October 1, 2011

Biggest comeback in school history highlights Chapman win over Sagehens

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CLAREMONT, Calif. – Trailing 28-7 with just over two minutes remaining in the first half, the Chapman University football team rallied to score 31 unanswered points and completed the comeback with a 45-35 victory over host Pomona-Pitzer Colleges at Merritt Field on Saturday night. The Panthers' 21-point deficit is the largest the team has overcome for a win in school history.

Clinging to a 38-35 lead with just 1:23 remaining and the Panthers one play away from taking a knee, sophomore RB Kyle White broke free for a 44-yard touchdown run to seal the victory for Chapman, putting the Panthers ahead 45-35.

Chapman (2-1) out-scored the Sagehens 31-7 in the second half – a complete 180 degree turn from the first 30 minutes of play when the Panthers' defense was porous and the Pomona-Pitzer offense appeared unstoppable.

Pomona-Pitzer (0-3) dominated the first half of play, thanks to junior RB Luke Sweeney who rushed for 152 yards and a touchdown. He also caught three passes for an additional 26 yards in the first half, single-handedly out-gaining the Chapman offense by almost double, 178-94.

And while the Chapman defense was busy trying to solve Sweeney, the Sagehens beat the Panthers through the air as junior QB Luke Ferguson connected on 12 of 14 first-half pass attempts, including three touchdowns. Additionally, the Sagehens moved the ball when it mattered most, converting on 10 of 12 third and fourth down plays on their way to building a 28-7 lead with 2:20 remaining in the half.

That's when the Panthers' turnaround began. Chapman took advantage of solid field position all night with an average drive start from its own 43-yard line thanks to two turnovers and an average of over 24 yards on kick returns. The Panthers ended the half with a quick strike two-play, 37-yard drive the ended with junior RB Chad Milburn scampering for 11 yards and a Chapman touchdown with 1:36 remaining to draw the Panthers to trail 28-14 at halftime.

It was all Chapman after the intermission with a shored up defense and offense that compiled 333 yards of total offense over the final two quarters. And after averaging 11.5 points in their first two games, the Panthers exploded for 31 second-half points.

On Chapman's first drive of the half the Panthers got to the Pomona 25 yard line but was faced with a 4th-and-6 seven plays into the drive. Chapman senior QB Bret Visciglia found senior WR Mike Lambesis in the back of the endzone for a 25-yard touchdown pass to bring the Panthers within seven with 11:09 remaining in the third quarter.

A rejuvenated Panther defense forced Pomona-Pitzer to punt for the first time in the game following a three-and-out and the Chapman offense responded two plays later as Visciglia hit junior WR Kali'I Kunitomo along the left sideline and he broke free for a 72-yard touchdown to tie the game at 28-28 at the 7:53 mark in the third. Visciglia completed 15 of 24 passes for 221 yards and two touchdowns, as well as one rushing TD. He was 11 of 17 for 174 yards in the second half alone.

Chapman took its first lead of the game 35-28 with 13:52 left in the game when sophomore RB Jon Harris capped a 13-play, 89-yard drive with a 3-yard touchdown run. Harris led the Panthers with 79 yards rushing on 12 carries. Just over eight minutes later the Panthers capitalized on their second interception of the game and added a 33-yard field goal from junior K Mauricio Alfonso to extend their lead to 10.

The Sagehens marched 72 yards on the ensuing drive and scored to narrow the Chapman lead at 38-35 before Chapman cinched it with White's touchdown run in the closing minutes.

For Pomona-Pitzer, Sweeney finished with 185 yards rushing, but was limited to just 32 yards in the second half. Ferguson was 25 of 38 for 261 yards and four TDs, including connecting with sophomore WR Ryan Randle on 11 catches for 145 yards.

The Panther defense recorded its first two takeaways of the season, both interceptions by sophomore DB Jason Jacobi and freshman DB Cody Chapple.

The win is Chapman's eighth in nine games with Pomona-Pitzer, including six in a row. It improves the Panthers' highest winning percentage against any opponent with at least five meetings all-time to .889 against the Sagehens. It was just the second road win in Chapman's past seven away games.

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