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Senior Bowl: North routs South as Tebow is outshined

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Posted Jan. 30, 2010 @ 8:50 p.m. ET
By Eric Edholm

MOBILE, Ala. — Tim Tebow spent the week leading up to the 2010 Under Armour Senior Bowl stalked by fans, protected by police, picked apart by media and stricken by strep throat.

Tebow then spent Saturday watching other quarterbacks outplay him and the North team beat his South club 31-13 in an ugly game. He had an up-and-down performance in his first game since leaving Florida as one of the more decorated college players ever. According to reports, he checked into the hospital during the week and hardly ate prior to the game.

"I wasn't knocking the South, but I almost felt bad for them because they had Tim (Tebow) on their team and there was a lot of attention shifted to him," North WR Mardy Gilyard said. "The thing that I told my team when we were in the locker room, I said earlier in the week like this (he holds up an open hand): 'Five single fingers, a whole bunch of individuals.'

"When we came in Wednesday and we started flowing, we took all those fingers and we went like this (he balls up his hand into a fist) and we made a mighty fist. I just told them, 'Look at the scoreboard.' A mighty fist can deliver a serious blow."

Tebow started the game and worked the first two series, but the South scored only three points with him under center in the first half. He re-entered the game with 3:45 remaining in the third quarter, with the South trailing 24-13, and completed his first pass. But one play later, Dexter McCluster fumbled, giving the ball back to the North.

On his next possession, Tebow moved the ball from his own one-yard line to the 34, but he fumbled the ball away on a rushing attempt. The North team took a 31-13 lead with 11:21 remaining as QB Dan LeFevour — the North team's Most Outstanding Player — hit Gilyard, who scored on a 32-yard TD strike. Tebow fumbled his next snap on the ensuing drive, recovered by teammate Jeff Byers.

For the game, Tebow completed 8-of-12 passes for 50 yards, suffering from at least two dropped passes, and four rushes for 10 yards. LeFevour was 5-of-10 passing for 97 yards and a TD plus one rushing TD. Zac Robinson led all passers with 176 yards on 12-of-21 passing with a TD, though he was sacked twice and intercepted once.

When approached after the game and asked about his performance, Tebow had no comment.

North DE Brandon Graham was named the game's MVP. Gilyard was the game's offensive MVP. Graham had two sacks and two half-tackles for loss, plus a forced fumble and five total tackles.

"The biggest thing I had to work on (this week) was keying the ball and getting off the ball," Graham said. "That was my weakness: coming off the ball. That's all I worked on this week. I am fast enough to get around the end, but if I was able to come off the snap that fast every play, I would be unstoppable."

Gilyard caught five passes for 103 yards and a touchdown.

"I'm not trying to be cocky, but (I expected to win big)," Gilyard said. "After that first and second practice, I didn't even look at no film of the South. We didn't even care what they were doing over there. I just knew that our defense was on point and we had some of the best set of guys that I've ever been around."

The game was an announced sellout of 40,646 — many of them pro-Tebow — at Ladd-Peebles Memorial Stadium, though cold weather and sloppy play had many heading for the exits early. The game was marred by nine turnovers. The South lost four fumbles.

The North opened the scoring with a 12-play drive that ate up nearly eight minutes, but it settled for a 43-yard field goal after Tony Pike's TD pass to TE Garrett Graham was negated by a Mike Iupati holding penalty.

The South answered with an eight-play drive that resulted in a 43-yard field goal by Leigh Tiffin to tie the score.

The first touchdown of the game came from North RB LaGarrette Blount — who spent all week answering questions about the punch he laid on Boise State's Byron Hout to start the college season — as he ran untouched 14 yards for the score, aided by good blocks from OLT Ed Wang and WR Dorin Dickerson.

"I'm just a happy man right now," Blount said, surrounded my family members, letting out a big sigh as he spoke on the field after the game. "That felt good."

One play following a North punt, South C Ted Larsen's horrible shotgun snap went over the head of QB Jarrett Brown and was recovered by DE Austen Lane, who ran the ball back six yards for a score and a 17-3 North lead.

The South got the ball back on a strip sack of QB Sean Canfield at the North's 32-yard line but only could muster 17 yards on six plays and had to settle for a 33-yard field goal by Tiffin to make the score 17-6.

Before the half, the North drove down to the South 13-yard line, but a sack by DT Geno Atkins and an interception by Taylor Mays ended the scoring threat. The South responded with a quick drive, as Robinson — who had just entered the game — hit Jeremy Williams for 37 yards, Riley Cooper for 26 more and then a 19-yard TD pass to TE Colin Peek.

Robinson had driven the South 82 yards on five plays in only 1:13. North S Larry Asante was late to break up the pass but delivered a big blow on Peek, who held on for the score to cut the North lead to 17-13 with seven seconds left in the half.

"I made a swim move on (a linebacker), was able to get down the seam, and then Zac Robinson threw me a tremendous ball," Peek said. "As any football player will tell you, you take some hits and you get your wind back underneath you."

In the second half, the North got the ball back after a 39-yard punt return by Jacoby Jones and put together a six-play, 29-yard drive that was capped off by a one-yard run by LeFevour. Although he bobbled the snap on 2nd-and-goal, LeFevour recovered and pushed over the goal line as some of the South defenders had stopped playing to the whistle.

That made it 24-13, and Gilyard's TD put the game out of reach.

Jeremy Williams, who was the South's Most Outstanding Player, led the team in receiving with six receptions for 82 yards and one rush for 27 yards.

"I had a plan to come out here and show what I can do," Williams said. "I tried to get in and out of my routes, catch the ball well and do my part."

LB Jamar Cheney, who had eight tackles and one fumble recovery, was named the Defensive Player of the Game.

PFW associate editor Dan Parr contributed to this story. Editor's note: The poor snap originally was attributed to J.D. Walton, who was playing guard on the play. Ted Larsen was responsible for the snap over the head. We regret the error, which was reported in the press box at the time of the play.


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