MOBILE, Ala. — EJ Manuel's January couldn't have gone much better on the field. He hopes for a similarly happy February for his family.
The Florida State quarterback passed for a touchdown and rushed for another on the South's first two drives in a 21-16 victory over the North in the Senior Bowl on Saturday, and was named Most Outstanding Player.
Now, he can try to be the MOS — Most Outstanding Son. His mother, Jackie Manuel, diagnosed with breast cancer before the season, has been recovering from her final round of chemotherapy, and Manuel said she has scheduled for surgery Feb. 1.
"That's kind of been my motivation," Manuel said. "I call my mom every single day and tell her I love her. I never miss a day.
"They'll be sending that award home to her. I won that award for her. I went out there and played well for her. I'm happy I was able to do it."
And he is even happier to return to her side in Virginia for a few days, instead of just squeezing in Skype and Facetime sessions.
For Manuel, it was a great finish to a month that began with a 291-yard performance in FSU's Orange Bowl victory over Northern Illinois.
Manuel and running backs Stepfan Taylor and Mike James combined to put away the game for senior NFL prospects on the South's final drive. Stanford's Taylor carried five times for 32 yards and caught a 6-yard pass from Manuel.
Manuel converted on fourth and 1 on a sneak to set up a 5-yard touchdown run for Miami's James with 2:41 left. Manuel was 7-of-10 for 76 yards with a 20-yard touchdown to Alabama tight end Michael Williams. He also scored on a 2-yard run.
Former Florida tailback Mike Gillislee contributed 46 rushing yards on 10 carries.
BYU defensive end Ezekiel Ansah was named Most Outstanding Player on defense for the South team and Purdue defensive lineman Kawann Short was the North's top player.
Miami (Ohio) quarterback Zac Dysert hit Oregon running back Kenjon Barner for a 3-yard touchdown with 23 seconds left for the North. The 2-point try and onside kick both failed.
Arkansas' Tyler Wilson was 8-of-11 for 40 yards for the South. Landry Jones of Oklahoma was 3-of-9 for 16 yards. Dysert (10-of-16 for 93 yards, one interception), N.C. State's Mike Glennon (8-of-16, 82 yards) and Syracuse's Ryan Nassib (4-of-10, 44 yards, one interception) played quarterback for the North.
On his touchdown pass, Manuel lofted an over-the-shoulder pass to Williams in the end zone.
"The corner played the flat, and big Mike ran a great route and got leverage on the linebacker," Manuel said. "I thought it was a great matchup, and I just threw the ball up there, and he made a great catch."
Former Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson, transitioning to receiver, turned a screen pass from Nassib into a 14-yard gain late in the third quarter and added a 7-yard catch in the fourth.