LA VERNE — Wide receiver Matthew Tuckness (Alamo) finished his decorated four years as a Tiger with a career-high 16 receptions for 234 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
But the Occidental College football team got stopped on a critical fourth down late in the fourth quarter and La Verne's Matthew Biggers broke open a 94-yard touchdown run on the next play, giving the Leopards a 36-24 win over the Tigers in their season finale on Saturday.
Oxy finishes the season 2-7 overall and 2-5 in SCIAC play.
On 4th and 1, from the La Verne six-yard-line, back up quarterback Samuel Crizer (Los Osos) got snubbed a yard shy of the first down marker, turning the ball over on downs with 2:27 remaining.
"We had a chance down on the five to score in the fourth quarter," Occidental coach Bill Redell said. "He just didn't make it. They submarined and he was about a half-yard short."
Then Biggers got loose for the longest of his 27 carries, pushing his game-high ground total to 222 yards.
"It was just one of those games where we should've, could've won it. … Probably should have," Redell said.
Oxy led briefly in the fourth quarter when Crizer successfully punched in a one-yard run to give Oxy a 24-23 advantage before ULV quickly scored 12 unanswered points. The Leopards found the end zone on a 14-yard Biggers' touchdown run with 12:34 to play, but missed on the two-point conversion to go up 29-24.
Both of Tuckness' touchdown receptions put the Tigers ahead in the first half. He caught a 60-yarder to give Oxy a 7-3 edge with 9:13 left in the first quarter and a 22-yarder to go up 17-13 with 52 seconds left in the first half.
Tuckness finishes with eight touchdowns and 1,057 receiving yards on the season and 27 touchdowns and 2,413 yards in 26 career games. His big game also bumped him ahead of Cal Lutheran's Eric Rodgers for the SCIAC lead in receptions per game (10.2).
"He had a big day today," Redell said. "He caught the ball well, ran the ball well after he did catch it. … He missed a game and a half, so if he would have been healthy he probably would have had over 100 catches this season."
Tommy Edwards (Sherman Oaks), who came into the game leading the SCIAC in passing yards per game, completed 30 of 51 passes for 322 yards and two touchdowns, marking the sixth time he's completed at least 30 of his throws and gone over 300 yards this season.
Edwards, a NCAA Division I transfer fro Sacramento State, completes his first year at Oxy with 2,928 yards passing, making him the first Oxy quarterback to throw for at least 2,900 yards since the late great Andy Collins '07 threw for 2,971 in 2005. No other SCIAC quarterback threw for 2,000.
Oxy, which has struggled gaining yards on the ground all season, rushed for 112 yards as a team with four different backs splitting carries. Kwame Do (San Marino) led the Tigers with 39 yards on nine carries, Casey Dudley (Dallas) had 27 on seven, Austin Cheadle (Portland, Ore.) had 26 on three and Crizer had 24 on seven.
Oxy senior Ryan Rodriguez (Oakley), who's been Oxy's most versatile player this year playing wide receiver and defensive back, had eight catches for 48 yards and led the Tigers with 13 tackles.
Adam Gutierrez (Valencia) had two receptions for 20 yards for the Tigers.
The Tigers graduate seven seniors, but return a few key pieces, including Edwards, standout sophomore wide receiver Samuel Stekol (Manhattan Beach) and star freshman defensive back Shay Mueller (El Dorado Hills).
"I think we were a very young team and I think that probably some of the inexperience hurt us," Redell said. "Fortunately, we got to play a lot of kids.
"Everyone is disappointed, but it wasn't for a lack of effort. Next year we'll come back try to be better."