Coleman shines in Shrine loss

Coleman shines in Shrine loss

January 22nd, 2012 by John Frierson in Sports - College

East quarterback BJ Coleman, left, of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, throws a pass during the first quarter of the East-West Shrine Classic NCAA college football game Saturday in St. Petersburg, Fla.

Photo by Associated Press/Times Free Press.

B.J. Coleman got off to a perfect start and had what he called a "really good" performance Saturday in the East-West Shrine Game at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla.

The former McCallie and University of Tennessee at Chattanooga quarterback led the East squad on two scoring drives, though the West prevailed 24-17 in the all-star game. Coleman played the first and fourth quarters, finishing 10-of-15 for 168 yards and a touchdown pass.

"I felt really good, the ball was coming out of my hand good and I felt good in the pocket," Coleman said. "All in all, I think I had a really good week down here."

Coleman started for the East team and went 6-for-6 for 136 yards and a touchdown in the first quarter. His first completion went to another Chattanoogan, former Tennessee Tech wide receiver Tim Benford.

The duo connected again on the drive, for a 27-yard completion across the middle. Benford finished with two catches for 36 yards.

"One of my favorite plays was the one across the middle to Benford," Coleman said. "I thought that was a very nice, well designed play. We got what we wanted and I was able to fit it into the window."

On the East's second drive, Coleman lofted a pass down the seam to former Miami tight end Chase Ford for a 64-yard gain -- it was about a 20-yard pass and a 44-yard run. Two plays later, Coleman threw a hitch pass to B.J. Cunningham of Michigan State that resulted in a 17-yard touchdown and a 10-0 East lead.

Coleman didn't get on the field again until the fourth quarter as Southern Mississippi's Austin Davis and Florida's John Brantley got their turns running the offense.

In the final period, Coleman missed on some throws and had a couple that probably should have been caught. East coach Bobby Ross sent Coleman out to lead the offense with 40 seconds left and the West leading 24-17.

Coleman completed three of five passes on the drive, all to Lance Lewis of East Carolina, for a combined 37 yards before time expired.

At the end of the game, NFL Network analyst Mick Mayock said on the broadcast: "I thought B.J. Coleman was real impressive at quarterback." During the broadcast, Mayock noted Coleman's arm strength but said he had to improve his footwork -- something Coleman has been working on in recent weeks.

Former Tennessee running back Tauren Poole ran for 15 yards on the East squad's first play and finished with 19 yards on six carries. He also had a 14-yard reception and made a couple of stops on special teams.

Blair Walsh of Georgia kicked a 27-yard field goal on the East's opening drive.

The Shrine game is regarded as one of the two most important all-star games, along with the Senior Bowl. In 2011, 43 players who participated in the Shrine game were drafted.

Coleman said he will return to Hattiesburg, Miss., today and train there until next month's NFL combine in Indianapolis.