Posted: 8:30 a.m.
MOBILE, Ala - You would have liked to have made as much money as the University of Cincinnati's Connor Barwin did this week at the Under Armour Senior Bowl.
Barwin capped his version of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? with a busy two-way night for the North during Saturday night's 35-18 loss to the South at Ladd-Peebles Stadium.
Barwin played about 20 snaps at tight end and while he didn't get a ball thrown his way, he was pleased with how he blocked. Then when he moved to the other side of the ball at rush end and played a handful of snaps, he knocked down a pass by Alabama quarterback John Parker Wilson.
"I heard from a couple of scouts this week that I was really smart to come here and show my versatility," Barwin said after sharing his last collegiate appearance with three other UC teammates. "I made some mistakes at tight end (during the week), but I think they saw my athleticism. It's funny, I had a bad block on my first play on offense, but then I thought I was pretty solid."
Barwin rotated at tight end with Oklahoma State's Brandon Pettigrew and Virginia's John Phillips and none of them got a ball thrown their way. But Barwin was in on the North's longest drive of the night that consumed nearly six minutes and took up the last 5:29 of the third quarter and an early chunk of the fourth.
He got a good block on what appeared to be Purdue running back Kory Sheets' 23-yard touchdown run down the left sideline, but it got called back on Illinois left tackle Xavier Fulton's holding call.
But the North ended up scoring on the drive and Barwin got a good block on the two-point conversion that Oregon's Jeremiah Johnson took in on a sweep on the left side. Barwin took his man to the inside.
"I was supposed to stop the edge of the defense," Barwin said. "I was able to go against the South defensive ends and show them I'm not just a space tight end."
But the man who caught 31 balls for Cincinnati as a junior before stepping across the line to lead the Big East in sacks as a senior knows he can catch. He also lined up split quite a bit and he says he wishes he would have been thrown to at least once. He fiercely believes linebackers can't cover him and on Saturday night he was wide open when one of them fell down trying to cover him deep, a play he completed in practice.
"That's OK," he said. "But I think they know what I can do at tight end."
But they also want to know what he can do at rush end. He wasn't surprised that he only played about five snaps.
"I knew I wasn't going to come in and take the spot of five or six guys," Barwin said. "But I got a couple of snaps in the red zone and when the guy got tired."
Barwin got a couple of rushes on third down and he got around LSU tackle Herman Johnson, a 382-pound man mountain, to bat down a Wilson pass. In the one red-zone appearance he did make a tackle on Liberty running back Rashad Jennings, stopping him on the goal line after a three-yard run.
Barwin's UC teammates had mixed nights. All-American Kevin Huber had a solid game with four no-return punts for a 49-yard average and while cornerback DeAngelo Smith showed up on punt returns and opened the game as the nickel cornerback (he had a 16-yarder), he also got beat on West Virginia quarterback Pat White's 39-yard bomb to Mississippi wide receiver Mike Wallace in the third quarter.
"The only one I really wanted back was the last one," said Huber of the 44-yarder in the second quarter out of his own end zone. "It didn't come off my foot right. I kind of jammed it inside. But other than that, I felt pretty good. I was real happy with the first two and their hang time and none of them got returned, which is always good."
It also had to help that Huber had no problems working on a wet field after it rained during pregame. He ripped off a 61-yarder on his first one and it nearly stayed on the 1 before going into the end zone. Then he lifted a 50-yarder that Arizona wide receiver Mike Thomas fumbled out of bounds at his own 13.
UC guard Trevor Canfield also got plenty of work next to three different centers.