In the 2013 Senior Bowl it was the All-Star defenses that came up big, forcing 12 combined punts and three turnovers in the game, but it was the play of the South defense that swung the game in their favor, as they defeated the North team, 21-16, on Saturday.
Florida State quarterback E.J. Manuel was named the Player of the Game for his performance, which included two first quarter touchdowns to give the South team a 14-0 lead that they would not relinquish. On the opening possession of the game, Manuel scored on a 2-yard rushing touchdown and followed it with a 20-yard pass to Alabama tight end Michael Williams in the end zone.
Manuel finished 7-of-10 passing for 76 yards with a touchdown and an interception with 10 yards rushing on four attempts. He also led the South team on a 13-play, 55-yard drive that resulted in a 4-yard touchdown for Miami (Fla.) running back Mike James with less than three minutes remaining in the game.
Starring on the South defense was BYU defensive end Ezekiel Ansah, as "Ziggy" consistently shut down the North team's running game and harassed the opposing quarterbacks. N.C. State's Mike Glennon, Syracuse's Ryan Nassib and Miami (Ohio)'s Zac Dysert combined to complete 22-of-42 passes for 220 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. Only Dysert finished with a completion percentage above 50 as he completed nine consecutive passes on the North team's final drive of the game, including a touchdown pass to Oregon running back Kenjon Barner.
The only other touchdown of the day for the North squad came in the third quarter when UCLA running back Johnathan Franklin broke through the South defense for a 20-yard touchdown run in the third quarter. Franklin led the North team with 41 yards rushing on five carries, while Stanford's Stepfan Taylor and Florida's Mike Gillislee combined for 98 yards for the South.
The 2013 NFL Draft will be held on Thursday, April 25, but first prospects will attend the 2013 NFL Combine starting on Wednesday, Feb. 20.