Miami QB Williams returns in Medal of Honor Bowl
CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — Miami quarterback Ryan Williams threw for 115 yards and a touchdown in his return to action at the Medal of Honor Bowl on Saturday.
Williams helped the National team to a 26-14 victory — and gained himself some extra looks from NFL personnel on hand.
The 6-foot-6 Williams expected to compete for the Hurricanes’ starting job this year, instead tearing a knee ligament in the spring. While he got himself ready to play in September yet spent the season on the sideline behind Miami’s Brad Kaaya.
Still, Williams was invited to the game for NFL prospects and took full advantage of his opportunity.
Williams had a perfectly thrown, 11-yard fade pass to South Carolina’s Damiere Byrd in the third quarter that put the National team ahead for good.
Williams hit passes of 36 yards to Florida State’s Christian Green and 46 yards to Duke’s Isaac Blakeney. Williams was voted the National team’s MVP.
“It was definitely fun to get back out there on the field and play again,” Williams said. “I’ve been waiting to get out there. I hoped to get a chance at Miami, but I got a chance today.”
The National team also got four field goals from Air Force kicker Will Conant and a 52-yard interception return TD from South Carolina safety Brison Williams — meaning both Gamecocks invited to the game left with touchdowns.
“We came out here the whole week just to show NFL scouts what we could do at the next level,” Brison Williams said. “I think we all had a good time this week.”
It didn’t look like the National side would have that much fun as Georgia Tech tailback Synjyn Days had a 5-yard touchdown run and Coastal Carolina linebacker Quinn Backus an 87-yard interception return TD off Rutgers quarterback Gary Nova as the American team led 14-3.
Once Williams got in, momentum shifted for good.
The Miami senior drove the National team to Conant’s third field goal, then followed with his scoring pass to Byrd on the squad’s next series.
Byrd said Williams was poised and in charge. “He played awesome,” the Gamecocks’ senior said. “He did what we had to do.”
The Medal of Honor Bowl drew 12,578 fans to Citadel’s Johnson Hagood Stadium, more than double the attendance from the inaugural game a year ago. Bowl chairman Tom McQueeney said the game, whose funds help the Medal of Honor Museum and the Wounded Warrior Project among other beneficiaries, would be back in 2016.
And, hopefully, with even more to brag about.
The showcase for NFL prospects drew close to 150 pro personnel for practices, including at least five NFL general managers. Bowl player personnel director Cal McCombs said 76 of the 97 players in last year’s game went to an NFL camp last summer and he expects similar to greater numbers after this year’s game.
Miami’s Williams was grateful to show what he could do. It had been a long time waiting for the chance to get meaningful game minutes. “Finally, (scouts) can finally get a chance to evaluate me and see what I can do,” he said.
South Carolina’s Brison Williams led a defense that held its opponents to 211 yards of offense. West Virginia defensive end Shaq Riddick had two sacks, forced and recovered a fumble for the National team.
Adams State cornerback Cariel Brooks also had an interception for the National team.
The American offense struggled once 6-7 quarterback Chris Bonner of Colorado State-Pueblo got hurt in the opening quarter. Boston College’s Tyler Murphy and Kansas State’s Jake Waters combined to go 11 of 33 for 102 yards passing. They also combined for two interceptions and were sacked five times.
There are many more auditions ahead for most players taking part, though, and they understand the bigger reason for the game.
“I’m thankful for the sacrifices the soldiers made for us to play this game,” said Backus, the Coastal Carolina linebacker.