The University of La Verne celebrated homecoming in triumphant fashion as it played keep away from Chapman in the second half en route to a 30-21 win over the Panthers Saturday afternoon in non-conference football action at Ortmayer Stadium.
With an effective ground attack against the Panthers, La Verne dominated time of possession with nearly a 2-1 statistical advantage. The Leopards held possession for 39:30 of the contest compared to 20:30 for Chapman. In the second half alone, the Leos held the ball for 23:56 of the 30 minutes after intermission.
Leading 23-21 in the fourth quarter, La Verne stretched its lead when Matt Griffin hauled in a 9-yard pass from Thomas Arguello, capping a 15-play, 80-yard drive to pull ahead 30-21 with 9:14 remaining.
After the Leopard defense stopped the Panthers on the ensuing possession, the La Verne offense ran off another 12 plays, elapsing 6:41 off the clock to help seal the victory. The Leos converted a key fourth down and 3 third downs to help sustain the drive.
La Verne converted 12 of their 20 third down opportunities on the afternoon and were 2-for-2 on fourth down.
The Leopards led 23-7 before Chapman seized momentum with two third quarter scores to pull within two points at 23-21 with 1:27 left in the third quarter. Chad Milburn scored on a 68-yard touchdown run and followed that effort with a 9-yard scamper on the next possession. But Chapman would not get closer as La Verne's ground game would wrest momentum away from the Panthers.
Matt Biggers led the La Verne rushing attack with a game-high 154 yards on 33 carries. Biggers was heavily featured in the fourth quarter, carrying the ball 18 times for 96 over the final 15 minutes.
The homecoming win ended a pair of dry spells as La Verne secured its first win over the Panthers since the 2005 season while earning its first win at home in nearly three years. La Verne's last victory at Ortmayer Stadium occurred October 18, 2008 in a 45-37 win over Pomona-Pitzer.
"I'm just happy for our players and our staff for this win," said La Verne head coach Chris Krich. "This is a very good Chapman team and we were very fortunate to come out on top. We did a good job of controlling the ball and we were able to bounce back from a couple of big plays they made. Overall I'm extremely pleased with our effort today."
Things didn't go well at the start for the Leos when Chapman receiver Kali'i Kunitomo took a pass from quarterback Brett Visciglia on the first play from scrimmage and outraced the Leopard defenders to the end zone for a 77 yard score to give the Panthers a 7-0 lead before the fans could settle into their seats.
But the Leopards would counter on the ensuing possession with a score of their own as Arguello connected with Cedric Ho on a 33-yard touchdown to cap a 5-play, 58-yard drive. The Leos' two-point conversion failed as the score remained 7-6 with 12:37 left in the first quarter.
La Verne controlled the second quarter, holding the Panthers scoreless into intermission. Alex Miller booted a 40-yard field goal to go ahead 9-7 with 14:55 left in the period. Later in the frame, the Leopards marched 86 yards on 14 plays, culminating in a 1-yard scoring plunge from Josh Jones to push the Leopard lead to 16-7.
La Verne amassed 407 yards of total offense on the day, collecting 208 rushing yards along with 199 yards through the air. Arguello finished 18-28 for 199 yards with a pair of touchdowns. Griffin tallied 89 yards on 7 receptions.
For Chapman, Visciglia passed for 238 yards, completing 14 of 32 attempts. Milburn enjoyed his second straight 100-yard game with 106 on 11 carries.
With the win, La Verne now holds an 10-8 edge over the Panthers in the all-time series. Next year the two squads will meet as conference foes, as Chapman - a provisional member of the SCIAC this season - will be eligible for the league championship in 2012.