INDIANAPOLIS — In a rain-soaked affair, this year's Indiana North-South football all-star game featured more drama than you'd ever expect from such an exhibition.
The bedlam began with a controversial late touchdown that gave the North the winning margin of 17-14. South coaches argued — to put it nicely — that Matt Michuda intentionally fumbled the ball forward into the end zone prior to crossing the goal line. The officials — who would more than hear about it moments later from enraged Tri-West/South coach Mark Haste — saw it differently.
But then, things got even wilder, as the storm clouds that had loomed over the field all afternoon, and even delayed kickoff a half hour or so, opened up once again. Lightning prompted those same refs to call the game off with 1:03 to play, just as Purdue recruit Joey Elliott and his offense had taken the field for what it hoped to be a game-winning touchdown drive.
South players vacated the field, many screaming amongst themselves — and refs — to pick up their play once action resumed. The coaching staff was still riding the officials over the touchdown. As both players and coaches walked off in a downpour, tempers flared. And a proverbial match was lit moments later when players learned the game was over. The reaction in the locker room, which was crowded with players and coaches as well as those merely seeking shelter from the elements, was not pretty.
Livid South players yelled and threw things around the locker room before the coaching staff restored order.
"Something you can't control causing the end of a game like that … that's never a good feeling," said South captain and Purdue signee Jason Werner, who had an interception and five tackles. "Everybody would have liked to see what would have happened. We'll never know."
Boilermakers-to-be Elliott, Werner, Jared Zwilling, Frank Halliburton and Dray Mason played for the South team. Michael Neal was the lone victorious Purdue signee, making one tackle. He also played some spot tight end.
"I wish we could have gotten that last minute," Neal joked, "because I'm going to go to school with (five) of those guys and I'm going to hear about this for the next five years. I'd have liked the chance to find out who the real winner is."
Mason rushed for 16 yards on six carries behind mostly dismal blocking and on a slick, treacherous track, but caught two passes for 27 yards; Halliburton, fighting the same hindrances, carried three time for six yards, coupled with a nine-yard catch.
Elliott was 9-of-18 for 154 yards, with 25- and 23-yard scoring passes to Ohio State-bound Donald Washington.
The South offense could muster very little in the first half while the North repeatedly turned the ball over. But in the second half, the offense started to move.
"We started to spread them out and that slowed down their pass rush," Elliott said. "That allowed me to move left and right and find open receivers."
GoldandBlack.com will have stories and audio features on several Boilermaker signees in coming days. Stay tuned.
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