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TOP > Game Report > Obic emerges from deluge with OT win, ticket to Japan X Bowl

Game Report

Obic emerges from deluge with OT win, ticket to Japan X Bowl

’16.11.29

Obic wide receiver Yuki Ikei catches the game-winning touchdown pass in the overtime tiebreaker. (photo by MI Planning)

 

 

 

 

OSAKA (Nov. 27)—On a miserable day in which the teams battled the elements as much as each other, the Obic Seagulls came away with a rain-swept victory and a ticket back to the Japan X Bowl.

 

Shun Sugawara threw an 18-yard touchdown pass to Yuki Ikei in the overtime tiebreaker and the Seagulls defeated the defending league champion Panasonic Impulse 9-6 in the Japan X Bowl tournament semifinals in a downpour at Osaka’s Yanmar Stadium.

 

The crowd of 1,947 that braved the weather saw the teams go scoreless for more than 3 1/2 quarters before trading short field goals at the end of the game to send it into the extra session. Both teams had three turnovers, and combined for three missed field goals.

 

Panasonic went first in the tiebreaker, in which both teams get successive possessions from the opponent’s 25-yard line until the outcome is settled, and, without getting a first down after three consecutive runs by Shun Yokota, had to settle for Eita Saeki’s 36-yard field goal.

 

Sugawara, who came off the bench to lead Obic on its lone scoring drive in regulation, was at the helm when the Seagulls’ offense took the field. On second down, a pass from Sugawara to Takuto Hara put the ball on the Impulse 7. Sugawara then found Ikei alone in the end zone on the next play to give the Seagulls their first victory in the Kansai region over the Impulse since 1996.

 

“It was a tough game, but the players stuck it out under conditions that did not change from the very beginning,” Obic head coach Naoki Kosho said.

 

The win put Obic, which went undefeated in the regular season, into the Japan X Bowl for the first time since 2013, when they won the last of a record four straight championships. Their opponent on Dec. 12 at Tokyo Dome will be the Fujitsu Frontiers, the team they beat in the 2013 final but who will be making a fourth straight trip to the Tokyo Dome.

 

Panasonic, whose only previous loss this season was to Fujitsu, will have the offseason to rue numerous missed opportunities, as the Impulse had the ball five times within the Obic 30-yard line in regulation time and could only come away with a lone field goal. They even opted to forgo a successful field goal when an Obic penalty of the play gave them a first down, only to come up with nothing.

 

“We really struggled with our running game, which is our strong point,” said Panasonic head coach Nobuyoshi Araki, as the Impulse ran on 43 of 56 plays, but gained just 90 of 130 total yards on the ground.

 

Obic’s offense fared little better, gaining just 160 total yards and netting just seven first downs. Starting quarterback Jerry Neuheisel completed 7 of 13 passes for 79 yards with two interceptions.

 

The saving grace for the Seagulls came in the quick legs of Noriaki Kinoshita, who had two long kickoff returns, the second of which set up Obic for the tying score in regulation.

 

Under the steady rain, the first quarter featured a flood of penalties and little more. Panasonic got the first break of the game when Obic’s Hara fumbled and the Impulse’s Ryohei Imanishi recovered at the Obic 14. But that chance lasted all of one play, as wide receiver

Taiji Koyama lost the ball after a pass reception, giving the ball back to Obic.

 

The second quarter evolved into an exchange of punts as Obic had three straight 3-and-outs and Panasonic got just two first downs in three series of its own as the game limped scoreless into halftime.

 

Kinoshita injected some life into the game when he returned the opening kickoff of the second half 46 yards to the Impulse 44. Neuheisel connected with Ryoma Hagiyama on a 36-yard pass—the longest play from scrimmage of the game—to give Obic a 1st-and-goal at the 8.

 

But after Asaki Mochizuki’s 2-yard run, Neuheisel was sacked on consecutive plays to push the Seagulls back to 17. From there, Takatoshi Hoshino’s 34-yard field goal attempt was blocked by Atsushi Tsuji to keep the stalemate going.

 

The Impulse offense, behind the running of Yokota, suddenly came to life and marched from the 20 to the Obic 26. On 4th-and-1, Saeki was successful on a 43-yard field goal attempt, but Obic was flagged for offsides on the play, and the Impulse opted to take the yardage and a new set of downs.

 

Moving up to the Obic 22, the Impulse could only gain two yards from three runs, then watch in dismay as Saeki sent his 37-yard field goal attempt wide left.

 

Neuheisel threw his second interception of the game, this one by defensive back Ren Takeuchi, early in the fourth quarter, giving the Impulse the ball on the Obic 38. Panasonic, sticking strictly to the ground, used up more than five minutes to advance 28 yards and set up Saeki, who provided the first points of the game with a 27-yard field goal with 4:48 left.

 

Obic got the break it needed when Kinoshita returned the ensuing kickoff 47 yards to the Impulse 43. At this point, Obic sent in Sugawara, the 30-year-old who had led the Seagulls to its four-peat from 2010-13. “We were waiting for the right time to put him in,” Kosho said.

 

Sugawara stepped up and, on 3rd-and-5, threw a 28-yard pass to Aruto Nishimura to put the ball on the 10.  Three runs left the Seagulls two yards short of the goalline and, after taking a delay-of-game penalty, Hoshino booted a 24-yard field goal to tie the game with :43 left.

 

Panasonic, which came up with late touchdowns to rally to victories last season in both the Japan X Bowl and Rice Bowl, had a last chance to win the game when it drove as far as the Obic 34, but Saeki’s 51-yard field goal attempt came up short, sending the game to the tiebreaker session.

 

—Translated from West Division report

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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