GLENDORA, Calif. -- The Central Washington University football team rallied from a 14-point fourth-quarter deficit to tie the game, but host Azusa Pacific University scored the game-winning touchdown with 49 seconds remaining as the Cougars stunned the Wildcats, 24-17, at Citrus Stadium on Saturday night.
The loss drops CWU to 5-3 overall and 5-2 in Great Northwest Athletic Conference play, sending them into a three-way tie for first place with Humboldt State and Western Oregon, whom the Wildcats face the next two weeks. Meanwhile, Azusa Pacific secured its first-ever GNAC victory, improving to 1-6 in the conference and 1-7 overall.
Each team had its share of struggles scoring points in the first half, as each team had a first-quarter turnover and CWU was unable to capitalize on a 12-play, 64-yard drive that carried into the second quarter but culminated with a missed field goal. Azusa Pacific countered by breaking the shutout, but the Wildcat defense held the Cougars to just a 36-yard field goal after a 6 1/2 minute drive, and the CWU offense then responded by scoring a three-pointer of its own in the closing minutes of the first half, and the teams went into the locker room tied 3-3.
The deadlock was short-lived, though, as APU came out and scored the game's first touchdown on its fourth offensive play of the third quarter when Terrell Watson had a 14-yard scoring run to give the Cougars a 10-3 lead. The margin reached 17-3 in the hosts' favor later in the quarter after Ronald Douglas scored on a 73-yard rushing play with 4:59 to go in the period.
CWU finally scored its first touchdown of the game early in the fourth quarter, as senior Demetrius Sumler (San Diego, Calif./Cathedral Catholic HS) found paydirt on a one-yard run. The Wildcats then recovered the on-side kick and marched 60 yards on six plays, with Sumler again scoring -- this time on a nine-yard pass from senior Ryan Robertson (Sammamish, Wash./Eastlake HS) -- and the extra point by senior Sean Davis (Federal Way, Wash./Todd Beamer HS) brought the game to a 17-all tie with seven minutes remaining.
Neither team scored on its next possession, as Azusa Pacific missed a field goal and CWU was held to a three-and-out, returning the football to the Cougars with 1:50 remaining. After the Wildcats had forced APU into a third-and-six near midfield, Nick Owens connected with Kyle Dravis on a 53-yard scoring play that gave the Cougars the eventual victory.
The Wildcats had one final chance, and began with outstanding field position after a pair of penalties and a short kickoff. Starting at the APU 32, Robertson ran for 14 yards on the first play, but then threw consecutive incompletions and was intercepted by Nick Grunsky to stall any potential last-second rally for the Wildcats.
Aided by its two big scoring plays, Azusa Pacific outgained CWU by a 401-364 margin in total offense. The Wildcats threw for 253 yards but were held to just 111 on the ground -- less than half of their season average for the ground game. Sumler totaled just 73 yards on 24 carries, while Robertson completed 18 of 36 passes for all 253 yards and one score. Senior Anthony Spain (Grants Pass, Ore./North Valley HS) had his best game of the season, netting 162 receiving yards on nine catches.
Owens completed just nine of his 18 pass attempts for Azusa Pacific, but gained 200 yards including 131 on three completions to Dravis. Watson accounted for 82 rushing yards, and Douglas added 78 for the Cougars.
The two teams combined for 14 tackles for losses and five quarterback sacks in the contest. Junior linebacker Ridge Nielsen (Mesa, Ariz./Mountain View HS) and redshirt freshman defensive lineman Tovar Sanchez (Seattle, Wash./Ingraham HS) had two tackles for loss each while finishing with six total tackles.
Central Washington will visit Humboldt State University next Saturday (Oct. 27) for a 6 p.m. kickoff at the Redwood Bowl in its last road game of the season. The Wildcats defeated the Lumberjacks, 31-3, in the first meeting of the year between the two schools on Sept. 29 at Bothell.
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