GLENDORA, Calif. -- Senior linebacker Spencer Danielson’s 96-yard blocked field-goal return as time expired in the first half capped a 20-point scoring outburst over the final 5:26 of the second quarter, and the NAIA’s No. 14-ranked Azusa Pacific cruised to a 43-7 win over Chapman Saturday night at Citrus Stadium.
Senior quarterback John van den Raadt threw for a season-high 221 yards, and the Cougars rushed for another 257, but Danielson’s return at the end of the half was the highlight that stuck out for an Azusa Pacific defense that turned in its third consecutive standout performance, holding Chapman to a single score and just 261 yards of offense on the night.
After Chapman had driven from its own 11-yard line into the red zone in the final 3:06 of the second quarter, the Panthers took their final timeout of the half with just one second left on the clock to set up a fourth-down 33-yard field-goal attempt. The Cougars were able to penetrate the line with pressure up the middle, and junior defensive end Matthew Moody was the one who tipped the ball into the air where it bounced down to the four-yard line. Danielson scooped it up there and took off towards the right sideline behind a wall of Cougar blockers. He used a pair of early blocks to break free down the sideline, eventually out-racing one last pursuer into the end zone for the score.
A successful field goal would have pulled Chapman to within 17-3, but the block and return represented a nine-point swing heading into halftime. It also capped a late second-quarter flurry in which Azusa Pacific doubled its entire first-half offensive output to that point with a pair of touchdown drives in a span of just over three minutes. Held to just 96 yards so far when they took over at their own 41-yard line with 6:16 to play in the second quarter, van den Raadt found senior wide receiver Matt Davis for a quick screen to the right. Davis broke a tackle near midfield and got past the secondary for a 52-yard scoring strike that pushed the lead to 10-0 on a two-play, 59-yard scoring drive.
Freshman Terrel Watson forced a fumble on the ensuing kickoff, and van den Raadt hit senior tight end Tyson Hetzer for a 19-yard gain and senior wide receiver Jeremiah Andujo for the final 16-yard touchdown reception on a five-play, 39-yard drive that gave the Cougars a 17-0 lead with 3:13 left in the second quarter. Danielson’s return made the halftime score 23-0 (the point-after was unsuccessful).
Chapman drove 61 yards on 13 plays for a touchdown on its opening drive of the second half, cutting the lead to 23-7 with six minutes left in the third quarter, but all it took was two big rushing plays for Azusa Pacific to get those seven points back. Junior running back David Trifeletti ran for 29 yards on the opening play of the ensuing drive, and junior running back Johnell Murphy took it the remaining 33 yards for a score, pushing the lead back to 30-7 with the two-play, 62-yard scoring drive that took just 37 seconds.
The Chapman touchdown snapped the Azusa Pacific defense’s streak of six consecutive quarters without allowing a touchdown, a span of more than 106 minutes going back to the fourth quarter of the Cougars’ 65-14 win over La Verne Sept. 10. The Cougars registered eight tackles for loss against Chapman, and Danielson (eight tackles) was one of six different players with at least seven tackles. He also had an interception in the final minute of the third quarter that halted a 50-yard Chapman drive. Sophomore linebacker Jacob Henderson recorded a team-high nine tackles, including one for loss.
A 175-yard fourth quarter featured two more Azusa Pacific scoring drives. Junior running back Oliver Petty capped an eight-play, 76-yard drive with a 13-yard scoring dash that extended the lead to 36-7 with 8:45 remaining in the game, and van den Raadt connected with Hetzer over the middle for a 53-yard scoring strike with 4:42 to play for the final 43-7 margin.
Van den Raadt’s season-high 221 yards passing came on a 14-of-25 performance with three touchdowns and no interceptions. He spread the ball around evenly to four different receivers, delivering four catches each to Hetzer (108 yards) and Davis (71 yards), plus three receptions to both Andujo and Tanner Henry.
Henry also came down with what would have been a 60-yard catch on a leaping grab over a defensive back at the Chapman one-yard line, but the play was called back due to a holding penalty that effectively ended the Cougars’ opening drive of the second half. The Cougars also had two scoring plays erased to penalties on their opening drive, instead settling for an Eric DeLira 39-yard field goal to take the early 3-0 lead. Azusa Pacific was whistled for nine penalties totaling 103 yards in the game.
Trifeletti was the Cougars’ rushing leader with 99 yards on 10 carries, including three rushes of 20-plus yards, and Murphy added 81 yards on eight carries with a touchdown.
Chapman’s leading rusher was Chad Milburn, who managed 43 yards on 11 carries. Quarterbacks Bret Visciglia and Michael Lahey split time behind center, combining for 148 passing yards on 17-of-30 passing. Visciglia threw for the Panthers’ lone score, and he also threw the interception in a 10-for-20, 78-yard effort.
With the win, Azusa Pacific improves to 3-1 on the season, while Chapman falls to 1-1. The Cougars take on their first NAIA foe next week, hosting Webber International (Fla.) University to kick off the month of October with a 6 p.m. matchup on Saturday, Oct. 1. Last year, Webber handed Azusa Pacific its first defeat with a 54-yard field goal with 15 seconds left for the 13-10 win in Florida.
HIGHLIGHTS & POST-GAME INTERVIEWS