Miami wide receiver Aldarius Johnson out jumps a defender in the endzone in the AstroTurf NFLPA Collegiate Bowl at the Home Depot Center this past Saturday night. Photo by Jason Lewis
Stuck on the depth chart behind Colt McCoy at Texas, G.J Kinne transferred to Tulsa to get a shot at more playing time. After starting for two seasons and making his mark on the school’s record book, he ready to take the leap to the NFL.
Kinne and Syracuse running back Antwon Bailey rushed for touchdowns, helping the National beat the American 20-14 on Saturday in the inaugural NFLPA Collegiate Bowl.
Kinne ranks third on Tulsa’s career passing list with 6,382 yards and 53 touchdowns. He was the 2011 Conference USA Offensive Player of the Year.
“I have no doubt that I can make it. I just need a chance” said Kinne, who completed 6 of 9 passes for 79 yards and was selected the MVP. “Hopefully, tonight I was able to showcase my abilities a little bit.”
Washington’s Erik Folk kicked field goals of 26 and 45 yards for the National, which jumped out to a 17-0 lead in the Southern California showcase for draft-eligible prospects.
Eastern Washington’s Bo Levi Mitchell and LSU’s Jarrett Lee threw touchdown passes to help the American squad rally. Illinois running back Jason Ford ran for 27 yards and Da’Jon McKnight of Minnesota caught four passes for a game-high 49 yards.
“It was a great experience playing with other guys from around the country,” Ford said.
Super Bowl-winning coaches Tom Flores and Dick Vermeil served as coaches. Flores, the first minority head coach in professional football history to win a Super Bowl, guided the American squad. Vermeil, who led the St. Louis Rams to the title in 1999, instructed the National team.
There were at least some football-starved fans in attendance hopeful of the NFL’s potential return to Los Angeles in the coming years. At one point during the second quarter, a contingent of Rams supporters chanted “Bring them home! bring them home!”
“That was a very warm experience for me,” Vermeil said. “We sure need a team back in LA.”
AstroTurf served as the title sponsor for the weeklong events, which included community outreach, a football clinic for local youths and the NFLPA PULSE Awards on Friday night in downtown Los Angeles. The game itself was played at the Home Depot Center on freshly installed AstroTurf in place of the stock natural grass.
The National capitalized in the second quarter when Lee and Southern wide receiver Jared Green misplayed an end-around that was recovered by UNLV’s B.J. Bell at the American 20. Kinne scrambled up the middle for a touchdown on the ensuing play to put the National ahead 17-0.
Kinne said he’s soaking up his final days as a college player and plans on getting serious about preparing for the NFL draft in the coming days.
“I’m just having fun right now,” Kinne said. “I’ll start training next week.”
The American squad got on the scoreboard when Lee found Hampton’s Isaiah Thomas in the back of the end zone for a 13-yard touchdown pass with 1:51 left in the first half.
Mitchell hit Oregon’s Lavasier Tuinei across the middle for 11 yards to pull the American to 17-14 in the third. Folk’s second field goal early in the fourth extended the lead to 20-14.
The American team had a touchdown called back when Mitchell’s strike to Miami’s Aldarius Johnson was nullified for holding. It also had two drives at the tying or go-ahead score end on interceptions by Nick Stephens of Tarleton State.
Late in the fourth quarter, American went for it on fourth down in National territory but Baylor’s Tracy Robertson sacked Stephens. It wasn’t until then that the competitive Vermeil was able to finally exhale.
“I felt like it was the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl,” Vermeil said. “There is no such thing as a competition you don’t want to do well in.”
Bailey, who finished with 50 yards on the ground, ran for an 8-yard touchdown to give the National a 10-0 lead in the second quarter. Folk had kicked a short field goal on the opening drive.
Miami had a game-high five players represented while UCLA had four. Joining Harris from the Hurricanes were Johnson, offensive tackle Brandon Washington, defensive end Marcus Robinson and linebacker Jordan Futch.
For Flores, who has been out of coaching since 1995, the return to Los Angeles and the sidelines brought back a sense of nostalgia. He’s responsible for leading the Los Angeles Raiders to Southern California’s only Super Bowl win.
“It showed me that I missed the game a lot,” he said. “It’s so much fun being on the field with these young kids.”
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