By Tim Peterson
(Glendora) – Azusa Pacific fumbled the ball away two times, threw three interceptions and allowed a kickoff return for a touchdown, but still had enough to beat Humboldt State 37-21 Saturday night at Citrus College.
Humboldt State, which announced it was discontinuing its football program after this season due to financial constraints, was 0-3 coming into the game and had been outscored 142-25 overall. But that didn’t stop the Lumberjacks from giving the Cougars fits all night.
APU turned the ball over on its first two possessions as Tyrone Williams Jr. was picked off twice. Humboldt took advantage of the first turnover after taking over at the Azusa Pacific 23. The Jacks used five plays to go 23 yards with Leo Wagner hauling in an eight-yard touchdown pass from Joseph Sweeney for a 7-0 lead.
Williams was intercepted on the next series as well but the Jacks weren’t able to score. A 40-yard field goal attempt was blocked by the Cougars but APU coughed the ball up on the return and Humboldt State recovered. But even with that break Humboldt was stopped on fourth down.
Azusa Pacific finally got going early in the second quarter when Williams connected with Brandon Jackson on an 11-yard scoring strike to cap an eight play, 58-yard drive to tie it. Later in the quarter Williams found Lucas Widmar on a seven-yard toss to finish a 57-yard drive and APU took control at 14-7.
The Cougars found the end zone one more time before the half when Gavin McDaniel capped another 57-yard drive with a one-yard run.
APU seemed to have the momentum back heading into the third quarter but the Jacks immediately grabbed it back in a matter of seconds. Ju’Wan Murphy returned the kick off 85-yards for a touchdown and just like that it was 21-14.
The Cougar offense stumbled throughout the third quarter. Williams was intercepted again and the Cougars punted on another possession. The score stayed that way until early in the fourth quarter when Azusa Pacific extended the lead.
Williams did it with his legs this time scoring on a three-yard run. The Cougars went 88 yards on 12 plays with Williams scooting across.
But the Lumberjacks weren’t done yet. They marched 60 yards on five plays with Andrew Tingstad, who replaced starting quarterback Joseph Sweeney, scoring on a one-yard keeper to make it 28-21.
Things got really interesting on the Cougars next series when Bryce Grandison fumbled and Humboldt recovered at the APU 32. But the Jacks lost yardage and were forced to punt.
Jesse Hanckel, in relief of Williams, led Azusa Pacific on a 10-play, 80 yard drive and hooked up with Brandon Jackson on a four-yard TD strike with 3:44 left to put the game away.
Jacob Hall added a 26-yard field goal after an interception to round out the scoring.
The Cougars, who had five turnovers last week in a loss to North Alabama, committed another five but came out on the right side of this one.
“I love these guys and the way they compete but I wasn’t happy at all. We have got to take care of the ball,” said APU head coach Victor Santa Cruz. “I don’t know. I’m not ruling anything out,” Santa Cruz said when asked if he thought it could have been a hangover after a tough loss last week.
Williams finished 20 of 31 for 247 yards and two touchdowns but was hurt by the three picks. Jackson, the go to guy, had 13 catches for 149 yards and two scores.
The Cougars improved to 4-1 with the win and will face Central Washington next week at home. Humboldt State dropped to 0-4.