MOBILE, Ala. — Florida State's Christian Ponder threw two touchdown passes, including a clinching 23-yarder to TCU's Jeremy Kerley in the South's 24-10 Senior Bowl victory over the North on Saturday.
Ponder completed 7 of 13 passes for 132 yards, including several big ones to a one-time rival Leonard Hankerson of Miami and the final TD with 3:04 left.
Ponder was looking for a happier transition to an NFL career after missing the ACC championship with an elbow injury and most of the Seminoles' bowl game thanks to a concussion. Ponder led scoring drives on the South's first two possessions and put on the finishing touches after the North rallied from a 17-0 deficit.
Hankerson had 100 yards on five catches, including an 18-yard touchdown and a 48-yarder to set up another score — both from Ponder. He also caught a 14-yarder on the clinching drive.
Washington quarterback Jake Locker, likely among the first passers drafted, led a touchdown drive but also had offensive linemen save him by falling on two fumbles for the North in an uneven performance.
Ponder was the first FSU quarterback to beat Miami twice since Gary Huff in 1971 and 1972, but relied heavily on a former Hurricanes standout from the outset.
On the game's opening play from scrimmage, he hooked up on a 48-yarder to Hankerson, who bobbled it before coming down with the ball. Ponder also ran for two first downs on the drive, which ended with a Josh Jasper field goal.
Ponder then hit Hankerson — who made a nice comeback move to get open — for an 18-yard touchdown on drive No. 2.
Ponder was named the game's Most Valuable Player, while Hankerson was the South offensive MVP and Texas A&M linebacker Von Miller took defensive honors.
Texas defensive lineman Sam Acho (South) and North Carolina defensive back Kendrick Burney (North) were named the most outstanding players for the teams.
Locker completed 6 of 10 passes for 98 yards to lead the North. Ricky Stanzi from Iowa was 7-for-12 passing for 87 yards.
Louisville's Bilal Powell was the leading rusher with 50 yards on 10 carries.
While Ponder & Co. clicked early, the North didn't have a first down until Stanzi's 27-yard pass to Wisconsin tight end Lance Kendricks in the final two minutes of the first half.
The North did not get anything going until the second half.
Nevada's Colin Kaepernick flashed both his throwing and running skills on the North's first scoring drive, in the third quarter. He completed three passes to Ohio State's Dane Sanzenbacher and had an 8-yard run to set up Kai Forbath's 24-yard field goal.
Then Maryland's Da'Rel Scott scored on a 1-yard run with 19 seconds left in the third after the North got first-and-goal on a pass interference call in the end zone to aid the Locker-led drive and make it 17-10.
Locker had completions of 15 and 34 yards, but also was saved for the second time by an offensive line when he fumbled trying to run with it.
Locker completed only one of his three attempts on the North's first two drives for a 2-yard gain and a matching loss on a screen pass. He overthrew an open Kendricks across the middle on his first attempt but was more on target later.