Team National wins NFLPA bowl

Associated Press

CARSON, Calif.

In four years at LSU, J.C. Copeland earned a reputation for being a bruising fullback that often led running backs into the end zone.

On Saturday afternoon, Copeland showed he can get the ball in the end zone on his own just fine, too.

Copeland ran for a pair of 1-yard touchdowns to earn MVP honors, Stanford running back Anthony Wilkerson ran for 67 yards and a touchdown and Team National used a second half surge to beat Team American 31-17 in the third annual NFLPA Collegiate Bowl.

“You picture it in your mind before you play the game and it just happened,” Copeland said. “It’s an amazing thing that I was put in a position to do it and I took advantage of it.”

Copeland, a 6-foot-1, 270-pound former defensive tackle, never had a multi-touchdown game in 42 career games at LSU.

“We originally didn’t have him in a running back position, he was always leading as a blocker,” said National coach Dick Vermeil, formerly the head coach of the Chiefs, Eagles and Rams. “When we saw him on the field, we said when we get down the field and it’s inches to go, we might as well give it to the 270-pounder.”

Vermeil has now guided the National to victory in all three installments of the game. Former Vikings and Cardinal coach Dennis Green guided the American side.

The game was tied at 14 at halftime, but the National scored on its first three possessions of the second half to cruise to victory.

Cincinnati QB Brendon Kay threw a 27-yard touchdown pass the Miami tight end Asante Cleveland on their first drive of the second half, Wilkerson ran for a 27-yard touchdown on the second, and Tulane kicker Cairo Santos banged home a 39-yard field goal on their third to give the National a commanding three-possession lead going into the fourth quarter.

Led by Copeland and Wilkerson, the National ran for 163 yards and averaged 5.3 yards per carry.

“Overall this was the best quality — through the whole roster — of players we’ve ever had in this game,” Vermeil said. “All of our backs ran extremely well and it’s a positive reflection on the quality of the offensive line.”

Copeland provided all of the National’s scoring in the first half, running for both of his short touchdowns in the second quarter. The bruising scoring runs were his only two carries of the game.

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