The running game got the North going. The passing game got it a victory.
The North trailed by 14 points at the half Sunday in the Blue-Gray All-Star Football Classic. North offensive coach Jack Bicknell said his squad was very fortunate to be down by only that margin.So he decided to be conservative in the third quarter.
"We decided to establish the run a little more in the second half," Bicknell said after the Blue edged the Gray 22-21. "In the second half, we just needed to run the ball and settle things down."
That strategy, coupled with turning quarterback Eric Wilhelm loose, clinched the victory.
The Blue was trailing 21-14 with just 1:34 remaining. But Wilhelm, of Oregon State, led his team 82 yards on nine plays and connected with Kendal Smith of Utah State on a 24-yard touchdown pass with 24 seconds remaining. Aaron Jenkins ran in the conversion to give the North its win.
The Gray had a chance to win in the final seconds, but Dan Plocki of Maryland was wide left on a 54-yard field goal.
"The reason it was so effective was that I wasn't calling the plays," Bicknell said of the winning drive. "We had not practiced the two-minute offense other than talking about it."
The coach said Wilhelm just went out and took control.
"I was laughing at myself," he said. "We would have been better to let him call the plays all game."
Jenkins also second-half touchdown runs of seven and one yard.
The Gray had taken a 14-0 lead at the half behind Jackson State's Lewis Tillman, who had a 2-yard TD run, and an 8-yard touchdown pass from Tennessee's Jeff Francis to Rod Harris of Texas A&M.
The Blue scored its first points in the third quarter on a 14-play, 68-yard drive. Jenkins capped the drive with his 7-yard scoring run, and the North tied the score in the fourth period on the 1-yard run.
The South went ahead 21-14 on 4-yard run by Tillman, but couldn't hold on.
The North ended the day with 121 yards passing and the South with 269. In rushing, the North led the South 132 yards to 71.