Crist threw for a touchdown and ran for another to lead the National team to a 34-0 victory over the American on Saturday at the second annual NFLPA Collegiate Bowl.
Crist completed 7 of 10 passes for 61 yards and was named MVP. He opened the scoring with a 1-yard run in the second quarter and followed it with a 7-yard touchdown pass on the next possession to help stake the National to a 17-0 halftime lead.
"I think the biggest thing for a game like this is you show that you can go out and compete with whoever, they have the best here," said Crist, who went to high school about 30 miles from the Home Depot Center in Sherman Oaks and had friends and family in attendance. "Just go out and compete and showcase your ability. Show all the organizations in attendance what you can bring to them and make their team better."
One of the top quarterback prospects coming out of high school in 2008, Crist was expected to be the next great Notre Dame quarterback. But he suffered season ending knee injuries in both his sophomore and junior seasons and lost his starting job midway through his senior year. He was granted an extra year of eligibility and transferred to Kansas, but once again was benched as a starter midway through the year and finished with the lowest quarterback rating in Division I.
"I think the adversity that I faced throughout my college career gives me a pretty unique perspective," he said. "I honestly feel that there's nothing thrown at me that I can't handle. I just thank God for the opportunity to be here and go out and compete."
South Carolina kicker Adam Yates kicked field goals of 40 and 41 yards, Washington State quarterback Jeff Tuel threw for a score, Rice tight end Luke Wilson had three receptions for 46 yards and a touchdown, and Texas Tech running back Eric Stephens Jr. ran for a touchdown as well to round out the National scoring.
The American squad fumbled the ball seven times, turned it over five times, and didn't cross midfield until late in the third quarter. The National poured it in the second half, aided in large part by the American squad turning the ball over on its first two possessions.
"They turn the ball over like that, there is no way they can win," said National coach Dick Vermeil, the longtime NFL coach who also guided the National team to a victory in last year's game. "It makes us look even better than we are."
Virginia Tech's Bruce Taylor ended the American's first possession of the second half when he picked off a pass from Southern Utah quarterback Brad Sorenson and returned it deep into American territory, setting up a 40-yard field goal by Yates.
South Carolina State's Jakari Allen then fumbled away the ensuing kick return, and six plays later Tuel rolled to his right and found Norfolk State wide receiver Xavier Boyce for a 9-yard touchdown strike.
Stephens Jr., who finished with 38 yards rushing on 13 carriers, capped the scoring with a 1-yard plunge up the middle in the fourth.
Tuel started and completed all eight of his passes for 64 yards.
In addition to forcing the five turnovers, the National defense recorded three sacks and 13 tackles for a loss and held the American to just 193 total yards.
"Not having a scouting report or anything on offense, it was important that we communicated on defense," Taylor said. "It was just bringing the energy. ... Guys were flying to the ball and really communicating about the different formations they were coming out in."
Vanderbilt quarterback Jordan Rodgers, the younger brother of Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, completed 8 of 11 passes for 91 yards and also carried the ball five times for 23 yards to lead the American squad
"The coaches did a good job and the players responded well," Vermeil said. "They really did a good job and it was so much fun, so refreshing."
Despite the big loss, American coach Herm Edwards spoke positively about the experience of coaching the showcase for draft-eligible prospects.
"The game plays out however it plays out," he said. "The key is it's about these young men. They are looking for the opportunity to get to the next level.This is the future of the National Football League these guys, and they got an opportunity to play in an All-Star Game and it's good for them."