PASADENA, Calif. (AP) — Chattanooga's Nick Tiano threw for 133 yards and a touchdown and was selected the Most Valuable Player of the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl after leading the National squad to a 30-20 victory over the American team Saturday.
Tiano, who was 9 of 11 passing, gave his team a 17-7 lead early in the second quarter with a pinpoint 48-yard TD toss to Kirk Merritt. The Arkansas State receiver was in perfect position to haul it in despite double coverage from cornerbacks Ray Buford Jr. of New Mexico State and Damon Hayes of Rutgers.
Oregon State's Artavis Pierce, Georgia's Brian Herrien and New Mexico State's Jason Huntley rushed for touchdowns for the National team, which was led by former Cincinnati Bengals coach Marvin Lewis.
Louisiana-Lafayette running back Raymond Calais provided the American squad's top play with a 100-yard kick return for a touchdown on the opening play of the second half. Nathan Rourke of Ohio was 8 of 15 for 126 yards.
The American team, led by former Cleveland Browns coach Hue Jackson, scored first when Michigan State's Brian Lewerke found Arkansas State's Omar Bayless in single coverage for a 3-yard TD.
The National squad then scored on its next three possessions. Oregon State's Artavis Pierce tied it with a 3-yard touchdown, and Matt Ammendola of Oklahoma State kicked a 45-yard field goal to make it 10-7 at the end of the first quarter.
Herrien extended the American team's lead to 23-7 late in the second quarter on a 9-yard run. The score was set up when Iowa State linebacker Marcel Spears Jr. picked off Rourke's pass and returned it 35 yards to the American 9.
Following Calais' return, Huntley put the American squad back up by more than two scores with an 11-yard TD run. UCLA's JJ Molson kicked a pair of field goals — from 34 and 42 yards — to bring the American team within 10.