Bernard Morris was invited to play in the East-West Shrine Bowl, based on his performance in the islands. Morris looked poised and prepared in the pocket in Honolulu in leading the East with 172 passing yards and a touchdown in the win over the West squad in the Hula Bowl.
Morris was the seventh Marshall player selected for the 83rd edition of the East-West Shrine Game. Receiver Josh Davis played in the 2004 game, as did Darius Watts catch balls in the 2003 game. Linebacker Max Yates played in the 2001 game, and safety Rogers Beckett was in the 1999 game. Defensive end Cecil Fletcher was Marshall's only I-AA player selected in 1987. Marshall's first player in the East-West Shrine Game was Jackie Hunt, who was selected in 1940 as a junior, and could not play, but was selected again in 1941 and played.
Houston's Anthony Aldridge, playing on his home field, scored a touchdowns in the third quarter that pushed the West lead to 17-3. He had two catches for 39 yards. Utah State's Kevin Robinson returned a punt 72 yards for a West touchdown in the first quarter, and extended the lead to 24-6 after Aldridge's score with a five-yard pass from Josh Johnson in the fourth quarter. Robinson, the NCAA all-purpose career yardage holder with 6,479 yards, had four receptions for 28 yards.
Morris was joined in the Hula Bowl win last weekend on the Versus Network by Marshall center Doug Legurski and wide receiver Marcus Fitzgerald, who caught two passes for 49 yards in a wide-open offensive day for the East team. Fitzgerald caught five passes for 71 yards in 2007 for the Herd, and ended his Marshall career with 71 catches for 815 yards and three touchdowns in 44 games.
Morris finished as the first Marshall quarterback in school history to rush for over 1,000 yards in his career, but was very effective this year for the Herd, hitting 63.7 percent of his passes on 253-of-398 passes for 3,149 yards and 17 touchdowns against just 10 interceptions. "I've been trying to work hard on throwing because people look at me as a running quarterback," Morris told the Honolulu Star. "That was my focus all week and I think it played out well."
Bernard Morris, racing past East Carolina this season on this 75-yard touchdown run, used his passing arm to throw for 11-of-22 for 172 yards and a touchdown to lead the 'Aina (East) team to a 38-7 win in the 2008 Hula Bowl on Jan. 12. He also rushed for 16 yards on four carries. file photo by Greg Perry/HI staff
Morris ended up eighth all-time at MU with 5,617 yards passing, hitting 61 percent of his passes. The Washington, D.C. native threw for 492-of-803 passes, with 31 touchdowns in three seasons at quarterback for the Herd. There were quite a few familiar faces on the ‘Aina team for Morris, Fitzgerald and Legurski, a three-time All-Conference USA selection as well as making the Rimington watch list three times and adding the Outland Trophy and Lombardi Award watch lists in his senior season. Legurski impressed scouts with his ability to play guard in the game, as well as center. He is going to check with former Philadelphia Eagles long-snapper, and Herd tight end, Mike Bartrum about adding the long snap to his resume for the pros. Chris Massy of MU is currently the long-snapper for the St. Louis Rams.
Players from the University of New Hampshire, the I-AA team that upset MU at home (48-35) this season, as well as players from teams the Herd traveled to, including No. 20 Cincinnati (40-14 loss) and C-USA West Division champ Tulsa (38-31 loss), were now teammates of the Herd players and were also instrumental in the win. New Hampshire's Ricky Santos and Tulsa's Paul Smith joined with Morris at quarterback to lead the East team to the win. Santos was 10-of-16 for 169 yards with an interception and rushing three times for four yards, while Smith had 47 yards passing, hitting 5-of-12, and ran for two first quarter touchdowns to give ‘Aina a 14-0 lead in the game that saw the East team put up 527 yards of total offense.
The ‘Aina took control early, forcing three turnovers and recording three sacks in the first half. That including two sacks, three tackles-for-loss and both fumble forced were by Cincinnati's defensive end Angelo Craig. On Kai's second possession, Craig stripped Kai running back Marcus Thomas, and his Bearcat teammate, Haruki Nakamura, recovered at the Kai 40-yard line. Six plays later, Smith scored on a one-yard sneak with 9:57 left in the first quarter.
Smith scored again in the first quarter on a six-yard run to put Aina up 14-0 seconds after Tennessee's J.T. Mapu, who starred at nearby Kahuku High School, stripped Stanford's T.C. Ostrander. Marshall faced Mapu when they traveled to Tennessee in 2006, losing 33-7 to the Vols. Ostrander had a game he, and he hopes the NFL scouts, would just as soon forget. He was 3-of-8 for 52 yards and intercepted twice.
‘Aina's defense set the tone in the lopsided all-star game. Aina held Kai to just 240 yards, less than half of the East's total. That included just 35 yards rushing for the West and six turnovers that led to 28 points. The six turnovers included four fumbles and two interceptions. Three of the fumbles came off of sacks.
Former Herd center Doug Legursky (66) and quarterback Bernard Morris (14) were joined by Marshall teammate Marcus Fitzgerald (two catches, 49 yards) on the winning East team in the 2008 Hula Bowl. file photo from Marshall Sports Information, www.HerdZone.com
"It's just like any other game," Morris told the Honolulu Advertiser. "If you turn the ball over, most likely you're going to lose the football game. We took advantage of that." Morris' three-yard slant to Bruce Hocker of Dusquesne with just eight seconds left before halftime made it 21-0. The 10-play, 76-yard scoring drive was set up by the Nakamura's interception off a deflection by Kansas State's Justin McKinney. 'Aina defensive standouts were Cincinnati's Craig and Nakamura (fumble recovery and interception), Tennessee's Mapu (sack and fumble recovery) and Gardner-Webb's Brian Johnston (sack and forced fumble).
San Diego State's Kevin O'Connell was one of the only bright spots for the Kai. He was 11-of-21 for 147 yards. California's Robert Jordan had four catches for 84 yards. The Kai avoided a shutout when O'Connell connected with Jordan on a 15-yard TD pass play on fourth-and-long to cut the Aina's lead to 24-7 late in the third quarter. O'Connell found the Hawaii connection on the 12-play, 79-yard scoring drive. He completed passes of 17 and 10 yards to Jason Rivers and a 15-yarder to C.J. Hawthorne.Louisville's Arthur Carmody's 38-yard field goal gave the Aina a 24-0 lead to start the second half. He missed a 32-yarder earlier in the game, but was 5-for-5 on extra-points.
Morris, Legursky and Fitzgerald now turn their attention to workouts in combines to prepare for the April draft by the National Football League. They hope to follow teammate Ahmad Bradshaw, who led the Herd in rushing in 2005 and 2006, at the next level.
Bradshaw was drafted in the seventh round by the New York Giants, but has played a big role in the Giants current nine-game road winning streak, including the upset of the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday. The Giants will travel to Lambeau Field Sunday to face the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship on Jan. 20 at 3 p.m. Meantime, former Herd stars Randy Moss, Chris Hanson, Troy Brown and Jason Rader will try to help their New England Patriots to win the AFC Championship Sunday at 6:30 p.m. when they host the San Diego Chargers, who upset the Indianapolis Colts yesterday. Both games can be heard in Huntington on ESPN 930, WRVC-AM, from Westwood One.