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January 4, 2009ORLANDO, Fla. − In a contest that featured six highly rated quarterbacks, the Under Armour All-America Game on Sunday evening produced one star from the bunch.
Matt Barkley, the top pro-style passer prospect in the country, put on a show as his White squad topped the Black team 27-16.
Despite pressure in his face all evening, the USC commit finished 11-of-22 passing for 237 yards and two touchdowns. In fact, he set the pace for the entire game when he hit wide receiver Marlon Brown on a short slant route that was turned into a touchdown on the very first play from scrimmage.
"It got us pumped," Barkley said of the touchdown. "It was just a slant - you know, a slant for a score. I think that helped carry us through the rest of the game. I think that would have been a 20-yard gain during the season, but he turned that into a touchdown. That's what I'll be with next year at USC, so I'm looking forward to it."
Barkley put his team on the board again on the first play of the second quarter when he hit Jamal Reid for a 35-yard touchdown and a 14-0 lead. The White team would never relinquish the lead and, for his efforts, Barkley was awarded the game's Most Valuable Player award.
"It means a lot," he said. "I didn't have it in mind to necessarily be MVP, but I just came out here to compete and play my best. If [the MVP award] comes with that, then that's all good."
The Black team finally got its offense rolling on a 92-yard touchdown pass from Russell Shepard to Andre Debose. Shepard was leveled by defensive tackle Gary Brown as he released the ball, but he was still able to make the completion.
Known primarily as a running quarterback, Shepard said the play proved that he could do more than just use his legs.
"It wasn't necessarily the long touchdown pass, but just the fact that I was standing in the pocket," he said. "When I don't have pressure I complete the passes, but people think that when I have pressure I run. I stood in there and got rocked that play, and I think that shows people that I'm not just a pure runner."
Shepard did add a 15-yard touchdown run late in the game for the Black team's final score. He said it was planned, though.
"That was a designed run - it was a draw," Shepard said. "They were kind of doing things that we thought we could take advantage of and we were able to do it."
Despite its 11-point victory, the White team struggled when Barkley was not in the game. Black team cornerback Greg Reid had two interceptions and almost picked up a third in the end zone late in the game that would have given his team the chance to drive the field and tie the score.
"I had it," Reid said of the interception. "I was just trying to stay on my feet to get a good return and give my offense good field position, and I just let it slip out of my hands."
Despite being on the losing team, Reid was still named the defensive MVP. Primarily known as a running back coming into the week, he says it was a big honor to receive the award for his play at corner.
"That means a lot," Reid said. "I was the underdog coming in here, but I felt like I did what I had to do. I felt like it was great defensive coaching, so I just came out on top this time with the award."
Despite having both an earlier field goal and PAT blocked, Dustin Hopkins hit a 46-yard field goal as time expired in the first half. His counterpart for the White team, Anthony Fera, connected on two field goals of 31 yards each in the third quarter. Linebacker Ronnell Lewis closed out the scoring after picking up a fumble forced by Gary Brown and returning it 24 yards for a touchdown.
Terry Hawthorne was the leading receiver in the game with six receptions for 120 yards, while Shepard led all rushers with six carries for 24 yards and a touchdown.
MORE: Under Armour AA Game gallery | Army All-American Bowl coverage | More all-star coverage