Author: Mirin Fader
The Occidental Football team (1-1) lost their home opener against Menlo College (3-0) on Sept. 17 by a score of 41-17. After winning their first game 30-12 on the road at the University of Puget Sound last weekend, the Tigers struggled to contain the visiting Oaks on the offensive end.
Before the game, Head Coach Dale Widolff emphasized the importance of taking care of the ball. “We can’t turn the ball over. The offensive and defensive lines have to step up,” he said.
However, in their Patterson Field debut, they did not meet their goals. The Tigers gave up four costly turnovers and had little success on the ground as Menlo rushed for 203 yards as opposed to Occidental’s 48.
In the first quarter, the Tigers opened the scoring with a seven-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Luke Collis (senior) to wide receiver Bobby Phillips (senior). The scoring strike pushed Occidental’s lead to 7-3 with 1:21 minutes left in the first quarter. Unfortunately for the Tigers, the offense ran dry and did not put the ball in the endzone again until the final quarter of the game.
Meanwhile, Menlo scored two of their five total touchdowns in the second quarter. Within the opening seconds of the period, Menlo ran a trick play in which wide receiver Robert Adan (junior) completed a 27-yard pass to fellow wide receiver Mike Alexander (sophomore) resulting in Menlo’s first touchdown of the night giving the Oaks a 10-7 lead.
With 13:40 minutes left in the first half, running back Thomas Reynolds (sophomore), who rushed for a game high 134 yards, plunged in from eight yards out for a touchdown, stretching the Oaks’ lead to 17-7.
Menlo kicker Kevin Kurtz (sophomore) kicked a 25-yard field goal with 4:23 minutes left in the half to put the Oaks up 20-7. The Tigers responded with a 32-yard field goal by Josh Mun (senior) with 2:00 minutes left in the period, cutting the lead to 20-10.
Going into the third quarter, the Tigers looked to close the gap. Menlo, however, tacked on another touchdown with 7:38 minutes left in the third quarter off of a 10 yard pass from quarterback Matt Pelasasa (junior) to Adan, extending the lead to 27-10. Pelasasa passed for 155 yards and rushed for one touchdown in the game.
Menlo scored two touchdowns in their explosive fourth quarter. Pelasasa rushed for a 22-yard run with 8:02 minutes left in the game to push the Oaks’ lead to 34-10. Running back Jake Fohn (first-year) scored off a four yard run with 4:52 minutes left in the game, which gave Menlo a commanding 41-10 lead.
The Tigers had the final say as Collis, who capped his night with 235 yards and two touchdowns, and Rodriguez hooked up for a 14-yard touchdown. It was to no avail, however, as the Tigers fell to the Oaks by a final count of 41-17.
Occidental wide receiver Matt Tuckness (junior) stressed the team’s mentality to consistently improve in league play. “As a team we are always looking to improve every day,” Tuckness said.
“We have to continually get better throughout the year if we want to achieve our goal of winning SCIAC.”
Collis echoes Tuckness’ comments and, as a captain of the team, Collis embraces his leadership role. “Our goal is to win the SCIAC. The way that I can help is to be a leader and mentor to the younger guys. They need to be brought along to realize what is at stake for the program and for the seniors,” he said.
Coach Widolff accentuated the need for team unity and illustrated his expectations for the more talented players. “We like to call [the seniors] servant leaders because it’s not a privilege, but a responsibility, to mentor our younger players on and off the field,” Widolff said.
He went on to say that the Tigers are working to overcome their lack of depth and experience this season. “One of our challenges for this year is depth,” Widolff said. “Our squad size is much smaller, so we need our young guys to improve at a rapid rate.”
Despite the loss to Menlo, the team continues to work hard, motivated by last season’s 4-5 record and failure to make the playoffs. The Tigers will look to avenge the loss to Menlo in their next game at Whittier College on Oct. 1 at 7:00 p.m.
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