Quarterbacks were catching touchdown passes. A little-known receiver from Mississippi was doing a Deion-like celebration in the end zone. And when it was over, a running back born in the Virgin Islands and blind in one eye walked away with the MVP award.

The Blue-Gray game, often a dreary affair dominated by defense, turned into a celebration of offense on Christmas Day. The teams combined for 738 yards and set a record for total points in the Blue's 38-27 victory."I hadn't expected to do so much, but I'm happy I did," said Joe Aska, a small-college star at Central Oklahoma who began the game sulking on the bench but wound up as the Blue's top player. "I'm not used to sitting on the sideline and I was getting mad when I didn't start. But I told myself, `Settle down, everybody is going to play."

He wound up rushing for a game-high 69 yards, including two touchdowns, and set up the winning score with a 35-yard scamper - not to mention an 18-yard pass reception and a 46-yard kickoff return, both critical plays in a see-saw fourth quarter.

"I was trying to do my best and show the scouts what they wanted to see," said Aska, who moved from the Virgin Islands to Oklahoma after his seventh-grade year. "The main thing I wanted them to see was I could step up and play at the next level. I think I showed them I can."

The Blue took the opening kickoff and went 70 yards for a touchdown - a precursor of things to come. The Gray dipped into its bag of tricks for a 10-yard touchdown pass in which Eastern Kentucky quarterback John Sacca pitched the ball on an apparent sweep to Georgia running back Terrell Davis, who stopped suddenly and flung it back across the field to Sacca.

"We worked on it all week in practice," Davis said. "Every time we tried it, it worked."

Kelly Holcomb of Middle Tennessee State was the Gray MVP, completing 9-of-16 passes for 158 yards and one touchdown. But the Gray's most impressive player was Mississippi's Roell Preston, who had a 40-yard touchdown reception and four catches in all for 122 yards. After his superb TD grab in the second quarter, Preston did an end zone dance a la Deion Sanders.

"I never got the chance to show what I could do at Ole Miss," Preston said. "I wanted to get to all-star game and show what kind of player I really am."

It was a similar story for Aska, one of the top players in NCAA Division II. He came to Montgomery with lingering doubts about his ability, despite his good size (5-foot-11, 226 pounds) and outstanding speed (4.22 seconds in the 40-yard dash).

The scouts were especially concerned about Aska's pass-catching, something he rarely was called on to do while rushing for more than 1,600 yards at Central Oklahoma this season. Also, Aska is blind in his right eye - the result of a childhood shooting accident - and it wasn't known how that would affect his receiving.He went a long way toward answering those questions by grabbing two passes, including a difficult, twisting 18-yard grab that set up his own 1-yard touchdown run to put the Blue ahead 24-20 with 12:12 remaining in what turned out to be a wild fourth quarter.

The Gray, which piled up 399 yards of offense, marched right back down the field for a 1-yard touchdown by Auburn's Joe Frazier just 1:39 later to regain the lead, 27-24. The Blue responded almost as quickly, needing only 1:54 to go back the other way. Aska showed off a third dimension of his talent by returning the kickoff 46 yards to midfield - he had 86 yards on three returns - then nearly took if the rest of the way with his 35-yard run.

UCLA's Wayne Cook finished it off with a 5-yard touchdown pass to Stanford's Tony Cline, putting the Blue ahead to stay at 31-27.

The Gray got to midfield on its next drive, but Auburn coach Terry Bowden elected to punt on fourth-and-10 with about five minutes still to play. On this day, it turned out to be a mistake to count on his defense to make the key stop.

On fourth-and-13 at the Gray 32, Cook hit David Sloan over the middle for a 31-yard completion. Three plays later, J.J. Young of Oregon State snuck over left guard for a 1-yard touchdown with 1:21 remaining to ice the victory. The Blue finished with 339 yards.

Before the game, Blue coaches Johnny Majors of Pitt and George Perles, formerly of Michigan State, had sparred over which side had the advantage in an all-star game.

Majors said it was the defense, saying it's difficult for a group of players from different schools to develop the timing and precision so necessary to offensive success. But Perles went with the offense, contending it was hard to make the big plays confined to a base 4-3 alignment with no blitzing.

As it turned out, Perles was right. Sunday's offensive display eclipsed the record for points in the 57-year-old all-star game, breaking the mark set in 1953 when the Gray won 40-20.

"It was just an excellent, well-played offensive ballgame all the way around," Majors said. Then, he added with a wink, "There was some excellent coaching, too."