Albright’s Pillar MVP in National Bowl Game
Red Nation defeats Blue Nation 35-21 at Allentown’s J. Birney Crum Stadium
Nation’s Scott Pillar of Albright College makes a catch before scoring a touchdown in the second quarter of the National Bowl Game at J. Birney Crum Stadium in Allentown on Sunday. Pillar was named the game’s MVP. (HARRY FISHER, THE MORNING CALL / December 4, 2012)
The National Bowl Game, which was played for the third time Sunday at J. Birney Crum Stadium, affords elite players from the Football Championship Subdivision, Division II and Division III an opportunity to leave a lasting impression on professional scouts and make a final memory for themselves.
Sam Durley took advantage.
The record-setting quarterback from Division III Eureka College (Ill.) capped a remarkable career with a two-touchdown performance in Red Nation’s 35-21 victory over Blue Nation. The game was played in a steady rain as a crowd of about 200 braved the harsh weather conditions.
“I told every single coach and player I’ve talked to,” Durley said, “this was the best experience of my life. Coming from a really small college, I’m not used to the speed and size of these players. But I adapted quickly and it turned out very well.”
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For fans not familiar, Durley burst onto the national scene in early September with an epic game.
The 6-foot-5, 240-pounder set what was then an NCAA single-game record with 736 passing yards in a 62-55 triumph over Knox. (The record has since been broken by Old Dominion’s Taylor Heinicke, who passed for 791 yards in a game against New Hampshire on Sept. 22.)
Highlights of Durley’s exploits were shown on ESPN and he has since conducted numerous interviews with various media outlets.
“It got pretty crazy,” he said. “I had to turn my phone off for a couple days. I was getting calls from people I hadn’t talked to in a long, long time. That was pretty special, though.”
Durley failed to set any records Sunday, but he did make a considerable impact.
He directed the Red Nation team on a 76-yard scoring drive in the opening five minutes, capping the series with a 1-yard touchdown pass to Southern Connecticut State’s Willie Epps on third down. Durley’s second TD throw was a 13-yarder to Scott Pillar of Albright. Overall, he passed for 106 yards while splitting snaps with the equally effective Ricky Phillips of West Virginia State.
“We really got off to a great start, which was important,” Durley said. “The size and speed was an adjustment but it made things easier in a way, too. Our receivers were able to get open and the line really blocked well.”
He acknowledged it could have been the final game of his football career.
“A scout from the Bears came to see me play and I had interviews with the Chiefs and Rams, who were here this weekend,” Durley said. “I’d like to keep on playing, sure. But if not, I went to college to get an education and I’ll put that to use.”
Red Nation maintained its first-half dominance even when Durley was not on the field.
Phillips’ 26-yard touchdown pass to Pillar, named the game’s MVP, and Stephen Campbell’s 1-yard scoring plunge just before intermission put the Red squad ahead 28-0 at halftime.
Blue Nation, which was directed by Lehigh Valley Steelhawks head coach Chris Thompson, methodically worked its way back into the contest in the second half. It finally closed within seven points on a 27-yard scoring strike from Millsaps’ Garrett Pinciotti to North Central’s Nick Kucuk.
With two minutes remaining, the Blue team got the ball back at its 15-yard-line and a chance for a decisive final drive. But, Pinciotti was stripped on first down and Virginia State’s Rontrelle Knockett of Red Nation scooped up the loose ball and returned it to the 1. The Red team then capped the scoring on Campbell’s 1-yard burst and Kenny Zoeller’s extra point.
“We dug too big of a hole at halftime,” Thompson said. “In hindsight, if we don’t give up that touchdown right before halftime, it’s probably in overtime right now.”
Thompson was impressed with the quality of play, especially considering the teams had just two days to practice and become acquainted.
The Red team was coached by Mike Stock, formerly the special-teams coordinator for the Green Bay Packers.
“I think it was an awesome experience for everyone involved,” said Thompson, who took the opportunity to scout talent for the upcoming Steelhawks’ season. “A lot of players showed what they’re capable of doing on the football field.”
Blue Nation 0 0 7 14 – 21
Red Nation 7 21 0 7 – 35
RN – Willie Epps 1 pass from Sam Durley (Kenny Zoeller kick), 9:47.
RN – Scott Pillar 13 pass from Durley (Jamal Mitchell kick), 13:52.
RN – Pillar 26 pass from Ricky Phillips (Zoeller kick), 8:31.
RN – Darius Kinney 1 run (Mitchell kick), :07.6.
BN – Kwame Spikes 6 pass from Garrett Pinciotti (Nick Knell kick), 11:29.
BN – VJ Hunt 28 pass from Marcus Mayo (Knell kick), 14:52.
BN – Nick Kukuc 27 pass from Pinciotti (Knell kick), 4:35.
RN – Stephen Campbell 1 run (Zoeller kick), 1:57.
Michael Blouse is a freelance writer.
Copyright © 2012, The Morning Call