GLENDORA, Calif. – Senior QB Josh Riddell threw for 328 yard and 3 touchdowns to lead Western Oregon University to a 27-6 nonconference victory over Azusa Pacific University, Saturday evening at Citrus Stadium.
Riddell threw scoring strikes of 9, 24 and 25 yards, the last 2 coming in the third quarter, to help jettison the Wolves past a stingy Azusa Pacific defense that had slowed WOU’s offensive attack through much of the first half.
Ridell engineered numerous big pass plays, particularly on third down, to constantly frustrate Cougar defenders. Specifically, he converted no less than 4 third-down plays in which WOU had at least 10 yards to go for the first down. None may have been bigger than a third-and-11 that the Wolves squirted out of when Riddell scrambled to his left and then threw back to his right across the field to a wide open Justin Ore for a 21-yard pick-up. Six plays later, two of which were additional 27- and 28-yard passes to Ore, Riddell connected with D.J. Jackson on a 9-yard TD strike that gave Western Oregon a 7-3 lead early in the second quarter. The Wolves never trailed again.
Azusa Pacific was sharp on its opening drive of the game, moving 74 yards on 11 plays. Sophomore QB John van den Raadt picked up 36 yards with some nifty running on 4 carries and collected another 31 on a pair of completions. However, as has been the case throughout much of the season, the Cougar drive stalled in the red zone, and Azusa Pacific had to settle for a 25-yard Ben Hansen field goal and an early 3-0 lead.
The Western Oregon defense adjusted and the rest of the night kept containment on van den Raadt, limiting him to minus-6 yards rushing on his final 8 carries.
Riddell, meanwhile, developed a pattern of picking on the Cougar cornerbacks, and early in the third quarter he hit Trevor Gates on a 44-yard bomb down the left side. He followed with a 24-yard TD pass to Ore to give Western Oregon some breathing room at 13-3.
With some hardnosed running by Chris Brown and aided by a facemask penalty got to the Wolves 30-yard line, Azusa Pacific answered with a Hansen 43-yard field goal, the 36th of his career (in just 43 attempts) to tie Devon Jones’ (1978-81) school career record for most field goals made.
Western Oregon’s Tirrell Thompson, who didn’t have a carry in the first half, came off the bench midway through the third quarter and picked up 44 yards on 3 consecutive rushes to get the Wolves deep into Cougar territory. Riddell then found Sean Fullerton in the end zone where he made an excellent catch over Cougar CB Tito Spilsbury for a 25-yard TD and a 20-6 WOU lead.
Late in the game, Tirrell closed out the scoring when he barrowed up the middle 5 yards for his first collegiate touchdown.
Azusa Pacific was hampered in its attack by a pair of van den Raadt interceptions in the end zone.
With the Cougars still up 3-0 midway through the first quarter, junior LB Jay York picked off Riddell with an impressive diving, juggling pick at the Cougar 42-yard line. A 33-yard van den Raadt-to-Matt Davis pass put the ball at the WOU 8-yard line. However, 2 plays later, Western Oregon safety Bryan Huber snagged an ill-advised van den Raadt pass in the corner of the end zone to end the threat.
With the Cougars down 20-7, Azusa Pacific fashioned a lengthy drive that cut across the third and fourth quarters, but on second down at the WOU 14-yard line, van den Raadt found himself under pressure and sorely under-threw a pass into the end zone that Western Oregon’s Andy Jackson collected and returned 31 yards up the gut to end the Cougars’ last good threat to get back into the game.
Western Oregon, which was making its first appearance in Southern California in 10 years, finished with 419 yards of total offense. Ore had 5 receptions for 113 yards, while Fullerton registred 4 grabs for 74 yards. Thompson tallied a game-high 89 rushing yards on 12 carries, all in the second half.
Azusa Pacific managed just 172 yards of total offense, and just 98 on 40 plays after the Cougars’ opening drive of the game. Brown tallied 50 rushing yard on 17 carries, and van den Raadt completed 12-of-22 passes for 90 yards.
Spilsbury led Azusa Pacific with a career-high 10 tackles. York had 7 takedowns. He nearly collected his second interception of the game that certainly would have resulted in a TD when he took an angle to cut off a Riddell sideline pass, but he let the ball slip through his hands and into those of a waiting Fullerton, who sprinted up field to the WOU 34-yard line for another Wolves first down following a third-and-long situation.
In all, Western Oregon converted 9-of-16 third downs, while the Cougars turned just 2-of-10 third downs into first downs.
With the loss, Azusa Pacific falls to 1-8, while Western Oregon improves to 4-4.