St. Petersburg, FL –The path to the NFL draft descended on Tropicana Field as the first of three major Senior college all-star games officially kicked off. In a game highlighted by strong defensive play, the West defeated the East 14-10 in the 93rd East-West Shrine Game.
After the fanfare of Shriners International and the Shriners Hospital for Children, the 93rd annual East-West Shrine Game kicked off.
The game started with East quarterback J.T. Barrett from Ohio State struggling under center instead of the shotgun he played in college. After a quick three and out, the West team, initially led by Texas Tech signal caller Nik Shimonek, drove down the field before Kansas State kicker Matthew McCrane missed a field goal.
The East team responded with what looked like a sustained drive behind the legs of South Florida running back D’Earnest Johnson and Barrett, but an untimely and unusual fumble recovered by the West’s safety Natrell Jamerson from Wisconsin was returned 77 yards for a touchdown and opened up the game 7-0 in favor of the West.
As it the case in many all-star games, the offenses looked out of sync. Memphis qaurterback Riley Ferguson replaced Barrett and Colorado State Nick Stevens replaced Shimonek. Both quarterbacks opened up with short drives that didn’t generate any first downs. However, on Stevens’ next drive, a combination of well-placed flare passes to the outside, a fortunate unnecessary roughness and a defensive holding penalty moved the ball from the West’s end zone past midfield before another stalled drive.
The East, behind the arm of Ferguson, used a 38-yard reception by Northern Iowa wide receiver Daurice Fountain to jumpstart the offense. While the East squad was able to get within the red zone, the clock was against them and ultimately settled on a 33-yard field by Nebraska kicker Drew Brown to make the halftime score 7-3 West.
In the second half, Sam Houston quarterback Jeremiah Briscoe made his debut for the West, but their opening drive ended quickly. The East responded with Old Dominion running back Ray Lawry getting multiple carries for chunk yardage, but the drive stalled when Barrett was sacked by SMU defensive end Justin Lawler. Lawler made multiple key defensive plays in the East’s backfield on the afternoon.
On the East’s next drive, which was started by a 30-yard punt return by Fountain, the team behind Barrett managed to score on a 4-yard pass to Slippery Rock defensive end Marcus Martin, who lined up on offense in a goalline formation to take a 10-7 lead late in the 3rd quarter.
The West looked to be answering the East’s call after some great runs by Colorado running back Phillip Lindsey. The highlight play was on a botched interception by Louisiana-Layfayette safety Tracey Walker. The ball bounced at least 15 yards in the air before South Dakota State wide receiver Jake Weinke snagged it to keep the West drive going. A fumbled snap by Briscoe was recovered by Illinois State defensive end Dalton Keene to end the drive.
After a few traded drives, the West, behind Shimonek, worked their way downfield and took the lead 14-10 with 1:23 left in the game on a 34-yard touchdown catch by Houston wide receiver Steven Dunbar.
The East, with very little time, worked their way past midfield on a deep pass from Barrett to Penn State wide receiver DaeSean Hamilton. The drive ran out of steam and the West ran the rest of the clock out for the win.
For the winning West squad, they were led by Nic Shimonek, who finished 12-of-18 for 105 yards and a touchdown, which includes the 34-yard go-ahead strike. Nick Stevens went 4-for-7 for 29 yards and Jeremiah Briscoe went 1-for-6 for 15 yards. Phillip Lindsey led the West in rushing with 51 yards on 12 carries. Northwestern’s Justin Jackson also had 39 yards on seven carries. Oklahoma’s Jeff Badet led the West in receptions with five catches for 42 yards while Steven Dunbar had three catches for 52 yards and a touchdown.
For the East, J.T. Barrett went 5 of 13 for 69 yards and a touchdown while Riley Ferguson went 4 of 11 for 63 yards. Ray Lawry had 7 carries for 38 yards. D’Earnest Johnson had 6 carries for 31 yards. Daurice Fountain caught 3 passes for 61 yards and Penn State’s DaeSean Hamilton had 2 catches for 42 yards.
The East-West Shrine Game, like other college all-star games, allows for scouts to see players work with NFL coaches as they prepare for the next level. When asked of the experience and preparing for the NFL, Memphis quarter Riley Ferguson said, “It was just a great experience being out here with NFL coaches. Learning an NFL playbook I feel like I picked up on it really well and I’m just gonna take that moving forward and just try and get better every single day.”
Northern Iowa’s Daurice Hamilton won Offensive Player of the Game and Wisconsin’s Natrell Jamerson won Defensive Player of the Game. The announced attendance was 21,700.
I've been writing off and on since 2003, where I first wrote for Southern College Sports. After a hiatus, I returned in 2012 with The Sports Chronicles, a predecessor of NGSC Sports. After a brief stint with WBLZ in 2017, I came back to NGSC Sports and currently guest write on the site. Also, from 2015 to 2017, I helped run Off the Cuff, a sports program and blog with STLR Media.
I have done radio and podcasts dating back to 2006 with The Student of the Game, an NFL podcast. In 2012, I cohosted TSC Saturday Night on the Sports Chronicles and The OT With Andrew G on WTMY in Sarasota, FL. I later moved the OT to NGSC Sports until 2014 where I started The College Cram, also on NGSC Sports. After a brief hiatus, I returned to radio in 2015 with both Off the Cuff on STLR and The Mad Scientist Sports Lab on The Inscriber.