The Texas vs The Nation game has a lot of history in its short five-year existence. For those doubters that believe this is a so-called all-star game that needs to be discarded, they really need a reality check. This year’s NFC Championship Game could have been very different without Caleb Hanie and Johnny Knox, who both were discovered in part by this game. Other NFL notables to get their chances amplified due to this game are Pierre Garcon and Bernard Scott. This year’s game, while low scoring, introduced some of us to a new crop of lesser known players, especially some wide receivers.
None of the quarterbacks in the game stood out. There were some QB’s with 3rd string talent that could be harvested in time. This is a fantasy football article, so I’ll skip right past them.
There were a few running backs that caught my eye. Chad Spann was not a very productive runner, and ran rather upright in his rushing attempts. He was far more productive in the passing game. Spann reminded me a bit of Jason Snelling, the #2 RB in Atlanta, as he showed good hands and made the most of his talent in the passing game (over 70 yards receiving). Damien Berry had a 72 yard TD that showed his quick lateral burst and demonstrated his sideline awareness. Berry was later stuffed near the goal line, but looked like he has the athletic ability to compete on Sundays. Mario Fannin ran with some power looking like Peyton Hillis at times, and showed good, soft hands. Unfortunately at other times, he was overmatched at the line of scrimmage.
The first half wide receiver that really caught my eye was Denarius Moore. Moore made a great play in the end zone for a 28 yard TD showing good separation and made some tough catches throughout the game. He worked underneath and downfield showing great hands; however, Moore seemed to disappear in the second half. The second half belonged to another WR, Derrell Johnson-Koulianos (“DJK”), who was limited in the first half. DJK showed a burst and made some outstanding first down catches. Whenever there was a play to be made, DJK was giving an all-out effort to gain the extra yardage. Stephen Burton made a nice 45 yard reception and made a few plays. Ricardo Lockette had two drops early and was very inconsistent, but made plays after he got his rhythm going in the second half. He looks like he has the skills; he just might need more time to develop in the NFL. Chris Matthews was there looking more like a TE than a WR, but did not do anything to stand out. The same could be said for TE Robert Housler who showed great hands on one play and lost concentration on another that could have been a TD.
The defensive lines stood out especially DT Kenrick Ellis who got great push and showed great leverage which led to a sack. Both DE Clay Nurse and defensive player of the game, DE Roberto Davis, showed great outside pass rush. Davis forced a critical fumble which helped Texas hold on to victory.
The NFLPA Game, formerly Texas vs The Nation, maybe created just for us diehards and scouts, but I am glad they are playing. This year’s diamonds in the rough may have played themselves into the NFL on a cold Saturday afternoon in San Antonio. Hopefully, one of these rising WR’s or another determined player can secure a starting NFL role and continue the tradition of outstanding Texas football.