1-25-04, 8:25 a.m. **
Updated:** 1-25-04, 10:30 a.m.
BY GEOFF HOBSON
MOBILE, Ala. _ Same play, different view. If the North's lone touchdown looked familiar in Saturday's Senior Bowl, it's because it was.
Standing on the sidelines, Bengals offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski told the play to quarterbacks coach Ken Zampese and Zampese radioed "999 seam," into Michigan quarterback John Navarre's headset. What transpired early in the second quarter was a 35-yard touchdown pass to USC wide receiver Keary Colbert off one of the 20 pass plays the Bengals had in an all-star game basic playbook.
It's the same call the two gave Bengals quarterback Jon Kitna from the press box back in the last minute of Cincinnati's come-from-behind victory over Pittsburgh on a 18-yard pass to tight end Matt Schobel with 13 seconds left.
"Four verticals," said Zampese as he waited for Navarre to jog off the field. "Get it down the field. Nice read."
With four receivers running deep patterns, Schobel beat the linebacker in Pittsburgh. Here, Colbert edged by the cornerback down the right sideline and made an over-the-head catch on a ball Navarre nicely delivered.
"It was a nice catch and throw. The receiver did a nice of catching it at its highest point," Bratkowski said. "It's four guys going deep and reacting to what you get."
Navarre got one-on-one coverage and as he told Zampese as he got to the sidelines, he saw the corner
give Colbert an edge to him on the outside. Colbert thought he had something because, "he was playing off me."
Of course he got one-on-one coverage. Because of the Senior Bowl's simplified rules, the coaches had no reason to head to the press box Saturday.
Defenses could run only a 4-3 alignment and pass coverage was limited to man-to-man with a free safety, or a three-deep zone with a strong safety rotation. Plus, the offense was limited because they couldn't use three-receiver sets or motion, or pre-snap shifts.
So there was little conversation between series. As head coach Marvin Lewis said, "There was nothing to adjust to." Bratkowski and Zampese stood next to each other on the sidelines and walked to the spot, while offensive assistant Bob Surace helped out with line coach Paul Alexander as well as keeping track of which plays had been run.
But there were things to interpret.
After the North's second series got blown up when Bowling Green quarterback Josh Harris threw an awkward desperation pass over the middle while trying to avoid a sack, Bratkowski and Zampese wanted to find out what happened.
Harris told them LSU defensive lineman Chad Lavalais had made a move on him coming from his left side and when he tried to avoid him, Harris slipped in the pocket. Bratkowski and Zampese could have been sitting in the huddle and it wouldn't have helped on the first play of the next series when Washington quarterback Cody Pickett couldn't get a grip on the snap at his own 21 and the South scored on the next play.
"Tell him. Tell him," said Bratkowski as Pickett came off the field appearing to indicate he never quite got it from center.
The coaches started the game alternating the quarterbacks by series. But even before Pickett went in for the first time, Bratkowski decided to give each of them two series in a rotation in an effort to get some rhythm.
But except for Navarre's throw, and Pickett's drive for a field goal, the North never got it going offensively. Navarre, Harris, and Pickett combined for 213 yards on 23 of 42 passing while LSU quarterback Philip Rivers had 213 all by himself. J.P. Losman of Tulane and Matt Schaub of Virginia followed Rivers with a combined 8 of 18 passing for 83 yards and a touchdown.
DRAFT FALLOUT:** The Scouts and analysts didn't have much time to digest the South's 28-10 victory over the North in the Senior Bowl Saturday, but they saw enough to make some general observations.
Game MVP Philip Rivers was the big winner on 12 of 19 passing for 213 yards and two touchdowns, as well as the back-breaking 67-yard bomb to LSU wide receiver Devery Henderson that set up another touchdown. ESPN's Mel Kiper figures Rivers has gone from the second round to possibly being picked No. 20 by the Dolphins, as the clear No. 3 quarterback in the draft.
The South's defensive MVP, Florida State defensive lineman Darnell Dockett, may have moved into the first round after he had a sack, recovered a fumble, and one of his two tackles was for a loss.
Kiper thought Ohio State receiver Michael Jenkins could move up higher in the first day with his seven catches for 69 yards, and he was extremely impressed with South receivers Devery Henderson of LSU (five catches for 120 yards) and Virginia Tech's Ernest Wilford (seven catches for 73 yards). Wilford moved up in the first day and Kiper now thinks Henderson is a border-line first rounder.
Although Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis was impressed with the North linebackers, during the week, Kiper didn't think they helped themselves Saturday. Oklahoma cornerback Derrick Strait recovered after a slow start in the first quarter and seemed to remain a viable option in the first round. The South went after him early by throwing short stuff underneath.
"We were trying to get used to the field, I slipped a few times and then once we adjusted to their speed it was fine," Strait said.
"He's a zone corner," Kiper said. "He's a smart, reliable guy. You're looking at a guy like (Tampa Bay's) Ronde Barber."
Observers thought Ohio State free safety Will Allen did fine, given that he had just one practice after being summoned to the game Wednesday night because of injuries. But some see his lack of consistency possibly keeping him out of the first day and he's seen more as a fourth-rounder.
BELL PLEASED: Although Florida State's Darnell Dockett was named the South's defensive MVP, Miami of Ohio offensive lineman Jacob Bell think he held up.
"I'm happy. I came out and did my job. I think I held my own," Bell said. "I come from the Mid-American Conference and it was important for me to prove I could play against a guy like that. It's hard when you're switching every other series. Things are
easier when the first downs start coming and you get into a routine."
Kiper says the jury is still out on Bell after Dockett had such a dominant game, but Bengals offensive line coach Paul Alexander was pleased with the pass protection that allowed just two sacks. Dockett had one of them and the other one came when Florida's Bobby McCray came free on a stunt, which is going to happen after less than a week of practice.
"I read where they said the South may have had the best defensive line that had ever been in this game," Alexander said. "We threw it (42 times), so I thought that was excellent. But we just couldn't run block. That was poor."
Bell credited Alexander's teaching of angle blocking in the week leading up to the game, and he needed it to contend with Dockett.
"He teaches what you need to know. It was a new approach and it was working. Blocking on an angle and covering up your man," Bell said. "If I didn't do that, he would have been rushing up field all game, so I started to man up him. He was coming off the ball real hard, so we tried to change the snap count a couple of times."
Bell said he learned more in the last week than he did most of last season, and after being so close to Lewis' rebuilding job in Cincinnati he now knows why.
"Coach Lewis is on top of his stuff. He exudes confidence and it wears off on players," Bell said. "Calm. Collected. No nonsense type of guy. I love it."