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Cougars' Gridiron Closeout

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November 12, 2009
Gary Pine

Cougar Football: Langston at Azusa Pacific
Date & Site: Saturday, Nov. 14, 6 p.m. (PDT)
Cougar Stadium, Azusa, Calif.

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THIS WEEK: After a week layoff, Azusa Pacific returns to the gridiron to close out the 2009 campaign at home with a first-ever encounter with Langston University. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m. (PST) at Cougar Stadium.

SERIES NOTES: Though this is the first-ever meeting between Azusa Pacific and Langston, the Cougars are 2-1 vs. Langston’s Central State Football League mates. The Cougars downed NAIA power Northwestern Oklahoma State, 16-0, in Alva, Okla., to open the 2004 playoffs. Azusa Pacific closed the 2006 season with a 17-10 overtime loss at Southern Nazarene University. The following season, in 2007, the Cougar avenged the setback by hammering SNU, 38-7, in Azusa.

KEY GAME: Azusa Pacific has been here many times before, though on the other side of the fence. Langston needs to win Saturday’s game to assure itself a spot in the upcoming 16-team NAIA playoffs, which get underway Nov. 21. At No. 14 in the latest NAIA Coaches’ Poll, the Lions can’t afford a loss and risk of dropping out of the Top 20 and consideration for a playoff berth. The final NAIA poll and the eventual playoff field will be announced Sunday (Nov. 15) by noon (PST). The Cougars found themselves in similar situations, having to win the regular-season finale to clinch a playoff berth, in 1985, 1999, 2000, 2003 and 2005. They succeeded in all of them but 1985.

GAME OF THE WEEK: College Fanz Sports Network will videostream the Azusa Pacific-Langston game live over the Internet as its NAIA Game of the Week. Launched by ESPN found Bill Rasmussen, College Fanz has traveled across the country each week bringing the NAIA Game of the Week to the Internet, beginning back on Aug. 26 with the First Down Classic Doubleheader. Since then, the colorful Fanz Van, manned by Jason Dannelly, director of college relations for College Fanz, has traveled to Shorter, Ga., and Helena, Mont., with 7 weekly stops in between. Saturday’s game is the farthest west College Fanz has travelled for a broadcast. College Fanz will open its broadcast Saturday afternoon with its pregame broadcast in the vicinity of Cougar Stadium before moving to the press box for the game. Following the game, College Fanz will award $1,000 to the general scholarship fund of each school in the recognition of the players of the game.

THE SENIOR CLASS: Azusa Pacific will recognize 9 seniors in pregame ceremonies prior to the kickoff of Saturday’s game vs. Langston. Those players include 2-year Cougars: RB Chris Brown, LB Sal Gutierrez, DE Andrew Leasau, center Louis Magallon and DL/HB James Brunt; 3-year Cougar LB Joe LaPorta; and 4-year Cougars: PK Ben Hansen, SS Brent Willard and NG Eric Augustine (missed the entire 2009 season with a back injury). Willard will be appearing in his 40th game come Saturday, the most of any current Cougar. Hansen, who is Azusa Pacific’s career leader with 38 made field goals, is third on Azusa Pacific’s all-time scoring list with 194 points.

DIRECTORS’ CUP CEREMONY: Learfield Sports in conjunction with the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics (NACDA) will present Azusa Pacific the Directors’ Cup for 2008-09 during halftime ceremonies of Saturday’s game vs. Langston. Longtime Fresno State and UC Santa Barbara athletics director and former UCLA basketball coach Gary Cunningham will present Azusa Pacific athletics director Bill Odell and the Cougar student-athletes its fifth straight Directors’ Cup, representative of the university of being the NAIA’s top athletics program last year.

YOUNGER THAN YOUNG: Through 10 games this season, 67 Cougars have seen action on the field. Of those 67, 39 are underclassmen, 23 are freshmen (redshirt or true) and 27 are first-year Cougars (true-freshmen and transfers).

QUICK HITS: Senior RB Chris Brown had season-high 32 touches (29 rushes, 1 reception, 1 pass attempt) at Central Washington, 1 shy of his career-high. All 8 of his rushing TDs this year have come in the past 8 games … He had a 44-yard TD run vs. Trinity, the longest run from scrimmage this season by a Cougar … Sophomore QB John van den Raadt’s 383 rushing yards this season are the most by a Cougar QB since Russ Carroll rushed for exactly 600 yards in 1969 … Junior LB Jay York, who will starting his 29th consecutive game this week, is the first Cougar since All-American Stephen Holte in 2005 to tally 100 tackles in the a season … York is currently fourth in the NAIA with 114 tackles … The Cougars have surrendered 69 points off 15 turnovers in the past 8 games … They committed 4 turnovers in 3 different games (UW-La Crosse, Central Washington, Humboldt State) … The 12 pass attempts at Central Washington are the fewest since Azusa Pacific went 6-for-10 for 81 yards vs. Humboldt State, Oct. 14, 2006 … Conversely, the 50 rushing attempts vs. CWU are the most since 61 carries by the 2005 Cougars vs. Valley City State (N.D.), Nov. 10, 2005 … Azusa Pacific broke a school-record 8-game road losing streak with the win at Trinity … Redshirt freshman Luke Marquardt is the tallest Cougar in program history at 6-foot-10 … After playing tight end the first 8 games of the season, Marquardt will start at tackle against Langston … Cougar CB Paul Roster is the younger brother of former USC great and Tampa Bay Buccaneer tailback Mazio Royster … Senior DB Jordan Thoma is the cousin of current Ohio State punter Jon Thoma ... Sophomore LB Brandon Beckwith’s father (Dennis) played basketball at Azusa Pacific … Sophomore TE Tyson Hetzer’s father (Charlie) was also a tight end for Azusa Pacific in the mid-1980s.

CONNECTIONS: Saturday’s game will be a homecoming for 4 Langston players and 1 coach who return to their Southern California roots. Junior WR Stephen Kemp (Riverside Notre Dame HS), sophomore OL Justin Williams (Santa Monica HS), sophomore OL Jonathan Solomon (Los Angeles Fairfax HS), and freshman OL Aaron Thomas (Los Angeles Fairfax HS) all prepped at Southern California high schools. Lion assistant Monterio Witherspoon, a Los Angeles Dorsey High grad, was on the 2007 Azusa Pacific staff.

ABOUT THE LIONS: After going 10-3 last year and advancing to the NAIA quarterfinals, Langston is gunning for its first back-to-back NAIA playoff appearances since the 1993-94 campaigns. The youthful and speed-reliant Lions returned 38 players from last year, including 5 all-conference players to an offense that is currently averaging 32 points and 362 yards a game. Arguably the finest running back Azusa Pacific will face this, sophomore Carlos Ross is the central figure of the Langston offense. The do-everything back needs just 16 yards to become the sixth player in the NAIA this year to eclipse the 1,000-yard rushing plateau. He is averaging 109 yards a game and nearly 6 yards a carry. He has rushed for over 100 yards in 5 of the past 6 games, including a career-high 164 on 28 carries in the victory over Incarnate Word. Yet he is not just a rusher either. Ross also tops the team with 31 receptions for for 388 yards (12. 5 avg.). Sophomore Darrion Lewis has taken over at quarterback this year has passed for 1,454 yards and 14 TDs and collected another 304 yards and 5 TDs on the ground. In back-to-back late season wins over Texas College and Southern Nazarene, Lewis threw for a combined 635 yards and 6 TDs on 35-for-55 passing, including a career-high 342 yards vs. SNU. Yet another sophomore leads the Lion defense, which is currently fourth in the NAIA in total defense, allowing just 238 yards a game. Lineman Dominque Turner is eighth in the NAIA tackles for loss (14) and 13th in quarterback sacks (7.5) despite missing 2 games. In the win over Southern Nazarene , he collected 8 tackles, 4 of which were for loss including 3 sacks.