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TOP > Game Report > Cameron drives, Nishimura kicks Fujitsu into Japan X Bowl

Game Report

Cameron drives, Nishimura kicks Fujitsu into Japan X Bowl

’16.11.29

Fujitsu kicker Hidetetsu Nishimura (11) celebrates after kicking the game-winning 45-yard field goal as time expired against IBM. (photo by MI Planning)

 

 

 

 

KAWASAKI (Nov. 27)—Needing a field goal with a little over a minute to go, no timeouts and a long field ahead of you, there are few quarterbacks in Japan whose hands you would rather put the ball into than Colby Cameron’s.

 

With steely precision, Cameron moved Fujitsu into position for Hidetetsu Nishimura to kick a 45-yard field goal as time expired, giving the Frontiers a nailbiting 28-26 win over the IBM BigBlue in the semifinals of the Japan X Bowl tournament.

 

“Like all game, they were getting after us,” Cameron said of the intense pressure he felt during the winning drive from an IBM defense led by defensive end James Brooks that had already sacked him five times.

 

“But I think we just kept an even composure pretty much. I don’t think we were too high or too low. I think that’s what made us successful this game. Even though we took sacks here and there, we knew we could still move that ball. That’s what worked out in the end.”

 

With the victory before 2,606 at Fujitsu Stadium Kawasaki, the Frontiers earned their fourth straight trip to the Japan X Bowl, where they will face the Obic Seagulls in a battle of unbeatens on Dec. 12 at Tokyo Dome in a bid to regain the title they won in 2014.

 

Obic advanced with a thrilling win of its own, edging the defending league champion Panasonic Impulse 9-6 in an overtime tiebreaker in rain-hit Osaka. Panasonic had beaten Fujitsu in last year’s Japan X Bowl, and this year’s game will be a rematch from 2013, when the Seagulls won the last of a record four consecutive titles.

 

Much of the drama of the game in Kawasaki centered on kicking. While Nishimura was successful on 5 of 5 field goal attempts, he also had an extra point blocked by Brooks that the BigBlue returned for two points. Conversely, Fujitsu blocked two of IBM’s three field goal attempts and, on top of that, Fujitsu’s Junpei Yoshimoto returned a punt 63 yards for a touchdown.

 

“We prepared very well, very hard,” Brooks said. “These games are the hardest to lose. I’d rather get blown out than take a loss like this, when you just give it everything, your heart and your soul, and you just come up a little short.”

 

More conventionally, Cameron completed 22 of 37 passes for 262 yards and a touchdown with one interception, although IBM counterpart Kevin Craft was the more prolific on the day, going 33 for 44 for 369 yards and two touchdowns. IBM tight end John Stanton hauled in two touchdown passes, one from Craft and another on a halfback option from Ryo Takagi, among his game-high 10 receptions.

 

“Heartbreaking, that’s a good word for it,” Craft said. “We had a good balance going. It’s just a couple of miscues or stops in the red zone that we had. Then they blocked a couple of our field goals.”

 

IBM, which won the spring Pearl Bowl for its first major title, came as close as it could to making it the Japan X Bowl for a second time. Its first trip ended with a 44-10 loss in 2014 to Fujitsu, which also beat the BigBlue in this season’s opening game 29-24.

 

The BigBlue looked in good position to avenge those losses when they overturned a 19-16 halftime deficit and headed into the fourth quarter leading 26-22. But they missed a chance to expand the gap when Fujitsu’s Paul Yasui blocked Genki Odakura’s 36-yard field goal attempt.

 

Fujitsu, helped by a 31-yard run by Cameron which included leaping over a would-be tackler, then pulled to within one point on Nishimura’s 40-yard field goal with 7:50 left.

 

On the ensuing drive, Craft lost a fumble on a run that would have given IBM a first down well into Fujitsu territory, and the Frontiers took over on the 36 with 5:58 left—more than enough time for Cameron to engineer a scoring drive.

 

But the BigBlue defense, so rock-solid all game, wasn’t about to let up then. They forced Cameron into a intentional grounding penalty and defensive tackle Rykeem Yates had his second sack of the game, and, facing 4th-and-29, Fujitsu had no option but to punt and rely on the defense with 3:34 left.

 

It would be no easy task. The defense had lost star cornerback Al Rilwan Adeyami when he had his bell rung, and chipped a front tooth, making a tackle in the first quarter, and the Frontiers had not held IBM to a 3-and-out series since the opening period.

 

That trend continued when IBM converted on 3rd-and-1 on Tomokazu Sueyoshi’s 3-yard pass reception, but the time-killing drive came to an end when Craft was stopped for three yards on 3rd-and-11. Toshiki Sato’s punt went out of bounds at the Fujitsu 22, which is where the Frontiers took over with 1:21 left on the clock and no timeouts left to stop it.

 

Cameron got the miracle started by completing three of four passes for 16 yards and running for another eight to put the ball on the IBM 46 with :14 left. He then connected with Teruaki Clark Nakamura, who stepped out of bounds at the 35—not quite within Nishimura’s range. So Cameron went back to him for another seven yards, and he went over the sideline with :05 on the clock.

 

“First of all, the defense stopped them very well,” Fujitsu head coach Satoshi Fujita said. “They left the time. That was great. Colby played very well in the last drive, very calm. He got the yardage, especially the last [seven] yards was very important. And also the kicking team did a great job.”

 

Nishimura said the blocked kick earlier in the game was on his mind, but that he kept his focus on the task at hand as he booted the winning field goal.

 

“Of course it is, but it’s not something I need to think about,” he said. “The coach deals with that. I have to only concentrate on the kick.” He added he did not try to raise the trajectory of his kick, saying, “That affects the timing, tempo and form. I just do what I always do.”

 

Cameron said that he spoke with Nishimura the previous day about the team relying on him to come through under pressure.

 

“I think he’s the best kicker in the X-League,” Cameron said. “I have confidence in him, and I think if we have confidence in him, he has confidence in himself. And I think today he was really confident, which helped. Obviously he helped us win one of the biggest games we’ve probably ever played in.”

 

As well as the Frontiers played at the end, they could not have started out any poorer, thanks to Brooks. On the opening series, Brooks brought down Cameron for a five-yard loss, then tipped a third-down pass that fell incomplete for a quick 3-and-out.

 

“I knew it was going to be a long game, just because of who their front seven is, and their defense plays hard,” Cameron said. “But with us, it’s just trying to stay the course. Even though that first series was ugly, really ugly.”

 

IBM moved the ball on its first series, but came up empty-handed when Sato had a 44-yard field goal blocked by Shuichi Hida. Nishimura then kicked his first field goal, a 32-yarder, and Yoshimoto’s punt return early in the second quarter put Fujitsu ahead 10-0. Trashaun Nixon applied the final block on the punter to clear the way for Yoshimoto.

 

After Fujitsu’s lone turnover, an interception by defensive back Takuto Yabe, Craft engineered a 10-play, 77-yard drive that he capped with a 10-yard touchdown pass to Stanton. Fujitsu replied with Cameron’s 26-yard touchdown pass to Nakamura, who finished with eight receptions for 133 yards, but Brooks got his hand on the extra point and the ball bounded straight to Yabe, who took it the length of the field for two points that cut the Frontiers’ lead to 16-9.

 

IBM tied the game when Takashi Kurihara beat the secondary on a 35-yard touchdown pass from Craft with :39 left in the half. But perhaps in a precursor of things to come, that was enough for Fujitsu to move into field goal position, thanks mostly to a 31-yard pass from Cameron to Takeshi Akiyama, and Nishimura kicked a 36-yarder as time expired to put the Frontiers up 19-16 at halftime.

 

The teams traded field goals to start the third quarter, with Odakura kicking a 31-yarder for IBM and Nishimura making one from 19 yards out. IBM took the lead for the first time when, on 1st-and-goal at the 1, Takagi took a pitch to the right side, pulled up and flipped a pass to Stanton alone in the end zone to make it 26-22.

 

“Obviously we would have loved to come out with a win, but Fujitsu is a good team, they played hard to the very end,” Brooks said. “We have a few things to tighten up, and we’re going to be around. We’re a good team, and we’re only getting better.”

 

—Ken Marantz for the X-League

 

 

 

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