January 16, 1999

STANFORD, Calif. – When two of the East’s four running backs were unable to play in the East-West Shrine Bowl because of injuries, the burden fell on Ohio State’s Joe Montgomery. He turned it into an NFL audition.

Montgomery had 23 carries for 93 yards, including a 7-yard scoring run, and the East defense had three interceptions and four sacks in a 20-10 win in Saturday’s game.

Montgomery never got to star during his career at Ohio State. He was ineligible his freshman year, and limited in his sophomore and junior years by a knee injury. This past season, he was overshadowed in the backfield by teammate Michael Wiley.

But when Cecil Martin of Wisconsin (shoulder injury) and Anthony Gray of Western New Mexico (hamstring injury) were held out of Saturday’s game, Montgomery got his chance.

“We didn’t go into the game thinking that Joe was going to carry that much,” East coach John Cooper of Ohio State said. “But we found out right before the game that Cecil and the kid from Western New Mexico couldn’t play, so we had only two running backs.

“Obviously I’m proud of Joe Montgomery,” Cooper added. “Joe Montgomery wanted to be here, unlike some other guys who didn’t show up. And he played like it today.”

Montgomery gave himself just a “C-plus or a B” for his performance in the game, but said it was a great way to end his college career – especially after losing much of his career to the knee injury.

“Somebody said I would never play football again, but the character of a person comes when a person gets knocked down,” he said.

Montgomery’s teammate at Ohio State, Joe Germaine, threw for 207 yards as the East won for just the third time in the last 10 Shrine games.

L.C. Stevens of North Carolina caught six passes for 154 yards for the East squad, including a 22-yard scoring pass from Aaron Brooks of Virginia.

Jeff Hall of Tennessee added field goals of 47 and 26 yards for the East.

Oregon’s Akili Smith had a 53-yard scoring pass to California’s Dameane Douglas for the West and Kansas State’s Martin Gramatica added a 31-yard field goal, but Smith was held to 9-of-19 passing for 127 yards and was intercepted once.

The announced attendance for the game, which no longer draws the nation’s top college stars and featured only one first-team All American this year, was 69,111 – but the actual crowd seemed about half that size on a cool, overcast afternoon.

Gramatica’s field goal midway through the first period gave the West a 3-0 lead, but the East responded with Stevens’ scoring catch up the middle of the field and Hall’s 47-yard field goal to take a 10-3 lead early in the second period.

The West tied the game on Douglas’ scoring catch, on which he got behind two defenders, but an interception by Rutgers’ Reggie Stephens of a halfback option pass set the East up for Montgomery’s scoring run and a 17-10 halftime lead.

The third period was scoreless and Hall capped a 13-play, 77-yard drive that consumed 7:06 with a 26-yard field goal with 11:18 remaining to give the East a 20-10 lead.

AP Sports Writer