FOREST GROVE – Simon Fraser's special teams came up big against Pacific Thursday night, with their plays leading directly to five touchdowns as the Clan rolled past the Boxers 51-14 in both team's 2012 football opener at Lincoln Park Stadium.
The Clan's ledger included a punt return for a touchdown, a 58-yard kickoff return that set up a score, two blocked punts and a forced missed field goal. The special team's success helped create a momentum swing that took steam out of a promising opening drive by the Boxers that finished with a failed scoring opportunity.
Special teams hurt a decent offensive night for the Boxers (0-1), finishing with 385 yards of total offense with 345 of those in the air. Jordan Fukumoto (Jr., Mililani, Hawaii) finished with five catches for 130 yards and a touchdown while Darin Kamealoha (So., Waipahu, Hawaii) had five catches for 64 yards in his first game since September 2010. Caleb Roher (So., Gresham, Ore.) finished with 106 all-purpose yards, 100 of which came on five kickoff returns.
T.C. Campbell (Jr., Kaimuki, Hawaii) completed 12 of 20 passes for 237 yards and touchdown and was intercepted once. P.J. Minaya (Jr., Wahiawa, Hawaii) completed 10 of 17 for 108 yards and a touchdown.
Pacific was also hurt by penalties as the Boxers were flagged nine times for 76 yards. Three of those penalties came on third down plays, creating Simon Fraser scoring opportunities.
"The biggest tonight is that we hurt ourselves," Pacific Head Coach Keith Buckley said. "We gave up early possessions. We weren't physical enough on special teams. We had them stopped on third downs and gave up penalties that gave them first downs and resulted in points. As we take the next steps, those are things that will have to be rectified."
Pacific had a chance to start the game with positive momentum when a 13-yard kickoff return by Roher was followed by a 62-yard reception from Campbell to Fukumoto that landed the Boxers at their own 7-yard line. A successful red zone stand by the Clan forced a 24-yard field goal attempt by Moses Villareal-Gomez (So., Stockton, Calif.) that went wide left.
Simon Fraser, who became the first Canadian school admitted for NCAA Division II membership earlier this month, marched methodically the other way, going 80 yards over the next five minutes. Bo Palmer completed the drive with a 2-yard run that gave the Clan a 7-0 lead with 7:49 left in the quarter. A blocked punt in Pacific territory allowed the Clan to quickly score again as Trey Wheeler completed a 32-yard drive with a 2-yard touchdown pass to Lamar Durant. That gave SFU the 14-0 lead with two minutes to go in the opening period.
Following a three-and-out for the Boxers, Simon Fraser struck back with the first of their three second quarter touchdowns with Wheeler connecting Durant on a seven-yard scoring pass at the 13:02 mark. Bobby Pospischil provided the biggest special team play of the night off of Pacific's next series, returning a punt 84 yards to make it a 28-0 game. After forcing another Pacific three-and-out, Palmer finished off a seven-play, 34-yard drive with another two-yard scoring run to make it a 34-0 game with 5:24 left.
Pacific finally caught some positive mojo late in the half as Campbell found Fukumoto for a 38-yard touchdown strike. That put the Boxers on the board going into the halftime locker room, 34-7.
Simon Fraser wasted little time scoring the first of their two third quarter touchdowns. Earl Anderson returned the opening kickoff the second half 58 yards, and Kenyan Parker needed just four plays and 93 seconds to rush 34 yards for the score. The Clan defense then thwarted the Boxers in the red zone when Janne Lehtinen intercepted Campbell in the Boxers' end zone. The offense responded with a 10-play, 80-yard drive that culminated on a 13-yard scoring run by Tarrance Crawford for a 48-7 lead.
The Clan added a field goal on their next drive as Tiernan Docherty connected on a 27-yard field goal with three minutes gone in the fourth quarter.
Minaya led Pacific down field on the next series for the game's last touchdown. The nine-play, 75-yard drive culminated on a 22-yard touchdown pass to Deven McKinney (So., Spanaway, Wash.) with 7:54 to go.
Simon Fraser (1-0) finished with 378 yards of total offense, with 250 of those coming from their strong running game. Ryan Blum led the way with 67 yards on seven carries, while Palmer finished with 71 yards and two touchdowns on 13 carries. Wheeler completed 17 of 21 passes for 128 yards and two touchdowns.
Josh Brinkworth (So., Elk Grove, Calif.) led the Pacific defense with 11 tackles, including one for loss. Gabe Flory (Jr., Davis, Calif.) registered seven tackles, including 1.5 for loss. Kyle Miller finished with eight tackles to lead the Clan.
Pacific makes their first and longest trip of the season next weekend, traveling to Los Angeles to face Occidental on Saturday. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. The game can be heard live in the Portland area on 1360 AM KUIK and worldwide at goboxers.com. Simon Fraser plays their home opener next Saturday, hosting conference rival Central Washington.
BOXER BYTES: Pacific hosted Simon Fraser for their second straight home opener. It is fourth time in the Boxers' last six seasons (1989, 1990, 2011, 2012) that the Boxers and Clan have opened against each other…Pacific was one of five NCAA Division III teams to play on the official first day of the 2012 season. The other three games saw Wheaton (Ill.) beat Benedictine 48-7 and Trine beat Macalester 24-14…A moment of silence was held prior to the game to honor the memory of Eva Krebs. The former Pacific vice president of student life passed away in late July after a prolonged fight with breast cancer.