Like the players involved, the Medal of Honor Bowl is a scrappy, sub-elite prospect fighting for a piece of football sustainability.
"I'll be very clear: The goal is we're going to be the best (college all-star) bowl game in America," Medal of Honor Bowl Chairman Tom McQueeney said Saturday at the inaugural game, which matches college seniors hoping for NFL training camp invitations or late-round draft consideration.
Or a little love from the Hamilton Tiger Cats.
This concept might not last long without a TV deal, but Medal of Honor Bowl organizers did almost everything right to prove the game cable-worthy for 2015. They established themselves as first-class hosts over a full week of activities ending at Johnson Hagood Stadium with the American team's 20-3 victory over the National team before a crowd of 5,135.
"We've got the city, we've got the community support," McQueeney said. "We think it will take us a while to reach the East-West Shrine Game and the Senior Bowl, but you'll see that this will become the premier bowl game in the United States."
Scouts from the NFL, Canadian Football League and Arena Football League spent the week grading players.
Grading the Medal of Honor Bowl itself:
Rosters: B. Way better than anyone should have expected with only 105 days to plan. Yes, there were guys you never heard of from schools you didn't know existed (Virginia-Lynchburg, Harding, Assumption). But also Georgia Tech leading rusher David Sims, Tennessee leading rusher Raijon Neal and Florida leading receiver Solomon Patton.
'Three things' next year
Extras: A. The S.C. State "Marching 101" and 12 Atlanta Falcons cheerleaders were on hand, along with former South Carolina running back George Rogers and his Heisman Trophy. Basketball ambassador Bobby Cremins was an honorary special teams coach.
TV dollars and exposure: F. Maybe next year.
"There are three things we didn't have this year that we will have next year," McQueeney said. "We didn't have experience; we'll have that next year. We didn't have a title sponsor; we'll have that next year. The third thing is TV, either live or tape-delayed."
The game: B. A bit sloppy, per all-star game habit. But otherwise fun watching individual matchups and mismatches.
Helmets. A. The colorful variety is always the best part of an all-star game. Notre Dame defensive tackle Kona Schwenke's shiny gold stood out.
Quarterback play. D. Medal of Honor Bowl passers on both teams combined to go 27 for 66 with no touchdown passes and one interception. Alas, Connor Shaw was in town but the former South Carolina quarterback was making appearances elsewhere.
Kicking: A. Ohio State kicker Drew Basil, straight from an Orange Bowl loss to Clemson, drilled a 40-yard field goal through a humid wind of at least 15 mph.
Weather, or not
Coaches: A. Nice gets, Chan Gailey (former Dallas Cowboys, Buffalo Bills and Georgia Tech head coach) and Ralph Friedgen (former Maryland head coach). An athletic director with an opening could do worse than one of those guys.
Timing: B. A Saturday afternoon date when college football fans still have bowl game hangovers seems ideal, though McQueeney indicated a TV deal might be easier to come by with a weeknight kickoff.
Facility: A. Johnson Hagood Stadium, dressed up in two-tone blue logos and signage, looked great.
Weather: C. Windy, but not too cold and the rain held off until the trophy presentation. A reminder that any winter bowl game forecasting is iffy.
And wait 'til next year.
The weather might be worse.
But you might be able to watch better (insert sponsor name) Medal of Honor Bowl players on TV.
Follow Gene Sapakoff on Twitter @sapakoff
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