Duke's Jones Sparks North To 34-24 Senior Bowl Win
Daniel Jones got his bad Senior Bowl moments out of the way long before kickoff.
The Duke quarterback threw a touchdown pass and ran for another score in the third quarter to lead the North to a 34-24 victory over the South Saturday, putting a nice finishing touch on the weeklong job interview with NFL teams.
"Just showing the poise and showing kind of a comfort in the offense is something they wanted to see," Jones said. "At times, I'm not sure I did great with that, to be honest. But here in the game, I think I did get comfortable and I got into a rhythm. Hopefully that showed them something and showed them I had the ability to do that and had the resiliency to do that."
Projected as a likely first-round pick , Jones turned in an efficient 8-of-11, 115-yard passing performance. Then, North Carolina State's Ryan Finley took over in the fourth quarter with similar results.
Jones, one of 11 junior graduates in the game, and Finley ignited a North team that trailed 12-3 at halftime only to score on its first five drives of the second half. He at least had the comfort of a familiar city since Jones is training in Mobile with David Morris at QB Country leading up to the combine.
North coach Jon Gruden of the Oakland Raiders liked how Jones rebounded from mistakes early in the week.
"He showed a lot of mental toughness," Gruden said. "He had some tough moments. He threw two interceptions in 7-on-7 in practice, which is uncommon. But he came back the next day and the next day and the next day and showed the right stuff."
Jones led the North on an 84-yard touchdown drive to start the second half. He finished it with a 1-yard touchdown run but completed mid-range passes to four different receivers, totaling 57 yards.
After Texas defensive end Charles Omenihu stripped the ball from Auburn quarterback Jarrett Stidham , Jones delivered a quick score to take a 17-12 lead. He completed a 25-yarder to Ohio State's Terry McLaurin on a flea flicker. Then UMass receiver Andy Isabella , a Biletnikoff Award finalist, scored on a 19-yard catch after breaking a tackle on his way to the end zone.
Finley then delivered a 23-yarder down the right sideline to Isabella on fourth and 2 on the way to another North touchdown. McLaurin ran 23 yards on an end around to set up a 4-yard touchdown run by Notre Dame's Dexter Williams.
Memphis's Tony Pollard, whose biggest claim to fame was as a kick returner, finished off the North scoring with a 21-yard touchdown run. Pollard tied the NCAA record for most career kickoff return touchdowns with his seventh against Wake Forest at the Birmingham Bowl.
The quarterbacks weren't quite as heralded as last year's group that included Baker Mayfield (No. 1 overall) and Josh Allen (No. 7). But Missouri's Drew Lock and Jones are two of the top quarterback prospects in the draft, a group that also includes underclassmen Dwayne Haskins of Ohio State and Oklahoma Heisman Trophy winner Kyler Murray,
Lock was solid in playing the first quarter for the North, going 9 of 14 for 57 yards. Finley was 7 of 11 for 83 yards.
"It was fun. I had a blast. It'd be different if you got pulled and you're sitting on the sideline watching your team win," Lock said. "It's how the dice fell. I got the first quarter, which was awesome. Everybody was going full-tilt, full-speed right from the get-go."
Buffalo's Tyree Jackson delivered two touchdown passes in the fourth quarter for the South. The 6-foot-7, 245-pounder was 13-of-21 passing for 165 yards but was also intercepted by Delaware's Nasir Adderley, one of the top small college prospects in the game. Adderley is trying to follow in the steps of a famous relative, Pro Football Hall of Famer Herb Adderley.
Jackson fired a 54-yard bomb to Gary Jennings of West Virginia to start the drive, ran 11 yards for a first down and hit Jennings again for a 10-yard score.
"I trust those guys from West Virginia," Jackson said. "In the MAC, we play on Tuesdays and Thursdays, so I get a lot of chances to watch those other conferences. I've seen those boys make a lot of big catches. (Jennings) did it again today."
While Jones was the overall MVP, Isabella received the award for the North team and Jackson got it for the South. Isabella had seven catches for 74 yards and a touchdown.
Jon Gruden and the Oakland Raiders staff coached the North team while Kyle Shanahan and the San Francisco 49ers led the South. The 49ers have the second overall pick in the April draft and the Raiders pick fourth, 24th and 27th after trading Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper.