LAS VEGAS -- The West team won the 97th East-West Shrine Bowl, 25-24, on Thursday. The West jumped out to a 25-8 lead and held on after a late comeback attempt from the East squad. Here are seven takeaways from the game.
1) Coan starts strong. Notre Dame quarterback Jack Coan went 10 of 13 for 91 yards and a touchdown in a little more than a quarter of work. He led the West offense right down the field on its opening drive, going 5 of 6 for 49 yards before the East was able to come up with a big goal-line stand. The West scored on its next possession, with Coan leading the way on a 56-yard drive that culminated in a one-yard TD pass to Oregon State tight end Teagan Quitoriano.
2) Running backs make big impact. After a strong week of practices, North Carolina RB Ty Chandler broke free for runs of 21 and 16 yards on Thursday. He ran 11 times in total for 69 yards and added an eight-yard reception but did fumble in the third quarter (fortunately, the West team recovered the loose ball). He showed good vision and an ability to hit the hole quickly and get upfield. Chandler wasn't the only back who had success on the ground as Florida State's Jashaun Corbin added 8 rushes for 50 yards with a TD. The West's ability to run the ball was the story of the game, as it outgained the East on the ground 151-63.
The East did get a big contribution from a back, but it came via the passing game. South Dakota State RB Pierre Strong Jr. made a 65-yard TD catch to get the East on the board in the third quarter. Strong impressed all week in practice as both a running back and receiver but had just one rush for 4 yards in the first half as the West controlled the ball.
3) Woods continues to impress. Kansas State QB Skylar Thompson entered the game for the West after halftime and led a nine-play, 76-yard drive capped with an eight-yard pass to Virginia TE Jelani Woods for a TD. Woods has been one of the standouts all week, drawing comparisons to the Colts' Mo Alie-Cox. Woods finished with three catches for 30 yards and the score.
4) Perry to the rescue. Brown quarterback EJ Perry did his best to bring the East squad back after being named the team's QB practice player of the week. The Boston College transfer went 13 of 18 for 241 yards and 3 TDs, as he was named the game's Offensive MVP after entering the game in the second half. Brown was able to hit a couple second-level passes and push the ball downfield, getting the East team get back in the game.
5) Houston stars on D. Jackson State linebacker James Houston was another bright spot for the East as he had a big hit in the run game, stopping Ty Chandler for a loss. He was also able to put pressure on Iowa State quarterback Brock Purdy in the fourth quarter. Houston is an intriguing prospect after transferring from Florida. He had 16.5 sacks last season for head coach Deion Sanders.
6) Toure helps fuel comeback bid. Nebraska wide receiver Samori Toure caught two touchdowns in the fourth quarter as the East was able to get within a point. He used a nice spin move after making a catch for the first score, and the second came on an out-and-up with North Carolina CB Kyler McMichael in coverage. Toure impressed with his ability to create separation using his athleticism all week in practice.
7) Sealing the deal. The East's comeback attempt was put to rest after the aforementioned West tight end Jelani Woods made a great play reeling in an onside kick attempt, tipping the ball to himself as he was falling to the ground. It was a fitting end with one of the standout players of the week making a special teams play to clinch the win, as so many of these prospects will need to excel on special teams to make an NFL roster next fall.