Las Vegas, Nev. – The crowd waited for either side to score a touchdown at the Raiders’ home, but neither defense allowed one to happen.
The 2023 East-West Shrine Bowl took place at Allegiant stadium on February 2nd. Quarterback prospects Aidan O’Connell and Dorian Thompson-Robinson were set to put on a show and boost their draft stock, but the defense of both the East and West had other ideas. Instead, this was a battle of defenders; the type of players the Las Vegas Raiders need.
In 2022, the Raiders’ defense allowed the fifth-most total yards (6,216) league-wide, in addition to surrendering the seventh-most points (418). The unit totaled the third-least sacks among all 32 teams (27) and finished with the lowest number of turnovers (13).
During the East-West Shrine Bowl, the two sides combined for a surreal nine sacks and four turnovers. Neither team’s offense was able to surpass 230 total yards, nor were able to get into the end zone.
More impressively, one side was limited to 13-30 through the air with only 3.6 yards per pass, while the other was held to an equally abysmal 11-26 passing with 4.0 yards per attempt.
At the game’s end, the score read 12-3; a total of 15 combined points. For reference, the Las Vegas Raiders allowed 15 or fewer points from their opponents just one time last season, during a Week 16 loss against Pittsburgh.
The Silver and Black need to retool their defense, and multiple defensive prospects showed how they can help on the Raiders’ home turf.
Defensive prospects shine at the Shrine Bowl on Raiders’ turf
Multiple seniors took advantage of their All-Star Bowl invites, especially those on defense. Some notable performances include:
Ochaun Mathis, Nebraska, EDGE
Mathis was able to get to the opposing quarterback twice at the Shrine Bowl, including the first sack of the day for either team. Mathis, a 6’5 defensive end, spent four years at TCU before transferring to Nebraska for the 2022 season. He’s totaled 16 sacks and 31 tackles behind the line of scrimmage throughout his entire college tenure.
B.J. Thompson, Stephen F. Austin, EDGE
Like Mathis, Thompson was also involved in a pair of sacks. His first came with the help of Vanderbilt’s Anfernee Orji, with the second-of-two coming from only himself. Thompson logged five sacks and two forced fumbles during his senior year.
Jose Ramirez, Eastern Michigan, EDGE; A familiar story from the Raiders
Sound familiar, Raider Nation? An edge-rusher from Eastern Michigan – Last time the Silver and Black drafted one of those from this school, they got their hands on a two-time Pro Bowler and Offensive Rookie of the Year runner up.
Ramirez caused the game’s initial turnover by beating his blocker for a strip-sack on the first play of the drive. In 2022, Ramirez pieced together a season which included 12 sacks and 19.5 tackles behind the line of scrimmage. For reference, Eastern Michigan prodigy Maxx Crosby totaled seven and a half sacks with 19 tackles for a loss in his final year.
While the Raiders won’t be in the market for a new kicker, it would be wrong to not mention Michigan’s Jake Moody in a list of 2023 Shrine Bowl participants who had a notable game. Moody made all four of his field goal attempts, including a pair of 51 yarders.
*Top Photo: Jeff Speer/Icon Sports WireÂ via Getty Images