Friday, December 13, 2002
Gray 40, Blue 37
MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- In the town where his grandfather once caught political flak, Richmond Flowers III caught just about everything else.
The Gray squad's Richmond Flowers of Tennessee-Chattanooga grabs the winning touchdown pass with 59 seconds left. The Tennessee-Chattanooga receiver's leaping 21-yard touchdown catch in the corner of the end zone with 59 seconds left gave the Gray a 40-37 victory in a wild Blue-Gray All-Star Classic on Monday.
"The quarterback put the ball there," said Flowers, whose grandfather was Alabama's controversial attorney general during the 1960s. "My job was just to go up there and make the play."
Flowers made plenty of plays, catching a game-record 12 passes for 169 yards and two touchdowns. His father starred at Tennessee before going on to the NFL and played high school ball at Montgomery's Sidney Lanier.
"I'd be lying if I said that I'm extremely surprised," said Flowers, a Duke transfer who caught a school record 86 passes for 1,035 yards in his senior season.
"Every player here has made great plays during the season to get here. I'm just thankful I got the opportunity to capitalize on this opportunity."
The pass from Jason McKinley of Houston ended a whirlwind final two minutes in which the Blue had marched 84 yards for a go-ahead touchdown.
Mike McMahon of Rutgers put the Blue up 37-33 with 2:16 left on a 1-yard, fourth-down touchdown pass to fullback R.J. Bowers.
McMahon completed several clutch passes on the drive. Facing third-and-20 from his own 6 after a sack, McMahon hit Steve Smith for a 17-yarder.
Bowers turned a fourth-down pass into a 25-yard gainer and Smith made a nice 43-yard catch to the 9-yard line.
"I was just able to sit in the pocket and just deliver it downfield," said McMahon, selected the Blue's Outstanding Offensive Player. "The entire offensive line and receivers played great."
Then, McKinley led the Gray on a 71-yard drive in the final minute. McKinley completed all five passes on the drive and finished 26-for-37 for 259 yards and two touchdowns.
The game, pitting the North against the South, is for seniors whose schools were not playing in bowl games.
The 10-point rule played a big part in the outcome. If a team trails by 10 or more points after it scores it receives the ensuing kickoff.
That gave the Gray several extra possessions after scores, helping the squad overcome deficits of 23-6 and 30-20 and rack up 613 total yards.
"In my opinion, we won the game other than a couple of kickoffs," said McMahon, who was 16-for-28 for 284 yards and three touchdowns, but was intercepted twice. "That definitely puts the offense out of synch. All of a sudden we have to sit out half an hour, and that takes a toll."
Alabama safety Marcus Spencer said the Gray players decided to make their own holiday gift at halftime.
"We were in the locker room like, 'We didn't come out here all week for Christmas to be out here and lose,"' Spencer said.
David Rivers of Western Carolina was 13-for-22 for 237 yards with a touchdown and an interception for the Gray. Alex Bannister of Eastern Kentucky caught seven passes for 124 yards and Jonathan Carter of nearby Troy State had a game-record 75-yard touchdown catch on the final play of the third quarter.
That made it 30-27 and put the Gray right back in it after trailing 23-6 at halftime.
Bill Gramatica's fourth field goal of the game, a 48-yarder, gave the Gray a 33-30 lead with 5:30 left. The South Florida kicker is the younger brother of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Martin Gramatica.
Gramatica also had kicks of 38, 25 and 18 yards to tie Tennessee's Fuad Reveiz's 16-year-old game record for field goals. He was selected the Gray's Outstanding Offensive Player while Vanderbilt linebacker Matt Stewart won defensive honors.
Utah's Smith finished with four catches for 134 yards for the Blue.
Defensive back Richard Newsome returned a second-quarter interception 39 yards for a score, proving his Michigan State teammates were wrong about his hands.
"I was able to show my boys at home how I could catch," said Newsome, the Blue's Outstanding Defensive Player. "They say I'm the worst catcher in our defensive backfield."
Newsome wasn't complaining too much about the 10-point rule after the exciting finish.
"All-star games are made for the offenses and scoring a lot of points, because that's what the fans like," he said. "Everybody has fun. Winning or losing is no big deal."
|The Gray squad's Richmond Flowers of Tennessee-Chattanooga grabs the winning touchdown pass with 59 seconds left.|