Special teams propel North to victory
Cincinnati’s Pead named Senior Bowl’s Most Valuable Player
MOBILE, Ala. -- Isaiah Pead took a stutter step forward, then raced to the left sideline and traveled 60 yards up the field before finally getting tripped up by a leg tackle.
The former Cincinnati running back followed that nifty punt return with a 38-yarder a couple of minutes later, late in the first half, to play a starring role Saturday in the North’s 23-13 victory against the South in the Senior Bowl.
The first one set up a field goal and helped Pead outshine bigger names to earn Most Valuable Player honors.
“[Coach] told me what the punt return call was, left, right or in the middle, and told me to make sure I set my blocks up or the play would be dead,” said Pead, who set a Senior Bowl record with 98 yards on punt returns. “I tried to do that the best that I could. The rest was just ability.”
Michigan State’s Kirk Cousins and Wisconsin’s Russell Wilson threw touchdown passes for the North. Purdue kicker Carson Wiggs put it away with his third short field goal, a 28-yarder with 4:11 left in the showcase for senior NFL prospects.
Boise State’s Kellen Moore led that clinching 13-play drive that consumed 8:36 with the help of a running clock.
It snuffed out a spark provided by South quarterback Nick Foles of Arizona, who started his career with Cousins at Michigan State.
Foles had gotten the South into the end zone by firing a 20-yard touchdown pass to Arizona teammate Juron Criner with 12:55 left in the game.
It was an up-and-down day for a crew of quarterbacks with sparkling college credentials, but threw a combined five interceptions.
It was mostly up for Pead, who only had 74 yards on eight punt returns as a senior. The 5-foot-10, 193-pounder did rush for 1,338 yards and 12 touchdowns and gained a team-high 31 yards on eight carries in the Senior Bowl.
“I think he may have opened some eyes,” said Minnesota Vikings coach Leslie Frazier, who led the North. “Some people may have wondered if he can do certain things. I think he may have answered some questions today.
Cousins completed 5 of 11 passes for 115 yards but threw an interception. Moore, who won an college-record 50 games as a starting quarterback, was 6-of-12 passing for 50 yards, and had a 23-yarder to set up the final field goal that put the North up two scores.
Wilson completed 4 of 7 passes for 45 yards with an 8-yard touchdown pass to Marvin Jones in the second quarter. He also threw an interception.
“I think I did a really good job, besides the interception,” Wilson said. “You never want to throw an interception obviously. I think I waited a little bit too long on that one. Other than that, I came back. I had amnesia and just forgot about it and got the ball in the end zone there.”
Arkansas receiver Joe Adams, the South’s Most Outstanding Player, had eight catches for 133 yards after losing a fumble on the opening drive. He had a 36-yarder and a 29-yarder in the third quarter.
Criner gained 77 yards on six catches.
Linebacker Bobby Wagner of Utah State had seven tackles and an interception and was the North’s Most Outstanding Player.
“We were just getting after it, having fun out here,” said North defensive lineman Mike Martin of Michigan. “The scheme was real simple so it was just guys playing with effort and intensity.”
Wiggs made kicks of 27, 32 and 28 yards while missing a 37-yarder in the final minutes.
Foles almost got the South back in it earlier, but his fourth-down pass from the 13 was incomplete with 3:59 left in the third quarter.
He had the best stat line of the six quarterbacks. Foles was 11-of-15 passing for 136 yards and the TD, and was the only South quarterback who wasn’t picked off.
San Diego State’s Ryan Lindley was 10 of 21 for 103 yards and also was intercepted once. Oklahoma State’s 28-year-old Brandon Weeden started for the South but was picked off twice on nine attempts, completing five passes for 56 yards.
Cousins put the North ahead 20-6 early in the second half with a 41-yard touchdown pass to Arizona State’s Gerell Robinson. The 6-foot-3, 223-pound Robinson caught it coming across the middle and raced down the right sideline.
It was the second time on the drive Cousins had thrown for a nice gain on third down, hitting T.J. Graham (North Carolina State) for 22 yards earlier.
The North’s Kendall Reyes of Connecticut had two sacks.