ST. GEORGE, Utah -- A lightning storm delayed Azusa Pacific’s football conference opener at Dixie State for two hours and 14 minutes, but junior tailback Terrell Watson and the Cougar offense picked up where the storm left off with three second-quarter touchdown strikes in a 36-20 victory Saturday.
The victory extends Azusa Pacific’s Great Northwest Athletic Conference winning streak to five games after the Cougars finished 2012 with four consecutive victories.
Watson, who entered the game needing 35 yards to become the eighth Cougar to surpass 2,000 career rushing yards, hit the milestone midway through his 54-yard scoring run on the opening series to give Azusa Pacific a 6-0 lead less than two minutes into the game. That score held up into the second quarter, which is when a lightning strike within 10 miles of Hansen Stadium began the lengthy weather delay. Teams and fans cleared the stadium to wait out the storm, and when play resumed over two hours later, the Cougars finished off an eight-play, 68-yard scoring drive with senior quarterback Nick Owens’ nine-yard touchdown run.
Dixie State answered with a no-huddle offense that marched 81 yards in five plays to cut the lead to 13-7, but Owens took to the air to find sophomore wide receivers Tanner Henry and Mike Martens for touchdown passes of 23 and 17 yards in the final 1:22 of the half to give Azusa Pacific a 26-7 halftime lead.
Watson, who finished with 165 yards rushing on 17 carries, added his second touchdown of the game with a 10-yard run that pushed the lead to 33-7 with 1:28 to play in the third quarter. Sophomore kicker Jamie Cacciatore, who nailed a 24-yard game-winning field goal in the closing seconds of Azusa Pacific’s 23-21 win in last year’s visit to Dixie State, finished off the Cougar scoring with a 52-yarder less than two minutes into the fourth quarter to extend the lead to 36-7.
Watson now has a streak of four consecutive games with at least 165 yards rushing, and he has rushed for a touchdown in eight straight games dating back to last season. His career total is now 2,130 yards, which ranks seventh on the Cougars’ all-time rushing list.
Owens, meanwhile, completed 14-of-17 passes for 163 yards and a pair of touchdowns, with Martens posting game-highs of six receptions and 92 yards with a score.
The Cougar defense limited Dixie State’s dual-threat quarterback Griff Robles to 22 rushing yards on 11 attempts, and he finished 17-of-30 for 212 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Despite the elusive mobility of Robles, Azusa Pacific registered five sacks on the night, plus six more tackles for loss. Senior defensive end Matt Moody led the way with two sacks for 10 yards, and the Cougars also picked up turnovers both on the ground and through the air with a Sean Barber fumble recovery and a David Smith interception.
With the win, Azusa Pacific evens its overall record to 1-1 and improves to 1-0 in GNAC play, while Dixie State drops to 0-2 overall and 0-1 GNAC. The Cougars host Humboldt State at Citrus Stadium next week in the 2013 home opener.