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Garoppolo leads East to win in Shrine Game

East cornerback Nevin Lawson, out of Utah State, scores on a fumble in the fourth quarter.

CHRIS ZUPPA | Times

East cornerback Nevin Lawson, out of Utah State, scores on a fumble in the fourth quarter.

ST. PETERSBURG — Leading up to Saturday's East-West Shrine Game, Jimmy Garoppolo was considered the other quarterback from a school in Illinois who hoped to prove to scouts he could play in the NFL.

As Northern Illinois' Jordan Lynch, who finished third in Heisman Trophy voting, got most of the attention, Garoppolo of Division I-AA Eastern Illinois awaited a chance to play.

Lynch was far from impressive. He completed 2 of 7 passes for 3 yards and threw two interceptions in one quarter of work.

Garoppolo was 8-for-14 for 98 yards and a touchdown to help lead the East to a 23-13 win over the West at Tropicana Field in a game mostly dominated by defense. He was named the offensive most valuable player.

"I consider myself one of the best players in the nation," said Garoppolo, who threw for 5,050 yards and 53 touchdowns as a senior. "It doesn't matter if I come from a small school or a big school. You have to compete every day and prove yourself."

In a game with few offensive highlights, Garoppolo's consistency and arm strength stood out. He led three scoring drives, two of which ended on Zach Hocker field goals. Overall there were five field goals in the game, including a 57-yarder by Arkansas' Hocker in the fourth quarter.

The lone offensive touchdown for the East came with eight seconds left in the second quarter when Garoppolo hit receiver Matt Hazel of Coastal Carolina on a 1-yard slant pass. That capped a six-play drive and made it 13-6 at halftime. Garoppolo completed four straight passes on the drive.

The West tied the score at 13 in the third quarter thanks to hometown player Bernard Reedy, a Lakewood High graduate who played at Toledo. He caught a 20-yard pass from Washington's Keith Price, making the catch despite having two defenders draped on him.

"I kind of figured that they would double-team me because I do a lot of talking on the field," Reedy said. "(Price) put it right in there."

Hocker broke the tie with his 57-yarder with 11 minutes to go in the fourth. Then things went really bad for the West offense.

With his team pinned on its 3-yard line, Texas A&M running back Ben Malena fumbled on first down and Utah State cornerback Nevin Lawson scooped it up for a 5-yard defensive touchdown.

The West had something going on its next possession after officials ruled Reedy was interfered with on a long pass. The West got to the East's 9-yard line, but quarterback Keith Wenning of Ball State threw an interception to end the drive.

The West's last hope for a comeback came a possession later. But that was dashed when Tommy Rees of Notre Dame was intercepted by cornerback Ross Cockrell of Duke.

Overall, the West threw two interceptions and lost two fumbles. The East turned it over three times.

Garoppolo leads East to win in Shrine Game 01/18/14 [Last modified: Saturday, January 18, 2014 10:36pm]

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