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Smith sparks North to 27-0 win over Leak, South

1/27/2007 - College Football

MOBILE, Ala. -- This time, Troy Smith was smiling after the
game.

The Ohio State star outplayed Florida's Chris Leak in a rematch
of quarterbacks from the Tostitos BCS National Championship Game, leading the
North to three scores and a 27-0 win over the South in the Senior
Bowl on Saturday.

Smith's numbers weren't spectacular on a cold, rainy day. He
completed only five of 15 passes for 52 yards with a 7-yard
touchdown pass to Washington State's Jason Hill.

But the Heisman Trophy winner made fewer mistakes than Leak, who
had a fumble that led to a quick touchdown for the North.

"Just getting a win today meant a lot," said Smith, grinning
widely as raindrops pelted his helmet. "I feel pretty good, but
there's always room for improvement."

Smith said his next stop is the NFL combine in Indianapolis next
month, but he's not sure how many of the workouts in which to
participate.

"I've got to talk to my agent," he said.

Both Smith and Leak were fighting to improve their standing in a
draft that will include Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn, who
didn't play because of an injury, and LSU's JaMarcus Russell, who
was ineligible to play as a junior.

Some have questioned whether Smith is big enough to make it in
the NFL at 6-foot-1, but Tampa Bay coach Jon Gruden said no one
should question the quarterback's ability.

"There's just a lot of creativity he brings to an offense, and
it's fun to have honestly," said Gruden, who coached the North.
"I've kind of forgotten how much fun that is."

Starting during his last chance to impress NFL scouts in a
college game, Smith directed a nine-play, 75-yard opening drive
that ended with a 7-yard touchdown run off right tackle by Penn
State's Tony Hunt, who ran for 38 yards on eight carries and was
selected the game MVP.

The South had to punt after Leak took a sack for an 8-yard loss.
The North answered with a 38-yard field goal by Mason Crosby of
Colorado, who capped a 30-yard drive that included Smith's 13-yard
completion to Rutgers' Brian Leonard for a first down on
fourth-and-7.

"We asked [Smith] to make a wide variety of throws, but the big
play he made was the fourth-down conversion," Gruden said.

Leak, whose Florida Gators demolished Ohio State 41-14 to win
the BCS Championship earlier this month, was 5-of-9 passing for 23
yards. UTEP's Jordan Palmer, the brother of the Cincinnati Bengals'
Carson Palmer, completed five of eight passes for 91 yards for the
South.

With things already going badly, Leak was blindsided by Nebraska
Jay Moore and fumbled at his own 26. The turnover set up a 7-yard
TD pass from Michigan State's Drew Stanton to Aundrea Allison of
East Carolina.

Leak didn't talk to reporters after the game, but Smith said he
and Leak spent time together in Mobile before the bowl.

"I talked to Chris a whole bunch this week and let him know how
much I respect him as a quarterback," Smith said.

Crosby added a 21-yard field goal for the North.

Hunt led all rushers followed by Hill, who gained 35 yards on a
nifty reverse down the left side that helped set up the North's
opening touchdown.

Patrick Willis of Ole Miss lead all defenders with 11 tackles
and was named the South's defensive player of the game.

The game was sold out, but the 40,646-seat Ladd-Peebles Stadium
was barely half full at the start.