PASADENA, Calif. (AP) — Coastal Carolina's Shermari Jones had a 5-yard touchdown run and Southeastern Louisiana's Cole Kelley connected with Indiana's Peyton Hendershot for the 2-point conversion as the National squad overcame a 14-point, second-half deficit to beat the American 25-24 on Saturday in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl.
Jones powered up the middle first-and-goal to get the National to 24-23 with 4:07 remaining. Coach Marvin Lewis decided to go for the win, and it paid off with a successful 2-point conversion.
“The fun of his is watching these guys grow,” Lewis said. “We shot ourselves in the foot a couple times during the first half with penalties, but we came back out and won the second half.”
The American drove down to the National 28, but Illinois' James McCourt's 46-yard field goal attempt was wide left as time expired.
Kelley completed 12 of 17 passes for 150 yards for a touchdown in earning MVP honors.
“Anybody can go and game plan all year long for their team, but to come in and get a playbook and have to learn it one week with new guys and get on the same page was fun,” Kelley said.
Kern connected with Arkansas’ Blake Kern on a 47-yard touchdown with 1:04 remaining in the third quarter to even it at 17. The National trailed 17-3 in the third quarter got within a touchdown when Illinois' Brandon Peters scored on a 2-yard scramble on fourth-and-goal.
The game was tied at 17 after three quarters, but USC’s Vavae Malepeai put Jeff Fisher’s American team back in the lead on an 18-yard run where he shook off a couple tackle attempts in the backfield.
Nicholls State's Dai’Jean Dixon led the American team with six receptions for 131 yards and a touchdown. Dixon caught an 11-yard slant pass from Aqeel Glass of Alabama A&M with 9:21 remaining in the second quarter to extend the American's lead to 14-0. He also hauled in a 47-yard pass from Glass midway through the third quarter that would set up a 24-yard field goal from Illinois' James McCourt to extend their lead to 17-3.
Glass was 9 of 11 for 141 yards and a touchdown. California's Chase Garbers got the start for the American and completed 10 of 13 for 119 yards. He opened the scoring with a 13-yard TD pass to Sam Houston State's Jequez Ezzard with 1:03 remaining in the first quarter.
Chris Oladokun of South Dakota State was the National's starting quarterback. He was 1 of 4 for 8 yards and an interception.
Toledo's Bryant Koback, who was playing for the American, was the game's leading rusher with 58 yards on 14 carries.
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