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Ohio State’s Troy Smith of the North team throws a pass while being pressured by Florida’s Ray McDonald of the South in the first quarter of the Senior Bowl in Mobile on Saturday. The North won 27-0.
AP photo by Rob Carr
Ohio State’s Troy Smith of the North team throws a pass while being pressured by Florida’s Ray McDonald of the South in the first quarter of the Senior Bowl in Mobile on Saturday. The North won 27-0.

Poor weather, pitiful South
Darby, Irons, Leak get wet in shutout

By Bradley Handwerger
bhandwerger@decaturdaily.com · 340-2462

MOBILE — For the first time in 15 years, it rained in Mobile for the Senior Bowl.

That rain led directly to the first shutout since 2003, and the third in the game’s history.

The North shut down the South, rolling to an easy 27-0 win in the 58th Senior Bowl.

Florida’s Chris Leak, Auburn’s Kenny Irons, Alabama’s Ken Darby and the rest of the South offense couldn’t muster anything Saturday on a wet and chilly day at Ladd-Peebles Stadium.

The poor weather might not have kept the North team from moving the ball — it gained 264 total yards — but it did hamper the South, which finished with 93.

“We both had to play in it,” said South team head coach Mike Nolan of the San Francisco 49ers. “All week long, we worked hard. But on game day, you’ve got to put it all together. You just have to play better when you go out there.”

Former Alabama linebacker Juwan Simpson, an Austin High graduate, finished with three tackles for a South defense that was on the field for 371/2 minutes, nearly twice as long as the South offense.

But that didn’t dampen his outlook on how this week went.

“Overall, I think it’s been good,” Simpson said. “I came in and got some work in. It just happens like that. We still had a good week.

The lack of possession kept Irons from getting into any rhythm (a team-high 15 rushing yards on six carries), and kept Darby and Leak from doing anything.

Darby finished with minus-3 rushing yards on three carries, and Leak had 23 yards on 5-of-9 passing.

“We’re all competitors,” said South receiver Courtney Taylor of Auburn, who caught one pass for 30 yards.

“We all want to win, especially after the tough week. To come out and not perform the way we know we can perform, it hurts. Bu we’ve got business to do and we’ll go back to training.”

The story of this all-star game was the South’s inability to get the North’s offense off the field. Led by Penn State running back Tony Hunt and Ohio State’s Troy Smith, the North did just about anything it pleased.

Hunt, voted the game’s most valuable player, rushed for 39 yards, while Smith, the 2006 Heisman Trophy winner, completed 5 of 15 passes for 52 yards and a score.

Additionally, Michigan State’s Drew Stanton finished 8-of-12 passing for 53 yards and a touchdown to earn the North’s offensive most valuable player honors.

“We practiced hard the whole week, we got to know each other, and it paid off today,” Smith said. “Getting a win today is great for all of these guys and for Tampa Bay’s coaching staff. They made it all easy for me to go out and execute the plays in the playbook.”

Ole Miss’ Patrick Willis provided the one bright spot for the South, finishing with 11 tackles.

The South fumbled five times and lost three, two of which came inside its own 20.

Just as telling, though, was that the North had eight sacks, while the South ended with none.

The North took the opening kickoff 75 yards in nine plays and took a 7-0 lead when Hunt scored from 7 yards out.

After forcing the South to punt, the North took a 10-0 lead when Colorado’s Mason Crosby connected on a 38-yard field goal.

And yet the game was nearly out of hand already.

While the North compiled 127 first half yards, it held the South to just 8.

On the South’s opening possession of the second period, Nebraska’s Jay Moore forced a fumble as he sacked Leak. The North recovered and four plays later, owned a 17-0 advantage after Stanton hit East Carolina’s Andrae Allison for a 7-yard touchdown.

Three more South plays and another punt were followed by another North scoring drive.

This time, Crosby converted a 21-yard field goal.

At halftime, the North owned a 20-0 lead, and it wasn’t done scoring.

Washington State’s Jason Hill gave the North its final score, catching a 7-yard touchdown pass from Smith midway through the third quarter.

“It’s nothing different from what we go through at Auburn,” said South offensive guard Tim Duckworth of Auburn. “Just wasn’t ready to play. Not the coaches’ fault. Weather shouldn’t matter.

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