SAN ANTONIO, Texas - Solid defense and special teams were the key ingredients for the West's 24-7 victory over the East in the seventh annual U.S. Army All-American Bowl in the San Antonio Alamo Dome.
An Army game record crowd of 35,151 watched the West defense hold the East to just 57 yards of total offense. The East didn't pick up a first down until their sixth possession of the game in third quarter and their only points of the game didn't come until the final minutes of the fourth quarter.
Anaheim (Calif.) Servite linebacker Chris Galippo was named the games most outstanding player, leading the West with seven solo tackles. Mission Viejo (Calif.) kicker David Green also set an Army game record by hitting three field goals from 22, 28 and 37 yards on Saturday to lead the West in their strong special teams performance.
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"We had great special teams play," West head coach Jon Mack said. "We worked on that in practice all week and made it an emphasis. We didn't work on just field goals, but we worked on the entire package of special teams.
"Our defensive line really played great, then Chris (Galippo) and the linebackers played great and the DB's played lights out. I'm really proud of the team. They were unselfish, team orientated guys."
Offensively the West was led by Michigan recruit Ryan Mallett at quarterback, who went 6-of-9 for 92 yards and one touchdown.
Omaha (Neb.) North wide receiver Niles Paul had four catches for 36 yards and Sterlington (La.) wide receiver Ahmad Paige finished with two catches for 47 yards. Hempstead (Texas) wide receiver Terrance Toliver had the only touchdown reception for the West on a 7 yard strike in the third quarter from Mallett.
There were only two runs in Saturday's game for either team 10 yards or longer. New Orleans (La.) John Curtis running back Joe McKnight had a game high nine carries for 25 yards and scored the only rushing touchdown of the game on Saturday.
"We established some early control at the line of scrimmage," Mack said. "Their offensive and defensive linemen got a lot of press, so our guys were real fired up. I'm real proud of them."
The early momentum Mack was referring to happened when the West offense had an 11 play and an 8 play scoring drive that set up field goals by Green on their opening two possessions of the game.
After their first scoring drive, the West defense set the tone for the rest of the game by forcing the East offense into a quick three-and-out. Avondale (Ariz.) Agua Fria defensive end Everson Griffen came up with a key third down sack on East quarterback Matt Simms that capped off the defensive stand for the West.
"That sack set the tone," Griffen said. "I set the tone for the whole game. We just kept on going after that. They were double teaming me the whole game and that's why I couldn't get any more sacks."
The only point in the game it looked like the East might steal some momentum came at the start of the second quarter when Cincinnati (Ohio) Colerain defensive back Eugene Clifford picked off San Antonio (Texas) Churchill quarterback Nick Fanuzzi on his first attempted pass of the day.
However, on the East's ensuing possession, Hampton (Va.) quarterback Tyrod Taylor was picked off by Gilmer (Texas) defensive back Curtis Brown and he returned the interception all the way to the East 6 yard line. The interception return set up McKnight's 2 yard touchdown score that put the West up 13-0.
The biggest play of the day for the East came on a spectacular 87 yard kickoff return by North (Fla.) Fort Myers running back Noel Devine in the third quarter.
Devine returned the kick from the goal line and cut it up field and was one man away from taking it in for a touchdown. He was knocked out of bounds on the 13 yard line.
However, even with the good field position the East offense still came up empty handed by the stout defense of the West. The East was stopped three yards short on a fourth down pass play from Duncan (S.C.) Byrnes quarterback Willy Korn to Belle Glade (Fla.) Glades Central wide receiver Deonte Thompson.
"That return by Devine was a huge play for them, but look at how our guys responded," Mack said. "Our guys didn't quit and they didn't fall apart. They stayed together and they stayed strong.
"Regardless if they scored or not, that was the key series of the whole game. They got a key return, but we got a key stop. The game was over after that stop."
The West players also took some of the trash talking the East did all week in San Antonio personal. West offensive line coach Bob Jones from Houston Aldine said the guys up front used the East smack talk to fire them up at game time.
"We heard all week that they were the second coming of the 'Purple People Eaters,' and we took that kid of personal," Jones said. "When I say taking it personal, I mean we got after them."
The West offensive line didn't give up a sack on 29 passing plays Saturday. The West quarterbacks had all day to throw and pick a part the East secondary and it showed on their early scoring drives.
The win by the West gives them a 4-3 edge in the game's all-time series. For Mack, he is now 2-0 as a coach in San Antonio. Mack coached on the West staff that won the 2005 U.S. Army All-American Bowl 35-3.
"I've been blessed to coach in a few all-star games and getting your team to gel I've realized is the most important thing," Mack said after the win. "In the first meeting that's what we talked about. We wanted to come in and represent the West side. Obviously we did that today."