September 4, 2010

Tigers’ triumph falls short in season opener

More news about: Occidental

LOS ANGELES, Calif. (Sept. 4, 2010) – For the first time in 2010 the Occidental College football team suited up, marking the first official contest for the department of athletics. Although the feisty Tigers scored in each quarter and held Menlo College scoreless in two, the Oaks quieted an Occidental come-back late in the fourth to spoil the season opener for the Black and Orange and a packed stadium full of 1900 energetic fans.

After the Tigers won the toss, deferring to the second half, the defense, led by Alex Wertheimer, who recorded his first of four sacks in the game on the opening Oaks' possession, forced Menlo to punt giving quarterback Luke Collis his first snaps as a Tiger.

Collis wasted no time, connecting with Nick Saraceni for a 31 yard completion in his first toss of his Oxy career. The fleet footed Ryan Nastor gained 15 yards on two carries and Collis picked up 10 by foot before finding Bobby Phillips in the end zone for the first score of the season and game. Josh Mun knocked the ball through the upright, giving the Tigers a 7-0 lead.

Menlo quickly countered that, scoring on their next drive before forcing Occidental to go three and out, which ended with a blocked punt. Gaining possession on the Oxy 21 yard line, the defense was unable to stop the Oaks' attack, as Menlo added seven more to take a 14-7 lead at the end of the first.

The only scoring in the second quarter came when Collis found an open Matt Tuckness, who made an over-the-shoulder catch, 38 yards down the field in the end zone. Mun again finished the play, knotting the game at 14-14, where the score would remain for the final 6:22 of the first half.

Out of the locker rooms neither team got a spark as they exchanged four consecutive three and out situations. On the fourth Tigers' possession of the third quarter Mun took his first field goal kick of the season, knocking down a 34 yard attempt to put Oxy back on top, 17-14.

Menlo put up back-to-back scores, the second an 87 yard drive, to take a 28-17 advantage with 6:27 to play.

The tenacious Tigers squad clawed back into things when Collis connected with Phillips for the longest completion of the evening, a 56-yard touchdown. A two-point conversion attempt was successful as Collis hit Nastor, cutting the deficit to 28-25 with 5:17 to play.  

Oxy got the ball back with 3:14 to play and on third and 10, Tuckness gave the Tigers the spark they needed when he fought off numerous defenders to get a first down on what turned into a 24 yard reception. Unfortunately that fire was quickly exhausted by the Oaks' Boo Molinary who picked off Collis (his only interception of the game) and ran back 40 yards for a TD.

Again, fighting for a chance, Nastor, who was celebrating his birthday, eluded defender after defender, scurrying for 33 yards on the kick return, putting the Tigers on their own 44 with 2:29 in regulation. Menlo then came up with their only sack of the night, pushing the Black and Orange back nine yards, which they were not able to overcome.

The men from Atherton took over at the Oxy 35 yard line and Payton Bell, who rushed for a game-high 189 yards (losing just one), scored his third touchdown of the evening on an 18-yard rush. Again Kevin Kurtz recorded the PAT for the Oaks' final tally of 42 points.

Occidental went to Phillips through the air six times for 144 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Saraceni caught five passes for 68 yards and Tuckness nabbed three for 71 yards. Collis put the ball in the air 45 times, connecting on 18 for 302 yards.

On the ground Nastor led the  Tigers' rushing game with 55 yards while Wes McDaniel tallied 28 yards. Nastor added 49 yards on returns for 109 all purpose yards on the night. Saraceni finished with 91 all purpose yards.

Mun kicked off three times and senior Connor Smith kicked off twice while punting once. Barnaby Audsley punted four times in his first collegiate game.

The defensive leaders were Wertheimer and Nate Proulx who each came away with 11 tackles (five solo). While Wertheimer, a pre-season All-American candidate, tallied 4.0 sacks for a loss of 15 yards, a forced fumble and a quarterback hurry, Proulx broke up four plays of his own. Dillon Tucker started his senior campaign on the right foot with 10 total tackles, along with a broken up play. Senior linebacker Kyle Spaulding had the other Oxy sack, for a loss of five yards, as he totaled nine stops (three solo) as classmate Brandon Ortega was responsible for seven tackles.

Freshman linebacker Cody Remmick had four stops and broke up two plays in his Tiger debut. Also seeing the field for the first time of his collegiate career were Grand Arnold, and Anthony Avila who each had an assist, Chandler Tunney, Jordan Lance, Dalton Spinas (starting left guard), Rocky Maldonado and Ryan Graff.

The Tigers will be back on Patterson Field a week from today when they host the University of Puget Sound at 7:00 p.m.

Article by Tracy Maple, Sports Information Director

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