Pomona-Pitzer football concluded another tough week this past Saturday, losing on the road to Menlo College 35-6 in Atherton, Calif. The loss dropped the Sagehens’ record to 0-2 on the season with the SCIAC opener just around the corner.
The Hens netted just 197 offensive yards against a staunch Menlo defense and allowed five touchdowns on the defensive side of the ball, three thanks to the arm of Menlo’s Wade Hawkins. Hawkins had two first-quarter scores—a 46-yard connection with Matt Belardes and a 15-yard pass to Michael Alexander, both before the five-minute mark. Hawkins finished the game 15-28 passing for 208 yards. In the second quarter, Daniel Jones returned one of P-P’s nine punts 65 yards for a third score, before another passing touchdown by Hawkins to Robert Gehre, who ran 25 yards. After the half, Menlo’s Thomas Reynolds was able to break free for an 18-yard score, the first rushing touchdown of the game.
The Sagehens notched their only score with 2:09 left in the third quarter on a six-yard run by Brett Harper PO ’16, who posted 31 yards on 15 carries.
P-P Head Coach Roger Caron held that even in the tough loss, Menlo served as a “good test” for the Sagehen squad.
“Rising young players got a chance to play,” Caron said, noting that early season experience can translate into better results later in the year. Caron also commended his team’s defensive effort, saying that “the defensive front seven did well against Menlo.”
Menlo, a team that averaged 203 rushing yards per game last season, only posted 149 against the Hens.
This week’s loss to Menlo came after an opening defeat at the hands of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Engineers. MIT triumphed 28-26 in what some dubbed the “Brain Bowl” due to the strong academic standing of the schools competing.
Despite the loss, P-P was able to mount an impressive fourth-quarter comeback, nearly salvaging a victory. After three quarters MIT held a comfortable 19-7 lead, but P-P surged forward in a 19-point fourth quarter. MIT scored both a rushing touchdown and a field goal in the fourth and stopped a late P-P two-point conversion attempt that would have tied the game, stopping the Sagehens just short of a come-from-behind victory.
MIT’s running back Justin Wallace led the charge against P-P, scoring three touchdowns and running for 156 yards on a whopping 32 carries.
To combat MIT’s ground game, the Hens took to the air and found success in the passing game. Peter Ianelli PO ’15 threw for 217 yards against the Engineers and racked up four scores—all of them to Duncan Hussey, who broke the school record for touchdown receptions in a single game.
Hussey, a student at Claremont Graduate University, was only playing his fourth career game as wide receiver after playing safety for the Hens the past four seasons. Despite the inexperience in the position, he has shown amazing ability and athleticism in his starts, including a three-touchdown game last year against Occidental. Hussey finished with 11 catches and 145 yards versus MIT and was able to snag another six balls for 83 yards at Menlo. His performance has earned the praise of Caron, who calls him a “game changer,” and of ESPN.com, which featured Hussey in Gregg Easterbrook’s weekly column “Tuesday Morning Quarterback” for his record-breaking performance.
Even with Hussey’s outstanding play, Caron wants the team’s focus to be clear as the season turns to conference play. “We’re not going to be a high-scoring, high-flying offense. We’re going to have to rely more on defense to keep us in games,” he said. With strong competition awaiting in SCIAC, the Hens are not going to be successful with an offense-first mentality. Instead, they will need more consistency from the secondary and a greater focus on preventing big plays from the opposition. Menlo and MIT combined to convert just one-third of their third down attempts, an encouraging early-season sign.
Caron also noted that in these first couple weeks, injuries kept some key offensive weapons holstered. With the next two Saturdays off, Caron is hopeful that the team will get some rest and emerge strong to meet the difficult conference challenges ahead. The team resumes play Oct. 5 at 1 p.m. on Merritt Field, where they will take on No. 22 California Lutheran University.