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January 18, 2009HOUSTON (AP)-Marlon Lucky made the most of his rare moments in the spotlight in the East-West Shrine Game.
The Nebraska running back rushed for 68 yards and a touchdown on seven carries and the East defense stopped the West three times inside the 10-yard line to secure a 24-19 win Saturday in the annual showcase for college all-stars hoping to make an impression on NFL scouts.
Lucky was only the Cornhuskers' second-leading rusher this season, splitting carries with Roy Helu Jr. and Quentin Castille. By season's end, Lucky was third on the depth chart and needed a good performance on Saturday to help his chances of playing in the pros.
"It was a big one for me," said Lucky, voted the game's Offensive MVP. "I didn't have a strong year and to just come out and play my game and show what I can do, I seized the opportunity. Now it's back to training."
Javarris Williams and Tyrell Sutton had touchdown runs for the East. Tom Brandstater and Stephen McGee threw touchdown passes for the West.
Brandstater threw a 22-yard touchdown pass to Mike Thomas with 8:11 left in the third quarter to cut the East lead to 17-13. Early in the drive, Brandstater converted a third down with a 28-yard pass to tight end Bear Pascoe, his Fresno State teammate.
The East was aided by a pass interference penalty on its next series and backup quarterback Brian Hoyer threw a 20-yard pass to Penn State's Deon Butler to set up first-and-goal. Sutton, who played at Northwestern, finished the drive with a 2-yard touchdown run.
McGee, who missed most of his last season at Texas A&M with a sprained shoulder, threw a 35-yard touchdown pass to Jarett Dillard with 14:07 left in the game. Dillard finished his career at nearby Rice with an NCAA record 60 touchdown receptions. He dropped a pass from McGee on the 2-point conversion try.
Central Washington quarterback Mike Reilly replaced McGee for the West's final drive and moved his team inside the 10. Under a heavy pass rush on fourth down, Reilly's last-ditch pass to Marko Mitchell sailed out of bounds with 1:55 left.
"It was a great stand for us," said East linebacker Mike Tauliili, the Defensive MVP after recording a game-high 13 tackles. "It was a great atmosphere playing with the best of the best."
The East won for the first time since 2005 and set the tone with an early goal-line stand.
Gartrell Johnson, Colorado State's leading rusher the past three seasons, broke a 39-yard run on the West's first possession and a 12-yard pass from Brandstater to Thomas set up first-and-goal.
But West fullback Jorvorskie Lane, who set a Texas A&M record with 49 career rushing touchdowns, was stopped three times inside the 5-yard line and the East took over at its own 1.
Hoyer replaced East starter Chase Daniel late in the first quarter. He eluded West defensive end Michael Bennett and threw a 27-yard pass to Butler before Lucky scored on a 7-yard run.
Lucky was third on the East's depth chart coming into this game, behind Sutton and Williams.
"I've been on the back burner for a while," Lucky said. "I needed it bad. My season wasn't very good, so I had to come out and perform."
David Buehler kicked a 49-yard field goal for the West to make it 7-3 with 7:52 remaining in the half.
Louisville's Hunter Cantwell replaced Hoyer on the East's next series and completed a 22-yard pass to Butler. Lucky ran 47 yards on the next play to set up Williams' 3-yard touchdown run.
East cornerback Morgan Trent, from Michigan, then intercepted a pass by Reilly and returned it to the West 18. Lucky had another long run, but the East settled for Graham Gano's 24-yard field goal to stretch the lead to 17-3.
Brandstater returned for the West's final drive of the half and threw a 30-yard pass to Boise State star Ian Johnson to the 3-yard line. But the East defense held again and Buehler kicked a 21-yard field goal on the last play of the first half.
The players on both sides spent the week mingling with scouts between practices. Most of them now look ahead to the NFL combine on Feb. 20.
"It's been a really important week for all of us," said Butler, who caught three passes for 69 yards. "This is for a professional job. Now, it's more a time where guys start thinking individually and honing their skills. When you're at school, you're just thinking about your team and winning. Here, scouts really get to study you individually, your habits and what you can do at the next level."