MOBILE, Ala. – Florida State’s Christian Ponder threw two touchdown passes, and the South raced to a 17-0 first-half lead and held on to beat the North 24-10 in the Under Armour Senior Bowl Saturday before a sellout crowd of 40,646 fans at Ladd-Peebles Stadium.
Ponder, who was named the game’s MVP, completed 7 of 13 passes for 132 yards with touchdowns of 18 yards to Miami’s Leonard Hankerson and 23 yards to TCU’s Jeremy Kerley.
“We knew as a team that we always got to take the tempo,” said Ponder. “We wanted the ball first and we were able to do that. To score on the first two drives was just great for us.”
Hankerson, who caught 5 passes for 100 yards, adjusted to an underthrown Ponder pass on the first play of the game for a 49-yard gain, ultimately setting up a 23-yard field goal by LSU’s Josh Jasper.
On the South’s next possession, Kentucky running back Derrick Locke ran 5 times for 34 yards, and Hankerson caught a short pass from Ponder, spun away from North Carolina cornerback Kendric Burney, and scored from 18 yards out.
“(Burney) was playing inside and the coaches were seeing it, so we (decided) we’re going to run to the sticks and then we’re going to throw the ball outside,” Hankerson said. “When I turned outside, it was straight end zone.”
The South made it 17-0 two possessions later when West Virginia’s Noel Devine capped a 10-play, 45-yard drive with a 1-yard touchdown run on fourth down.
South receiver Leonard Hankerson celebrates his touchdown with Rodney Hudson of Florida State during the Senior Bowl Saturday at Ladd-Peebles Stadium. (Chip English, Correspondent)
The North did not earn a first down until Iowa’s Ricky Stanzi, who finished 7-of-12 for 87 yards, hit Wisconsin’s Lance Kendricks with a 27-yard pass just before the two-minute warning.
The North got back into the game in the third quarter. East Carolina’s Dwayne Harris returned a punt 20 yards to the South 37, setting up a 30-yard drive for a 24-yard field goal by UCLA’s Kai Forbath.
Washington quarterback Jake Locker then hit Boise State’s Titus Young and Maryland’s Da’Rel Scott for gains of 15 and 34 yards to set up Scott’s 1-yard touchdown run that cut the South’s lead to 17-10 with 19 seconds left in the third quarter.
“I thought we got in a little better rhythm, were able to move the ball, got our running game working a little bit better, and it allowed us to put some points on the board,” said Locker, who finished 6-of-10 for 98 yards.
But Ponder put the game away in the fourth quarter, leading the South on a 6-play, 68-yard drive for his touchdown strike to Kerley.