Though sunshine and sandy beaches are cool, it wasn’t the waves and the sand that attracted fans to Mobile, Ala., last weekend. With 37,914 fans in attendance, Ladd-Peebles Stadium was the venue for the 2014 Reese’s Senior Bowl on Sat, January 25, 2014.
In an exhibition matchup dominated by defense, the South won 20-10. Despite both teams ending the game totaling 231 yards of offense, the North out gained the South on the ground 94-50 and the South out gained the North through the air 181-137.
What makes the senior bowl special is the fact that you have players who are trying to increase their draft stock heading into the National Football League. Of all the quarterbacks who competed, Stephen Morris, Derek Carr and David Fales were the best ones. Morris was 10-18 (55 percent of passes completed) passing for 89 yards. Carr was 7-12 (58.3 percent of passes completed) passing for 45 yards and a touchdown. Fales was 6-7 (85.7 percent of passes completed) passing for 104 yards and a touchdown.
Even with AJ McCarron deciding not to participate, Alabama still managed to have an impact on the senior bowl. Kevin Norwood, Cody Mandell and Adrian Hubbard played well and really represented the University of Alabama with passion and class. Crimson Tide fans have come to know and love Norwood for being a dependable receiver. His dependability took full effect in the senior bowl. Norwood totaled four receptions for 53 yards and a touchdown.
On one hand, Norwood was clocked at a 4.6 in the 40-yard dash. However, don’t let the number fool you. Norwood may not be quick, but he is deceptively fast. He did a nice job of creating separation and getting open on plays. One thing NFL scouts will love about Norwood are his soft hands and his ability to make every reception.
Whoever came up with the sentence, “the quickest way to the NFL is through your foot,” was absolutely right. Special teams’ is truly the lost art of college football. If you can excel in maintaining positive field position, while flipping the opponents field position, you are doing something right. With Alabama, Cody Mandell averaged 47.1 yards per punt. Of his 39 punts, 15 of them pinned opponents inside their own 20-yard line.
Cody Mandell did a tremendous job handling the punting duties for the South. Mandell had six punts for 271 yards (45.2 yards per punt). His longest punt was 60 yards and he had two punts that pinned the North inside its 20-yard line.
In his final season at Alabama, Adrian Hubbard finished ninth on the team in tackles with 33. He totaled three sacks, three pass breakups and four quarterback hurries. Against the North in the senior bowl, Hubbard came to play. He tied for first on the team in tackles with six.
The one aspect Hubbard will have to work on as he pursues the NFL is his intensity. Defensive coordinators don’t want mediocre pass rushers. They want guys who are going to get after the quarterback on every single play.
Outside of Norwood, Hubbard and Mandell, James White put in a good game. The Wisconsin running back had 11 carries for 62 yards (5.6 yards per carry) and a touchdown. Though Jordan Tripp was one of the leaders in tackles for the South (six tackles), Dee Ford had a monster game. Ford did a great job of pressuring and getting to the quarterback. He racked up two tackles, two sacks and a pass breakup. Chris Davis, Craig Loston and Keith McGill each had an interception for the South.
As far as statistics go, the game was pretty evenly matched. The North had the advantage on third down conversions (North 33.3 percent—South 30.8 percent) and time of possession (North 34:00—South 26:00). Cody Parkay connected on two field goals (50 yards and 39 yards) in the first half to help the South achieve a 20-6 lead at halftime and ultimately the 20-10 victory.
The exciting part of the senior bowl came at the end. In deciding the Most Outstanding Player of the game from both sides, James White took it home for the North and Kevin Norwood took it home for the South.
After receiving the award, Norwood said, “Hopefully I proved to the scouts that I belong. From day one (the Reese’s Senior Bowl experience) was wonderful.”
“I had a lot of fans here especially being at home,” Norwood said.
In the all and all, the 2014 Reese’s Senior Bowl was a success. NFL scouts and college football fans alike got the opportunity to see their favorite players prove themselves on the gridiron once more before they began to embark upon Pro Day and the NFL combine.
The main thing Crimson Tide fans desire is seeing Norwood, Mandell and Hubbard be productive in the NFL.