The 2023 East-West Shrine Bowl kicked off at Allegiant Stadium Thursday Night in Las Vegas, pitting two teams of college players vying to improve their NFL draft stock against one another. After four days of practices, Thursday was the culmination of all the work the teams had put in for the prior week. In a defensive battle, the West team, led by the New England Patriots coaching staff, edged out the East Team, led by the Atlanta Falcons coaching staff.
Clemson WR John Ngata returned the opening kickoff for the East 20 yards to the East 17-yard line. On 3rd and 2, a false start by Kansas OT Earl Bostick Jr. cost the East five yards and on 3rd and 7, Purdue QB Aidan O’Connell went long down the right sideline to Wake Forest WR A.T. Perry but the pass was broken up by Southern Miss CB Eric Scott Jr. and the East sent out their punt unit. After a 59-yard punt by Wingate P Ethan Evans, the West took over at their own 21.
Arizona State running back Xavian Valladay, who had a nice week opened up the drive with a nine-yard carry and then picked up the first with a three-yard run. A nice run stop by Ole Miss S A.J. Finley stopped UCLA RB Kaz Allen for a two-yard loss. After a holding penalty, Western Kentucky CB Kahlef Hailassie dropped a would-be pick six and the West would punt two plays later. Oklahoma P Matt Turk boomed one 57 yards to the end zone for a touchback.
Houston FB/DE Derek Shelton caught a pass out of the backfield for a seven-yard gain on 1st and 10, and after a false start made it 3rd and 8, O’Connell again went deep on third down but this time he found Ngata for a 27-yard gain. Three incompletions later and the East would punt. Evans punt traveled 38 yards to the West 15 where it was fair caught by Allen.
On 2nd and 7, UCLA QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson threw short to Louisiana wide receiver Michael Jefferson who turned upfield for a 16-yard gain. Two plays later, Thompson-Robinson hit West Virginia WR Bryce Ford-Wheaton for an 18-yard gain and a roughing the passer against Louisville EDGE Yasir Abdullah tacked on an extra 15 yards. A nice pressure by Mississippi State EDGE Tyrus Wheat forced an incompletion on the next play, and the West would eventually have to settle for a field goal. A delay of game made the 46-yard attempt a 51-yard attempt, but Michigan K Jake Moody knocked it through to give the West a 3-0 lead with 33 seconds left in the first quarter.
An offensive pass interference penalty by North Carolina’s Antoine Green wiped out a 12-yard reception for a first down by Fresno St WR Jalen Cropper on the East’s next drive, and they would again punt after an 11-yard completion to Green was short of the sticks. Kaz Allen returned the 51-yard punt by Evans for six yards to the West 27.
Illinois QB Tommy Devito came in at quarterback for the West and on his first throw he found Jackson State WR Dallas Daniels for a nine-yard gain. He went deep down the right sideline for Ford-Wheaton on 2nd and 1 but Texas CB D’Shawn Jamison broke the pass up. Valladay ran for 14 yards to midfield for a first down on 3rd and 1, and then Allen ran for six yards. On play action on 2nd and 4, Devito was sacked by Stephen F. Austin’s B.J. Thompson and Vanderbilt’s Anfernee Orji and Devito was hurried and incomplete on 3rd down. Turk’s 40-yard punt was fair caught by Cropper at the East 13.
Tanner Morgan replaced O’Connell at quarterback for the East, and his first throw went off the hands of South Carolina State WR Shaq Davis. On 3rd and 6, Morgan threw short to Fresno State RB Jordan Mims out of the backfield, and Mims was able to turn it into a 21-yard gain. Mims, who showed off his speed all week, ran for 30 yards on the next play to move the East into field goal range at the West 30. An 11-yard scramble by Morgan was good for a first down two plays later, but the East would stall out in the red zone in a sequence that included a sack by Florida EDGE Brenton Cox. Syracuse K Andre Szymt was good from 30 yards, and the East tied the game up at 3-3 with 3:30 left in the first half.
On the West’s first play of the next drive, Devito was strip-sacked by Eastern Michigan EDGE Jose Ramirez and recovered by Western Kentucky DL Brodric Martin to give the East prime field position at the West 20. A first down run by Tulsa RB Deneric Prince was followed by a drop by Central Michigan TE Joel Wilson that went into the air and was intercepted by Florida S Trey Dean III for a return of 16 yards.
The West got some more momentum on a 20-yard completion to Hampton WR Jadakis Bonds, but on 3rd and 1, Thompson-Robinson, who came back in for Devito, was sacked by Ferris State EDGE Caleb Murphy and Wake Forest DL Kobie Turner. On the last play of the half, the West kept the offense on the field by Thompson-Robinson’s hail mary attempt was incomplete, and the teams would go into the locker room tied at 3-3.
The West had the ball to start the second half, and on 2nd down, Thompson-Robinson went over the middle and found USC TE Josh Falo. Two plays later, Thompson-Robinson and Jefferson connected for a 16-yard gain. An incompletion to UCLA WR Jake Bobo was followed by an eight-yard run by Valladay, but on 3rd and 2 the West couldn’t pick up the first and Moody came out for another 51-yard try and he was again good. The West took a 6-3 lead with 11:06 left in the third quarter.
Utah RB Tavion Thomas ran for 29 yards on the East’s second player of the drive, and a defensive holding by Ball State CB Nic Jones took away an interception and 33-yard return by Duke LB Shaka Heyward off an impressive pressure by Pitt EDGE Habakkuk Baldonado. The West defense stepped up though, as Thomas was stuffed for a four-yard loss by Baldonado and then Morgan was sacked by Wagner EDGE Titus Leo for a loss of two. Thomas’ gain of eight on third down was short of the sticks and the East brought out Evans to punt.
On first down, Valladay ran for 11 yards and a first down, and then he picked up another five yards. On 3rd and 1, Cincinnati RB Charles McClelland ran for a gain of five and a first down. On 2nd and 8 two plays later Ramirez had another good pass rush to force an incompletion, but a defensive pass interference penalty by Portland State CB Anthony Adams gave the West a first down on 3rd and 8. After a one-yard run on first down, Thompson got home again and sacked Thompson-Robinson for a two-yard loss. On 3rd down, Thompson-Robinson was under pressure again and he threw it away.
Fordham QB Tim DeMorat came in at quarterback for the East. After a one-yard gain by Mims on third down, DeMorat dumped it off to TE Daniel Barker for a three-yard gain. A third-down completion to Penn State WR Mitchell Tinsley was short of the sticks and the East went three-and-out.
Appalachian State’s Chase Brice came in at quarterback for the West, and his first pass was a screen pass to McClelland for eight yards on what would be the final play of the third quarter. To open the fourth quarter, McClelland ran for 15 yards and a first down. Brice then threw into triple coverage and was picked off by San Jose State cornerback Nehemiah Shelton, and the East would take over at their own 22. The East couldn’t take advantage of the turnover though, and they punted after a three-and-out.
The West took over at their own 25, and they would go three-and-out after Devito, who came in for Brice, was sacked by Michigan State linebacker Ben VanSumeren on 3rd down. A 30-yard punt return by Jamison gave the East solid field position, but on their first offensive play DeMorat was picked off by Nic Jones at midfield and Jones took it back 15 yards to the East 35. Devito then went to Bonds for the first down, and a defensive holding call gave the West another first. Back-to-back incompletions were followed by a sack by Nebraska EDGE Ochaun Mathis, but Moody hit his third field goal of the game, this one from 35 yards out, to give the West a 9-3 lead with 7:05 to play.
The East again went three-and-out, with nice coverage by Indiana CB Jaylin Williams to force a third-down incompletion. On the West’s drive, Valladay picked up 10 yards a first down on the opening play, but that would be the West’s lone first down on the drive. Turk’s punt was fielded by Jamison at the 16 and he reversed field for a 29-yard return to the 45 that was called back due to a block in the back against A.J. Finley. The East would take over at their own 8.
On 3rd and 5, O’Connell, in for DeMorat, was incomplete but with 2:31 left in the game, the East would keep their offense on the field. Baldonado came through with a good pass rush to force an incompletion, and the West would take over at the East’s 13-yard line.
On 3rd and 10, West Virginia defensive lineman Dante Stills burst into the backfield to stuff Valladay, who fumbled but Thompson-Robinson fell on it. Moody hit his fourth field goal of the game, another 35-yard try, and the West took a 12-3 lead with 1:16 left.
Jamison returned the ensuing kickoff from the back of the end zone to the East 15. A drop down the field by Shaq Davis on 3rd and 2 led to a an offensive pass interference penalty and an incompletion on fourth down, and the West would take over and go into the victory formation to cap off a 12-3 win.
Michigan K Jake Moody was named the offensive MVP and Florida S Trey Dean III was named the defensive MVP.