ADRIAN, Mich. – The defense set the tone for the biggest win thus far in the renaissance of the Pacific football program Friday night, forcing three turnovers in a 20-10 victory over Adrian at Performance Stadium.
Craig Bailey (Sr., Fairfield, Calif.) had two of the turnovers, intercepting two passes in the first half that led directly to Pacific touchdowns. His first pick came on just the third play of the game, which seemed to set the tone for the night for the Boxers.
With the victory, Pacific (1-0) won its first season opener since a 21-14 win over Simon Fraser that opened the 1990 season. The win came against an Adrian team that is the defending Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Conference champion and returned most of their starters on a defense that ranked seventh in NCAA Division III last season in total defense.
"To get a legitimate win against a team of that caliber is great for our program," said Pacific head coach Keith Buckley. "Our slogan this year is higher expectations, and those expectations are purely of themselves. It wasn't about what Adrian was doing to us. It was about what we were doing ourselves to win a game like that."
Pacific outgained Adrian (0-1) on offense 300-229 and finished the night with 206 yards in the air. The Boxers also won the time of possession battle, holding onto the ball for over 33 minutes and for all but five minutes of the fourth quarter.
Quarterback P.J. Minaya (Sr., Wahiawa, Hawaii) completed 19 of 29 passes for 206 yards and two touchdowns. Blake Anthony (Jr., Valencia, Calif.) led receivers with 49 yards on five catches. Jakob Lawrence (Jr., Sherwood, Ore.) and Jordan Fukumoto (Jr., Mililani, Hawaii) each had 47 yards. Fukumoto had one of the Boxers' two passing touchdowns in his return to the field after missing much of 2012 with a broken leg.
Gunther Schultze (Sr,. Bellflower, Calif.) led Pacific on the ground, running 13 times for 53 yards and a touchdown.
The story of the night, however, was the defense. In addition to the three turnovers, Pacific limited Adrian to 229 yards of total offense and did not allow the Bulldogs an offensive touchdown. "They did some stuff we didn't see off of film from last year and we had to make some adjustments," Buckley said. "Adrian kept us off balance all night and the defense did a great job of adjusting, coming up with turnovers and putting us in some great field position."
Punter Aaron Koford (Sr., Wilsonville, Ore.) played a key role in the field position game. Of his six punts, five were downed inside the 20-yard line. On three occasions, the Bulldogs found themselves starting from inside their own five-yard line. "We cannot understate how big Aaron was tonight," Buckley said. "When we can play that kind of field position game, a lot of good things can happen for our football team."
After winning the coin flip and deferring to the second half, Pacific needed only three plays to set up the offense as Bailey intercepted Adrian quarterback Drew Collins and ran back to the Bulldogs' 21-yard line. Schultze had all four touches on the ensuing drive, putting the Boxers up 6-0 with a one-yard run just 3 minutes, 35 seconds into the game.
Adrian would score its only touchdown off of Pacific's next drive when Jack Carter blocked Koford's punt at the Boxers' 40-yard line and ran it back for the score at the 7:23 mark. After the extra point, the Bulldogs enjoyed what would be their only lead of the night at 7-6.
Despite good field position on nearly every series, the Boxers did not score again until late in the second quarter. Bailey's second interception with 4:30 left in the half set up a six-play, 42-yard drive that ended with Minaya finding Bobby Ladiges (Jr., Escalon, Calif.) for a 15-yard passing touchdown. The score with 1:04 left gave Adrian just enough time to set up a scoring opportunity, but Ben Klaver's 39-yard field goal attempt as time expired was wide left and Pacific went into the locker room with a 13-7 lead.
The Bulldogs saw a 13-play, 67-yard drive to open the second half stunted by a solid Pacific goal-line stand that ended with Dustin Salliotte kicking a 20-yard field goal that brought Adrian within 13-10.
Pacific tacked on their final scoring on the next drive as Minaya found Fukumoto with a 42-yard scoring pass with 1:51 left in the quarter that cemented the final score of 20-10.
Adrian had only two chances to bring the offense on the field in the fourth quarter. The Pacific defense held strong, forcing three-and-out on their first drive and stunting the second drive on the Pacific 41-yard line to effectively end the game.
Collins completed 11 of 17 passes for 60 yards and also rushed for 61 yards to lead Adrian. Nathan Hartline caught four passes for 32 yards. Deontae Bridgeman led Adrian of defense with nine tackles.
Bryan Mills (Sr., Imbler, Ore.) and Jack Perez (So., Petaluma, Calif.) each had seven tackles for the Boxers, with Perez recovering a fumble in the second quarter. Josh Brinkworth (Jr., Elk Grove, Calif.), Eddie Carrillo (Jr., Milpitas, Calif.) and Shane Feuerbach (Sr., Rocklin, Calif.) each had five tackles.
Pacific returns to Forest Grove for their season opener next Saturday night, hosting Occidental at Lincoln Park Stadium at 7 p.m. Audio and video webcasts of the game will be available at GoBoxers.com and the game will air live in Washington County on 1360 AM KUIK.
BOXER BYTES: Adrian was among teams receiving votes in the first D3Football.com Top-25 Poll of the season. The team finished 2012 with a 9-2 record and was in the NCAA Division III top-25 in total defense, scoring defense, pass defense and rushing defense…The road trip was the longest in the history of the Pacific football program, covering 2,367 miles. Prior to tonight, the team's longest road trip had been to Montana and the Boxers had never played east of the Rocky Mountains…Moses Villareal-Gomez had his extra-point attempt blocked following Pacific's opening touchdown, ending a streak of 38 consecutive attempts made dating back to Oct. 8, 2011.
Defense Comes Up Big For Pacific In Season Opening Win Over Adrian