Nate Orchard

Ameer Abdullah earns Reese’s Senior Bowl MVP as North triumphs over South

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The 2014 season was one for the ages for Big Ten running backs, so it was fitting to see Nebraska’s Ameer Abdullah and Minnesota’s David Cobb help lead the North to a Reese’s Senior Bowl victory Saturday in Mobile, Alabama. Abdullah, the game’s MVP, rushed for 73 yards and added 40 receiving yards and Cobb rushed for 79 yards and a touchdown. The North pulled away from the South in the second half for a 34-13 victory.

For Abdullah, the chance to wrap up his collegiate career before a large group of family and friends from his home state of Alabama was a special opportunity

“Being down here was much more than putting on a good performance for me,” Abdullah said after the game. “Leaving this state was something that was hard for me to do. You could write a movie about it, really, just coming back and playing on Alabama soil for my last time as a collegiate athlete. I couldn’t paint a better picture.”

The Senior Bowl performance was especially good for Abdullah, who had battled some injuries in 2014 and had a somewhat discouraging week of practice leading up to the game according to some scouting reports.

Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty also had a tough time in practices this week, missing out on an opportunity to shine in the spotlight for a game without two of the top quarterbacks entering the NFL Draft (Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston). Petty completed nine of his 13 pass attempts for 123 yards and was intercepted once. It was not a banner week for any of the quarterbacks in the game, to be fair. Oregon State’s Sean Mannion tossed the only touchdown pass of the afternoon, a 10-yard pass to Notre Dame tight end Ben Koyack in the second quarter. Auburn’s Nick Marshall made the move to cornerback and recorded five tackles in the game, tied for the most tackles on the South team.

The Pac-12 had two players stand out in the game on defense as well. Utah defensive end Nate Orchard and Washington defensive tackle Danny Shelton were among the defensive standouts with five tackles. Orchard had 1.5 tackles for a loss in his stat line.

How much stock is placed on one performance in the Senior Bowl varies by team and scout, but there were some players that stood out above most of the others on Saturday. Yale fullback Tyler Varga was one of them. Varga had four rushing attempts resulting in 31 yards and he was the North’s second leading receiver behind Abdullah with 39 receiving yards.

Oregon’s Marcus Mariota wins inaugural Polynesian award

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Add another award to Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota’s collection. A day after winning the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, Mariota was named the inaugural Polynesian College Football Player of the Year. The award is presented by the Polynesian Football Hall of Fame.

“Marcus has orchestrated one of the most prolific offenses in college football this season,” Polynesian Football Hall of Fame co-founder Jesse Sapolu said in a released statement announcing Mariota the recipient of the new award.  “He truly represents the very best of our Polynesian culture.”

The award is designed to honor the most outstanding Polynesian college football player that epitomizes great ability and integrity. Mariota, from Honolulu, is also the favorite to win the Heisman Trophy this week, as well as some other notable quarterback awards. Mariota would be the first player of Polynesian descent to win the Heisman Trophy. Mariota helped lead Oregon to the Pac-12 championship and a spot in the College Football Playoff. He and the Ducks will face defending BCS national champion Florida State in the Rose Bowl in one semifinal game.

Mariota beat out four other finalists for the award: Hawaii wide receiver and kick returner Scott Harding, Washington linebacker Hau’oli Kikaha, Utah defensive end Nate Orchard and Arizona quarterback Anu Solomon.

ECU passing duo among 11 players accepting Senior Bowl invite

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With the 2014 college football season heading down the final stretch the Senior Bowl is beginning to put together its roster for 2015 game. The Senior Bowl is the top all-star game for senior college football players heading to the NFL, and it serves as one of the premier offseason events leading up to the NFL Draft. On Monday the Senior Bowl announced 11 players have already accepted invites to play in the 2015 game in Mobile, Alabama.

East Carolina quarterback Shane Carden and wide receiver Justin Hardy were among the first players to accept their invites. Penn State safety Adrian Amos and linebacker Mike Hull, Navy long snapper Joseph Cardona, Iowa defensive tackle Carl Davis, Michigan State free safety Kurtis Drummond, Oklahoma linebacker Geneo Grissom, Utah defensive end Nate Orchard also accepted invitations to play in the Senior Bowl.

The Senior Bowl also announced two players from the FCS has accepted his invite. Northern Iowa running back David Johnson and Samford free safety Jaquiski Tartt will look to show what they can do against some of college football’s best.

“We are so pleased that these invited players have responded so quickly in accepting to play in our 2015 game,” Reese’s Senior Bowl Executive Director Phil Savage said. “The importance of this event in the timeline of the NFL Draft cannot be understated and these prospects really understand the opportunity here.”

The Senior Bowl will be played Saturday, January 24, 2015 at Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile, Alabama.