富士通フロンティアーズ パナソニックインパルス IBM BigBlue ノジマ相模原ライズ オービックシーガルズ エレコム神戸ファイニーズ 東京ガスクリエイターズ オール三菱ライオンズ
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TOP > Game Report > IBM overcomes sloppy start to knock off Challengers

Game Report

IBM overcomes sloppy start to knock off Challengers



IBM quarterback Kevin Craft drops back to pass during the second quarter.























KOBE (Nov. 9)—It took the IBM BigBlue awhile to get into gear, but once they did, it was off to the races.


Kevin Craft threw three of his four touchdown passes in the second quarter, when IBM settled down after a sloppy first period and began pulling away for a 37-10 victory over the Asahi Soft Drinks Challengers in their second-stage game at Kobe’s Oji Stadium.


John Stanton had two touchdown receptions and Takashi Kurihara caught five passes for 117 yards and one score as IBM, the runner-up in the East Division, improved to 5-1 heading into its must-win Super 9 finale against the Lixil Deers on Sunday.


The Challengers (3-4), whose season ended with the defeat, had lost their opening game to the Central champion Deers. In that game, they also kept things close early and trailed just 3-0 at halftime before losing 23-7.


“The Asahi Soft Drinks defense held Lixil to three points in the first half, so we know they are strong,” IBM head coach Shinzo Yamada said. “We have to be patient in the first half,” he told the team, anticipating a tough battle.


It took some tolerance after the BigBlue had three of their five turnovers in the first quarter. But the defense made sure that the Challengers, who turned the ball over four times themselves, would not turn the miscues into points.


The Challengers suffered an early setback when starting quarterback Yusuke Kano was injured on the third play from scrimmage and backup Masayoshi Hayashi was called into action. That forced them to stick more to the running game, with 174 of their 215 total yards coming on the ground.


Yuki Shirakami had a 100-yard game (17 carries for 109 yards), but the Challengers’ lone points came on a kickoff return for a touchdown and a field goal following a shanked punt.


“Kano’s injury really hurt us,” Asahi Soft Drinks head coach Tatsuhide Fukuda said. “Hayashi threw a lot of interceptions in the first stage, too. We had to get conservative with our play selection.”


In the beginning, the Challengers defense lived up to the assessment of Yamada, a former star linebacker for the team. With the exception of a 20-yard gain on the first play, IBM failed to make a first down on its first six series—while losing the ball three times on two interceptions and a fumble.


The Challengers had the best chance to break the deadlock when they got the ball on the IBM 34 after the BigBlue were forced to punt out of their end zone. But they came up empty handed when James Brooks blocked a 36-yard field goal attempt by former BigBlue kicker Choi Kyung Ho.


Heading into the second quarter, IBM got onto the scoreboard after defensive back Shogo Nakatani recovered a fumble by Koji Hayashi near midfield. A 32-yard pass from Craft to Kurihara moved the ball into the red zone. Tomokazu Sueyoshi’s 11-yard run gave IBM a 1st-and-goal on the 2, and on 3rd down, Craft threw a touchdown pass to Kurihara.


Rookie Yutaka Tatsumi returned the ensuing kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown to tie the game, but it didn’t take long for IBM to go ahead again.


Craft, who completed 22 of 44 passes for 408 yards with three interceptions, engineered a 6-play, 65-drive, highlighted by a 42-yard pass to Stanton and capped by a 17-yard touchdown toss to the All-League tight end. The point-after was no good, leaving IBM’s lead at 13-7.


On the next drive, Sueyoshi took a short pass and turned it into a 73-yard gain to put the ball on the Challengers 9. After a pair of incomplete passes, Craft connected with Michihiro Ogawa to make it 20-7, which is how the score stood at halftime.


IBM kept its foot on the gas to start the second half, as Craft completed three straight passes for 49 yards to set up a 1-yard touchdown burst by Ryo Takagi.


The Challengers, looking to get back into the game, got a break when Genki Odakura’s bad punt gave them the ball on the IBM 29. But they could only advance four yards and had to settle for Choi’s 42-yard field goal.


Craft put the game on ice with a 30-yard touchdown pass to Stanton with 2:48 left in the third quarter, and Odakura added a 27-yard field goal in the fourth quarter for the final margin of victory.


“Normally it’s the offense that picks up the defense, but today the defense really came through,” Yamada said. “We gave up 10 points, but they came on a kickoff return and a field goal after bad field position, so in essence it was zero points. Brooks really saved us.”

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