LOS ANGELES, Calif. (Oct. 2, 2010) – It had been three weeks since the Tigers took the field following back-to-back bye weeks. They returned, not only to play their 2010 Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference opener against Whittier College, but with a little bit of extra incentive. That motivation comes in the form of a pair of a trophy with a pair of bronzed shoes, which, with a 25-22 victory tonight at Patterson Field, the Black and Orange hoisted following a late surge to come-from-behind in a see-saw battle.
Whittier and Occidental each scored on their first possession of the game, by way of a 37 yard field goal and a 14-yard completion from Luke Collis to Bobby Phillips with a point after knocked through the upright by Joshua Mun, respectively. The teams then kept one another out of the end zones for the remainder of the first half, which lasted just an hour.
The second half, however, was a different story.
Occidental senior Kyle Spaulding, who returned to the field healthy for the first time this season, blocked a Whittier punt attempt at the Poets' nine yard line on the second drive of the third quarter. Nic Arnold recovered the deflection, setting up an 11-yard completion from Collis to freshman Chandler Tunney, marking his first collegiate catch and touchdown all in one felt swoop. Mun again finished off the play, pushing the lead to 14-3.
Whittier took notes, however, and on the ensuing drive, Josh Ollison ran a reverse, catching the Tigers off guard, rushing for a 73-yard touchdown. Douglas Soriano kicked the PAT, bringing the score to 14-10.
After the Poets' defense forced an Oxy three-and-out, they took a 16-14 lead when quarterback Alesana Sausau found Ollison for a 24-yard TD pass. Whittier missed the point after.
The Tigers dug in their claws on their final possession of the third quarter. Wes McDaniel picked up 24 of his game-leading 169 all purpose yards on a 24-yard kick return to begin the drive. Under pressure on a third and 10, Collis found Phillips, a junior receiver, for 26 yards and a first down. With a chance at the one yard line following a seven yard rush by Collis, the Tigers got pushed back to the Whittier 20 yard line, forcing Oxy to call on Mun's foot for a 25-yard field goal, giving the home team a 17-16 lead.
Again, that advantage was turned into a deficit when Barnaby Audsley had trouble handling the snap allowing Whittier just enough time to get in front of the punt, blocking the attempt. The drive, which started at the Oxy eight yard line, ended with the Poets' final scoring of the game on a two yard rushing touchdown by Rodrigo Muratalla. WC opted to go for the two-point conversion, but came up short.
Ryan Nastor ran the kickoff back for 22 yards, starting the Oxy drive at the Whittier 35 yard line. Collis found Matthew Tuckness twice, McDaniel and Phillips on the drive before capping it off with a TD pass to Nate Sullivan. Leading by just a point at 23-22, the Black and Orange decided to try for two, succeeding when Collis curried away from the Whittier defenders bringing pressure, finding Tuckness for a pair.
The play-of-the game may have come on the next drive, though, when on fourth and six at their own 49-yard line the Poets went for it and Carter Norfleet broke up his third play of the game.
Nastor rushed for 27 yards, to finish with 53 (89 all purpose), before Collis knelt down as time expired to lock up the victory.
Collis returned to the field after being sidelined for four-weeks with a leg injury and was 22-for-30 for 214 yards and three TDs with no interceptions, adding 14 rushing yards. He found six different targets through the air with Tuckness snagging seven passes for 62 yards. Phillips caught six for 83 yards.
The Tigers' defense shut down sophomore running back Kimble Tillman who was named to the week four d3football.com team of the week and as the SCIAC Athlete of the Week after the Poets' six overtime victory over the University of Puget Sound in which he rushed for 238 yards. Tillman was held to 58 yards. Nate Proulx led the pack with 11 tackles for the Tigers, seven solo, with one for a loss of yardage. Spaulding added eight tackles, one for a loss, to his block and Dillon Tucker also finished with eight total tackles while breaking up a play. Jim Hildensperger, Greg Holsworth and Alex Wertheimer each chipped in with seven tackles as Wertheimer also brought pressure to the QB three times.
Oxy converted seven of 14 third down conversions and scored on all four of their red zone chances. The Tigers limited the Poets to one for three on fourth-down plays, but WC scored on both of their red zone opportunities.
Entering the evening, since the introduction of "The Shoes" trophy in 1946, the teams were tied. Occidental now holds a 34-33 advantage since '46 and a 53-48-2 overall edge. Tonight marked the 103rd meeting of the teams.
Occidental (2-1, 1-0 SCIAC) will be on the road for the first time in 2010 next weekend when they travel to the University of La Verne to play the winless Leopards (0-3, 0-1 SCIAC). Teams will kick off at 1:00 p.m.
Article by Tracy Maple, Sports Information Director