Bennett Plays in Aztec Bowl

By Robert McKinney, Athletics Communications Director, (503) 370-6110

CHIHUAHUA, MEX.-- Willamette University senior offensive tackle Brandon Bennett (6'2", 290 lbs, San Marcos, CA/La Costa Canyon HS) played for the United States team of NCAA Division III All-Stars, helping the USA defeat Mexico, 37-19, in the 2007 Aztec Bowl on Saturday, Dec. 8 in Chihuaha, Mexico. The United States ground game chewed up 7:37 on 16 plays over two fourth quarter scoring drives to outlast Mexico at the 2007 Aztec Bowl in Chihuahua, Mexico.

Team USA is now 10-1 against Mexico in the series.

Clinging to a 23-13 lead at the start of the fourth quarter, Team USA got an interception from DePauw’s Jevon Pruitt at the Mexico 45-yard line and St. John’s quarterback Alex Kofoed engineered a seven-play scoring drive that ended with Luther’s Tyler Sherdan scoring from 14 yards out to up the score to 30-13 with 10:06 to go in the game.

Following a Mexico punt on the next series Team USA took over at the USA 31 with 7:17 to go. Dubuque’s Jemar Jackson led a nine-play, 69-yard drive that ended with Anderson’s Denny Kimmel finding the end zone on a 24-yard run to make the score 37-13 with 3:06 remaining.

The final touchdown drive also featured two third-and-one conversions on runs of 3 yards and 12 yards by Alfred defensive lineman Don Miller. Miller also had a first down rushing in the first half to finish with 18 yards on three carries.

Mexico added a late touchdown with just under a minute left for the final margin.

Dubuque’s Jackson took home MVP honors for Team USA after completing 7-of-17 passes for 78 yards and two touchdowns. He also carried 10 times for 42 yards.

“The key was getting into the flow of the game,” Jackson said. “Once I did I was able to do what the coaches expected me to do. I’m just really grateful to be the MVP of Team USA. We played as a team tonight and I’ll always remember how we came together as a team.”

St. John’s Kofoed set Aztec Bowl records for completions and attempts as he was 11-of-21 for 128 yards and a touchdown pass.

“I think the turning point in the game was the third quarter,” Head Coach Bill Manlove said. “Holding them to two field goals along with the interception in the end zone was critical. The two drives at the end iced it. We just pounded it.”

Team USA jumped out to a 23-7 halftime lead with three second quarter touchdowns to erase a 7-3 Mexico lead at the end of the first quarter.

After a fumble recovery by Central’s Guy Dierikx, Jackson connected with Moravian’s Kris Bisci from eight yards out for a 10-7 lead with 13:27 to go in the half.

Team USA then scored twice in a 2:50 span in the second quarter. First, Kofoed found Colorado College’s Nolan Swett for a 35-yard scoring strike. Monmouth’s Nate Palkovic nailed the PAT and the Americans led 17-7 with 3:27 left in the half.

Following an interception by Linfield’s Andrew Woods, Jackson found Mississippi College’s Jake Allen for a four-yard touchdown pass on third and goal. The point after was wide left and Team USA had a 23-7 lead heading into the locker room.

Mexico’s Erick Gomez hit a pair of field goals from 40 and 31-yards to cut into the U.S. lead in the third quarter. Mexico’s inability to find the end zone in that stanza was due in large part to a USA defense that came up with two interceptions by Centre’s Tyler Moody and Central’s Dieikx. The second interception by Dierikx ended a Mexico scoring drive in the end zone.

Team USA scored first as Palkovic converted a 33-yard field goal into a stiff breeze with 5:11 gone in the opening quarter.

Mexico answered with an 18-yard scoring pass from Ivan Valdez to Adrian Gonzalez with 5:07 left in the first quarter.

Offensively, Team USA had 397 yards in total offense -- 206 through the air and 191 rushing.

Swett, Allen and St. Olaf’s Horace Gant led the way with three receptions each. Swett led the squad with 43 yards receiving.

Kimmel carried the ball six times for 52 yards and a touchdown.

Defensively, Delaware Valley’s Jon Pursell and Rowan’s Randy Tosh led the way with six tackles. Tosh also had a sack and two tackles for loss as the USA defense limited Mexico to 20 yards rushing on 29 carries. Mexico threw for 279 yards.

Note: This story provided by the American Football Coaches Association, which selected the NCAA Division III All-Stars. Brandon Bennett's participation was added to the AFCA press release.

Brandon Bennett represented Willamette University in the 2007 Aztec Bowl.

Brandon Bennett represented Willamette University in the 2007 Aztec Bowl.