After only two minutes and 40 seconds, APU jumped on Humboldt State from both sides of the ball for an early 13-0 lead. The two plays that were nearly back-to-back seemed to good to be true.
Unfortunately for the Cougars, it was.
On Saturday night in front of a crowd of 2,264 spectators, the APU Cougars fell to the Humboldt State Lumberjacks by the score of 24-20. The Cougars fell to a 0-7 record while the Jacks’ record improved to 6-2.
The Cougars scored on their first drive by way of an 8-yard pass from junior quarterback Nick Owens to junior tight end Kevin Schick. A 30-yard pass to senior wide receiver Wade Struiksma brought the Cougars into the red zone to set up the touchdown pass. The extra-point attempt was blocked. The score came after only two and a half minutes have gone by.
“It was a great start,” head coach Victor Santa Cruz said. “That was new for us, to gather a start like that and to be able to get [things] going. That’s when you’re starting to see this thing turn [around].”
Only 11 seconds later, Humboldt State freshman red-shirt quarterback Casey Mintz bobbled the snap from his center David Kulp, which resulted in a 19-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown by true freshman defensive end Matthew Hackett.
Saturday night’s game was Hackett’s first game starting at the collegiate level and he did not disappoint. Along with the fumble recovery, he picked up a sack and recorded eight total tackles on the night.
“That’s part of the evolution we’re starting to see with young guys growing up,” Santa Cruz said. “[Hackett] played a lot of snaps in the first half of the season, so to have that kind of guy now, playing the way he is, that’s exciting.”
Within the last five minutes of the first quarter, Humboldt State answered with two touchdowns of their own to end the first quarter with the lead 14-13.
The Lumberjacks’ offensive threat was focused on junior running back Nick Ricciardulli. He ran 45 times for a total of 251 yards rushing and caused problems for the Cougars all night.
Ricciardulli would carry his team down the field and Mintz would take advantage of the opportunities he had. Even though he only completed eight passes, two of them were for touchdowns and he averaged approximately 16 yards per completion.
Despite Ricciardulli’s stellar performance, the majority of his yardage was picked up in the first half. APU’s defense really stepped it up in the second half, only allowing a field goal after giving up 21 first half points.
“Defensively, we were able to step up,” Santa Cruz said. “Obviously, we blew a couple of defensive coverages and you don’t want that to happen, but I’m not going to go to bed mad tonight.”
Offensively, the Cougars could not get anything going in the second half and that was the key problem for this game. However, the team is still not worried about what is going to happen for the remainder of the season. This game marked the beginning of the second half of the season, and this fact is a great source of optimism for the team.
“We’re 0-1; that’s how we’re going to look at it,” Santa Cruz said. “Now we’re going into homecoming next week and we’re going to keep [moving forward].”
Sophomore running back Terrell Watson has seen how much this team has grown and is confident that they have good things in store for them.
“I look at the score from the last time we played them and we’re getting better at just driving and pushing that rock up the hill,” Watson said.
Watson had 21 carries for 117 yards and a touchdown on Saturday night and when asked how he consistently produces great games on the ground, he showed no hesitation in crediting his teammates.
“I don’t think about myself,” Watson said. “When I’m tired, I think about the guys next to me. I’m not playing for the stats or the score. I’m playing for every guys sweating next to me.”
Despite all of the adversity this team has faced, Watson’s words showed that he and his teammates are not giving up on each other.
Santa Cruz is aware of the things they have to work on as a team and knows now that the question they are answering is no longer, “Are you good enough?” but it is now, “Are we finding it?”
“As I look at the tape and make corrections, [I see] that we’re [doing a lot of] fine tuning,” Santa Cruz said. “That’s where you have got to keep progress going.”
Quarterback Nick Owens threw 14-29 for 137 yards and one touchdown. A top performer on defense for the Cougars was senior rover Spencer Danielson. He recorded 14 tackles on the night.
Next week’s game is the APU Homecoming game against GNAC leader Central Washington as the Cougars continue to fight for their first win of the season.
Tuesday, June 18th, 2013