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July 26, 2006

EA SPORTS Elite 11 NCAA 2007 tourney recap

The focus of the Elite 11 is always on the workouts, chalktalks and the players getting better, but one thing the participants always look forward to is the EA SPORTS NCAA Football video game tournament.

On Tuesday night, the 12 players and six college counselors went to battle in a single elimination NCAA 2007 tournament for bragging rights at the 2006 Elite 11.

In one quarterfinal, two ballboys from the 2005 Elite 11 squared off as Logan Gray took on Ryan Mallett. Mallett, playing with Florida State, jumped out to a 21-7 lead on Gray, playing with his future team, the Georgia Bulldogs, and recovered a late onside kick to hold on for a 24-21 win.

In the other quarterfinal in the players' bracket, Tyrod Taylor, playing with the Ohio State Buckeyes, topped John Brantley and the Texas Longhorns, 28-14.

On the college counselor side of the bracket, Drew Stanton and Jordan Palmer steamrolled through the competition with their own respective teams, Michigan State and UTEP. Palmer took apart Troy Smith, who most considered the counselor bracket favorite in a quarterfinal 27-0, as Smith perhaps got a little too confident after an easy first round win and played with Grambling versus' Palmer's UTEP Miners. Palmer advanced to the finals with a 21-13 win over Stanton, surprising Stanton with an option-based attack featuring his backup quarterback at UTEP, Lorne Sam.

Taylor and Mallett squared off for the right to face Palmer in the tournament finals, and after battling through a scoreless first quarter before Mallett scored on an Xavier Lee (Florida State) touchdown pass with 1:28 left in the half. Taylor, boosted perhaps by his personal cheerleader Rontrell Bailey, battled through Mallett's constant chatter and mounted a drive at the end of the first half, but was stopped on the one-yard line with seven seconds left and time expired as Taylor had already used his three timeouts.

Taylor took the second half kickoff and needed little time to makeup for the mistake at the end of the first half, as a Troy Smith to Ted Ginn 77-yard touchdown pass 14 seconds into the third quarter tied the score. The scoring continued in the quarter, as Mallett answered with a drive but Taylor's big play ability came out again with another 65-yard Troy Smith TD pass to knot it at 14 at the end of three.

Taylor stopped Mallett on downs early in the fourth quarter, but after a Taylor turnover Mallett converted a fourth down and moved deep and worked the clock to take a 17-14 lead with one second left on a 20-yard field goal, advancing to the finals to face off against Palmer.

Palmer struck first in the title game on a deep scoring pass only to have Mallett even the score at seven early in the second quarter on a one-yard scoring run. After a failed fourth-down attempt by Palmer in the third quarter, Mallett had another sustained drive to take a 14-7 lead. The Seminole defense again stopped Palmer early in the fourth and Mallett again marched down the field to push the lead to 21-7 with 1:30 left. A late interception sealed the 2006 Elite 11 EA SPORTS NCAA 2007 tournament title for Mallett, who capped it off in style with a late TD pass, making the final 28-7.

"My skills on the sticks tonight were unstoppable," said Mallett. "Jordan had a good game but he got stopped on a couple of fourth downs and that was really the difference. I'm just really grateful for the opportunity to be here and have a chance to be out here in California and EA SPORTS is a big part of that."

Click here to see Mallett crowned as champion by Brian Movalson of EA SPORTS

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