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Published
October 19, 2007
By
Gary Pine
THIS WEEK:
Whitworth at Azusa Pacific
Saturday, Oct. 20, 6 p.m.
Cougar Stadium

Records
Azusa Pacific – 3-5
Whitworth – 5-1

THIS WEEK: It’s only mid-October and yet Azusa Pacific is getting set for the final home game on its 11-game slate. The Cougars host NCAA Division III power Whitworth College, Saturday (Oct. 20) in a 6 p. m. game at Cougar Stadium.

A TRUE HOMECOMING: Saturday’s contest highlights Azusa Pacific’s annual homecoming and it’s a fitting time when considering that Whitworth head coach John Tully is a former Cougar QB great and a member of the Azusa Pacific Athletics Hall of Fame. Tully was a 4-year Cougar from 1970-73 and set numerous school records including most passing yards (4,436), most TD passes (32) and most pass completions (318) — all since broken.

RADIO: Azusa Pacific’s student-run radio station KAPU will cover the Azusa Pacific-Whitworth game live from Cougar Stadium. Robert Schwandt and Trevor Faulkerson will call all the action beginning at 5:45 p.m.

LIVE STATS: Live stats of the Azusa Pacific-Whitworth game can be viewed through the Internet.

TICKETS: Tickets for the Azusa Pacific-Whitworth game can be purchased on the day of the game at the stadium gate, beginning at 4:30 p.m. Prices are $7 for adults and $5 for students with ID (children under 12 are free),

DIRECTIONS: Azusa Pacific is located at 901 E. Alosta, Azusa, Calif., 91702. From LAX take the 405 south to the 105 east to the 605 north to the 210 east. Turn left at Citrus Ave. exit. Stadium is on the right at 3/4 of a mile.

From Ontario Airport take the 10 west to the 57 north to the 210 west. Exit Citrus Ave., turning left of Baseline then right on Citrus. Stadium is on the right at 3/4 of a mile.

ABOUT WHITWORTH: Whitworth is a private Christian liberal arts college located among the pine trees of Spokane, Wash. Founded in 1890 and affiliated with the Presbyterian Church, Whitworth’s 200-acre campus houses 2,500 students.

Athletically, Whitworth was a long-time NAIA member until the late 1990s when it joined the rest of its Northwest Conference members in changing affiliation and dropping to NCAA Division III. The Pirates join Azusa Pacific as the only members of the Coalition of Christian College and Universities west of the Rockies to sponsor intercollegiate football.

SERIES NOTES: The 2 schools have split 2 previous meetings, which each holding serve on its home field. The Cougars downed Whitworth, 41-20, in Azusa Pacific’s “Centennial Game” (celebrating the university’s 100-year history), in Oct. of 1999.

The 2 teams didn’t meet again until last year when Whitworth took a 17-14 verdict in Spokane. Pirate coach John Tully is 1-1 vs. his alma mater while Azusa Pacific mentor Victor Santa Cruz is 0-1 vs. Whitworth

LAST YEAR: Cam Colling’s 28-yard field goal with 2:57 left in the game lifted NCAA Division III No. 17-ranked Whitworth to a 17-14 victory over the Cougars in the Pine Bowl.

Collings’ boot, his first successful field goal attempt of the season, capped Whitworth’s only sustained drive of the second half to keep the Pirates undefeated through 4 games.

Azusa Pacific appeared to have put itself in good position for a possible win when punter Andrew Lutton pinned the Pirates at heir own 5-yard line with 6 minutes left and the game tied at 14-14. However, behind QB Joel Clark and aided by a Cougar personal foul, the Pirates moved 84 yards on 9 plays to the Cougar 11-yard line before Collings split the uprights for the eventual game winner.

The Cougar defense had been outstanding throughout the game, holding a Whitworth offense that came in averaging over 400 yards a game to just 280. However, the Pirates cashed in on a Cougar fumble at the 5-yard line for as easy 7 points to assume a 14-7 lead after the first quarter. The Cougars knotted the game at 14-14 at halftime on a Marcus Lampkin 33-yard TD reception.

Whitworth went on to an 11-1 season, advancing to the DIII second round playoffs.

LAST TIME IN AZUSA: Behind the passing of All-American QB Neo Aoga, the NAIA’s No. 5-ranked Azusa Pacific scored 3 third-quarter TDs to blow open a tight game and beat Whitworth, 41-20, Oct. 23, 1999, in Azusa.

Aoga completed 19-of-26 passes for 322 yards and 2 TDs, including a 47-yard scoring strike to Deon Sanders that put Azusa Pacific up 31-7 at the time. Caleb Willis registered 10 receptions for 129 yards with 1 TD catch of 23 yards.

Pirate RB Damian Putney rushed for 191 yards on 30 carries and tallied a pair of 5-yard TD scores, including one that gave Whitworth a short-lived 7-0 less than 2 minutes into the game.

NATIONAL RANKINGS: Whitworth is ranked No. 23 in this week’s D3football.com poll. It’s the Pirates’ highest ranking since opening the season at No. 16 before suffering a season-opening loss to Redlands. Azusa Pacific is not ranked in the latest NAIA Coaches’ Poll. In this week’s Football Gazette Poll, Whitworth is ranked No, 8 in NCAA DIII and Azusa Pacific is No. 23 in the NAIA.

ABOUT THE COACHES: Victor Santa Cruz is in his second year at the Cougar helm and his seventh on the Cougar coaching staff. Santa Cruz, 35, was the Cougar defensive coordinator before being named the program’s ninth head coach Dec. 14, 2005. A defensive mastermind, Santa Cruz has overseen some of the finest defenses in Azusa Pacific history. He picked up his first win as a head coach in last year’s 31-6 Cougar victory over Malone. He picked a rather fine place to collect that initial win — Fawcett Stadium, home of the NFL Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.

Now in his 13th season at Whitworth, former Azusa Pacific QB John Tully is coming off the most successful season in Whitworth history. He has guided the Pirates to victory in 19 of their past 22 games, which includes last year’s 11-1 slate when Whitworth advanced to the second round of the NCAA DIII playoffs. All told, he is 97-75 as a head coach, which includes a 5-year stint at Eureka (Ill.) College. Tully graduated from Azusa in 1974.

THOUGH FOES: A year ago, Azusa Pacific played the most demanding schedule of any NAIA school, according to atomicfootball.com which ranks every college team’s schedule.

The Cougars appear to be headed toward a similar distinction for the 2007 season. Their first 6 opponents have all been nationally-ranked at one time or another this season. Included in the mix of Cougar foes this year is the reigning NCAA D-IAA midmajor champion (San Diego) and last year’s NCAA Division III playoff participants Wisconsin-La Crosse and Whitworth. Six of the Cougars’ 11 opponents combined last year for a 61-15 (.803) record.

Among this year’s opponents, Azusa Pacific is playing an NCAA FCS scholarship program (Nicholls State), an NCAA FCS nonscholarship program (San Diego), 2 NCAA Division III ranked teams (Wisconsin-La Crosse, Whitworth) and 2 NAIA nationally-ranked teams (MidAmerica Nazarene, Malone).

LAST WEEK: Azusa Pacific put together what may have been its most complete outing of the season, using a 27-2 run to highlight a 27-17 victory over Humboldt State. It was only the Cougars’ third win in 11 trips to the Lumberjacks’ Redwood Bowl, and it was easily the most lopsided Cougar victory in Arcata.

Senior QB Rudy Carlton completed 19-of-25 passes, including his first 9 of the game, for 274 yards and 3 TDs. He led the Cougars to scores on 5 of their first 8 possessions, including back-to-back third quarter drives that put Azusa Pacific up 27-9 at the time. He sandwiched a pair of TD strikes of 8 and 31 yards to on Davis around a 14-yard TD pass to Paul Hardiman. In all, Carlton used 7 different receivers for his 19 receptions. Davis led with 6 grabs for 104 yards. Sophomore PK Ben Hansen accounted for the other 6 points with field goals of 48 and 25 yards.

The rest was up to a Cougar defense that held Humboldt State to just 296 yards of total offense and forced 4 Lumberjacks turnovers. Two of those takeaways proved to be fatal to HSU. The first came of a muffed punt return at the Cougar 12-yard line which Azusa Pacific cashed into a TD 2 plays later. The other came at the Cougar 2-yard line after Humboldt State drove the length of the field only to fumble the ball on a second-and-goal run early in the fourth quarter and with the Lumberjacks down by just 10. Freshman LB Jay York led the Cougars with a team-high 7 tackles to go along with his first-ever collegiate interception and a forced fumble on the all-important second-and-goal play at the Cougar 2-yard line.

Whitworth won its fifth straight game and took over first place in the Northwest Conference with a convincing 48-7 victory over Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Ore., Saturday afternoon. The Pirates rushed for 395 yards with Milton Nelson (128) and Tyler Mattair (112) each eclipsing the 100-yard rushing mark.

The Pirates led 20-0 after the first quarter and was up 41-7 by halftime, scoring on their first 4 possessions and 6 of 7 in the first half.

Three different Pirate QBs combined on 14-for-21 passing for 177 yards. Reserve Jon Luke was 5-for-7 for 82 yards and a TD.

Whitworth accumulated 572 yards of total offense and held Lewis & Clark to just 149. In addition, the Pirates had twice as many snaps as L&C, running 62 plays to the foe’s 31.

ROOODY, ROOODY: Now in his tenth semester and sixth year in the program, senior QB Rudy Carlton is putting together one of the best seasons ever by a Cougar QB.

Already this season he has thrown for over 200 yards in 7 of 8 games, including 6 straight (a program first since 1999). After last week’s sterling performance at Humboldt State in which he completed 19-of-25 passes, including the first 9 of the game and 15-of-18 at one point, he now has 142 pass completions on the season, and with 3 games left he could become only the fourth Cougar ever to tally 200 completed passes in a single season.

His 1,840 passing yards this season is eighth best in program history, and his whopping 19 TD passes are already the fourth best single-season total ever by a Cougar.

Carlton has thrown for 3,608 yards and 29 TDs in his 24-game Azusa Pacific career, which has been lengthened because of 2 seasons in which he did not play (2002 redshirt and 2004 injury). His 29 TD passes are the fifth most ever by a Cougar QB and he needs just 3 more TD passes and 392 more yards to become only the third Cougar QB ever to throw for over 4,000 yards and 32 TDs in a career (Luke Winslow and John Tully are the others).

Only 2 Cougars QBs — Neo Aoga in 1999 (3,873) and Geoff Buffum (3,053) — have ever thrown for over 2,600 yards in a season and both of them played at least 12 games because of NAIA playoff action. Carlton needs to average 254 yards over the final 3 games of the campaign to become the third Cougar QB.

Carlton Game-By-Game in 2007

Opponent           PC-PA-I  Yards  TD  LG
MidAmerica Naz.    17-33-0   238    4  42
San Diego          23-42-1   284    3  38
Malone             24-35-1   237    1  35
UW-La Crosse       14-35-2   208    1  41
Nicholls State     22-33-1   275    3  40
Southern Nazarene  10-17-1   221    4  59
Southern Oregon    13-24-1   103    0  19
Humboldt State     19-25-0   274    3  35

TD (TOUCHDOWN DAVIS): Junior WR Jon Davis is a scoring machine. Already this season his has twice tied the school single-game record of 4 TD receptions, first against MidAmerica Nazarene in the season opener and then again 3 weeks ago against Southern Nazarene. Now with an NAIA-leading 14 TD catches this season, Davis is surpassed only by Texas Tech freshman Michael Crabtree (17 TD catches) for the most TD receptions in all of college football. Not bad for a guy who as recently as 3 years ago had never played a football game in his life.

Along with the TD catches, Davis is among the NAIA leaders in receptions, reception yards, and yards per reception.

On the school record front, Davis needs 1 more TD catch to tie All-American Dexter Davis’ school single-season record of 15 TD catches in 14 games during Azusa Pacific’s 1998 NAIA championship season. Additionally, Jon needs 136 more yards in the next 3 games to become only the third Cougar ever to go over 1,000 receiving yards in a season. Finally, he is 19 catches away from becoming only the third Cougar ever to collect 70 catches in a season.

Davis didn’t begin playing football until 2005. He came to Azusa Pacific in the fall of 2003 with the hope of walking onto the Cougar basketball team. He did not make the final cut but nonetheless he continued his studies at the university. Following his sophomore year he opted to try out for football for the first time ever and within 2 games he found himself on the Cougar 2-deep. His first-ever reception was a 17-yard TD catch from Carlton vs. NAIA national champion Carroll College in 2005.

He is currently working on his MBA at Azusa Pacific.

Davis Game-by-Game in 2007

Opponent          Rec  Yards  TD   LG
MidAmerica Naz.    8    142    4   37
San Diego          8     74    0   15
Malone             6    109    0   35
UW-LaCrosse        4     70    1   41
Nicholls State     8    150    3   40
Southern Nazarene  6    162    4   59
Southern Oregon    5     53    0   20
Humboldt State     6    104    2   31
Season            51    864   14   59

vs. NCAA DIII: Since 1996, Azusa Pacific is 40-11 vs. NCAA Division III teams and has won 15 of the past 20 meetings. The Cougars had won 13 straight over DIII foes until Wisconsin-Whitewater knocked off the Cougars, 27-7 last year, which has started a string of 4 straight losses to DIII schools (UWW, UW-LaCrosse, Whitworth and UW-L again).

THE SACK MASTERS: After not registering a quarterback sack the first 2 games of the season, the Azusa Pacific defense has come back to drop opposing QBs 19 times in the next 4 games. DE Kenny Simmons and LB Travis Bengard, each with lead the way with 4 sacks. Interestingly, Azusa Pacific surrendered 559 passing yards and 8 TDs through the air in the first 2 games (279.5 avg.), but since the emergence of the sack, the Cougars have yielded just 792 passing yards and 4 TDs in the past 6 games (132.0 avg.).

DEFENDER AGAINST THE SACK: While the Cougars are pressuring the opposing the QB, they’re doing a good job of protecting their own man. The Cougar offensive line of Ben Winslow, Joel Garnica, Justin Fortenberry, Rob Palacios, David Ofahulu and Eric Beaton (reserve) have yielded just 6 sacks of QB Rudy Carlton this season and only 1 in the past 3 games. In fact, Carlton has been sacked just twice on his past 102 pass attempts.

BOOMING LEG: Sophomore punter Andrew Lutton has proven to be a valuable weapon and may be pressing for postseason honors if he continues his current progress. For the season, he is averaging 42.3 yards a punt which is ahead the longstanding school record of 41.6 first set by Bruce Webb in 1969 and tied by Brad Kramer in 1974. Last month at Nicholls State, he broke the school single-game record with a 50.6 average (min. 5 punts). He launched a career-high 62-yarder that pinned the Colonels in the shadow of their own end zone. He also had boots of 55, 49 and 47 yards. Last week at Humboldt State, he suffered his first blocked punt of the season but still 4 of his 5 punts stopped inside the Lumberjack 20-yard line. Less than half of his 38 punts have been returned this year (and only a 5.9 average per return) and 15 of his boots have ended inside the opponent’s 20-yard line.

BY THE NUMBER: Azusa Pacific has committed 14 turnovers and the opponent has turned 8 of them into TDs. Two giveaways went directly into scores (fumble recovery vs. MNU and interception vs. USD), 5 other turnovers came inside the Cougar 30-yard line, and 2 turnovers thwarted drives inside the opponent’s 20-yard line ... Azusa Pacific did not commit a turnover at Humboldt State, a first for this season ... Senior WR Trent Sakioka has returned 3 punts for TDs in his career, a school-record, including a 77-yarder vs. San Diego earlier this year ... Senior RB Darnell Dodson’s 74-yard TD run vs. MidAmerica was the longest run from scrimmage by a Cougar since Ben Buys sprinted 83 yards vs. University of La Verne, Oct. 25, 2003 ... Senior WR Jordan Farrell collected a team season-high 9 receptions vs. Malone, the most catches by a Cougar since Frankie Tapia’s 11 grabs vs. Humboldt State University in 2002 ... The Cougars’ 6 QB sacks vs. Malone are the most by an Azusa Pacific defense since recording 8 vs. Dixie State College last year (10/28/07) ... Azusa Pacific is 95-71-1 (.569) all-time in games played in the month of October ... Sophomore PK Ben Hansen has not missed a PAT in his college career, making all 46 attempts thus far. He had a string of 8 straight field goals made snapped at La Crosse when he sailed a 35-yard attempt wide right but for his career he is still a fine 16-of-18 on field goals. He made a career-long 49-yarder against Southern Nazarene, the longest field goal by a Cougar since Mike Betancourth’s 50-yarder vs. Eastern Oregon Oct. 29, 2005 ... As a program, Azusa Pacific has made 97 consecutive PATs (kicking) and not missed a kicked PAT since Oct. 16, 2004, when Trinity University (Texas) blocked a Cougar PAT ... Azusa Pacific is 2-2 all-time in overtime games ... Azusa Pacific will travel over 17,900 miles this season to its 6 road contests in Missouri, Louisiana, Wisconsin, Utah, Florida and Northern California.

ON THE DEFENSIVE: After yielding 101 points in the first 2 games of the season, Azusa Pacific’s defense has come back to make a stand — and then some. The Cougars have allowed just 114 points over the past 6 games and better yet, they’ve yielded just 4 TDs in the past 12 quarters of play. Over the past 3 games, Azusa Pacific is allowing the opponent 255 yards of total offense, a vast improvement from the 437 surrendered in the first 3 games of the 2007 campaign.

SANTA CRUZ SAYS: “The ability for us to rebound from a game like Southern Oregon and play so well against Humboldt State is a direct reflection of the amount of respect that each guy has for his teammate, and the desire everyone has to do their best. Our theme all season has been ‘one blood,’ that we’re in this together, and the guys have bought into it. They believe in each other and don’t want to let each other down.

“Football is a difficult sport and it takes every ounce of concentration to play it right. There can be no let down. So we play it one down at a time, one game at a time. We can’t look ahead at what might be or look behind at what could have been.

“What’s important for us is that we become the best we can be. In my opinion, there is no ability ceiling, and we have to keep striving at getting better each week. I want us growing and maturing and playing to the fullness of our ability with what we have left on the schedule.

“We have a great opponent this week in Whitworth. (John) Tully does a great job preparing his men. They are a 1-back zone team. They’ll run some counter but they like to come at you. Sometimes they’ll spread you with 5 wide and no back and threaten you with the deep ball. Other times, they’ll bring an extra lineman to run an unbalanced look and pound you with the football. They’ll run the same play from different formations. They are a very well-coached team, and it will be a challenge for us.”

CONNECTIONS: Besides the obvious connection of Whitworth coach John Tully being an Azusa Pacific alum, there are several other connections between the Azusa Pacific and Whitworth football programs.

The Pirate roster features 5 Californians, including starting CB Peter Ghilardi who played at Moorpark (Calif.) College before transferring to Whitworth.

The Azusa Pacific roster lists 4 players from Washington, including defensive starters Beau Leaman (Puyallup/Tacoma Baptist HS), Mac Gebbers (Brewster/Brewster HS), who had 2 brothers plays sports at Whitworth, and punter Andrew Lutton (Seattle/King’s HS).

HALL OF FAME: Eight new Cougar greats will be joining Whitworth coach John Tully in the Cougar Athletics Hall of Fame Saturday. Prior to the game, Cougars Kojo Asamoah (soccer), Lynsee Bock (soccer & softball), Phil Boyce (football), Steve Connor (football) Dennis Dickens (basketball), Wayne Edwards (baseball), Jack Nance (track & field) and Fatimat Yusuf (track & field) will be enshrined in ceremonies beginning at 11:30 a.m. in the Upper Turner Campus Center at Azusa Pacific.

ABOUT THE PIRATES: Whitworth opened the season having won 12 of its past 13 games and yet was dealt of jolt of reality when University of Redlands from the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference upset the Pirates, 24-12, at the Pine Bowl in both team’s season-opener on Sept. 8.

Since then Whitworth has rallied back to win 5 straight, including a key 28-21 victory over Pacific Lutheran to move the Pirates into sole possession of first place in the Northwest Conference. Along with those 5 victories has come a steady climb back up the NCAA Division III poll to No. 23 in this week’s D3football.com poll.

Whitworth employs a single-back zone offensive scheme and ran it to near perfection last year when the Pirates won 11 straight before falling to St. John’s (Minn.), 21-3, in the second round of the NCAA DIII playoffs. However, a number of the key players in that offense have since graduated, including quarterback Joel Clark. In Clark’s place, 13-year Pirate coach John Tully has turned to junior Kory Kemp, who has completed 57-percent (70-for-123) of passes for 710 yards (118.3 avg.) with 4 TDs and only 2 interceptions. He has also rushed for 116 yards and a pair of TDs. In the past 3 games, which Whitworth has won by a combined 126-28 score, Kemp is 23-for-33 passing for 228 yards and 2 TDs.

Whitworth’s primary attack comes from the ground where no less than 4 different Pirates have rushed for over 200 yards this season and are averaging at least 4 yards a carry (by comparison the Cougars have just 1 back over 200 yards — Alex Peltier at 408 — and no one averaging over 4 yards a carry). Three Pirates have tallied at least one 100-yard rushing game this season, led by University of Idaho transfer Adam Anderson, who currently tops the Northwest Conference with 593 yards on 92 carries (6.4 avg.), with a trio of 100-yard games. He rushed for a career-high 170 yards in the win over Pacific Lutheran.

When Kemp does pass, his favorite target is Goleta, California, native Steve Silva, who has a Northwest Conference-leading 38 grabs for 448 yards (11.8 avg.) and 1 TD. Jay Tully, son of head coach John Tully, is third with 7 receptions and 1 TD catch, but it was a big one — a 1-yard catch as time expired to give Whitworth a 23-21 victory at home over Wisconsin-Stout.

Defensively, Whitworth tops the Northwest Conference by allowing just 12.2 points and 352 yards a game. Senior LB Greg Caster leads the team 44 tackles, including 7.5 for loss.