LOS ANGELES – With the adversity of botched travel plans and injuries to two of their star players, it would have been easy for Pacific to pack it in when it finally came time to take the field Saturday night.
Instead, the young team put together their most balanced scoring attack in two-plus years and an impressive defensive effort to earn the Boxers' first road win since the 2010 reinstatement of the program, clobbering Occidental 27-6 in a non-conference football game at Jack Kemp Stadium.
Pacific finished with 356 yards of total offense, but the pass-minded offense put together 149 rushing yards, the best since that 2010 start. The ground game accounted for the Boxers' first two scores with Deven McKinney (So., Spanaway, Wash.) and Bobby Ladiges (So., Escalon, Calif.) finding the end zone in the second quarter. Ladiges led eight Boxers to rush with 58 yards on 14 carries.
P.J. Minaya (Jr., Waipahu, Hawaii), making his first start since the 2010 season, completed 17 of 31 passes for 207 yards and 46-yard touchdown pass to Darin Kamealoha (So., Waipahu, Hawaii) in the fourth quarter. Minaya earned the start after T.C. Campbell (Jr., Kaimuki, Hawaii) was lost in week one with a season-ending knee injury. Kamealoha led seven Pacific receivers with 84 yards on four catches.
While Minaya may have had some first start jitters, Head Coach Keith Buckley said he junior proved a lot on Saturday. "He was trying to make things perfect instead of just playing catch," Buckley said. "But what impressed me was how well he managed the game and managed the offense. He didn't put us in bad positions."
Pacific's defense also played a major role in the victory. The Boxers finished with four sacks, including three by Landon Aano (Jr., Ewa Beach, Hawaii), and a pair of interceptions, one of which culminated in a Moses Villareal-Gomez's (So., Stockton, Calif.) field goal in the second quarter. The Boxers also held the Tigers to -4 yards on the ground and flirted with the school single game record of -10 yards allowed.
The victory showed that the young Boxers have the ability to bounce back from adversity. The trip began with the Boxers' flight from Portland being delayed due to mechanical problems. The team did not arrive in Los Angeles until nearly midnight. To compound the loss to Campbell, Pacific lost First Team All-Northwest Conference wide receiver Jordan Fukumoto (Jr., Mililani, Hawaii) in the second quarter with an apparent leg injury that required a stretcher to remove him from the field.
Buckley defined the contest as a benchmark victory in the growth of the program, now in its third season. "When we started this thing, there were benchmarks that we set out there and one of those was to win on the road," he said. "That's a big thing for us. To be on this trip, to play with a reduced travel squad and to have the adversity that we have dealt with this week, this is a big step."
The first quarter proved to be a defensive battle with both teams giving up an interception and Occidental missing a 21-yard field goal. The Pacific defense produced great field position for the Boxers' first scoring drive, forcing an Occidental punt from their own nine-yard line. Pacific started on the Tigers' 33-yard line and needed just two plays score. Minaya found Fukumoto for a 28-yard reception to set up McKinney for his 5-yard scoring run with 12:22 to go in the half.
After an Occidental three-and-out, Minaya paced the Boxers for a nine-play, five-minute scoring drive. Minaya completed a 26-yard pass to Kamealoha and then a pair of 11-yard completions to Kelson Kawai (Jr., North Kohala, Hawaii) to set up Ladiges two-yard scamper that made it a 14-0 Pacific lead.
Sean Bangs (Jr., Portland, Ore.) intercepted Occidental quarterback Tommy Edwards to set up the Boxers' first half score as Villareal-Gomez kicked a 37-yard field goal with 18 seconds left, allowing Pacific to go into halftime with a 17-0 lead. It marked the first time since program's reinstatement that the Boxers had held an opponent scoreless in the first half.
Villareal-Gomez made his second field goal on Pacific's opening drive of the second half, scoring a 32-yarder to cap a 12-play, 53-yard drive that gave the Boxers a 20-0 lead. Occidental scored what proved to be their only points of the game on their next series when Edwards used a three-yard quarterback keeper to complete an 11-play, 74-yard drive. The point-after attempt was fumbled, however, keeping it a 20-6 game as the third quarter expired.
Occidental had the ball in the red zone three times in the fourth quarter, but each time was turned away by a solid Pacific defense. The Tigers had the ball at the Pacific 19-yard line on their first drive, but a 15-yard personal foul penalty eventually forced a punt from the 37-yard line. That set up a grueling 11-play, 89-yard scoring drive that took the Boxers' nearly seven minutes to complete. It ended with the Boxers' longest play of the night as Minaya found Kamealoha for a 46-yard strike to secure the 27-6 final score.
Occidental quickly moved down the field on the following position, setting themselves up on the Pacific three-yard line before fumbling on fourth down to turn the ball back over to the Boxers. The Tigers started their next drive on the Pacific 21-yard line, but saw their final threat end when Jaquari People (Fr., Merced, Calif.) intercepted Edwards in the end zone with 2:53 to go.
"The most impressive thing about the defense is when (Occidental) did get into the red zone, instead of laying down they bucked up," Buckley said. "Other than their one score, we were solid. We had a couple of picks, forced a missed field goal and held strong on the goal line. They were clutch tonight."
Edwards finished the night completing 31 of 48 passes for 329 yards, but was intercepted twice and sacked four times. Samuel Stekol led Occidental's receiving corps with 144 yards on 10 catches while Shay Mueller carried two times for 11 yards.
Josh Brinkworth (So., Elk Grove, Calif.) led the Pacific defense for the second straight week with nine tackles, including six solo efforts. Gabe Flory (Jr., Davis, Calif.) finished with six tackles while Kamu Morita (Jr., Honolulu, Hawaii) and Bryan Mills (Jr., Imbler, Ore.) each had five tackles. Teran Mawhinney's eight tackles led Occidental.
Pacific will take their momentum into their first bye week of the season. They return to the field on Sat., Sept. 22, as they Willamette in a non-conference game for both teams at McCullough Stadium in Salem.
BOXER BYTES: The game was the first of the season for Occidental and the first for head coach Bill Redell, who made the jump to the college ranks after years of success as a prep coach in Southern California…The win is Pacific's first against a non-conference team since the Boxers beat Western Washington 37-29 during the 1984 season. From 1985 to 1991, all of Pacific's games were against Columbia Football Association opponents…Approximately 75 Boxers' fans attended a pregame tailgate party on the Occidental campus sponsored by the Pacific University Alumni Association.