LOS ANGELES, Calif. – The Chapman University football team pulled away from host Occidental College with a big second half and defeated the Tigers 35-16 on Saturday night at Jack Kemp Stadium to improve to 5-0 on the season (3-0 SCIAC), equaling the longest unbeaten start in school history.
The Panthers last and only time opening a season 5-0 was 1996. Chapman finished that season 7-2 and missed the NCAA Division III playoffs.
Chapman remains tied with the University of Redlands atop the SCIAC standings as both teams are 3-0 after the Bulldogs' 21-6 win over La Verne on Saturday night. That sets up a showdown for the No. 1 spot in the conference next Saturday when Redlands travels to Orange to face the Panthers.
It was a big momentum swing at the end of the first half that propelled Chapman to the win. Chapman had entered the game ranked No. 2 in Division III in scoring, averaging over 57 points per game but it looked as though Occidental (2-3 overall, 1-2 SCIAC) was going to hold the Panthers to just one touchdown in the first half. However, senior LB Zane Archer intercepted an Oxy pass with 1:49 remaining in the half and returned it 21 yards to the Tigers' 39 yard line to set up Chapman's go-ahead drive.
With 46 seconds left before halftime and after a Chapman timeout, junior RB Kean Stancil scampered 25 yards into the end zone to give the Panthers a 14-7 lead – which they would not relinquish.
The Chapman offense went on to score touchdowns on its next three possessions in the second half, including another big run from Stancil whose 50-yard rush with 7:19 remaining in the third quarter gave the Panthers a 21-10 lead. Stancil finished with 109 yards rushing on eight carries – the first 100-yard effort of his career. The junior also caught a pass for 21 yards and returned two kicks for 46 yards.
After an Occidental touchdown to open play in the fourth quarter cut Chapman's lead to 21-16, the Panthers put the proverbial nails in the coffin with touchdown drives of 72 and 65 yards to win going away. Junior RB Cody Chapple ran in his second touchdown of the game from 1 yard out with 11:50 left in the game, finishing with 87 yards on 20 carries.
Sophomore WR Sean Myers caught a 34-yard scoring pass from junior QB Michael Lahey with 8:54 remaining to give Chapman their winning margin of 35-16. It was the second straight week Myers has caught a touchdown. Lahey was 10 of 11 for 167 yards passing in the second half (16 of 21 for 198 yards in the game) and connected with senior WR Robin Harris for 101 yards in the game.
Turnovers were costly for the Tigers who also fumbled a pass late in the first quarter on the Chapman 1 yard line that ended a drive which began on their own 12 yard line. Occidental lost another fumble on its first drive of the game, but the Panthers were unable to turn either loss of possession into points.
Chapman will put both its five-game winning streak and six-game home winning streak on the line next week in its showdown with Redlands. The Bulldogs are coming in riding a three-game conference winning streak and have won six in a row against Chapman, dating back to 2007. Three of the previous five Redlands' wins over the Panthers have been by a touchdown or less, but not last year's 32-13 win in Redlands. Chapman has not beaten Redlands in Orange since 1995.