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Boxers put another mark in 'W' column

Pacific football earns its first road victory since the program was reinstated in 2010


With the adversity of botched travel plans and injuries to two star players, it would have been easy for the Pacific football team to pack it in when it finally came time to take the field Saturday night.

Instead, the young team put together its most balanced scoring attack in two-plus years, and an impressive defensive effort paved the way for Pacific’s first road win since the reinstatement of the program, a 27-6 victory over Occidental in a non-conference football game at Jack Kemp Stadium.

Pacific finished with 356 yards of total offense, but the pass-minded attack put together 149 rushing yards, the highest total since 2010.

The ground game accounted for the Boxers’ first two scores with Deven McKinney and Bobby Ladiges finding the end zone in the second quarter. Ladiges led the Boxers with 58 yards on 14 carries.

P.J. Minaya, making his first start at quarterback since the 2010 season, completed 17 of 31 passes for 207 yards and a 46-yard touchdown pass to Darin Kamealoha in the fourth quarter. Minaya earned the start after T.C. Campbell was lost in the opener with a season-ending knee injury.

While Minaya may have had some first-quarter jitters, Pacific head coach Keith Buckley said the junior proved a lot on Saturday.

“He was trying to make things perfect instead of just playing catch,” Buckley said. “But what impressed me was how well he managed the game and managed the offense. He didn’t put us in bad positions.”

Pacific’s defense also played a major role in the victory. The Boxers finished with four sacks, including three by Landon Aano, and a pair of interceptions, one of which led to a 37-yard Moses Villareal-Gomez field goal in the second quarter. The Boxers also held the Tigers to minus-4 yards on the ground, flirting with the single-game school record.

The victory showed that the young Boxers have the ability to bounce back from adversity. The trip began with Pacific’s flight from Portland being delayed due to mechanical problems. The team did not arrive in Los Angeles until nearly midnight.

In addition to losing Campbell, Pacific’s injury woes were compounded when First Team All-Northwest Conference wide receiver Jordan Fukumoto went down in the second quarter with an apparent leg injury that required a stretcher to remove him from the field.

Despite the obstacles, Buckley defined the contest as a benchmark victory in the growth of the program, now in its third season.

“When we started this thing, there were benchmarks that we set out there and one of those was to win on the road,” he said. “That’s a big thing for us. To be on this trip, to play with a reduced travel squad and to have the adversity that we have dealt with this week, this is a big step.”

The first quarter proved to be a defensive battle with both teams giving up an interception and Occidental missing a 21-yard field goal. The Pacific defense produced great field position for the Boxers’ first scoring drive. Pacific started on the Tigers’ 33-yard line and needed just two plays score. Minaya found Fukumoto for a 28-yard reception to set up McKinney for a 5-yard scoring run with 12:22 to go in the half.

After an Occidental three-and-out, Minaya paced the Boxers for a nine-play, five-minute scoring drive. Minaya completed a 26-yard pass to Kamealoha and then a pair of 11-yard completions to Kelson Kawai to set up Ladiges’ 2-yard scamper that made it a 14-0 Pacific lead.

Sean Bangs intercepted Occidental quarterback Tommy Edwards to set up the Boxers’ final first half score as Villareal-Gomez kicked a 37-yard field goal with 18 seconds left, allowing Pacific to go into halftime with a 17-0 lead.

Villareal-Gomez made his second field goal on Pacific’s opening drive of the second half, nailing a 32-yarder to give the Boxers a 20-0 lead.

Occidental scored what proved to be their only points of the game on their next series when Edwards used a 3-yard quarterback keeper to cut the Pacific lead to 20-6.

That set up a grueling 11-play, 89-yard scoring drive that took the Boxers nearly seven minutes to complete. It ended with the longest play of the night as Minaya found Kamealoha for a 46-yard strike to secure the 27-6 final score.

Occidental had the ball in the red zone three times in the fourth quarter, but each time was turned away by a solid Pacific defense.

“The most impressive thing about the defense is when (Occidental) did get into the red zone, instead of laying down they bucked up,” Buckley said. “Other than their one score, we were solid. We had a couple of picks, forced a missed field goal and held strong on the goal line. They were clutch tonight.”

Edwards finished the night completing 31 of 48 passes for 329 yards, but was intercepted twice and sacked four times. Samuel Stekol led Occidental’s receiving corps with 144 yards on 10 catches.

Josh Brinkworth led the Pacific defense for the second straight week with nine tackles, including six solo efforts. Gabe Flory finished with six tackles while Kamu Morita and Bryan Mills each had five tackles.

Pacific will take its momentum into the first bye week of the season. The Boxers return to the field on Saturday, Sept. 22, as they travel to Willamette for a non-conference game at McCullough Stadium in Salem.