THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – As expected the No. 8 Cal Lutheran Kingsmen gave a Homecoming crowd, of more than 3,000 what they came to see today as they handedly defeated Occidental 56-7 at Rolland Stadium.
Many players had family in the stands and on their minds as the majority of the Kingsmen donned pink tape, laces, mouth pieces, socks and bandanas in honor of breast cancer awareness month.
The added color made the trouncing of the Tigers that much brighter for a squad that racked up 664 yards of total offense, limiting Oxy to a single score, to remain undefeated in Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference play at 4-0.
"Obviously it is a challenge to cover some of the weapons we have on offense," head coach Ben McEnroe expressed after the game. "Eric [Rogers] got freed up because they brought safeties down low and weren't leaving anybody in the middle of the field so we did a nice job of preparing our quarterback for that look."
The football team as a whole had a good week of preparation.
A tie game at the end of the first quarter turned into a blowout for CLU as they reeled off 49 unanswered points.
The Kingsmen scored first on a 20-yard double-reverse by Eric Rogers to take a 7-0 lead with 8:45 left in the first quarter. Occidental would answer on a five-yard touchdown pass from Tommy Edwards to Matthew Tuckness, tying the game at 7-7 with two minutes left in the first quarter.
From that point, however, Cal Lutheran would control the contest never looking back. Senior quarterback Zach Shultis tallied four touchdowns in the second quarter alone.
The touchdown that broke the tie started with the first of two CLU interceptions. Broc Galbreth picked off Edwards at the CLU-33 yard line to set up a short pass to freshman running back Romello Goodman who weaved his way through the Occidental offense for a 26-yard TD reception.
After the defense held the Tigers to a three-and-out, Shultis connected with Rogers for a 29-yard TD reception. The next CLU possession ended with a six-yard touchdown pass to Donald Senegal and the ensuing Kingsmen drive saw Shultis find Frankie Jones for a five-yard touchdown.
In all Cal Lutheran tacked on 28 points in the second quarter to take a 35-7 lead at the half.
The Kingsmen kept up the attack in the second half. Less than two minutes into the third quarter, Shultis would add his fifth touchdown pass by again connecting with Rogers for a six-yard pass to push the lead to 42-7.
Late in the third quarter senior offensive lineman Jordan Austin got his first rushing opportunity, which ended with his first career touchdown on a one-yard run.
In the fourth quarter Daniel Azhocar capped off an 87-yard drive, which took 7:25 off the clock, with a one-yard rushing touchdown after he was responsible for each of the 13 carries.
Shultis' 21-for-25 passing performance went for 368 yards and five touchdowns to lead an impressive Kingsmen offensive output.
When asked about the spot performance of his senior quarterback, who has stepped nicely into the starting role, McEnroe described Shultis as, "The epitome of what you tell your own kids or guys on your team if they are not playing to be like," going on to say, "You always prepare as if your starter and Zach is exemplifying that. When he got his opportunity, he put his team on his back and got us past Redlands and today he was all over it again. He is just a great example of a guy who prepares like a starter every week, a guy we trust and I am thrilled for his success."
Additionally, Shultis was 8-for-8 in PAT kicks today.
Rogers had eight catches for 120 yards in just over two quarters of action, including three touchdowns. The senior added another CLU record to his repertoire, breaking the career reception record, formerly held by Jimmy Fox (176) from 2000-03, in the second quarter. He now has 181 career catches with three regular season games remaining.
"Those records are something he and his teammates can really be proud of," McEnroe shared. "It has been fun to watch his growth in the program. He got here as a 6-foot-4, 170-pound skinny-noodle-looking guy and now he is an NFL prospect. You take a lot of pride in guys developing in a program and Eric has done that physically and matured on an off the field as a leader."
Cal Lutheran was also potent on the turf as they nearly had two running backs reach 100 yards rushing. Azhocar had 17 carries for 104 yards and Goodman had 11 touches for 96 yards. Goodman led all players with 156 all-purpose yards in the game.
"When Oxy backed off and only left six or seven guys in the box, Romello and Azcohar capitalized and had good days on the ground," McEnroe noted.
Vincent Minor gave Cal Lutheran great field position all day, returning three punts, including 60 and 51 yard returns, adding a 27 yard kick return.
Coach McEnroe spoke to the talent of Minor and his performance tonight. "The way he flips fields is such an advantage. We felt like we could have gone after their punt team with blocks a couple times but why mess with it when you know you have a guy back there who can take it 50 every time he touches it. His return at the end of the first half was huge as far as taking away hope for the opponent and gave our offensive a short field and a chance to punch one in to kind of close it out."
Defensively, Tim Cozine, Derrick Romo and Tanner Hix had six tackles apiece with Cozine and Romo each tallying five solo stops. Hix added a sack for a loss of eight yards while Romo had an interception and broke up two other plays. Nick Grodotzke also recorded a sack for a loss of eight yards. Both Galbreth and Patrick Knox had five tackles in the win.
Cal Lutheran (5-1, 4-0 SCIAC) will be on the road again next weekend when they travel to Whittier. The Kingsmen and Poets will kick off at 3:00 p.m. as Whittier celebrates homecoming.
Box Score: CLU 56, OXY 7