Los Angeles, Calif. - Senior Duncan Hussey (Seattle, Wash.) played offense and defense, and caught three second half touchdown passes to give Pomona-Pitzer a late 27-24 lead, but Occidental drove the length of the field for the winning score with 58 seconds left for a 31-27 win on Saturday evening.
The game was the 114th edition of the annual Battle For The Drum, one of the oldest rivalries in college football, which dates back to 1895. For the second year in a row, Pomona-Pitzer held a lead in the final three minutes of regulation, only to see Occidental drive for the winning score to hold on to The Drum for one more year.
Occidental improves to 2-5 overall and 2-3 in the SCIAC with the win, while the loss drops the Sagehens to 0-7 on the year, and 0-5 in the SCIAC.
Hussey, a starting safety and team captain, played offense for the first time in his career last week as a wide receiver at La Verne. He finished this evening's game against Occidental with 13 catches for 218 yards and three touchdowns on offense, and five tackles and a key sack and pass break-up on defense, as he nearly single-handedly led Pomona-Pitzer to the win. He also returned three kickoffs for 60 yards and handled Pomona-Pitzer's kickoffs on special teams.
Trailing 21-7 at the break, senior quarterback Luke Ferguson (Silverton, Ore.) connected with Hussey on a 78-yard touchdown pass on the very first play from scrimmage to get the Sagehens right back in the game. He then had a key third-down sack to end an Occidental drive in Pomona-Pitzer territory to keep it a one-possession game.
After a field goal made the score 24-14 in Occidental's favor with 3:28 left in the third, Hussey caught a 19-yard pass on 4th-and-8 to keep a drive going, and then pulled in a five-yard touchdown pass with 11:00 to go to pull the Sagehens within 24-21.
Occidental drove inside the Pomona-Pitzer 20, but Hussey broke up a second down pass to make it 3rd-and-10, and the Tigers chose to go for it on 4th-and-5, resulting in an incomplete pass.
The Sagehens then drove to the Occidental 39, and faced a 4th-and-10, before Ferguson found Hussey for a 26-yard strike down to the 13-yard line. After a one-yard loss on a rushing play, Hussey caught his third TD pass of the second half from 14 yards out to give Pomona-Pitzer a 27-24 lead with 2:40 left after the extra point was missed.
Last year, the Sagehens went ahead 35-34 at just about the exact same phase of the game before Occidental won 42-35, and this year's meeting provided an eerie case of deja vu. Quarterback Tommy Edwards rushed for nine yards and then threw back-to-back completions to Sam Stekol to move the ball down to the Pomona-Pitzer 28. Two short passes to Matthew Tuckness placed the ball on the 12, and an 11-yard strike to Stekol brought the ball to the one-yard line, where Kwame Do plunged over to give Occidental the 31-27 lead with 58 seconds to play
Pomona-Pitzer got as far as midfield on the ensuing drive, but an Occidental sack killed precious seconds, and a fourth-down Hail Mary fell incompete on the final play of the game.
The teams traded touchdowns in the first quarter, as the Sagehens answered an early score from Occidental with one of their own. Edwards threw a 31-yard pass to Stekol to set the Tigers up with a first-and goal at the Pomona-Pitzer eight-yard line. Two plays later, Do plunged over from a yard out to give Occidental the early 7-0 lead with 5:39 left in the first.
Pomona-Pitzer immediately answered, though, as completed a pair of 11-yard passes to senior wide receiver Yoshi Rothman (La Jolla, Calif.) to move the ball into Occidental territory. Freshman running back Brett Harper (Long Beach, Calif.) then broke free for a 42-yard touchdown run to knot the score up 7-7.
The score remained deadlocked until midway through the third quarter, when Edwards capped off a 17-play, 65-yard drive with a sneak from one yard out. Edwards kept the drive going when he completed a 10-yard pass on 3rd-and-9 at the Pomona-Pitzer 18 yard line to Adam Gutierrez. After a penalty moved the ball back to the 11, Austin Cheadle rushed for 10 yards to bring the ball down to the goal line, and Edwards was able to sneak it in from there with 3:56 left in the half.
Pomona-Pitzer was held to three-and-out, and a 24-yard pass from Edwards to Stekol brought the ball to the Sagehen nine-yard line with 1:06 left in the half. Two short passes moved the ball to the one, and Edwards was stuffed on a sneak on third down. The Tigers, though, went for it on fourth down and Edwards was able to score on his second try to make the score 21-7 at the break.
Ferguson was 19-for-37 for 319 yards passing for the Sagehens, while Harper had 126 yards on 24 carries on the ground, while filling in for injured senior Luke Sweeney (Broken Arrow, Okla.). Senior linebacker Jake Rollins (Simi valley, Calif.) led the defense with 11 tackles.
All four of Occidental's touchdowns were one-yard runs, two from Edwards and two from Do. Edwards was 33-48 passing for 372 yards, while Stekol caught 12 passes for 176 yards.
Pomona-Pitzer will be back in action next weekend for a home against Redlands, before closing out the campaign with a home game against Claremont-Mudd-Scripps on Nov. 10.