By Tim Peterson
(Glendora) – Defensive End Matthew Hackett may have summed it up best. “I have Terrell Watson on my team. I’m never worried.” This was the feeling when Azusa Pacific found themselves down 18-12 late in the fourth quarter. So what happened next was no surprise. With 2:32 left Watson bounced into the line and then a second later, bounced out and rumbled 80 yards for a touchdown to give the Cougars a 19-18 win over Western Oregon Saturday night at Citrus College. After Watson’s run there was one more big play that was needed and it was Hackett himself who made it. He blocked a 49-yard field goal by Western Oregon’s Jesse Correa with 44 seconds left to preserve the win. The block brought an eruption from the APU sideline.
“I expected it. I’m not shocked at all,” said Azusa Pacific HC Victor Santa Cruz. “I’m not shocked when Terrell breaks off an 80-yard touchdown run. I’m not shocked when Matthew Hackett blocks a field goal attempt. I’m not shocked that our defense played so well. I’m not shocked at anything this team does because that’s who they are. This team has been doing it all year.”
Western Oregon missed an opportunity to score early when it marched all they way down to the seven yard line but Correa missed a 24 yard field goal attempt.
Instead it was the Cougars who got on the board first when Watson scored from 12 yards out early in the second quarter.
Neither team could find a groove offensively in the first half. Correa, who missed another field goal earlier, finally found the uprights with a 33 yarder with just over a minute left in the first half to cut the lead to 6-3. Watson had 74 yards at the half.
Chad Jeffries, who threw for 188 yards on the night, connected with Josiah Thropay on a 13-yard TD pass with 5:35 left in the third for a 12-3 advantage. The extra point attempt was blocked.
Western Oregon wasted no time in responding. 28 seconds later, Ryan Bergman found a streaking Paul Revis for a 68 yard catch and run and the Wolves were within 12-10.
Early in the fourth, still down two, Western Oregon went for it on a fourth and seven from the APU 46. Bergman scrambled out of the pocket and rifled a pass to a wide open Daniel Thomas who got behind the Cougar secondary. Thomas scampered into the end zone and even though the point after was blocked, Western Oregon had its first lead of the game at 16-12.
After exchanging punts, APU found itself booting again from the back of its own end zone with 4:30 left. Rather than risk giving the Wolves great field position, Santa Cruz elected to take a safety to go down 18-12.
“I watched the Florida State- Louisville game the other night. I understand you take a safety there,” Santa Cruz said.
The move paid off when the Cougars forced the Wolves to punt and got the ball back setting the stage for Watson’s and Hackett’s heroics.
Watson in his usual humble way gave credit to his offensive line. “My job is easy. I just have to run. Those guys are the ones blocking 300 pound dudes. I just follow them.”
Watson finished with 202 yards and two touchdowns on 27 carries. He remains the leading rusher in the NCAA.
Hackett may not worry with Watson on his side but his play was equally important. “I just had to do it. We needed a big play so why not me,” He said. “I just got my hand up there.”
Bergman had a huge game for Western Oregon. He completed 24 of 41 for 403 yards and two scores. Revis had eight catches for 135 yards.
With the victory the Cougars improved to 8-1 and 5-0 in the GNAC. They will travel to Canada next week to face Simon Fraser before finishing at home against Menlo on November 15.
“Winning conference is our number one goal,” Santa Cruz said.
Western Oregon fell to 4-5 and 2-2
WO 0 3 7 8 18
AP 0 6 6 7 19