NEWBERG, Ore. — Travis Sparks-Jackson made big plays on the ground, first-year starting quarterback William Livingston had a big night through the air and the University of La Verne football team opened the 2014 season with a 47-33 win on Saturday night at Stoffer Family Stadium.
How it happened: Alex Arellano opened the season with a bang. The sophomore returner took the season's first kickoff to the house to put the Leopards up on the board and it was off to the races.
La Verne's offense was clicking on all cylinders and George Fox really didn't have an answer. The Leopards amassed 590 yards of total offense and averaged 7.4 yards per play.
Sparks-Jackson put the Leopards up, 13-0, with a 28-yard score on La Verne's first drive, but George Fox rattled off three consecutive scores to make it a game.
But the Leopards never panicked. Livingston connected with Alex Villalobos and Lilly for a pair of touchdowns and Sparks-Jackson scored his second touchdown of the game late in the third quarter to give La Verne a 32-20 lead.
It was over when: Dallas Parent punched in a touchdown put the Leopards up, 47-26, with 4:32 left to play. La Verne effectively broke George Fox's back with that drive as the Leopards marched 91 yards up the field on nine rushes without a single pass play.
The game was back and forth until that point. After a 48-yard touchdown reception brought the score within 32-26 in the closing seconds of the third quarter, the Leopards answered immediately the next drive as Livingston connected with Jon Lilly for an 82-yard touchdown.
George Fox then grinded out an 11-play, 62-yard drive that almost put itself back within striking distance. The Bruins had driven all the way to La Verne's two-yard line, but the Leopards made a stance. Anthony Penalber stuffed John Shaffer for a two-yard loss, the defensive line forced the Bruins into a false start penalty and Connor Truhitte defended a 4th-and-goal pass to force a turnover on downs.
Players of the game: Travis Sparks-Jackson compiled 170 yards on the ground on just 16 carries (10.6 YPC). He kept the chains moving and took some pressure off William Livingston, who was excellent in his first start at quarterback.
The training wheels came off quickly for Livingston as he attempted 43 passes. The junior completed 28 of those passes for 313 yards and three touchdowns. And he spread the ball around well. Four La Verne receivers recorded at least four catches wit Ezra Broadus getting the most looks with nine receptions. Lilly finished with 117 yards on four catches, Andres Fernandez hauled in five passes for 67 yards and Villalobos had 41 yards on four catches.
Preseason All-American Nik Gutierrez recorded five tacks (2.5 for loss) and a sack. Manuel Macias led the defense with seven total tackles.
Up next: The Leopards will host Whitworth on Sept. 20 at 12:30 p.m. The Leopards beat the Pirates, 25-20, in Spokane, Wash., in last season's opener.Follow La Verne Athletics on Twitter @ULV_Athletics Like La Verne Athletics on Facebook Follow La Verne Athletics on Instagram @ULV_Athletics Sign up for our newsletter