CLAREMONT, Calif. — The matchup between the Occidental College and Claremont-Mudd-Scripps football teams couldn't have been more of a contrast in styles, strengths and weaknesses.
Oxy ran the up-temp, innovative shotgun spread that has become popular across the nation in college football, and CMS, the age-old triple option that is scarce now, but was once the offense of choice for many in the 1970s.
Both teams have had success with their preferred approach and trouble stopping it. Coming into the game, Oxy ranked first in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference in passing offense, but sixth in rushing defense and CMS, second in rushing, but sixth in passing defense.
That was again the theme on Saturday, but in the game of polar opposites, Oxy's style proved more effective asLuke Collis (Pasadena, CA) threw for 362 and five touchdowns to beat the Stags 35-31 at Zinda Field on Saturday.
What is ironic though, is that it was the Oxy (5-3, 3-2) pass defense that came up with three fourth-quarter interceptions on three consecutive CMS (3-5, 2-3) drives to bail out the Tigers and preserve the win.
Aryton Bates (Long Beach, CA) had two, one foiled a double-reverse pass attempt by CMS' Corey Pickler with just under five minutes left in the fourth quarter and the other sealed the game for Oxy with two minutes remaining.
Bates' first interception saved quarterback Collis who had just thrown one of his own. His second followed what was basically a Hail Mary attempt on fourth down that Nate Proulx (Bothell, WA) batted away, but somehow still fell into Kris Otterholt's hands. The 40-yard answered prayed gave CMS new life inside the red zone with a new set of downs.
But when a miscommunication between the referees and the press box led to a short delay to sort out the game clock, Bates had a feeling CMS' quarterback Peter Kimmey might go to the guy he was guarding.
"You could see it coming. The play after that prolonged timeout (Kimmey) was talking to his wide receiver," Bates said. "He had run that post route twice already. I was just able to undercut it."
It was an impressive stand by the Tigers defense after a stroke of luck put CMS in a great spot to win the game trailing by just four.
"We could have easily cracked," Occidental football coach Dale Widolff said. "They had the ball with plenty of time. The first down play was big too to get them out of their rhythm and make them try some things they weren't as comfortable with."
Oxy's defense creating big plays in the fourth quarter wasn't just limited to the last five minutes.
Earlier in the quarter, Greg Holsworth (Arlington, WA) intercepted Peter Kimmey, preventing another Stags scoring opportunity and Dallas Gosselin (Bothell, WA) and the Tigers defense came up with a huge four down stop just inside their own territory.
They gave up 252 yards rushing, but the Oxy defense still made plays when it counted, particularly toward the end of the game.
"The option is a hard offense to prepare for because it's tough to simulate in practice," Widolff said. "Then you get in the game and everything's faster. It just takes a while."
Collis started out the game 10 for 10, with touchdown passes to Ryan Rodriguez (Oakley, CA) and Matthew Tuckness (Alamo, CA). It wasn't until four minutes into the second quarter that Collis finally threw an incomplete pass, as he got hit when he released the ball.
During the rest of the second quarter and most of the third, the most efficient passer in the SCIAC cooled off a bit before engineering Oxy's third fourth-quarter comeback win of the season.
Ryan Rodriguez, the league's leader in receptions, had six catches for 123 yards and three touchdowns. His running mate and the league's leader in touchdown receptions pulled in nine balls for 109 yards and two scores.
Holsworth (Arlington, WA), one of the Tigers defensive team captains, had a big day offensively for Oxy to go along with his fourth-quarter pick and three tackles. He got his first reception of the season in the first half and had an 35-yard catch and run to setup Rodriguez' second touchdown.
Proulx led the Tigers and the game with 21 tackles.
Oxy returns home to play Cal Lutheran on Nov. 12 at 1 p.m. in Jack Kemp Stadium.