack fumble. Dillard had a very good week and this was the worst rep of his that I saw.
  • Boston College offensive guard Chris Lindstrom began exerting his will in the fourth quarter. Lindstrom was washing guys down the line, working well in combination blocks, reaching second level targets and pancaking dudes. He worked really well with NC State center Garrett Bradbury.

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