Former Utah State football player Michael Smith earned Offensive Most Valuable Player honors in leading the North to a 24-19 win over the South in the inaugural Players All-Star Classic Saturday afternoon at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock, Ark.
Smith rushed for 124 yards on 12 carries (10.3 yards per carry), including an 80-yard TD scamper. He also returned four kickoffs for 105 yards (26.3 ypr). Smith’s 80-yard touchdown run in the third quarter gave the North at 17-16 lead.
“It feels great. I’m very blessed for the opportunity to play in this all-star game as well as a bowl game,” Smith said. “I’m very thankful that they gave me the chance to play in this game by inviting me, and I just wanted to make the most of it and not take this opportunity for granted.”
There were roughly 200 scouts in attendance from the National Football League, the Canadian Football League as well as different European leagues.
“There’s a lot of new plays and a few scouts here to see what we can do,” Smith told Sports Illustrated. “All we want to do is try and move our stock up, no matter if it’s the NFL or CFL or anywhere. We’ll take the opportunity if we can.”
For Smith, a native of Tucson, Ariz. (Sunnyside HS/Eastern Arizona JC), he collected his second MVP award in his last two games played. He was named USU’s MVP in the Aggies’ 24-23 loss to Ohio in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl on Dec. 17. He ran for a career-high, a USU bowl record and the third-best Famous Idaho Potato Bowl rushing outing with 157 yards, scoring both of Utah State’s rushing TDs.
It was Smith’s third multi-TD outing of the season and fourth of his career, as well as setting a career-high for the second-straight game, topping the 100-yard mark for the third time in his career. Smith’s 63-yard TD run was the longest allowed by the Ohio defense of the 2011 season and was also Smith’s second-longest TD run of the season behind a 77-yarder in the San Jose State game. It was Smith’s fourth TD run of 46 or more yards this season and his seventh explosive (20+yards) of the year.
Smith finished the 2011 season second on the team with eight rushing TDs, and was also second on the team with 870 yards on 114 carries for a team-leading 7.6 yards per carry average.
This is also the second top player all-star game award for a Utah State player in as many weeks. Llinebacker Bobby Wagner was named the North’s Most Outstanding Player of the 2012 Senior Bowl last Saturday, after helping the North to a 23-13 win over the South at Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile, Ala.
Smith helped Utah State post a historic season with a 7-6 record, its first seven-win season since 1993, capping its season with the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, losing to Ohio in a 24-23 thriller. Five of USU’s losses were by one score or less, and 10 of the Aggies’ games were decided by one score this season, which are the most in the nation.
Fans are invited to join Utah State football at its end of the season banquet at 5 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 17 at the Riverwoods Conference Center at Spring Hill Suites in Logan. Cost of the event is $27.50 per person.
The night starts at 5 p.m. with a reception, followed by dinner at 5:30 p.m. Head coach Gary Andersen will address the audience, show some season highlights and present team awards.
* Note, pre-registration is required, walk-ups will not be accepted on the night of the banquet.
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