Grove Bowl 2005

Some solid defensive play and early "jitters" by the Rebel offensive players on both sides of the ball, left the Red Team ahead 7-3 at the intermission. But in the second half, the offensive sparks began to fly and the Grove Bowl ended with the Boue Team on top 27-21 in Coach Ed Orgeron's first Red-Blue Game as the Ole Miss football coach.

For awhile, it appeared the defensive players on both sides of the ball were going to domiinate the annual Red-Blue Spring Football game in Oxford on a sun-drenched Saturday afternoon before 24,722 fans eager for some Rebel football.

The format of the game was relatively simple - the Red Team was composed of the second team offense and first team defense - based on spring practice performance, while the Blue Team was the first team offense and the second team defense. The ones always played the ones and the twos faced the twos.

Orgeron had declared earlier in the week "it will always be the best against the best under my watch."

For about most of two quarters, it appeard the "best" on both teams was the defense.

The Blue Team - with QB Micheal Spurlock at the helm - began the game with a nice march, going from their 35 to the Red 22 before TE Jimmy Brooks fumbled after a 15-yard completion. LB Dontae Reed caused the fumble. To get that deep in the Red territory, Spurlock found Larry Kendrick for 4 yards, Mario Hill for 21 and Kendrick again for 8 before Brooks coughed up the pigskin.

The Red offense came in with Ethan Flatt under center and drove to the Blue 31 before their first march stalled. RB Jamal Pittman accounted for most of the yardage with 7 rushes for 30 yards. A 4th-and-7 pass fell harmlessly to the ground and the Blue Team took back over in their 31.

The Blue offense could not go after two incompletions and a short run by RB Vashon Pearson, so the Red took over on their 27. Again, the Red offense went to Pittman, who rushed six times for 31 yards. But the march again stalled in Red territory when Blue DE Viciente DeLoach registered a QB sack.

The Blue offense stalled again and this time the Red offense made their opportunity count. RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis - who has to sit out next year after transferring from Indiana - was the workhorse, gaining 31 yards in the 64-yard, 11-play march to paydirt. Green-Ellis burst over from 6 yards out for the first score of the game with 3:41 to go in the half. Will Moseley added the PAT for a 7-0 Red lead. . . . Flatt had two completions on the drive - a 16-yarder to TE Robert Hough and a 23-yard effort to FB Seth Michaelson. He was also sacked by DeLoach again, but he did not let that stop the Red momentum.

Late in the half, Spurlock - running the two-minute offense - moved the Blue to a 32-yard field goal by Moseley with time expired. Spurlock hit Taye Biddle for 26 yards, rushed for 9 more and then found Biddle on the sidelines again for 17 yards to set up a field goal from 45 yards. Moseley missed that effort, but the Red squad had too many players on the field and Moseley nailed the second opportunity from 32 yards out.

At intermission, it was 7-3 Red and was, for the most part, a defensive struggle.

After the break, however, both offenses started to crank it up some and there was even a defensive score.

The Red team widened their margin when Spurlock hit Kendrick for a short gain, but Larry was stripped of the ball by CB Trumaine McBride, who scooped up the bouncing ball and raced 29 yards for a Red TD. Moseley's PAT was solid and with 9:49 left in the third quarter, the Red led 14-3.

Spurlock and company roared right back, going 65 yards in 9 snaps. Pittman - who switched to the Blue team at halftime - got things going with a pair of rushes good for 5 yards. Spurlock scrambled for 10 more and then completed a 27-yard pass to Biddle to the Red 19. From there, Spurlock had a 11 yard toss to Kendrick and capped the drive with an 8-yard TD strike - rolling right - to Biddle. The PAT by Moseley hit the crossbar, but the Blue had cut the score to 14-9.

The Red squad answered with Flatt taking them 65 yards in 9 plays. Vashon Pearson - who had switched to the Red team at halftime - did a lot of the damage on runs of 12, 8, 1, 20, and 1. Flatt also completed a pass to WR Carl;os Suggs for 16 yards and the capper was to Suggs in the back of the end zone from 5 yards out. Hunter Bray added the PAT and the score was 21-9 with the Red on top.

Coach O threw a twist in the game then, giving each offense better field position to start their drivesw. Offensive Coordinator Noel Mazzone took full advantage, scoring all five times in the red zone during the game.

Starting from the Red 40, the Blue offense capped the drive with a 23-yard TD pass from Spurlock to Biddle, who had a big day with 6 catches for 108 yards and a pair of TDs. Bray knocked the PAT through and the score was 21-16 in favor of the Red.

A fumble by Ellis-Green killed the next Red attempt and the Blues took advantage again, marching the allotted 40 yards in 8 plays. Spurlock rushed for 9 yards on a 3rd-and-10 and then, on 4th-and-1 threw a strike to Mario Hill while rolling right in the end zone from 13 yards out. The Blue team took its first lead of the game after Spurlock completed a pass to RB Hiram White for the two-point conversion. 24-21 Blue.

The rest of the game, about five minutes, was all defense except the last drive of the game. Spurlock and the Blue offense drive to the Red 10 and with 5 ticks left in the game Bray hit a 28-yard field goal to complete the scoring.

Final: Blue 27, Red 21.

BLUE TEAM Stats: First Downs 15. . . Net Yards Rushing 58. . . Net Yards Passing: 233. . . Total Yards: 291.

Individual Blue Stats: Rushing: Spurlock 4/27, White 4/14, Pittman 7/13, Espy 1/12. . . . Passing: Spurlock 16-27-0, 222 yards, 3 TDs. . . Receiving: Biddle 6/108/2 TDs, Hill 4/64, 1 TD, Kendrick 3/16, Espy 1/12, Lilly 1/12, Spurlock 1/11, Brooks 1/10. . . . Tackles: Kareem Moore 5, Garry Pack 5, DeLoach 5 and 2 sacks, Corvelli Haynes 4 and 2 sacks, Marquis McBeath 4, Brandon Thomas 3.

RED TEAM Stats: First Downs 16. . . Net Yards Rushing 101. . . Net Yards Passing 112. . . Total Yards: 213.

Individual Red Stats: Rushing: Pittman 13/54, Pearson 7/44, Green-Ellis 12/39/1 TD. . . Passing: Flatt 11-18-0, 112 yards, 1 TD. . . Receiving: Suggs 4/38/1 TD, Michaelson 3/51, Hough 2/14. . . Tackles: Dontae Reed 3/1 FF, Jamarca Sanford, Willis, McBride, Bowers, Charles Clark 2 each.

We will have more from the spring game tomorrow, including some player comments and some comments from Ed Orgeron and OC Noel Mazzone.

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