Oxy Edged 34-31 at Willamette

Oxy Edged 34-31 at Willamette

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SALEM, Ore.Joshua Greaves was sharp at quarterback, John Isaac Cordova made big plays throughout the game and the Occidental football team played well enough to win.

But a few bad breaks and too many penalties got the best of the Tigers in a 34-31 loss at Willamette on Saturday.

Greaves went 35 for 53 for 370 yards and four touchdowns. His only blemish was an interception that ended the game with 12 seconds left as the Tigers became desperate to move into scoring position with time running out.

Isaac Cordova had nine catches for 148 yards and two touchdowns. He scored on Oxy's first play from scrimmage on a 51-yarder from Greaves and then made a beautiful catch way up in the air in the back of the end zone in the second quarter. 

Oxy's receivers were tough to guard all afternoon. Lucas Savoie had six catches for 81 yards and Andrew Jack de Avila had seven catches for 51 yards.

Oxy running back DJ Adams had a receiving touchdown, a running touchdown, 21 yards on the ground and 50 yards in the air.

The Tigers were called for 16 penalties for 177 yards, some of them legitimate and some felt a little shaky, including four 15-yarders on Willamette's go-ahead scoring drive near the end of the fourth quarter. 

The worst break Oxy had though was a no call on a fumble recovery for a touchdown by Willamette in the second quarter, changing the momentum of the game in the first half. Cordova returned a punt near midfield and appeared to be down before having the ball jarred away by Christian Tovar. Tovar picked up the ball while laying on the ground, but the play was allowed to continue, and he ran half the field for a touchdown. There was some question whether or not Cordova was down before the ball came loose, but replay clearly showed Tovar on the ground with the ball where it should have been whistled dead.

Oxy trailed by as many as 10 points in the second half before mounting a comeback and there were three lead changes in the fourth quarter alone. 

Sam Meinhard led Oxy's defense with hard hitting for a team-best nine tackles from the middle linebacker position. Raffi Titizian had eight tackles, a crucial blocked punt and was outstanding at the safety position before being ejected for targeting in the fourth quarter. He was one of three Oxy players that were ejected from the game.

Jackson Caudle made eight tackles for Oxy and Garrett Pittman, Travis Thein and John Gayden each had four.

Three of Willamette's touchdowns were to 6-foot-6 All-Northwest Conference basketball player Jordan Jenkins, who has exhausted is basketball eligibility, but is playing football this season as a graduate student.

Willamette quarterback Matthew Castaneda threw for four touchdowns and 238 yards, and Dylan Sparks led the Bearcats on the ground with 22 carries for 79 yards.

1st Quarter

Greaves hit Isaac Cordova on Oxy's first offensive play of the game with a play action pass over the top for a 51-yard touchdown.

Oxy was on the wrong end of a bad call when Willamette scored its first touchdown with 7:47 left in the first quarter. Cordova returned a punt near midfield and appeared to be down before having the ball jarred away by Christian Tovar. Tovar picked up the ball while laying on the ground, but the play was allowed to continue and he ran half the field for a touchdown. There was some question whether or not Cordova was down before the ball came loose, but replay clearly showed Tovar on the ground with the ball where it should have been whistled dead.

Willamette took the lead with their second score of the game on a touchdown pass from Castenada to Jenkins on a 31-yarder up the sideline with 4:33 to play in the first quarter.

2nd Quarter

Adams got the Tigers in good field position in the second quarter with a 16-yard punt return to the Willamette 34-yard line, helping set up Oxy's second score. On a third and long, Greaves hit Isaac Cordova in the back of the end zone where he made a beautiful leaping catch in front of the uprights.

Oxy converted the point after touchdown, going up 14-13.

Willamette went back in front just before halftime, scoring on a jump ball to Jenkins in the end zone for his second touchdown. 

Greaves led a very good 2-minute drill to counter, including a 39-yard pass to Lucas Savoie, setting up a 29-yard field goal by Kyler Parris that cut the lead to 20-17.

3rd Quarter

Oxy was putting together a solid drive to open the second half, but Savoie fumbled inside the red zone and the Bearcats recovered on the 24-yard line.

Willamette marched down the field with the benefit of a personal foul penalty on the Tigers on 3rd Down and Jenkins pulled in his third touchdown reception of the game, reeling in a jump ball in the end zone, making the score 27-17 after the PAT.

4th Quarter

On the second play of the fourth quarter, Adams scored a two-yard touchdown on a sweep to the right, diving just inside the pylon. The score capped an impressive drive by the Tigers that made it a one-possession game.

Oxy's defense and special teams capitalized on the momentum, getting a three-and-out and then a blocked punt by Titizian was recovered by Thein at the Willamette 30 yard line. It led to Greaves finding Arman Henry in the end zone on the ensuing drive, putting Oxy up 31-27 after the PAT.

Isaac Cordova left the game briefly with cramps with 12 minutes to go in the game.

Oxy went down another receiver when Henry was ejected for his second unsportsmanlike conduct penalty celebrating the touchdown.

The Tigers also lost Titizian to an ejection for targeting on Willamette's next drive. 

Oxy held Willamette to a missed field goal and took over with 7:44 to play in the game. Both Thein and Marcus Martello-Trotter made key hits on second and third down to prevent the Bearcats from getting into the end zone. 

Anthony Solis made one of the plays of the game, stripping Castenada after a long run into Oxy territory. Connor Saludares fell on the ball and the Tigers took over with 4:17 to play.

Willamette marched down the field with the help of several penalties and score the go-head touchdown with 55 seconds left.

Season Impact: Oxy falls to 1-1 on the season.

Willamette improves to 1-1.

Next Game: Oxy is back in action against Cal Lutheran on Oct. 5 at 1 p.m.