Team West beat Team East by a single point in the 97th edition of the East-West Shrine Bowl on Thursday night in Las Vegas’ Allegiant Stadium. Navy linebacker Diego Fagot and Brown quarterback EJ Perry won the defensive and offensive MVPs of the game from the East team— a rare occurrence of the MVPs coming from the losing squad.
Team West built a lead in the first half and thoroughly controlled the ball. Their time of possession totaled 20:56 in the first half but only scored 11 points. The West scored a touchdown on their opening possession of the second half to extend the lead to 19-0.
EJ Perry took over for Team East in the second half, throwing for three touchdowns and no interceptions in the second half. It ended up being too little too late and Team East took the one-point loss.
Dustin Crum, Ali Fayad, Armani Rogers and Clint Ratkovich accepted invitations to the East-West Shrine Bowl and each had a good week of practice leading into the game. The practices are more important than the game at these All-Star events, but seeing how the players perform at game speed in the new environment is one more thing for the coaches and scouts in attendance to evaluate.
Below is what shows up in the box score for each MAC athlete, and a few things that don’t.
Ali Fayad, LB, Western Michigan
Ali Fayad was his normal, productive self in the East-West Shrine Bowl with a tackle-for-loss, (drawing a holding penalty,) and a sack (which was ultimately negated by a penalty.)
There is no doubt that Fayad can use his toolbox and get to the quarterback, so shedding a blocker to get to the ball carrier was excellent. The right tackle, Florida’s Jean Delance, had been doing a good job keeping Fayad in check early, but Fayad used a good push-pull move to lose him, get down the line and meet the ball carrier in the backfield.
The sack came in the second half on a stunt with the defensive tackle next to him. He beat the offensive guard to get to Skylar Thompson from Kansas State. Unfortunately, a defensive holding wiped out of the box score, but the players here are being evaluated far past the box score.
Production during the game, after a glowing week of practice, is just the icing on the cake for Fayad. His draft stock is certainly improved and there are a couple more opportunities to do so before April’s draft.
Dustin Crum, QB, Kent State
Dustin Crum had a tough day at the Shrine Bowl. The East team only used two quarterbacks and gave Crum the first half. As an offense in the first half produced 84 yards on four drives and no points.
His final line for the day was 6-of-10 for 37 yards, and five rushes for 29 yards. Officially he had 2 fumbles, but there was another removed from the box score by a defensive penalty. The first was a fumbled snap that he recovered himself and ran for a loss of a yard.
The second was a dropped hand-off to the running back Leddie Brown from under center. The whole play did not look good. The offensive line did not fire in sync and, based on some audio played during the broadcast of an East coach speaking with Crum, Crum turned the wrong direction after taking the snap which put him out of position for the hand-off.
The third was punched out on a scramble toward the sideline and went out of bounds. There was a defensive holding on the play that extended the drive for the East offense.
The game did not go the way he wanted, that much is clear, but this game is not what will decide his future. The week of practice leading up to the game is far more important, as is his career of game film at Kent State. He did get to show off his athleticism during the game and he spent a week with NFL coaches telling him what they want to see from him.
The next step for Dustin Crum is the NFL Combine.
Armani Rogers, TE, Ohio
Armani Rogers got the start for the East offense but did not record any stats. There were factors outside of his control but his inexperience at the tight end position showed.
This game is his only game film at his new position. It might carry more weight for him than others in the game. He was not targeted during the game and on his routes, he had difficulty creating separation. He probably should have had a target early in the game but the quarterback wasn’t able to find him.
Blocking was a mixed bag as well. He was able to get to his assignment and engage but wasn’t able to drive the defender away from the play. Compared to where expectation should be for a quarterback to tight end transition, Rogers was fine. For his college career, he was specifically asked to not engage defenders. It’s not surprising that’s not a polished part of his game right now.
He’ll have more time to refine his game before the undrafted free agent period.
Clint Ratkovich, FB, Northern Illinois
Clint Ratkovich showed what he needed to in the Shrine Bowl, even if it wasn’t a gigantic stat line. He had five rushes for 17 yards. What is more important for Ratkovich is how he got the stats and what he did without the ball. When he had the ball he made sure he was going forward and when he lined up as a fullback, he sealed edges.
He had a nice block to help the West offense score their final touchdown. As a fullback in an offset I formation, he blocked the outside linebacker, kept him out of the play and got behind the pile to get the ball across the goal line. He also recovered a muffed punt late in the game that was turned into a short-field touchdown, showing special teams versatility as well.
His week of practice was more important for him than the game, which went well. His future in the NFL is likely to be as a tough do-it-all back that can get tough yards, block, and catch passes out of the backfield. Not as an every-down back, at least initially.