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January 2, 2005MIAMI - Even though it was in Florida, the CaliFlorida Bowl on Sunday at the Orange Bowl looked at times to be like an Wild West shootout with many of the nation's top offensive players and super special team performers going off with performances that would have made any famous gunslinger envious. Florida won the game 24-22 when it stopped California's two-point try short on the final play of the game, but that was just one big play in a game that was loaded with them.
Here's a quick look at five individual stars in the opinion of Rivals.com national analyst Jeremy Crabtree from Sunday's game. Rivals.com will have full coverage of the game, including numerous quotes and pictures throughout the rest of Sunday and Monday night.
Demetrice Morley - Cornerback/Kick returner - Miami Killian
Already ranked as one of the nation's top 100 players and the No. 7 cornerback overall, Morley's stock definitely looks like it's going to shoot through the roof after an amazing performance at the CaliFlorida Bowl. Morley's 86-yard kickoff return to start the second half reminded many of the game breaking return that Ted Ginn had last year in the U.S. Army All-America Game. With a loaded year for cornerbacks on a national level, Morley threw down the gauntlet as one of the nation's top five defensive backs. Not only did Morley impress on that return he was the one guy that had the speed to run down DeSean Jackson in the open field. He ran a 4.53-second time in the 40-yard dash at the NIKE Camp, but there is little question he can flat out fly.
Kendrick Stewart - Defensive tackle - Lakeland, Fla.
Is he a good dancer? No. Is he one hell of a defensive tackle prospect? You bet. Stewart teamed with Ricky Jean Francois and the defensive line tandem could not be blocked the entire game. Plus, any man that can do a flip and stick the landing on national television like that deserves some special recognition. Florida State looks to have the inside track on Stewart and his stock also is expected to continue to shoot through the roof with a great performance on Sunday.
DeSean Jackson - Wide receiver - Long Beach (Calif.) Poly
Jackson is not the tallest around, and he is definitely stretching that 5-foot-11, 170-pound listing on Rivals.com. Simply put, the kid is a baller and worthy of the recognition as one of the top three players in the Golden State. He took a simple hook route and turned it into a touchdown with all of the Florida defensive backs attempting to fruitlessly catch up. Rivals.com West Coast analysts Rick Kimbrel and Greg Biggins have been raving all season long about the performance Jackson put up this season on the field for Poly, and after seeing him do his thing against some of the best defensive backs in the country it's clear that he does have the right to be called one of the nation's best receivers, too.
Rey Maualuga - Inside linebacker - Eureka, Calif.
It was said that no linebacker could run down five-star receiver Fred Rouse. Somebody forgot to tell that to Maualuga. The Samoan beast cleaned clocks and made big stop after big stop Sunday, showing why he is ranked as the nation's top inside linebacker. But still it was his jaw-dropping tackle of Fred Rouse in the open field when it looked like he was about to take it for a long gain that truly showed why this kid is going to be special for either Oregon or USC.
Lydell Sargeant - Athlete - Lompoc (Calif.) Cabrillo
Joe Pa definitely knows what he is doing when he told the 5-foot-10, 172-pound Sargeant that he could play running back for him in Happy Valley. There had to be hundreds of pumped up Penn State fans to see the big game that Sargeant put up on Sunday. It did look like he got juked pretty hard when Morley returned the kickoff for the score to start the second half and he did get stopped short on the game's final play, but every time that California needed an offensive spark, they turned to Sargeant. He was one of the most pleasant surprises of all of the game this week. He impressed with his burst through the hole, is very shifty and runs especially hard for his size. He looks to have the tools to more than hold his own running the ball.
Honorable mention: It's simply impossible to mention all of the big-timers that made big plays in the game on Sunday, but here's a quick hit list of a few others that impressed.
Clarence Ward - He was one of the top defenders in Texas until he was booted from his high school team and eventually landed in Florida. He looks like he is back to his old form and it definitely looks like the Crimson Tide have landed a good one.
Mark Sanchez - The USC-bound quarterback did make one poor decision when he was intercepted by Ward, and he did have another pick on a tipped ball from Jean Francois. But still his arm strength and leadership skills in the final 2 minutes of the game showed why he is the nation's top signal-caller.
Antone Smith - Man, wouldn't it have been amazing to see what Smith looks like when he's at 100 percent. The touchdown run when he bounced off everybody, including the cheer leaders and the security guards, was a thing of beauty. Smith did tell Rivals.com analyst Jeremy Patterson that he will visit Florida State on January 28 with visits to Florida set for January 21 and Georgia either on January 7 or 14th.
Fred Rouse - Wow. He just looks like a football player, doesn't he? It would have been interesting to see Rouse run a few more deeper routes or some posts down the middle of the field, but that never happened. Still doesn't matter, the kid would be a star for about any team in the nation.
Robert Peele - One of the men assigned to cover Rouse in man-to-man situations. He looked quite impressive in practices, too, throughout the week.
Harrison Beck - Beck turned what was a bad week of practice into a very solid outing on the field. It was always said that Beck is at his best when he can connect on the shorter and more accurate passes, and he'll be asked to do that when he heads to Nebraska. Beck did that time after time on Sunday. He also did show great athleticism on one play when he was about sacked, and he rolled to his left and delivered a bullet to Rouse for a longer gain.
A.J. Trump - It's hard to evaluate linemen without going back and looking at the tape, but from first glance Trump was everything that he was advertised and then some. The Canes got themselves a very good one here.
Eugene Hayes - Six tackles, three for loss, including the tackle that saved the game for the Florida team when California went for the two-pointer, enough said.