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2017 Senior Bowl: Game Recap, Notes, Observations

The South narrowly edged out the North by a score of 16-15 in the 2017 Reese’s Senior Bowl.

Davis Webb at the Senior Bowl
Davis Webb #7 of the South team throws the ball during the Reese's Senior Bowl at the Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile, Alabama. Davis was named the game’s MVP.
Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

The last chance to see college prospects in a live-game setting wrapped on Saturday with the conclusion of the 2017 Reese’s Senior Bowl.

The South Team was able to hold on to their lead despite a late push by the North QB, Pittsburgh’s Nate Peterman, for a close 16-15 victory.

The Senior Bowl has a few odd rules.

In addition, touchdowns in the 2nd and 4th quarters must be followed by a two-point try. Each team was 0/1 on two-point conversions. The North’s attempt would have put them ahead by one point with just under two minutes to play.

And finally, there are no replays or challenges, since the final outcome of the game matters to no one, and replays have a frustrating way of slowing down football games.

MVP

Cal’s graduate transfer QB Davis Webb, who replaced Tennessee’s Josh Dobbs with 6:17 to play in the first half, impressed with 165 yards on 11-16 passing, including a 39-yard touchdown to Texas A&M’s Josh Reynolds on a deep fade late in the 2nd quarter.

Webb was named the MVP of the game after leading two touchdown drives, as well as a 2-minute drive resulting in a field goal to end the first half.

Hit-or-Miss Wide Receivers

Josh Reynolds finished the game with 6 catches for 96 yards and the long touchdown from Webb. Another South receiver, Fred Ross (Mississippi State’s all-time leader in catches and receiving yards), had a noteworthy performance from the slot position, hauling in 5 catches for 66 yards, including a 27-yarder on 3rd and 20 to set-up the South Team’s second touchdown.

However, Western Kentucky’s Taywan Taylor, Artavis Scott of Clemson, and Grambling’s Chad Williams were held to just one catch each for the South. Ryan Switzer finished without a catch.

On the North team, the much-talked-about receiver from Eastern Washington, Cooper Kupp, failed to make much noise in the game, recording just 2 catches for 14 yards.

Meanwhile, Zay Jones wowed with multiple remarkable plays, including an impossible touchdown catch that was incorrectly ruled incomplete, as well as a fantastic 43-yard touchdown that was negated by a holding penalty.

Even with two negated touchdowns, Zay Jones still finished the game with 6 catches for 68 yards, including the would-be go-ahead touchdown from Nate Peterman with 1:51 remaining... if only the North successfully converted the subsequent two-point conversion attempt.

Running Back Report

Toledo’s Kareem Hunt ripped off numerous big runs, including a 43-yarder, and finished the day with 15 carries for 118 yards to lead the North squad before being named the team’s Most Outstanding Player. Meanwhile, Michigan running back and Shrine Game promotion De’Veon Smith totaled just 6 yards on 5 carries and another 6 yards on 3 receptions.

On the South side, Matt Dayes out of Wisconsin showed impressive burst and acceleration. He turned his 7 carries into 66 yards and a touchdown, though he did lose an early fumble. However, BYU’s Jamaal Williams only mustered 29 yards on his 8 carries and added 9 more on his 2 receptions.

San Diego State running back Donnel Pumphrey, the NCAA’s all-time leading rusher, was very active on Saturday, totaling 6 touches on offense as well as 4 punt returns for 82 all-purpose yards and showed off his impressive quickness and burst. With his small stature of 5-foot-8, 169 pounds, questions linger about how his body will hold up against NFL defenders.

South Team Ball Security

The South Team was horrendous taking care of the ball with 5 turnovers on the day. However, despite two interceptions from Tiffin quarterback Antonio Pipkin, another one from Dobbs, a lost fumble by Josh Reynolds (which the unused replay showed he actually recovered), and the lost fumble by Dayes, the South still managed to win by a point.

Saint Francis safety Lorenzo Jerome, who was invited to the Senior Bowl after winning MVP with two interceptions in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl (a lesser-known college all-star game), racked up three more forced turnovers for the North team: an interception of each South quarterback plus the strip of Josh Reynolds.

Defensive Lines Dominate

Peterman lost a fumble for the North’s only turnover on a strip-sack by the big defensive end from Villanova, Tanoh Kpassagnon. Kpassagnon had a number of impressive plays, many of which didn’t show up on the stat sheet, as he drew holding penalty after holding penalty, including one that negated Zay Jones’ 43-yard touchdown, committed by Baylor center Kyle Fuller.

The shallowness of the 2017 offensive line class was evident in this game, as all of the tackles except for Western Michigan’s Taylor Moton struggled mightily in pass protection (though Moton was guilty of a holding penalty on, guess who?? Kpassagnon, that took away a first-and-goal opportunity at the 1-yard line).

USC OT Zach Banner was blown up for a huge strip-sack by Kansas State DE Jordan Willis, though Banner was able to recover the football (and actually celebrated the recovery, seemingly unaware that he gave up the strip-sack to begin with). Willis had multiple strip-sacks on the day, and although the South was unable to recover any of them, Willis’s play was recognized with the South team’s Most Outstanding Player award.

UCLA OT Conor McDermott was repeatedly abused by Willis and Youngstown State DE Derek Rivers. DE Keionta Davis of Chatanooga also had a sack.

Many interior defensive linemen stood out for both sides, as well, including Jaleel Johnson from Iowa, Montravius Adams from Auburn, Isaac Rochell from Notre Dame, and Eddie Vanderdoes out of UCLA.

It’s important to remember that many of these offensive linemen are simply not good enough to be starters at the next level, and overrating any of these defensive linemen based on their performance in this game is a dangerous strategy.

Other Performances

Other players who carried a strong week of practice into Saturday’s game include UCONN safety Obi Melifonwu, Temple linebacker Haason Reddick, Indiana offensive guard Dan Feeney, versatile Tennessee defensive back Cameron Sutton, and Alabama tight end O.J. Howard.