Disappointing seasons at Auburn, Notre Dame, Ohio State and UCLA meant a lot of big names played in the Blue-Gray All-Star Classic.
But the small-school players made the biggest difference today, accounting for five of the six touchdowns in the 22-22 tie.
Kareem Larrimore of West Texas A&M returned a kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown, Demario Brown of Utah State and Curtis Keaton of James Madison combined for three touchdowns and quarterbacks from Lehigh and Northern Arizona threw touchdown passes.
"Every game we play during the season is like an all-star game because we play the top teams in the country with the best players," Notre Dame's Deke Cooper said. "But it turns out this game is no different. Some of those little guys were great players today."
Jake Arians of Alabama-Birmingham missed a 22-yard field goal attempt as time expired to leave the game in a tie.
The Blue tied the score with 4 minutes 9 seconds to play on a two-yard touchdown run by Brown, his second score of the game. But Travis Brawner of Southwest Missouri State missed the extra point, which would have given the Blue the lead.
Keaton, who transferred from West Virginia to James Madison, was the Gray's outstanding player. He had 14 carries for 104 yards and scored one touchdown.
"I felt like I had something to prove today and I am not done doing that," Keaton said.
Quarterback Travis Brown of Northern Arizona was the Gray's most valuable offensive player. Mike Green of Northwestern Louisiana was the most valuable defensive player.
"All of those kids can play," Gray Coach Tommy Tuberville said. "They kind of get overlooked next to the big names, but they held their own today."
Iowa State's Darren Davis, younger brother of New Orleans Saints running back Troy Davis, was the Blue's outstanding player. He ran for 116 yards on 13 carries.
"You don't have to be 6-foot-3, 215 pounds to go out here and take care of business and that's what I was trying to show," said Davis, who is 5-8, 190 pounds. "I was trying to show that little guys can play, too."
For the Blue, Southern California's Windrell Hayes had nine catches for 153 yards and was the most valuable offensive player. Keith Miller of California was the most valuable defensive player.
The Blue led 16-7 after three quarters. The Gray's only score at that point came from Larrimore's kickoff return. It was the first kickoff return for a touchdown in the Blue-Gray's 62-year history.