The National team beat the American team 25-24 Saturday evening in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl. Three of the MAC players that were in Pasadena featured prominently in the game, while one did not play.
The American team opened up an early 14-0 lead, and took 14-3 into the half. The second half opened with a field goal for the American team, then the comeback was on.
The National team responded with back-to-back touchdowns to tie the game and took the lead for the first time with 4 minutes left after a successful two-point conversion. The American team had a shot to win at the end but missed a 45-yard field goal wide left.
The offenses were limited to certain personnel groups, always needing to have at least one tight end and running back on the field at all times. The defenses were not allowed to blitz. The rule adjustments certainly lead to different gameplay and are intended to create one on one situations on the field.
The MAC players were able to workout through the week leading up to the game with former NFL coaches and get plenty of tape from this game. Let’s look at how their afternoons went individually.
- Bryant Koback, RB, Toledo
Bryant Koback was the starting running back for the American offense and got more touches than any skill position player in the game. The American team only used two running backs in the game and Koback carried the ball 14 times.
His final stat line was 14 carries for 58 yards and one catch for nine yards, which is good for an average rush of 4.1 yards per rush. The only running back that out-performed him was his teammate from USC Vavae Malepeai. Coastal Carolina’s Shermari Jones and Oregon State’s BJ Baylor also participated in the game and each found rushing yards at a premium. Both of those backs rushed for over 1,000 yards this season.
Koback had the biggest play of the first half when he broke off a rush of 36 yards. The play was an I-formation hand-off to the outside of the right guard. The linebackers crept forward, following the fullback to the left, and Koback blew by them. A safety took a good angle and made sure he was pushed out of bounds.
It wasn’t all great for Koback. Outside of the long run, he was bottled up pretty well by some pretty good linebackers, and he fumbled a ball in the third quarter that was recovered by the defense. The National team turned that possession into a game-tying touchdown.
- Kalil Pimpleton, WR, Central Michigan
Kalil Pimpleton caught four passes for 21 yards and one first down conversion. He lead the National team in passes caught for the game, even if they were for short yardages.
He was able to show off his hands, hanging onto a pass while being hit from behind while airborne. That will be an important skill to showcase for a receiver that is on the smaller side for the NFL.
Not all of his performance showed up on the stat sheet. A bubble screen that went for 7 yards and a first down was called back on a pretty egregious holding by the wide receiver in front of him, and his screen blocking gave a running back space for a first down. There were more opportunities for him to catch a pass in the middle of the field, but those routes went untargeted.
There were accomplished pass catchers that he outperformed on his own team, like Brandon Johnson. Johnson is a wide receiver from UCF that broke out for 11 touchdowns in 2021. Lance McCutcheon out of Montana State only had three catches but went for 49 yards. McCutcheon was a force at the FCS level with a total of 1,219 yards and 9 touchdowns.
- Michael Caliendo, IOL, Western Michigan
The National Team platooned their offensive line units and Michael Caliendo played mainly in the second and fourth quarters. Given the scheme that the defense was allowed to play, he was not assigned a tough task in pass protection. That being said, he also did not allow a pressure and helped his guards often.
Caliendo did get to show his athleticism on a couple of screen passes, and he did a good job finding a defender in space and making a block each time.
He was active in finding a target and driving forward on run plays. A couple of the plays weren’t pretty but he was still effective, he did not allow a tackle for loss. Overall, he had a good showing during the game.
- Samuel Womack, CB, Toledo
Samuel Womack did not play in the game. It’s not clear why, but he was on the field in street clothes.