Sweeney-Less Sagehens Toppled by Redlands

Pomona-Pitzer quarterback Luke Ferguson PO ’13 likely didn’t imagine that his career highs in completions, yards, and attempts would come in a game that his P-P Sagehens lost by 41 points. The same goes for wide receiver Ryan Randle PO ’14, who had the second-most productive game of his young career catching Ferguson’s passes in a lopsided effort against the Redlands Bulldogs, ranked 17th in Division III.

Even with the passing outburst, the Sagehens were greatly hampered by the loss of running back Luke Sweeney PO ’13. A week after becoming the NCAA’s leading running back across all divisions, Sweeney could only watch as the Bulldogs beat an overmatched P-P team 61-20. Sweeney, who had averaged 183 yards per game through the first three weeks of play, did not practice leading up to the game and was held out of Saturday’s contest with an undisclosed injury. Pomona-Pitzer certainly could have used him: the team managed just 35 net rushing yards on 39 attempts, while Redlands used the Sagehens’ own “ground-and-pound” mantra against them to the tune of 248 rushing yards and five touchdowns. The silver lining of Sweeney’s absence, however, was that the P-P team got to see exactly what they had in their quarterback. It turns out they had a lot.

Ferguson completed 34 passes for 313 yards—both career highs—as the Sagehens were forced to turn to their passing attack. Short passes became P-P’s running game, and Ferguson proved perfectly capable of directing the long, sustained drives Sweeney was famous for. Pomona’s three scoring drives—all of which were capped off by Ferguson touchdowns—each spanned over eight plays and 60 yards, demonstrating Ferguson’s sustained power and accuracy. The fact that he completed at least two passes to seven different receivers speaks to Ferguson’s ability to spread the ball around as well.

“My success is really just a credit to Luke putting the ball where it needs to be,” Randle said when asked about his second great performance—nine catches for 90 yards and a touchdown—in as many weeks. “He’s been really good this year.”

Ferguson and Randle look to succeed the combination of Jake Caron PO ’11 and RJ Maki PO ’11 that led the Sagehens last year in their tough passing-driven offense. What sets this year’s team apart from last year’s is the ability to create a dynamic offense involving multiple receivers and a running back that can take pressure off a quarterback proving his weight early in the season.

Despite his overall excellence, Ferguson, alongside the offense as a whole, got off to a slow start against Redlands, allowing the Bulldogs to jump out to a quick 14-0 lead behind the strong rushing of their star running back Bobby Brown. The Sagehen offense began to click on the ensuing drive, capped off by a Ferguson sneak, and they were able to pull the game within seven points.

Unfortunately, it was all Redlands from there: the Bulldogs scored 23 unanswered points and had put the game out of reach by the end of the third quarter. The P-P passing game experienced a bit of a second-half resurgence, but Redlands ended up scoring the last three touchdowns of the game, contributing to the lopsided final score. To go with all of his passing numbers, Ferguson added eight punts for a total of 257 yards.

In spite of Ferguson’s success, the Sagehens hope to have Sweeney back for their next game; the possibility of him being even more productive alongside a breakout passing attack is a scary thought, and a multi-pronged offensive attack should go a long way in a winnable 7 p.m. game against the 2-2 Occidental Tigers this Saturday under the lights.

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