(ST. PETERSBURG, Fl) In a game that started out as a battle of kickers, it was the defenses that ultimately decided the day. The 23-13 East victory, in front of nearly 20,000 fans at Tropicana Field, was sealed by a forced fumble and a pair of interceptions in the fourth quarter.
The offenses struggled early, with a fumble by the West on the second play from scrimmage (recovered by East Linebacker Johnny Millard of Cal Poly) resulting in a 31-yard field goal by East kicker Zach Hocker (Arkansas) less than 2 minutes into the game.
The West responded with a 12-play, 61-yard drive led by QB Keith Wenning (Ball State) that included three completions totaling 26 yards to Bernard Reedy (Toledo) and a15-yard rush by Timothy Flanders (Sam Houston State). The drive also included a converted fourth-and-5 where Wenning hooked up with Chandler Jones (San Jose State) for a 10-yard completion. The drive stalled at the inside the East’s 20, where kicker Anthony Fera (Texas) tied the game at three with a 34-yard field goal.
The East sputtered when West safety Alden Darby (Arizona State) intercepted QB Jordan Lynch (Northern Illinois) on the third play of the drive. The West failed to capitalize, driving 30 yards to the East 21 before turning it back over on a failed fourth down conversion. Two plays later West CB Shaquille Richardson (Arizona) collected another interception at the East’s 27 yard line. The West took advantage of the field position, despite actually losing 4 yards on the ensuing drive when DL Ethan Westbrooks (West Texas A&M) sacked QB Tommy Rees (Notre Dame) for a 9-yard loss on third-and-5. Fera made a 37-yard field goal to give the West their only lead of the game.
QB Jimmy Garoppolo (Eastern Illinois) led the East on a 9-play drive, including a 25-yard completion to WR Jeremy Gallon (Michigan) that resulted in another Hocker field goal (34 yards) that tied the game at 6. After forcing a West punt, the East took possession with just 59 seconds to half time. Garoppolo drove the team to the West 11 yard line with two completions each to RB LaDarius Perkins (Mississippi State) and WR Erik Lora (Eastern Illinois). Perkins carried the ball to the 1 before Garappolo completed the drive with a touchdown toss to WR Matt Hazel (Coastal Carolina). Hocker’s PAT was good to give the East a 13-6 lead at the half.
The West started the second half scoring on the second drive of the third quarter with a 20-yard Keith Price (Washington) pass to Reedy. The score elicited one of the more spirited reactions of the day because Reedy is a product of nearby Lakewood High School. Fera’s PAT was good, tying the game at 13.
The teams would trade punts before the East began to pull away. With Jeff Matthews (Cornell) in at quarterback, Gallon collected three straight completions totaling 30 yards before the East settled for a 56-yard Hocker field goal. A penalties on the ensuing kickoff return and first play from scrimmage pinned the West inside their own 5, before three straight incompletions forced a punt. The East threatened after a Ricardo Allen (Perdue) returned the punt to the West 20. On the next play, Reedy collected his second interception of the game in the end zone, but turned up field to return the pick before stepping out at the 3.
Pinned deep again, the West turned to the run. On first down, RB Anthony LaCoste (Air Force) was stripped of the ball by LB Andrew Jackson (Western Kentucky) and CB Nevin Lawson (Utah State) scooped and scored. Hocker kick good for the East’s final margin 23-13. The East’s defense turned away two more late threats by the West with interceptions by A.J. Marshall (Wake Forest) and Ross Cockrell (Duke).