ST. PETERSBURG — Brad Childress figures if you're going to coach in something like the East-West Shrine Game, there's no point of being anything but aggressive.
The former Vikings coach, who has interviewed for the Bucs' head-coaching vacancy, went for it on fourth down three times and recovered an onside kick in the second quarter, then got a touchdown from Louisiana Tech's Lennon Creer with 47 seconds left as the West team pulled out a 24-17 win Saturday in the game's first time at Tropicana Field.
"The kids aren't coming here to tie, and you can tie in this game — you can't go to overtime," Childress said. "I just wanted to be aggressive. It sends a good message, and I thought our guys did a good job with that."
The East team jumped out to a 10-0 lead with Chattanooga's B.J. Coleman throwing a 17-yard touchdown to Michigan State's B.J. Cunningham.
But the West rallied back on touchdown runs by Northern Illinois' Chandler Harnish and Colorado's Tyler Hansen. Harnish converted two fourth downs on scrambles in his touchdown drive, though the East scored just before halftime for a 17-14 lead.
The game's defensive MVP went to Penn State's Nick Sukay, who had an interception in the end zone with 5:51 left to keep the score tied. Creer, who went up the middle for a 9-yard touchdown in the final minute, earned the game's offensive MVP.
"They opened up a big hole, and it was there for me," Creer said. "Hopefully I had a chance to get myself out there and show what I can do."
Of the players from state colleges, there weren't many stars — Miami tight end Chase Ford had a 64-yard catch to set up the East's first touchdown, and Hurricanes receiver LaRon Byrd caught a 3-yard touchdown with 20 seconds left in the first half.
Florida's John Brantley was the sixth quarterback in the game and went 1-for-6 for 21 yards in limited action; Florida State punter Shawn Powell followed Brantley's two drives with solid punts.
Rules limiting what defenses could do in terms of blitz packages allowed quarterbacks to complete passes at a high rate — four quarterbacks combined to go 23-for-30 in the first half, led by Chattanooga's B.J. Coleman, who went 6-for-6 for 137 yards and a touchdown.
The West team's two first-half touchdowns came on back-to-back drives, after a successful onside kick by Missouri Western State's Greg Zuerlein, recovered by Oregon State's Brandon Hardin.
The game, in its 87th year, was played in St. Petersburg for the first time after being in Orlando the last two years.