January 5, 2008

Offense-Defense: West struggles on offense

MIAMI, Fla. - Defense was the story of the day at the Offense-Defense Bowl and the West squad suffered the most, as they turned the ball over three times, with nine points resulting from the West's mistakes.

With heavy rain falling in Miami, it was evident from the start that turnovers could be an issue. Terry Kirby's West team proved that notion as quarterback Nathan Stanley started the string of turnovers by tossing an interception to Makiri Pugh on his team's first offensive possession of the game.

Though Pugh returned the interception 12 yards and provided the East with solid field position, the West was able to escape a catastrophe by forcing a punt to end the drive.

Following their defensive stance, the West offense managed to protect the ball fairly well until about midway through the second half when yet another West quarterback had trouble hitting his target. East defensive back Rodney Gillis broke on a poor Beau Sweeney pass and returned it into West territory, giving Cris Carter's squad the momentum and excellent field position.

The East then capitalized on Sweeney's interception and moved the ball down field for the game's first points as kicker Robert Yanks[db] connected from 30 yards out.

The second half started out much like the opening stanza did, as the West turned the ball over yet again on a fourth and one in their own territory. Kirby elected to go for the first down conversion and called a fullback dive that turned into a disaster as East linebacker and Penn State commit [db]Mike Zordich returned a fumble for his squad's only touchdown of the game.

"It was third and one, and I kind of came into the hole hard and the fullback didn't get too good of a handoff," Zordich said. "It was kind of loose in his hands, so I kind of hit his arm a little bit and Mike Yancich came in and ripped it up and the ball went flying in the air and landed right in my hands and I just kind of took off with it."

With the score giving the East the 12-0 lead, Kirby knew at that moment the turnovers could possibly be the deciding factor in the game. Though his team put together a solid fourth quarter and strong comeback attempt, the two interceptions and one fumble proved to be too much for the West to overcome. Despite the wet weather conditions, Kirby said his team should have been able to avoid the turnover bug.

"They had a really good defensive line and we couldn't hold on to the ball and we had a couple of turnovers that were definitely key," Kirby said. "As a football player any time you step on that field no matter what conditions you play in you've got to be ready to play - if its a slippery ball you've just got to grip it harder. "

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