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September 10, 2011

Occidental football wins shootout in Tacoma

By Michael Wells
Sports Information Director

TACOMA, Wash. — There was more time spent in the end zone than in the huddle on Saturday.

In a run-and-gun matchup of two shotgun spread teams, the Loggers just couldn't hang with the Tigers.

The Occidental College football team rode quarterback Luke Collis and a balanced passing attack to a 30-12 road victory over the University of Puget Sound at Baker Stadium.  Offensively, both teams were a mirror image of each other, combining for over 100 passing attempts, but the seasoned Collis led a more polished Oxy attack.

"We were very efficient with our passing game and Luke did a nice job of spreading the ball around for some big plays," Occidental coach Dale Widolff said. "I was proud of the way all our guys competed today and as a result the game went in our favor."

Collis went 24-35 for 287 yards, completed passes of 10 or more yards to seven different receivers and tossed four touchdown passes — a pair to Matthew Tuckness, one to Bobby Phillips and another to Wes McDaniel. When the pocket collapsed on him, he was able to scramble in the backfield, buy time with his les and make precise throws in key third-down situations to keep drives alive.

"The truth is I was actually being a little careful with the ball," Collis said. "Some receivers just made some great plays and I got great protection."

If he was being cautious there was know evidence of it.

Just before the first half, Collis led a picture-perfect 69-yard two-minute drill that ended in his 17-yard touchdown pass to Phillips.

"If you blinked you would have missed it," Widolff said. "He made some plays on that drive, throwing the ball into tight windows, that you just don't see very often."

The offense was impressive, but it was the "bend, but don't break," defensive approach the Tigers (1-0) took that intercepted the Logger offense four times in the red zone, recovered a fumble, and turned UPS over on downs three times.

"They were able to move the ball a little bit against us defensively, but our guys made big plays in key situations," Widolff said. "Our defense came through any time we needed them to."

The most critical may have been Ayrton Bates' interception in the Tigers end zone with the score still close, 16-6, and UPS threatening after Loggers quarterback George Ka'ia completed a 29-yard pass to Tieler Souze, moving UPS to the Tigers nine. Bates picked off Ka'ai on the next play and stole the momentum back to the Oxy side for good.

"I had a feeling since they made that catch on the play before that they would come back to that side. I positioned myself where I thought they were going to throw it and they did," said Bates, who also led the team with 12 tackles. "I definitely thought it took the air out of them a little bit."

Going up against a similar offense daily in practice made it more comfortable for the Tigers to defend Puget Sound.

"I feel like we got a lot of practice against our own offense," Bates said. "In those situations it's just bend but don't break."

After the pick, Collis marched Oxy methodically down the field and hooked up with Tuckness for the pair's second score of the day.

"I would say we started out a little slow. We just had to get the rust off," Tuckness said. "Then Luke and I got on the same page and it really started coming together from there."

McDaniel, the Tigers running back, had 164 total yards, 85 rushing and 79 passing to go along with his touchdown reception.

In the first quarter the Tigers defense stopped Puget Sound's opening drive with a fourth-down stand from their own 25. Later in the second, Oxy again came up with another turnover on downs with the Loggers choosing to go for it rather than kick a 40-plus yard field goal.

UPS made it a game again with 11:36 left in the fourth quarter when Loggers quarterback George Ka'ai for Thiesn Chang for a 60-yard completion then wide receiver Adam Kniffin for a nine-yard touchdown pass.

Later in the fourth quarter defensive lineman Casey Shibuya sacked Ka'ai on fourth down at the Logger 10, shutting the door on UPS. The Tigers took over on downs and Collis hit McDaniel for a nine-yard touchdown on the next play.

John Hansbrough, Nate Proulx, Jordan Lance and Bates all had interceptions.

"It's nice to start the season with a road victory, but we know we have work to do," Widolff said. "We need to keep moving forward and prepare for Menlo next weekend."