No one will mistake RB Vondrell McGee for future teammate Henry Melton, but the diminutive Longview product showed plenty of giddy-up in turning the corner while proving he can be receiving threat out of the backfield. McGee led the South with 37 yards on nine carries while adding 24 yards through the air on six grabs. He did most of his damage in he first quarter (28 yards on five carries) but then only got two touches until the final 15 minutes.
RB Antwan Cobb is not the fastest kid Mack Brown has signed (and may even play linebacker at Texas), but the former Pflugerville star, who has remarkable balance, scored the game's first TD on a four-yard reception and added 17 tough yards on four totes.
MLB Jared Norton tied for the game-high with seven tackles, including five solos and one TFL. Playing for the North, Norton notched the game's first tackle following an eight-yard completion. In a matter of weeks, Norton is projected to crack the defensive rotation and log snaps on the very field in which he debuted Tuesday night.
"It's going to be a great experience playing college ball," Norton said. "It was a real good feeling (facing future teammates). I got to watch and see how they did, and a lot of them did a pretty good job. I'm just ready to win another national championship."
Three future Longhorn DBs (LCB Kenneth Deon Beasley, RCB Chykie Brown, FS Robert Joseph) were on the field for the South in the opening series. Joseph enjoyed a solid game, logging six stops, and would likely have led all tacklers had he not been ejected with 2:26 remaining in the third quarter for exchanging punches with Texas Tech commit RB Baron Batch. Brown was credited with two stops and produced a terrific PBU on the opening series of the second half.
"It feels good knowing this is a head-start and how it's going to be for the upcoming season," Brown said. "I wanted to see how we were going to play under the lights and, at the same time, I wanted to see what we were going to have for next year."
Beasley did most of his work on defense, tallying five tackles. He played some WR in the second, collecting 12 yards on a right sideline toss from Johnson to set-up first-and-goal from the one. He netted 20 yards on four punt returns (but has a tendency to run east-west and, consequently, gets nowhere fast). Chykie Brown and Ken Beasley were also in deep return for the South. Earlier this year, Texas coach Mack Brown said Beasley (clocked at 4.38) would get a serious look at KO return this season.
Arguably, the most promising Longhorn on the field (in terms of immediate impact this season) is PK Hunter Lawrence. The two-time all-stater averaged 59 yards-per-kick, including three deep touchbacks. His two kicks into the southerly wind reached the three- and one-yard lines. But punting is a newly acquired taste for Lawrence. Even though he averaged 36.2 yards on five punts, including two inside the 10-yard line, Lawrence reminded Inside Texas, "I've never punted before in a game. I was just trying to get them out and do my best."
Senior Greg Johnson is expected to handle the punting chores for the 2006 Longhorns, but the PK spot may be Lawrence's to lose.
"I was hoping this would be a warm-up for the season," Lawrence added. "I think it went pretty well. I've been here every day this summer with everybody else. I figure if I do everything everybody else does, I'll earn a little respect."
Lawrence's first career punt was uncharacteristic of his otherwise stellar showing: a wobbly 25 yarder that set up the North at its own 44. The three future Longhorn DBs can take solace in the fact that McGee and Antwan Cobb had the biggest hands in the North's 44-yard scoring march. McGee carried three times for eight yards while adding two receptions for 19 yards. His second grab was a highlight reel, ankle-breaking juke of OLB Alexander Johnson, good for eight yards and setting up a first down at the South 11. A pass interference penalty against Beasley made it first-and-goal from the two. From there, Joseph showed outstanding closing speed, covering ground from the opposite side of the field and forcing WR Will Thompson out of bounds on right sideline for a two-yard loss. QB Clark Harrell's four-yard dump pass in the left flat to a wide-open Cobb was good for the first score of the game.
Both sides would turn the ball over following consecutive INTs, but Lawrence's second punt was a harbinger of things to come. The boot covered 39 yards and pinned the North at their own four yard-line. It didn't take long for McGee to give the North some breathing room. On first down, the mighty-mite darted around the left end for 19 quick yards. The North would fumble three plays later while the South returned the favor when QB Jerrod Johnson coughed up the pigskin on his first possession of the second quarter.
The North took over on its own 30. After losing a yard, Cobb rumbled up the middle for 10. He then pushed his way up the middle for the first down. The drive would stall when Joseph sniffed-out the reverse and held WR E.J. Shankle to a one-yard gain.
A wide-open WR Montre Webber had two steps on the nearest DBs at the 10, but the ball hit him in a bad spot: the hands. The 59-yard, eight-play drive was capped when Johnson found Toddirck Pendland on a 22-yard crossing pattern for the score. Lawrence's PAT knotted the affair with 6:02 until halftime. As important, Lawrence's ensuing kickoff was a rocket that reached the back of the end zone.
Lawrence's most impressive punt of the evening won't show up in the stat sheet because it was negated by an illegal formation penalty. Even so, Lawrence fielded a high snap, scrambled right to avoid pressure, and then floated a 35-yarder that was downed on the five. But he would do it again. arching a 39-yard punt that was covered on the North five. It would set up a safety for the South when P George Shamblen lost his handle on the deep snap.
Future Texas TE Britt Mitchell didn't see many balls come his way while at Kilgore but collected a pair of tosses for 14 yards during the South's final possession of the first half.
Chykie Brown did a standup job in breaking up a 3rd-and-8 pass intended for Tyler Luttrell to force a North punt on its opening series of the third quarter. His South team quickly responded with a two-play, 60-yard drive. The big play came on Johnson's 62-yard sideline pass to RB Andre McCorkle. The North would force a Lawrence punt attempt, but this time the high snap sailed over Lawrence's hit. He chased it down but was tackled at the one (the team was charged with a loss of 39 yards). After McGee was held to no gain, QB Nathan Tune (a North Texas commit) rushed over left end to narrow the gap, 16-14.
Chykie Brown misjudged the ensuing kickoff. Over-running the ball, the pigskin grazed the top of his outstretched hands and bounded into the end zone. He bounced around like a pinball among a host of would-be tacklers inside the five before he was dragged down at the three-yard line. A Britt Michell completion was stopped for no-gain while a ball to Beasely fell incomplete. Punting from the back of his end zone, Lawrence's boot sailed to his own 47-yard line.
The North regained the lead, 20-16, on Tune's 29-yard TD strike to Clint Renfro (a TCU commit). Austin McCallum's Broderick Marshall, the game's Defensive MVP, blocked the PAT. But the South immediately answered with an eight-play, 80-yard drive that concluded with Johnson's 27-yard TD pass on the crossing pattern to Chris Caflisch (an A&M commit). It gave the South the lead for good at 23-20.
Johnson was named Offensive MVP after completing 10-of-18 passes for 188 yards. His four TDs tied an THSCA All-Star Game record set in 1971. Johnson netted 41 yards on 18 carries. He fumbled once and was picked-off once.