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January 3, 2009

East beats West in All-American Bowl

MORE: U.S. Army All-American Bowl coverage | More all-star coverage

SAN ANTONIO - The only uncommitted quarterback on the East team had the best day, surely making coaches from Columbus to Eugene and other places, too, hoping they land his signature.

Tajh Boyd threw three touchdown passes - two to running back Bryce Brown - and the four-star quarterback completed 7 of 9 passes for 187 yards as the East beat the West, 30-17, Saturday at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in front of 32,732 fans at the Alamodome.

Oregon and Ohio State are Boyd's top teams and he said Boston College is involved with Clemson making a late push. Brown and Boyd were named co-MVPs.

"Tajh Boyd, from Sunday until now is like a night and day different player," East coach Terry Smith said. "He struggled the first day because he wasn't comfortable with the terminology, the system, but by the end of the week he knew it like the back of his hand and he was poised in the pocket."

Boyd added the same sentiments.

"The type of offense we played in high school, it wasn't a spread offense, it was more of a drop back," he said. "The offense wasn't too difficult but at first there were some difficulties learning everything. As the week went along everything progressed."

Brown rushed for more than 6,800 yards at Wichita (Kan.) East but he was most dangerous in the passing game as he exploded out of the backfield and the West linebackers could not keep up with him.

After dropping a pass that would have gone for a touchdown in the first quarter, Brown came back with two TD receptions in the second half to stretch the East's lead. He caught a 60-yarder from Boyd with 5:30 left in the third and a 41-yarder with 6:18 left in the game. His second score made it 30-10.

"I knew if they were going to have a 'backer on me in man-to-man defense I knew it was a done deal after that," Brown said. "I've been trying to get in the passing game at my high school for years now, but none of my coaches let me do it.

"When I went to all these camps I never go to running back, I always go to wide receiver because I feel I'm the best wide receiver on the field as well."

The Miami commit also rushed for a team-high 45 yards on six carries. In the post-game news conference, Brown said he believes he's the nation's best player and Smith backed up that statement. Rivals.com rates him No. 2 in the class. West wide receiver Rueben Randle is No. 1 and he finished with a game-high seven catches for 75 yards.

"Bryce is the best player in the country," Smith said. "This kid is dynamic, he's explosive, he's strong, he's quick, he has every asset you need in a big player."

The East took a 7-0 lead with 3:13 left in the first quarter when safety Willie Downs picked off a pass from AJ McCarron, who was pressured by defensive end Donte Moss, and returned it 49 yards for the score. When he reached the end zone, Downs, who also forced a fumble, chucked the ball into the stands.

The West got on the board on its next possession when Chris Boswell booted a 24-yard field goal, but the East tacked on another touchdown 1:55 before halftime when Boyd hit wide receiver Corey Brown for a 14-3 halftime lead.

On the West's first possession of the second half, quarterback Tyrik Rollison hit Randle for a 20-yard gain and running back Christine Michael for 16 yards before back-to-back receptions by Patrick Patterson, the second one a 28-yard touchdown catch to cut the East's lead to 14-10 with 9:23 left in the third. Patterson finished with a team-high 76 receiving yards.

But the East scored two touchdowns - both by Brown - and kicker Brendan Gibbons booted a 35-yard field goal to extend the lead. West running back Chris Whaley capped the scoring with a 46-yard touchdown reception from McCarron with 3:54 remaining in the game. McCarron, an Alabama pledge, completed 8 of 17 passes for 111 yards. Rollison went 9-for-14 for 116 yards.

Michael, who publicly committed to Texas A&M during the game, had a game-high 55 rushing yards on seven attempts. Tight end Orson Charles led the East with three catches.

East cornerback Justin Turner had a game-high seven tackles and an interception. Linebacker Shayne Skov had 4.5 tackles including two for loss on back-to-back goal line plays early in the first. Nico Johnson and Alex Okafor led the West with four tackles each. Vontaze Burfict forced a fumble and defensive end Sheldon Richardson had a sack.

"To come out here and be a part of one of the greatest games in America with a tremendous atmosphere that's put on by the U.S. Army, it means everything," Smith said.

"You take a group of young men and you try to mold them in five days and our kids responded. They answered the call. We told them it was going to be like a 12-round heavyweight fight. Even when they made plays we came right back and made plays behind it."


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