SAN ANTONIO - After every big game, coaches will reward players with game balls to symbolize their effort and excellence. Rivals.com's Barton Simmons dishes out his own recognition with game balls following Saturday's U.S. Army All-American Bowl.
U.S. Army All-American Bowl: Game Balls
Offensively, the East had some inconsistencies moving the ball and had trouble getting in a rhythm. Any time the East would get a big play, there would be a drop, a penalty or a missed pass but when Cole Marcoux stepped on field in the fourth quarter, none of that mattered. He left no room for error by putting the ball on the money on multiple occasions. Maybe the three top throws overall in the entire game came out of Marcoux. Those throws - and there were three or four of them - were NFL-level throws. He showed a huge arm, good touch and presence and on a two-point conversion, he showed a combination of all of the above. Marcoux was certainly the underdog this week but proved he belonged, with two touchdown passes on his two drives.
Sharrif Floyd came into the game as a big-name prospect with five stars attached to his name and he didn't disappoint, both in practice and in the game. Almost every big play defensively for the East started with a good push up the middle and Floyd was usually a big part of that push. He didn't just create opportunities for others though. Floyd had two sacks himself, one of which he defeated about two or three different blockers. In the game Floyd showed what he has displaying all week in practice: A quickness off the snap, strength and a motor. He plays with a passion and a love of the game in the middle.
Phrases like "most polished" and "most college ready" were thrown around a lot in the press box during the game in regards to Jake Heaps, and deservedly so. Heaps had really good poise in the pocket. He faced some good pressure from the East defense but looked comfortable hanging in the pocket and making the throw. He made throws with good pace between defenders, he showed the ability to throw on the run and he made good decisions with the ball. While the West made a lot of its big plays in a variety of ways, when they had success on offense it was usually behind the arm of Heaps who was 9-12 for 90 yards.
Though this game ball goes to the top defender, Ronald Powell gets it for his play in all three phases of the game. Powell was the top overall athlete on the field on Saturday, and showed that early on by lining up at tight end on a fourth and short and catching a long touchdown pass on offense. Later in the game, Powell returned a blocked extra point, almost 100 yards for a two-point conversion looking much more akin to a sprinter than a lineman along the way. In between those two plays, all Powell did was compile five tackles, a sack and a forced fumble.
Usually this award goes to a player that surpasses expectations and has a breakout performance that no one expected. In this case, Kyle Prater's performance was so surprising that it has to merit discussion. Arguably the top performer all week in practice, Prater couldn't seem to drop a pass if he tried. Then in the game, the big, athletic receiver dropped several passes and two of them would have been for touchdowns. To be fair, for most wide receivers, some of those passes were tough enough that they wouldn't even be considered drops but such is the reputation Prater has built for himself. Due to his performance all week, a lot was expected out of him. Perhaps the Pete Carroll rumors had taken their toll?
Honorable mention: Marcoux
On the first day of practice, Calvin Barnett was one of the day's top overall performers. On Tuesday, he suffered a minor injury to his knee and sat out the rest of practice. On Saturday during the game, Barnett suffered another minor injury to his shoulder. However, he got back in the game and made a huge impact. He collapsed the line on a field goal attempt, causing a block that was returned for a touchdown and then, single-handedly blocked an extra point up the middle that was also returned for a two-point conversion. After looking a little out of shape when he arrived in San Antonio and having some injury issues, I don't think anyone expected him to have the impact he did on Saturday.
The play of the day was a three-man job. With the West team up 7-0 and the East team lining up for a 37-yard field goal to narrow the gap, Calvin Barnett used his massive body and strength to cave in the line of scrimmage. Right next to him, Cassius Marsh - who has played great all week - forced his way through the line and blocked the field goal. The kick was then picked up by Josh Shirley who returned the ball 70 yards for a touchdown. The play was a huge momentum changer that the East was never able to recover from.
Honorable mention: Barry Brunetti to Ambles deep pass, Marcoux to Ivan McCartney for touchdown, Powell fourth down TD catch, Powell two-point return, Floyd QB sack
HIT OF THE GAME
Early in the game, V.J. Fehoko set the tone with a pop on Spencer Ware on an off-tackle play. Fehoko has been one of the top hitters all week so it is fitting that he made the hit in the game that drew the biggest reaction from the crowd. Though he is short, Fehoko packs a major punch when he reaches the ball carrier and is a tackling machine at inside linebacker.