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Late TD Lifts West to 24-17 win in Shrine Game at Trop

FRED GOODALL, AP Sports Writer
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Thankful for another opportunity to bolster his resume for pro scouts, Lennon Creer made the most of his experience in the East-West Shrine game.

The Louisiana Tech running back scored on a 9-yard run with 47 seconds remaining Saturday and earned the offensive MVP award for lifting the West to a 24-17 victory.

“It was a great honor, but I’ve got to give it to the offensive line. I was just hoping to get out there and show what I can do,” said Creer, who rushed for 80 yards on 15 carries.

“I learned a lot this week and I was glad to bring some of it to the field. The main thing was being patient, working to find the holes. It was all a great experience,” Creer said. “It was just a blessing being here with all these great players.”

Quarterbacks Chandler Harnish of Northern Illinois and Tyler Hansen of Colorado had short TD runs for the West, which rallied from an early 10-0 deficit at Tropicana Field.

Missouri Western State’s Greg Zuerlein kicked a 35-yard field goal that made it 17-17 early in the fourth quarter, setting the stage for Hansen to lead the winning drive in the closing minutes.

“There’s no overtime. There was some urgency. You have to do something. I don’t know what it is, but you have to do something,” said Hansen, who had completions of 8 and 22 yards to tight end George Bryan of North Carolina State on the last drive. “You don’t want a tie. Take a shot. Make a throw you wouldn’t usually. You’ve got to win the game, not tie the game.”

Michigan State’s B.J. Cunningham and Miami’s LaRon Byrd caught touchdown passes for the East, which also got an early field goal from Georgia’s Blair Walsh.

Penn State safety Nick Sukay had a fourth-quarter interception for the East and was the game’s defensive MVP.

Tennessee-Chattanooga’s B.J. Coleman teamed with Tennessee Tech’s Tim Benford on a 28-yard pass play to set up Walsh’s field goal on East’s opening possession of the game. His 21-yard completion to Cunningham, who broke a tackle and continued into the end zone, made it 10-0.

While most of the players who will be selected early in the NFL draft will be in Mobile, Ala., for next week’s Senior Bowl, the prospects in the East-West game were hoping to impress and enhance their chances of being selected in the later rounds and winding up in NFL training camps as undrafted free agents.

Coleman started for the East and was followed by Southern Mississippi’s Austin Davis and Florida’s John Brantley. Harnish started for the West and scored on a 1-yard run that finished a 19-play, 80-yard drive. Less than five minutes later Hansen ran 3 yards for a short-lived 14-10 advantage.

Davis tossed a 3-yard TD pass to Byrd to put the East ahead 17-14 at the half.

Coleman completed his first six passes and finished 10 of 15 for 168 yards. Davis went 7 of 10 for 68 yards and Brantley was 1 of 6 for 21 yards for the East, which compiled a 257-207 advantage in total yardage and forced the game’s only turnover — Sukay’s end-zone interception stopping a West threat with just under six minutes to go.

“They did a play action, I kind of drifted out and was able to make a play,” Sukay said. “Our whole secondary did pretty good. It was great working with an NFL-level coaching staff. We got to learn a little of their terminology. It was good experience to play with some of the best competition. It was an experience I won’t forget.”

Former Oregon quarterback Joey Harrington and one-time Kansas State kicker Martin Gramatica were honored at halftime as the latest inductees into the East-West Shrine Hall of Fame. Tennessee running back Tauren Poole, who gained 15 yards on the first play from scrimmage, received the Pat Tillman Award presented to the player demonstrating service, character and sportsmanship.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.

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