In what was probably the most physically spirited match-up in quite a while, Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott threw the South’s only touchdown and walked away with the Most Outstanding Player trophy and a 27-16 victory.
Safety Sean Davis (Maryland) set the tone on the first play of the game using every ounce of his 202 pounds to lift and drop tight end Nick Vannett (Ohio St.) on his back three yards from the line of scrimmage. It was the first of many big hits from both defenses.
Paul McRoberts (Southeast Missouri) gave the South their first big play, a 27-yard punt return to near midfield. The second big play belonged to TCUs Aaron Green. The Horned Frogs 1,000+ yard rusher exploded for a 25-yard touchdown run to give the South a 7-0 lead.
North starting quarterback Carson Wentz finished the opening quarter with 50 yards passing on 6 completed passes on 10 attempts. Wentz completed his biggest throw of the game, a 29 yarder to Vannett in the middle of the zone with 14 seconds remaining in the quarter. Seven seconds later, Wentz attempting to escape the pressure from Baylor’s freak of nature Shawn Oakman. The FCS Championship quarterback couldn’t escape the long arm of Oakman fumbling the ball in the process.
Stanford quarterback Kevin Hogan guided the North on a 55-yard drive despite being sacked by Noah Spence (Eastern Kentucky) and then by Oakman. Hogan completed 2 of 3 passes for 40 yards and rushed for 8 more yards on the drive. Ka’imi Fairbairn (UCLA) salvaged the drive with a 36-yard field goal.
The South answered the field goal with an 80-yard touchdown drive led by Prescott. The All-SEC dual threat rushed for 14 yards and completed 4 of 4 passes for 49 yards and a touchdown. Prescott’s size, decision-making, maturity, and athleticism, especially given the success of both Seattle’s Russell Wilson and Carolina’s Cam Newton, will make it hard for teams to pass over him in the early rounds of the 2016 NFL Draft.
USC’s Cody Kessler started the second half under center for the North but couldn’t get the offense in gear. Kessler’s first drive lasted a little over a minute. The offense fared much better the second time around. Like Prescott, Kessler made some big throws and ran when necessary on the 80-yard scoring drive. The three-year starter completed 4 of 7 passes for 45 yards and rushed 3 times for 10 yards including a 1-yard touchdown dive.
Completing passes against the South secondary was no easy task with the SECs Cyrus Jones (Alabama) and Jalen Mills (LSU) on patrol. Jones and Mills were each credited with two break-ups. Mills made a tremendous play knocking away a pass to Geronimo Allison (Illinois) in the end zone.
It was more of the same old thing in the fourth quarter for the South. A new quarterback produced yet another touchdown. North Carolina State’s Jacoby Brissett completed 5 of 5 passes for 50 yards that included a 25 yarder to tight end Jerell Adams (South Carolina). Brissett’s pass to Dan Vitale (Northwestern) moved the ball down to the 3 but a yard short of the first down. Kenyon Drake (Alabama) picked up the yard the South needed and almost scored diving over the defense. Linebackers Jared Norris (Utah) and Blake Martinez (Stanford) stuffed Drake at the line for no gain on first and goal but it was all for naught. On second down, the South went back to Drake who scooted around the left side for the touchdown and a commanding 27-10 lead.
A Hail Mary pass from Jeff Driskell (Louisiana Tech) found Michigan State’s Aaron Burbridge waiting in the end zone and no time remaining on the game clock.
South –The South defensive line surely impressed. Oakman, Spence, Javon Hargrave (SC State), D.J. Reader (Clemson), and Dadi Nicolas (VA Tech) all finished with at least a half of a sack. All four quarterbacks directed scoring drives. Brandon Allen threw for the most yards (106) and had the longest completion a 32-yard pass to Glenn Gronkowski. Four receivers (Jay Lee – Baylor, Paul McRoberts – SE Missouri, Jerell Adams – South Carolina, and Glenn Gronkowski – Kansas State) had receptions of 19 or more yards and finished with close to 50 yards receiving. Linebackers Jake Ganus – Georgia, Josh Forrest – Kentucky, Kentrell Brothers – Missouri, Deion Jones – LSU made plays all over the field. Ganus, a one-year starter for the Dawgs after transferring from UAB, made a huge defensive stop turning and running down Buckeye’s tight end Nick Vannett at midfield. The quartet accounted for 21 of the 71 tackles by the defense. Cornerback Harlan Miller (SE Louisiana) led the secondary and all South defenders with 7 solo stops. Cyrus Jones and Jalen Mills recorded two pass break ups a piece. Running backs DeAndre Washington – Texas Tech, Aaron Green – Texas Christian and Kenyan Drake – Alabama did well with their touches. Green and Washington averaged over 4 yards per carry while Drake put up almost equal numbers rushing and receiving in route to gaining 67 all-purpose yards.
North – Linebackers Tyler Matakevich (Temple), Blake Martinez (Stanford), Nick Kwiatkoski (West Virginia), and Joe Shobert (Wisconsin) did a good job wrapping up ball carriers racking up 22 of the team’s 65 tackles. Defensive Linemen Sheldon Day (Notre Dame), Adolphus Washington (Ohio St), Vernon Butler (La Tech), and Austin Johnson (Penn St) had a favorable day on the gridiron. Day and Butler each had a sack and the latter also forced a fumble knocking the ball out of Jake Coker’s hands. Tyler Ervin (San Jose St) could have easily won the Most Outstanding Player award. The All-Mountain West Conference running back displayed his versatility rushing for 40 yards, including an 18-yard jaunt, and catching 4 passes for 42 yards. Nick Vannett – Ohio St, Ervin, Aaron Burbridge – Michigan State had over 40 yards receiving and Ed Eagan – Northwestern State had the most entertaining catch. Eagan needed two attempts before he could finally control the pass from Kessler for a 23 yard gain. Darian Thompson – Boise State, Deiondre Hall – Northern Iowa, Tavon Young – Temple, K.J. Dillon – West Virginia, and Eric Murray – Minnesota had stand-out performances for the North. Hall, Thompson, and Dillon each had five tackles. Thompson was also credited with two pass breakups.
Braxton Miller (Ohio St) – certainly one of the most well-known and versatile athletes on the roster that disappeared on the stat sheet. 2 rec. 8 yards, a couple of dropped passes.
Carson Wentz (North Dakota St) – going into the game all the buzz was about the 6’6” Wentz. Despite the buzz, the offense didn’t move much with him under center.
Jason Fanaika (Utah) – the PAC 12 honorable mention defensive end didn’t help himself with only 1 tackle.
Reggie Ragland (Alabama) – probably didn’t need the shine and it’s a good thing because there is no mention of the Crimson Tide defender on the stat sheet
Jordan Jenkins (Georgia) – another linebacker that couldn’t be found on the stat sheet. A player of his size should never be invisible against any offense.