CARSON, Calif. (AP) — In four years at LSU, J.C. Copeland earned a reputation for being a bruising fullback that often led running backs into the end zone.
On Saturday afternoon, Copeland showed he can get the ball in the end zone on his own just fine, too.
Copeland ran for a pair of 1-yard touchdowns to earn MVP honors, Stanford running back Anthony Wilkerson ran for 67 yards and a touchdown and Team National used a second half surge to beat Team American 31-17 in the third annual NFLPA Collegiate Bowl.
"You picture it in your mind before you play the game and it just happened," Copeland said. "It's an amazing thing that I was put in a position to do it and I took advantage of it."
Copeland, a 6-foot-1, 270-pound former defensive tackle, never had a multi-touchdown game in 42 career games at LSU.
"We originally didn't have him in a running back position, he was always leading as a blocker," said National coach Dick Vermeil, formerly the head coach of the Chiefs, Eagles and Rams. "When we saw him on the field, we said when we get down the field and it's inches to go, we might as well give it to the 270-pounder."
Vermeil has now guided the National to victory in all three installments of the game. Former Vikings and Cardinal coach Dennis Green guided the American side.
The game was tied at 14 at halftime, but the National scored on its first three possessions of the second half to cruise to victory.
Cincinnati QB Brendon Kay threw a 27-yard touchdown pass the Miami tight end Asante Cleveland on their first drive of the second half, Wilkerson ran for a 27-yard touchdown on the second, and Tulane kicker Cairo Santos banged home a 39-yard field goal on their third to give the National a commanding three-possession lead going into the fourth quarter.
Led by Copeland and Wilkerson, the National ran for 163 yards and averaged 5.3 yards per carry.
"Overall this was the best quality - through the whole roster - of players we've ever had in this game," Vermeil said. "All of our backs ran extremely well and it's a positive reflection on the quality of the offensive line."
Kay, who started for the National, completed 3 of 7 passes for 51 yards and the touchdown while South Carolina's Connor Shaw completed 5 of 6 passes for a team-high 71 yards with an interception. Tulsa running back Trey Watts had 100 all-purpose yards and Fresno State wide receiver Isaiah Burse added 91.
Copeland provided all of the National's scoring in the first half, running for both of his short touchdowns in the second quarter. The bruising scoring runs were his only two carries of the game.
"I really have to credit my O-line," Copeland said. "I told them I needed one yard and I'll put it behind y'all and they did their thing."
Hawaii quarterback Sean Schroeder completed 13 of 17 passes for 138 yards and a touchdown to lead the American, while Oklahoma running back Roy Fitch led all players with 122 all-purpose yards and running back Franklyn Quiteh, from Division II Bloomsburg, carried nine times for 50 yards and a touchdown.
Quiteh opened the scoring with a 20-yard touchdown run off right tackle in the first quarter and Schroeder connected with McNeese State's Dionte Spencer on a 15-yard swing pass for a score late in the second quarter to force a tie at halftime.
The American wouldn't reach the end zone again though, as a 35-yard field goal by Cal's Vincenzo D'Amato in the fourth quarter was their only points of the second half.
"There were a lot of good football players on that field today, and the more good players you have the more fun it is to coach them," Vermeil said. "We had one turnover and I think we went through the entire game without an illegal procedure and we had only one holding penalty. I think that shows what kids can do if they focus and really get involved mentally and emotionally."