California quarterback Dave Barr figured it would take a miracle for his West team to win the 70th East-West Shrine game. And he knew just the person who could pull it off.
Best known for catching Kordell Stewart’s “Hail Mary” throw as time expired to beat Michigan earlier this season, Colorado receiver Michael Westbrook made another incredible last-second catch Saturday to pull out a 30-28 victory for the West.
“I guess he is the miracle man,” Barr said after connecting on a 26-yard touchdown pass to Westbrook with 4 seconds left, capping the all-star game for college seniors at rain-soaked Stanford Stadium.
Barr even had to coax Westbrook back into the game. Thinking he was done for the day, Westbrook had taken off his pads and was standing on the sideline.
“I wanted to make sure he was in the game,” said Barr.
“Dave was looking for me toward the end, and he said, ‘What are you doing? Don’t take your pads off,”’ Westbrook said.
Colorado’s all-time leading receiver made the catch in the left corner of the end zone, dragging his toes as he fell to make sure he was in bounds.
The winning TD finished off a 10-play, 93-yard drive that started after the East declined to kick a field goal for a possible eight-point lead and instead threw an incomplete pass on fourth down at the West 7. The West also caught a break when Florida State cornerback Corey Fuller slipped on the play.
“I was worried about my hands being so muddy and the ball being so slick,” said Barr. “I was shotputting it most of the game. I had no confidence in holding the ball, but I made sure to towel myself off before that play. I thought he was covered when I threw the ball, but I guess Fuller slipped and Mike made a great catch.”
East coach Dennis Erickson of the University of Miami looked to have a win in his farewell to the collegiate ranks, but his squad couldn’t hold a 28-17 fourth-quarter lead. Erickson, who won two national championships at Miami, was hired Thursday to coach the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks.
“I thought we had the game won, but Westbrook made a great a catch,” Erickson said. “I don’t know what it is about Dick Tomey (Arizona’s coach and coach of the West team). He has taken me twice - 29-0 in the Fiesta Bowl last year and 30-28 today.”
The game was played on a field saturated by intermittent rain bursts on top of previous showers over the past couple of weeks, and it quickly turned into a quagmire.
Between the two teams, there were 10 fumbles, seven by the East, which managed to recover five of them. The West recovered one and lost two fumbles, including Kansas State quarterback Chad May’s bobble with 2:27 remaining when he was sacked by Carl Reeves. It was the fourth sack and second forced fumble by the North Carolina State defensive end.
Barr, returning to action for the first time since breaking his collarbone against UCLA on Oct. 8, finished with 175 yards and three touchdowns.
“This makes things a little happier,” Barr said. “I always believed it’s how you go out. For a while, I was going out with a bad feeling. This makes it special.”
He completed 17 of 24 throws, including a pair of scoring passes to UNLV’s Randy Gatewood, the second a 15-yarder with 6:19 left to pull within 28-23. A two-point conversion try failed.
Down by 14 at the half, the East came to grips with the sloppy field and rallied for 21 points, including a pair of scores during the 27-point fourth quarter.
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