3) Mafe adjusts. Minnesota edge rusher Boye Mafe was named the National squad’s player of the game, and was all but unblockable during the practice week as well. He revealed after the game that there was a tough adjustment involved: A stand-up rusher at Minnesota, he was asked to play with his hand on the ground in Mobile. And it’s not as though he had much notice.
“I honestly hadn’t been training with my hand on the ground. I got a call maybe five days before we showed up here and they said ‘We want you to try putting your hand on the ground,’ ” Mafe said. “So I did it a few times in a workout beforehand, then I said ‘OK, I’ll come here and do it.’ ”
It worked out just fine, as Mafe logged a pair of sacks, another tackle for loss, and a forced fumble on Saturday.
“I was open ears when I got here … I wanted to learn, to play my best ball,” he said. “You’ve got to adapt to different defenses.”
4) Johnson makes big difference for National running game. One of the elite performers of the practice week, Boston College offensive lineman Zion Johnson, was surprisingly not in the starting lineup and didn’t play in the first quarter. He entered in the second quarter, however, and quickly began paving the way for an inside running game from the center position that carried much of the National squad’s second TD drive. He played the fourth quarter as well, and again energized his team’s inside running game, which included an 18-yard scamper by Arizona State’s Rachaad White. Johnson was named the National squad’s practice player of the week after an excellent showing at guard and some practice action at center to show his versatility.
5) Punters put on a show. Whatever money is made in draft stock at the Senior Bowl, it’s tough for punters to get a piece of it given that specialists are in low draft demand. But Penn State’s Jordan Stout and Georgia’s Jake Camarda left quite an impression anyway. Stout’s best punt, a 52-yarder in the third quarter, sailed perfectly to the sideline at the 4-yard line and was fielded for a gain of just one yard. Stout then gestured as if he were swinging a golf club — it was the football equivalent of sticking a short iron on the green within a few feet of the cup. Stout punted four times for a 49.5-yard average, pinning the American squad with two drive starts inside their own 10-yard line. Camarda averaged 51 yards on six punts, including a long of 58.
6) Extra points. Oklahoma DL Perrion Winfrey took overall MVP honors after making five tackles with two sacks and another tackle for loss. He blew past LSU’s Ed Ingram for a crushing sack of Western Kentucky QB Bailey Zappe. … Along with the aforementioned Mafe earning National team player of the game honors, Western Kentucky DE DeAngelo Malone took American player of the game honors to give defensive players a clean sweep of game awards. Malone made six stops with two QB hurries and an assisted sack. … Penn State LB Jesse Luketa was one of three National team players to log two sacks, along with Winfrey and Mafe. … Wisconsin TE Jake Ferguson led all receivers with 62 yards, catching all three of his targets, including one for a score.