Sunday, January 28, 2007

Senior Bowl Game Recap

Numerous and profuse apologia to any visitors hoping for Senior Bowl practices. When work and life interfere, blogging lags behind. I did, however, watch the senior bowl, and here's what I saw happen.

North got the ball first, and took the ball downfield, mostly passing. Troy Smith started out at QB and made a good throw on 3&10 on a comeback route to Aundrae Allison where Jonathan Wade had good coverage. Of course, they were at 3&10 because Smith had made two unimpressive throws. The big play to get downfield was a reverse on which Smith made a decent enough block. Brian Leonard converted a 4&1 from inside the 15 as an I-back. Tony Hunt showed good patience in waiting for pulling G Josh Beekman to hit the end zone.

South didn't start out great. Leak's first throw was late and Josh Wilson made a good play to break up the ball. TE Scott Chandler dropped one. Amobi Okoye had a sack on 3rd down after beating G Tim Duckworth. David Harris sniffed out a screen to Kenneth Darby and dropped him for a loss to set up the 3rd and long where Okoye had the sack. Daniel Sepulveda was a great punter at Baylor, but he gives North good field position after an awful punt.

North cashes in with a FG the next drive to go up 10-0. Not much thanks to Troy Smith, though, as he's 4 of 13 for 45 yards. Tony Hunt still looked pretty good-not an elite back, but a very reliable one. North converted about a 4&7 from the 38 on a pass to Brian Leonard. Smith scrambled out of the pocket and dumped it to Leonard. Leonard then made a good move to freeze LB Tony Taylor out of Georgia and picked up the necessary yardage.

South goes 3&out on their second drive. Meh all-around.

Drew Stanton came in at QB for North on the third drive. Chase Pittman did a good job staying at home on a counter-pitch to Michael Clayton. Stanton look ok throwing short, less great throwing long. Fresno WR Paul Williams did a good job of picking up one 3rd down, then dropped one on 3rd down. P Podlesh's kick just rolled into the end zone after the coverage team couldn't quite stop it, which they should have.

Leak's still in at QB. Nebraska DE Jay Mohr comes in unblocked(!) and forces a fumble, which North recovers.

Stanton makes an easy throw to Clayton on a rollout to pick up most of the yardage and then hits Aundrae Allison on a fade to pick up the TD. North leads 17-0.

Jordan Palmer comes in at QB for the South. 3&out again, with David Patterson getting the sack on 3rd down. North's defensive line is really dominating the South's offensive line.

Tyler Palko comes in at QB for the North. When Jon Gruden calls you a "system quarterback," that's really damning with faint praise. He does make a nice throw to pick up 3&7 on a comeback, though. Palko converted another 3&7 on a scramble. North's drive bogged down close, though, as Michael Griffin and Brandon Meriweather made nice breakups on pass plays in the end zone. Crosby hits another FG, and North leads 20-0.

South had about 20 seconds to do something, and Jordan Palmer almost throws a pick to ex-Hokie LB Boo McLee. Sure, a pass to the TE picks up some yards, then Johnnie Lee Higgins, Palmer's teammate at UTEP, gets the ball down to the 20 on the last play of the half.

In thank goodness for small mercies, South gets the ball to start the second half. Lorenzo Booker, who looks like a 3rd down back to me, had his best KO return, out near the 35. Houston's Kevin Kolb came in at QB. Kolb did manage to convert a 3rd down on a short pass to FSU's Chris Davis, then Quinn Pitcock and company take him down on the next 3rd down.

Tyler Palko gets a second drive at QB for the North, and sees his second fumbled center snap exchange on the first play. He has some success with short passing, so maybe Gruden will draft him to replace Gradkowski as his designated young QB to get frustrated with. Doug Datish gets a nice hold of DT Ryan McBean on a 3rd down play as Palko's scrambling outside the pocket, a play that ends with Palko rifling one past Tony Hunt on a checkdown-positively Vick-ian, and that's not a compliment.

South has another great drive-fumble on Kolb's exchange to Kenneth Darby on the first play, and North recovers. Troy Smith is at QB for North again. Hunt with a good run on first down for first and goal, and Smith directs, and then hits, Jason Hill in the end zone. North 27, South 0.

South's fun continues, as Kevin Kolb gets sacked by Cal DT Brandon Mebane. They tried to run a screen on 3rd and long, but that didn't happen. 3 and out, again. Still just a single 3rd down conversion by the SEC-dominated South team.

Troy Smith still at QB. A muffed double-reverse sets up 3&21 and a basic Hunt run doesn't pick that up. Jordan Palmer for the South. Another fumbled center snap exchange gives the ball to North. Drew Stanton almost returns the favor, but gets the ball back. Yes, it's been raining all game. Stanton makes North's first real big error of the game, getting picked by Michael Coe of Alabama State, who joined the South squad as an injury replacement, in the end zone. Good play by Coe, with excellent positioning to beat Fresno WR Paul Williams to the spot.

Jordan Palmer in at QB again. I'm starting to think South should do what one of the teams in the Shrine Game did, shuttle the 3 QBs in and out on alternating plays. Courtney Taylor makes a good play, snagging a short pass and not quite getting tackled by Tanard Jackson and running for 25 more yards. Jay Moore gets his second unblocked sack, as LT Joe Staley down-blocks again. No fumble this time, but they make up for it on the center exchange. 3&16 is a fun down to convert. Down 27 you go for it on 4&6, and David Patterson gets a sack.

Enough of the individual drive-blogging. South WR Jason Hill drops a slant on 3rd down. Jay Moore gets credit for another sack, as he beat Joe Staley with an inside move and whacked the ball out of Jordan Palmer's hand.

Mike Mayock immediately points out Jay Moore as being impressive in the game; that's easy when they don't block you. Mayock notes he'd probably be asked to stand up at the Combine, as a 3-4 OLB. Dick Vermeil declined to point out anybody who particularly impressed him, just Gruden. Gruden actually did look pretty good to me, simplifying his normal over-complicated scheme.

Tony Hunt was named game MVP. Given this is a QB-dominated award and no QB looked very impressive, I'm fine with that. The real MVP was probably North's defensive line, but Hunt was a worthy choice. Hopefully I'll be able to watch the rest of the practices Sunday or early this coming week and get up reports on those, then give some sort of overall thoughts.

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