Pacific shrugs off its first loss of the season with a 21-6 victory against the University of Chicago

by: NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: AMANDA MILES - Pacific running back Bobby Ladiges (32) follows the block of teammate Jordan Fukumoto during Saturday's 21-6 nonconference victory against the University of Chicago.Previous editions of the Pacific football team might well have lost this one.

Playing a clock-chewing University of Chicago opponent in nonconference action at Lincoln Park Stadium on Saturday afternoon, the Boxers earned fewer first downs and total yardage than the Maroons. They possessed the ball on offense much less, too — barely more than a third of the game’s 60 minutes.

And yet somehow, some way, this sterling season kept rolling along. Pacific made the most of its offensive possessions, scoring on three of its first eight, and a stiff Boxers defense allowed just one Chicago touchdown in a 21-6 victory. Deven McKinney led the way with two rushing scores.

“We know we’re going to have to play better in these final three games to do some of the things we’d like to do,” Pacific head coach Keith Buckley said. “At the end of the day, you gotta look at the scoreboard and think, ‘Great, we ensured a winning season.’

“Four years ago when I took the job, a winning season in year four, I’d have said, ‘Done, take it.’ Now that we’re here, we’re not satisfied. We continue to raise the expectation bar of not just the players, but ourselves as coaches in everything that we do. There’s a lot we can get better at and we’ll continue to get better at it.”

The Boxers moved to 6-1 overall and hit yet another milestone in a season replete with them by securing, as Buckley mentioned, a winning season — the program’s first since 1987, before any player on this year’s roster was born.

That growth has not gone unnoticed in college football circles, as Pacific sat just three spots out of the Top 25 in this week’s AFCA Coaches Division III national poll.

“There wasn’t a doubt in my mind when I met the coaching staff as a freshman that this would be a winning program before I left,” McKinney said.

However, there was some doubt as to who would be the victor for much of Saturday’s contest. McKinney had plenty to do with making sure it swung in Pacific’s favor.

The junior running back finally broke the deadlock on the scoreboard with a 6-yard rush in the second quarter. The drive started early in the stanza at Pacific’s 32-yard-line. P.J. Minaya jump-started the offense by completing all five of his passing attempts, helping set up McKinney’s plunge up the middle with 9:35 left in the half.

With both teams trading missed field goal attempts — the Maroons (5-2) on their second drive of the opening period and the Boxers late in the half — Pacific took that tenuous 7-0 advantage into the locker room for intermission.

Then they cashed in, scoring on the opening drive of the second half. Starting from the 37, the Boxers set the tone with a 17-yard rush from Gunther Schultze and a 22-yard pass completion from T.C. Campbell to Jakob Lawrence.

Three plays later, Campbell made the big play with his legs to preserve the drive. On a third-and-5 on the Maroon 19, the junior quarterback fumbled the snap. Instead of the play turning disastrous for the home side, Campbell made the most of it, scooping up the ball and finding a lane up the middle for 11 yards, breaking a tackle or two along the way.

Two plays later, Campbell found Lawrence in the end zone for an 8-yard scoring strike and a 14-0 lead.

“The key was to be efficient, because we knew that they were going to control the ball, they were going to take a lot of time off of the clock,” said Campbell, who was 3-of-4 for 34 yards and rushed for 31 yards on two carries. “So when we did have possessions, we knew we had to score and put the ball in the end zone.”

With the way they held onto the ball, the Maroons continued to stick around though. They finally cashed in on the next possession, which started on their own 10-yard line. Chicago consumed most of the rest of the quarter by embarking on a 19-play drive that lasted 10:27 and was capped by Zak Ross-Nash’s 1-yard run into the end zone.

That turned out to be all the points the visitors would get, as Pacific’s special teams unit blocked Karol Kurzydlowski’s point-after try and the Boxers shut them out the rest of the way.

McKinney capped the scoring with a 5-yard touchdown run with 10:26 left in the game to put Pacific back up by two scores.

“That’s been the story of the season a little bit, is kind of establishing the ground game,” said McKinney, who ran nine times for 46 yards. “We’ve known we’ve had a stable of backs. It’s not just one guy. We’ve had a lot of really good backs. This year we figured it out and we’re establishing the run game, and we hope to build on it next week.”

On the Maroons’ next possession, Pacific defense’s snuffed out a 15-play, nearly eight-minute drive, forcing Chicago to turn the ball over on downs on the Boxers’ 19-yard line. It marked the fifth time in the contest that the visitors drove to the Pacific 32 or closer, though they scored just the one time.

“When you play teams like that, they’re going to take that air out, and then they’re going to take their shots up over the top and try and catch you,” Buckley said. “And our guys did a really good job of not falling into that trap. We had to battle and fight. We buckled down when we got down there.”

P.J. Minaya led the Boxers’ air attack, going 8-of-11 for 114 yards. Schultze added a team-high 54 rushing yards on eight carries, while Jordan Fukumoto had four catches for 56 yards. Bryan Mills led the defense with 10 total tackles.

The Boxers are home again this weekend, as they return to Northwest Conference action Saturday afternoon against Lewis & Clark (1-6, 1-3). The Pioneers were torched 84-7 last week at Linfield. Kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m.

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