The Cougars sealed their second consecutive 10-win season Saturday with a 54-0 victory over NAIA opponent Menlo College. Despite the feat, however, the Cougars were not able to climb back into the top-six teams in Super Region Three and did not receive a playoff berth in Sunday’s selection show.
Head coach Victor Santa Cruz expressed disappointment with the news in Monday’s press conference, however, also noted hope moving forward with back-to-back conference titles.
“The program is [moving] in the right direction to becoming what we want – a nationally dominant football program,” Santa Cruz said.
Senior running back Terrell Watson’s 338-yard and five-touchdown rushing effort on Saturday placed him again at college football’s national rushing lead across all divisions. His 259-yard second half broke the Division II record for single-half rushing yards and earned him the 13th spot on the Division II single-season rushing yardage list with 2,153.
Freshman quarterback Chad Jeffries rushed 68 yards for the Cougars’ first touchdown less than five minutes into the first quarter. Watson rushed for his first TD with 11:30 remaining in the second quarter.
The Azusa Pacific defense forced six turnovers and intercepted the Oaks’ freshman quarterback, Josh Neal, five times. Junior linebacker Greg Erhart returned the third interception 48 yards to extend the Cougars’ lead to 21-0 before the end of the first half.
Watson scored a pair of touchdowns on back-to-back possessions after senior cornerback Ronald Douglas intercepted Neal and returned the ball 26 yards to the Cougars’ 35-yard line. Watson’s 62-yard touchdown rush concluded the drive, increasing the team’s lead to 35-0. The running back produced another pair of touchdowns in the fourth quarter, which, combined with a team safety and junior kicker Jamie Cacciatore’s third-quarter field goal, ended the game at 54-0.
Jeffries connected with senior wide receiver Tanner Henry four times for 42 yards, ending the night with 51 passing yards and 139 rushing yards.
The Cougar defense sacked Neal five times and recorded nine tackles for loss. Senior Pasiaka Fahina led the defensive line with seven tackles while senior free safety Tyler Thornton tacked on six to his two-interception performance. Senior linebacker Steven Fanua also registered an interception with five tackles followed by senior strong safety Andre Myles with four tackles and a recovered fumble for the sixth forced turnover.
“Going to playoffs or not – we left a legacy here,” Watson said after Saturday’s win.