AZUSA, Calif. -- Azusa Pacific, looking to build upon a terrific season of a year ago in which the Cougars advanced to the NAIA playoffs, has put together a 10-game schedule for 2011 that is certain to be even more exciting, offering a view of a couple of first-time foes, and the return of an old opponent.
Perhaps most appealing to Cougar fans is the fact that Azusa Pacific will play 7 games in Southern California, the most by an Azusa Pacific team in 9 years.
In fact, the Cougars play their first 6 games in Southern California, hosting the University of San Diego (Sept. 3) and the University of La Verne (Sept. 10) before taking a 30-minute drive south to visit Whittier College (Sept. 17). Azusa Pacific returns home to host Chapman University (Sept. 24) and Webber International University (Oct. 1) before McPherson College (Oct. 8) takes on the Cougars in a first-ever meeting between the 2 schools.
One of the most traveled programs over the past 6 years, Azusa Pacific doesn’t board a plane until Oct. 15 when the Cougars visit Dixie State in St. George, Utah.
The Cougars will be back on the plane the following weekend (Oct. 22) to St. Charles, Mo., where they face the one of the strongest competitors in the NAIA, Lindenwood University. After losing in the 2009 national championship game to Sioux Falls, Lindenwood came out in 2010 averaging 551 yards of total offense per game. The pass game of Lindenwood that averaged 358 yards per game will be matched by a strong Cougar defense that only allowed opponents to throw for 132 yards a contest last year.
Southern Oregon comes to Azusa Pacific for the Cougars’ homecoming game (Oct. 29). Azusa Pacific closes out the regular season at Menlo College (Nov. 5), visiting the Oaks in Atherton, Calif., for the first time since 1996.
Azusa Pacific looks to start the campaign like they it did last year with a big 42-14 win over San Diego, a Division I FCS team. The Cougars had lost to San Diego 5 straight years until QB John van den Raadt and RB Johnell Murphy combined for 314 rushing yards and 4 touchdowns, while the Cougar defense held USD to 42 yards of run game on the night.
La Verne, located just 15 minutes from the city of Azusa, was back on the Cougar schedule last year for the first time since 2003, and the Cougars’ 59-14 victory was a display of its depth, with 8 touchdowns scored by 8 different players. The Leopards will under new coaching in 2011.
Azusa Pacific will try to push its winning streak to 10 straight over Whittier when the Cougars visit the Poets in their first away game of the year. Van den Raadt threw for 249 yards and 3 TDs and rushed for 135 yards, tacking on another 2 TDs in last year’s 46-21 win. Whittier looks to improve this season with the hiring of a new head coach as well.
The Cougars host the Chapman for the first time since 2003. Azusa Pacific has the upper hand winning 8 out of the 13 match-ups between the 2 programs. The Division III Panthers, who fell to Azusa Pacific, 35-17 in Orange last year, finished just under .500.
Webber International, which handed Azusa Pacific its first loss of the 2010 season, will travel across the country to Los Angeles this year, after the Cougars packed up and went to Babson Park, Fla., in 2010. The 13-10 loss to Webber after a last second 54-yard field goal started a 3 game losing streak for Azusa Pacific before the Cougars rebounded to win out the final 3 regular-season games.
Azusa Pacific hosts McPherson, one of the stronger teams in the NAIA, in the first meetings between the 2 schools. McPherson finished the 2010 season the same way the Cougars did, losing in the first round of the NAIA championship tournament. The Bulldogs went without a loss in the regular season, never scoring less than 31 points in a game. Azusa Pacific’s defense will have to stop a McPherson offense that averaged 510 yards of total offense per game last season
The homecoming game on Oct 29 will prove to be another challenging match-up for Azusa Pacific when Southern Oregon comes to Southern California. Last year’s rainy night game showed the real strength and tenacity of the Cougar defense which posted 4 interceptions, 3 sacks, and held the strong SOU run game to just 50 yards. Southern Oregon will be under the direction of a new coach to provide new depth and a new look to the Raiders.
Menlo College in Atherton, Calif., has had a history with Azusa Pacific dating back to 1986. The last time the Cougars played the Oaks was in 2001, with a 23-12 win in favor of Azusa Pacific. Menlo, which went 4-7 last year, will be in its second year of scholarship football.