2023 NFLPA Collegiate Bowl Post-Game Recap and Analysis

2023 NFLPA Collegiate Bowl Post-Game Recap and Analysis

The NFLPA Collegiate Bowl kicked off in Pasadena Saturday night and didn’t disappoint for the second straight year. Last year, the national team won 25-24 when the American team missed a 46-yard field goal. This year’s contest also ended in a field goal, with the American team coming out on top after Eddie Ogamba shared the posts from 24 yards to secure a 19-17 win. It was a nice redemption for him after previously missing an extra point.

These all-star games tend to be a bit sloppy on the offensive side of the ball, and mobile quarterbacks — or quarterbacks who excel off-schedule — can make a big difference. This game was definitely sloppy. There were four turnovers in all; three fumbles and an interception. The American team gave away the ball three times, resulting in 10 points for the national team.

Apart from that, the American team dominated the statistics. They passed their opponents by 450 to 202 yards, nearly doubling yards per play.

The MAC players who took the field today each made critical plays throughout the game. Below is a summary of each player and their impact on box score:

Zaire Barnes, LB – Western Michigan

The sole MAC representative at the National had the experience of playing against three of the other players at once. He showed off his athleticism while leading the national defense with a total of six tackles. He covered the width of the field on some of them to make a play.

Barnes reacted quickly and positioned himself to intercept a tipped pass and return it 26 yards inside the ten-yard line.

He read quarterback Lindsey Scott Jr.’s eyes and sprinted to that side of the field before breaking his hands to start his throwing motion. He was aware of the ball and grabbed it. Kansas State quarterback Adrian Martinez scored a quick touchdown in fourth and scored from the one-yard line to take the lead.

Barnes performed well. Equal points for the team lead in tackles and forcing a turnover is all a player can hope for in a one-game showcase. He may have put himself on the radar of some NFL assistant coaches with his week of practice and his game.

Christian Sims, TE – Bowling Green

Chrisitan Sims caught a 37-yard touchdown pass from East Carolina’s Holton Ahlers to open the scoring.

He ran to the touchline, jumped into the linebacker who couldn’t cover him, and hit a fuse against the pylon for the score. He was targeted one more time, but it fell incomplete in the second quarter.

For a sample of a game with a limited number of snaps, getting one of the four touchdowns in the game is the best it can be. He’s had the opportunity to practice with NFL assistant coaches, cooking a linebacker for cover and showing his speed to the end zone.

Holton Ahlers was the game’s MVP and deserves credit for seeing the window and getting the ball to Sims. Without that pass, he might not be the MVP of the game.

Justin Marshall, WR – Buffalo

Justin Marshall is credited with a 29-yard catch and another goal, but that goal was a clear throwaway. The deep pass came from Ahlers in the second quarter, with the ball at his own 49-yard line.

Just as Marshall got to the touchline in a deep corner, the ball fell over his shoulder and into his hands. The defense played cover two and the deep corner broke behind the flat corner and away from deep safety trapped in center court.

Ten receivers caught a pass and only 18 passes were completed by the American team. A long catch at the end of a strong week of training is a good week. Marshall was able to convince in the one-on-one drills against the defenders during the week of practice.

Sidy Sow, OL – Eastern Michigan

Sidy Sow started on the left for the American team and had a pretty good day, with one penalty. It’s difficult to rate the offensive line without knowing what is required of each position, but a few things are obvious.

Sow played back-to-back drives and then got flipped out for two drives. He alternated between left protection and left tackle throughout the game. In the first game for the American team, he put his speed and footwork to the test by serving as a pulling guard on a power run.

Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford didn’t play well and held the ball too long on too many passes. Unfortunately for Sow, the sack he gave up in the fourth quarter wasn’t Clifford. Minnesota linebacker Thomas Rush came in from the blind side edge and got past Sow with a push-pull move. It was a good move, but Sow allowed Rush to get his hands on it.

It was just one game on an otherwise unremarkable outing. He fielded well on runs and held up well on passes except for one.

Nico Bolden, S – Kent State

Bolden was the only MAC player on the American team’s defense and he was having a quiet day. He was on the field but didn’t register any stats. I wouldn’t take much of that. It would have been nice to get an assist on a tackle, but the pattern of the game forced him to stay away from the line of scrimmage. So he was not used in Kent State.

On the positive side, he didn’t get burned. In fact, the national team didn’t throw the ball efficiently at all. They were under 50 percent completion percentage for the game with one touchdown. The only touchdown came on the sidelines when Baylor tight end Ben Sims defeated a linebacker on an out-and-up route. No one ran free through the middle of the field.

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