Jason Galvin has the highlights from the disappointing loss at Mt. Sac on Saturday. Photographed by Brian Lewis and Cory Rubin, edited by Brian Lewis.
WALNUT- Call it the Cougars kryptonite. Just when it looked like College of the Canyons was poised to knock off the National Champions, Mt. San Antonio struck again. The Mounties defeated the Cougars 34-19 on Saturday at Hilmer Lodge Stadium in Walnut.
The No. 17 Cougars (1-1) looked like the more skilled team for much of the first three quarters, but mistakes on offense and a worn down defense cost COC and the top-ranked Mounties (2-0) pulled away in the fourth quarters. It was the second loss in three years to Mt. SAC in which the Cougars appeared to be in control before letting the game slip away late.
“Mt. SAC’s an incredible team, and they made some great adjustments defensively,” Cougar head coach Garett Tujague said.
In 2008, the Cougars led the Mounties by a touchdown with 10 seconds remaining at Cougar Stadium in the Southern California Championship game, before Mt. SAC roared back with two scores to win 51-44. This time, the Mounties struck earlier, rallying for touchdowns on back-to-back play from scrimmage in the third quarter.
The Cougars led 19-14 after quarterback Justin Arias found Cameron Bailey for the sophomore receiver’s first collegiate touchdown. But Mt. SAC quarterback Nick Lamaison led his team on a four play, 36 yard drive after the Cougars special teams unit failed to make tackles on the kick return. The drive was capped when running back Bryce McBride broke two tackles and breezed into the end zone from 26 yards out, giving Mt. SAC the lead for good, 21-19.
On the next Cougar play, Arias was intercepted by Richard Thorpe, who returned it 38 yards for a touchdown, and COC never recovered.
Arias finished the day with 292 yards on 32 completions, but he attempted 62 passes while turning the ball over twice. His lone touchdown pass was to Bailey. Arias looked good when he had time, but the Cougars offensive line was dominated most of the day, and the ground game never got going, leaving the freshman in his second start to force plays and look downfield all afternoon.
“We just couldn’t get it together. It was a rough game,” said a bruised and battered Arias.
The Cougars defense dominated the first half of play. Safety Josh Irvin had two interceptions, and linebacker Khalil Bass had an interception and a fumble recovery. Yet the Cougars went into halftime trailing by two after a pair of safety’s and a late field goal set up by a bad snap on a COC punt.
The Cougars came out strong in the third quarter, but the interception for a touchdown by Mt. SAC turned the momentum for the last time.
Perhaps the Cougars biggest play of the game was one that never happened. With COC up 6-0 in the first quarter after a Ryan Zirbel touchdown run, safety Antwan Smith had a interception bounce off his hands on the Mt. SAC 10-yard line. Smith had clear field in front of him, and surely would have scored. Instead, the Mounties scored on the next play when Lamaison hit Alonzo Agweunu for a 12-yard touchdown pass, and Mt. SAC led 7-6.
The Cougars bounced back with an eight play, 64 yard drive, finished by Emanuel Osuchukwu’ 11-yard touchdown run. After a failed two-point conversion, the Cougars led 12-7. That’s when things turned weird.
On the next COC drive, Arias was called for intentional grounding in the end zone, an automatic safety. The next drive, Arias was sacked in the end zone, cutting the Cougar lead to one. After third-string quarterback turned long snapper Cameron Coon missed the punter, Mt. SAC took over inside the Cougars ten. COC’s defense held, but Jeremy Brown hit a 23-yard field goal, sending Mt. SAC into the half with a 14-12 lead.
The Cougars defense forced their fourth three-and-out of the game to start the third, before blocking the Mounties punt. Bailey scored on the next play, giving COC it’s final lead at 19-14 with 8:04 remaining in the third. McBride’s touchdown made it 21-19 Mt. SAC, and Thorpe’s interception return made it 27-19 after a missed extra point. The Cougars had three chances, down by eight, to score in the red zone, but turned it over all three times, and Lamaison found Michael Edwards for a 17 yard touchdown with 8:03 left in the game, capping the scoring a 34-19.
“We put the ball down in the red zone three times in the second half, and we didn’t convert on any of them. (Mt. SAC) came up with three huge stops, and thats just unacceptable. That can’t happen,” Tujague said.
The Cougars finished with just 39 yards rushing on 29 attempts. Ryan Zirbel was held to three yards on 12 carries, a career low.
Next Saturday, College of the Canyons comes home to Cougar Stadium for the first time in 2010. The Cougars host Citrus at 7pm, a team COC last played in 2006. COC came out victorious in that game, 43-14.