BOCA RATON, Fla.--- As legendary head coached Bobby Bowden and Howard Schnellenberger roamed the sidelines of the Battle of Florida All star game, reports swirled about the health of their long time colleague and friend Joe Paterno.
Paterno's family issued a statement just before kickoff that he as in serious condition due to complications with his bout with lung cancer.
"Over the last few days Joe Paterno has experienced further health complications," family spokesman Dan McGinn said in a brief statement to The Associated Press. "His doctors have now characterized his status as serious. His family will have no comment on the situation and asks that their privacy be respected during this difficult time."
After the game Bowden was asked about Paterno. He said he was unsure of what the status was and that he had heard of Paterno's declining health prior to the game, as well as inaccurate reports during the game that Paterno had passed away.
"I really hate to see that he's really not doing good," Bowden said.
Bowden was saddened by the deteriorating health of his longtime friend just months after he was fired as the Penn State head coach in the aftermath of the child sex abuse charges against longtime defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky.
"I really love old Joe. Joe and I have hung around a lot because we're both old men," Bowden said. "We'd go to a convention we'd hand around. We couldn't convince this youngster (Schnellenberger) to hang around with us. Joe and I and his wife and my wife spent a lot of time together on the Nike (tours). I just hate like mad what happened to his case."
Bowden credits Bell for the win
After defeated Schnellenberger 51-3 in the inaugural Battle of Florida game, Bowden joked that naturally he had out-smarted his rival from the south.
Once the laugher died down Bowden made sure to credit the North's offensive coordinator and current Jacksonville University head coach Kerwin Bell for the victory.
"I tell you who did a great job for us. He really needs to be mentioned, is Kerwin Bell," Bowden said. "He ran the offense and he called every play. I thought he did a magnificent job calling plays."
The North racked up 498 yards of total offense in the game, 262 yards through the air and 236 on the ground.
Bert Reed credited the way Bell prepared the North offense during the week for their success in the game.
"I think the way we practiced was different than the way (the South) practiced," Reed said. "We practiced more as a team and it showed and paid off
(Coach Bell) is a great coach and I enjoyed it all."
Thomas gets the chance to play again
For the many of the players in the inaugural Battle of Florida it was just an opportunity to play one more game and showcase their talents to pro scouts in attendance at practice throughout the week.
For former FSU running back Jermaine Thomas it was more than just that. It was a chance to end his collegiate career the way he hoped to in the Champs Sports Bowl before being ruled academically ineligible.
"It definitely felt good, especially ending it off with a win since I wasn't able to play in the bowl game," Thomas said. "Then playing under Bobby Bowden and giving him a second consecutive win from last time when I won a game for him in the Gator Bowl."
Thomas finished with a game-high 79 yards rushing and a touchdown on nine carries, as he averaged 8.8 yards per carry.
Throughout the week Thomas said he was able to meet with NFL scouts and they all told him they were impressed with how he was performing. He said that coupled with how he performed in the game will only motivate him more than ever as he returns to train in West Palm Beach until the draft.
"It most definitely gave me some confidence and it's definitely motivated me when I go back to start working out to just push even harder," he said. "Just to know that I even have a shot, it just makes (me want) to make the most of every situation."
Former JU quarterback Josh McGregor was named the game's MVP for the North team. He completed 11 of 12 pass attempts for 123 yards and rushed for a touchdown. He played in just the first quarter and led three different touchdown drives and the North pulled away early.
The South MVP was former Georgia and North Alabama linebacker Marcus Dowtin who finished the game with seven tackles, two for loss.
Former FSU safety Terrance Parks didn't play in the second half due to head aches.
Each of the former FSU tight ends in the game came away with one reception each. North TE Ja'Baris Little had one 16-yard reception, while South TE Beau Reliford had a 4-yard catch.
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