Sweeney Again Shoulders Load, Rushing for 246 in Loss to Whittier

After Saturday’s loss to the Whittier Poets, Pomona-Pitzer football fans left the stadium with what has become the season’s unofficial mantra ringing in their heads:

“The game sure was a lot closer than the score.”

If the now 0-7 Sagehens can take solace in anything, it’s that they managed to play competitively in five of their seven contests, even if it was not always apparent from the scoreboard. The Sagehens have an unfortunate knack for giving up leads, allowing untimely late scores, turning the ball over in fourth quarter drives, and generally not having the ball bounce their way. These shortcomings have resulted in lopsided scores. Three of these four mishaps occurred on Saturday, and the final result looked like a blowout loss.

The Whittier Poets took advantage of P-P mistakes to earn a 58-28 victory over the Sagehens. It seemed only fitting that, on a night when Whittier honored their seniors in their final home game, Poet senior quarterback Matt Evans had the game of his career. Normally a third-string player, Evans was thrust onto the field for the first time during the regular season.

The P-P passing attack had a game to be forgotten. The team completed just eight of 23 passes for a total of 47 yards—a number less than the Poet’s final point total. In fact, the only Sagehen with a memorable game was running back Luke Sweeney PO ’13. Sweeney racked up 246 yards on 38 touches in a nice bounce-back performance from his worst outing of the season against Cal Lutheran, putting him over 1,000 yards for the season and over 2,000 for his career.

P-P quarterback Luke Ferguson PO ’13 has credited the previous success of the Sagehen passing attack to the defensive attention focused on Sweeney, but on Saturday the opposite seemed to be true. The Poet defense keyed in on an explosive P-P passing attack that had gone off for huge yardage in four of its previous five games, allowing Sweeney to run wild. Sweeney’s efforts raised his rushing yards-per-game average to 185.8, sure to keep him at the top of the NCAA leaderboard across all divisions.

Whittier scored early, but it was Sweeney’s hard running that allowed P-P to secure a 20-10 lead in the second quarter. The game had all the makings of the Sagehens’ first victory of the season, but Whittier’s senior-laden offensive line stepped up and allowed running backs Rufus Osby ’13 and Donnell Griffin, Jr. ’14 to rush through a gassed P-P defense, securing a 24-20 halftime lead.

Evans hit his stride in the second half, passing for touchdowns on three consecutive Whittier possessions. A string of three-and-outs, coupled with a rare fumble by Sweeney, propelled the Poets to an insurmountable 45-20 lead. Evans scored again on the first play of the fourth quarter, and it was only then that fullback Zach Tannous PO ’12 punched in his second touchdown of the game to end Whittier’s scoring streak. The ensuing kickoff was returned for a touchdown. The Sagehens were only able to recover two of the Poet’s five fumbles throughout the game.

It was a game the Sagehens had seen before, but they hope they won’t have to see it again. P-P looks for the ball to bounce their way in their final home contest of the season, as the season finale against CMS is technically considered an away game. The Sagehens will honor their five seniors before the 7 p.m. game against La Verne on Saturday, Nov. 5 under the lights.

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