Manuel leads South over North

Associated Press photo by G.M. AndrewsJustin Pugh of Syracuse is tackled by Robert Lester of Alabama  and  Cornelius Washington of Georgia after recovering a fumble during the second quarter of the Senior Bowl.
Associated Press photo by G.M. AndrewsJustin Pugh of Syracuse is tackled by Robert Lester of Alabama and Cornelius Washington of Georgia after recovering a fumble during the second quarter of the Senior Bowl.

MOBILE, Ala. — EJ Manuel’s January couldn’t have gone much better on the field. More importantly, he’s hoping for a similarly happy February for his family.

The Florida State quarterback passed for a touchdown and rushed for another on the South’s first two drives in a 21-16 victory over the North in the Senior Bowl on Saturday, and was named Most Outstanding Player.

Now, he can try to be the MOS — Most Outstanding Son. His mother, Jackie Manuel, who was diagnosed with breast cancer before the season, has been recovering from her final round of chemotherapy, and Manuel said she’s scheduled to have surgery on Feb. 1.

“That’s kind of been my motivation,” Manuel said. “I call my mom every single day and tell her I love her. I never miss a day.They’ll be sending that award home to her. I won that award for her. I went out there and played well for her. I’m happy I was able to do it.”

And even happier to return to her side in Virginia for a few days, instead of just squeezing in Skype and Facetime sessions.

It was a great finish for Manuel to a month that began with a 291-yard performance in an Orange Bowl victory over Northern Illinois.

Manuel and running backs Stepfan Taylor and Mike James combined to put the game away on the South’s final drive. Stanford’s Taylor carried five times for 32 yards and caught a 6-yard pass from Manuel.

Manuel converted a fourth-and-1 play on a sneak to set up a 5-yard touchdown run for Miami’s James with 2:41 left. He completed 7 of 10 passes for 76 yards with a 20-yard touchdown pass to Alabama tight end Michael Williams. He also scored on a 2-yard run.

Brigham Young defensive end Ezekiel Ansah received MOP honors for the South team while Purdue defensive lineman Kawann Short was the North’s top player.

Southeastern Louisiana defensive back Robert Alford set up a 2-yard Manuel TD run with an 88-yard return of the opening kick.

“The corner played the flat and big Mike ran a great route and got leverage on the linebacker,” Manuel said. “I thought it was a great matchup and I just threw the ball up there and he made a great catch.”