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TOP > What’s New > IBM runs wild over Nojima

What’s New

IBM runs wild over Nojima

’12.11.11

In IBM’s final game of the season, Kevin Craft threw for four touchdowns. Nothing unusual there. What made the BigBlue’s overwhelming victory over the Nojima Sagamihara Rise unique was that it was actually their running game that stole the show.

 

Tomokazu Sueyoshi had his second straight 100-yard rushing game and the BigBlue grinded out 311 yards on the ground in crushing the Rise 48-17 in their second-stage Block A clash on Saturday afternoon at Tokyo’s Oi No. 2 Stadium.

 

“I feel very good about the win, and just also disappointed that the season is over,” IBM head coach Shinzo Yamada said. “Two feelings.”

 

While IBM (4-3) was already out of contention for a playoff spot, Nojima (4-2) can still advance, but faces the daunting task of having to beat the West Division champion Panasonic Impulse next Sunday in the stage finale. Panasonic defeated IBM 34-17 in the first round of games last week.

 

Just as Panasonic did the week before, Nojima aligned its defense to stop an aerial barrage from Craft. Unlike Panasonic, however, Nojima could not halt the rushing attack to which it left itself exposed.

 

“I knew they were going to play like Panasonic did, back off,” Yamada said. “I thought it was going to be an easy four or five yards every time with our running backs Sueyoshi and [Yusuke] Nakano. I thought it was a good game plan and it worked well at first. In the second half, in the beginning we were kind of slow, but we stuck with that game plan and stayed with the runs.”

 

Craft, the former UCLA starter who had a record-setting season in divisional play in his first year in Japan, completed 13 of 18 passes for a season-low 149 yards, while also running six times for 64 yards and a touchdown. He was more than willing to allow his backfield mates carry the load.

 

“After what Panasonic was doing to us—they were only rushing two and sometimes one—we just thought we had to run the ball,” Craft said. “If I watched the film, I would have done the same thing [as Nojima did], run the 30 [three down linemen] and try to cover down like they were doing.”

 

Sueyoshi carried 18 times to hit the 100-yard mark exactly, just as he did against Panasonic, while also scoring a 1-yard touchdown before calling it a day at halftime. Nakano had 53 yards on 15 carries and also caught a touchdown pass before also coming out a bit worse for wear.

 

Later on, the IBM juggernaut kept chugging away in the form of Yasuo Harada, who gained 64 yards on nine carries, including a 7-yard touchdown.

 

“All of our running backs did good,” Craft said. “Tomo got a little banged up and so did Nakano.  Our backup running back, Harada, he’s really good. Probably doesn’t play as much as he should. He got in there, he made some good runs. They all kind of stepped up and ran the ball when they had to when we had to get first downs.”

 

Overall, IBM ran the ball on 57 of its 75 plays from scrimmage as it became just the second 3rd-place team to win a second-stage game since the current format was adopted in 2009 (Asahi Beer defeated Asahi Soft Drinks earlier in the day to become the first.)

 

“We just couldn’t stop them,” Nojima defensive back Reggie Mitchell said. “We practiced for what they were going to do, they just did the same thing and just lined up and ran it, and we just couldn’t stop it. They did good today, I’m just a little shocked right now.”

 

Eisuke Tomatsu broke away for a 77-yard touchdown run and Takashi Miyako gained 80 yards on 16 carries to lead Nojima, which finished second in the East Division after making the final four last season. Quarterback Masato Kinoshita, who ran for the Rise’s other touchdown, was limited to 6 of 17 completions for 113 yards.

 

“Very happy with this performance today,” said IBM safety Jabali Miller, who knocked down a pass in the end zone. “When we first played the Rise, they had like 80 plays total [actually 77], but [our] offense had good balance today, let the defense rest, it was great.”

 

Nojima and IBM faced each other in the spring Pearl Bowl, with the Rise coming back from a 21-14 halftime deficit to win 35-21. But that IBM offense was vastly different from the one this fall with the addition of Craft, who set X-League records with 1,628 yards passing and 20 touchdowns in the Central Division.

 

The only play that had any semblance with those from divisional play came when Craft connected with tight end John Stanton on a perfect rainbow down the middle for a 20-yard touchdown pass to open the fourth quarter. That put IBM up 34-17 and all but sealed the victory.

 

“There’s no way our linebacker can cover their tight end down the middle,” Mitchell said. “That touchdown they had just killed us, put a dagger in us right there.”

 

It was a play that the two repeated numerous times during the season, as Stanton caught 25 passes for seven touchdowns and 488 yards, both league highs. On Saturday, the Rise’s pass-oriented defense limited Stanton to just two catches, although he burned them with one.

 

“He’s a good player, he’s done that all year,” Craft said. “He’s definitely a threat….They left him unaccounted that one time, that was the only time, because they were covering him.”

 

IBM, which scored touchdowns on its first three drives, set the tone for the game when it marched 59 yards on its opening possession. Of the 12 plays in the drive, Craft threw just one pass, while Sueyoshi carried eight times, including the final one yard for the score.

 

After Nojima squandered a 47-yard kickoff return by Eisuke Tomatsu when Shin Idezawa missed a 45-yard field goal attempt, IBM made it 13-0 on a 13-yard touchdown pass from Craft to Michihiro Ogawa.

 

Tomatsu set off on his long touchdown romp on Nojima’s first play of the ensuing series, only to see Koki Takagi return the kickoff 51 yards to the Rise 37. Sueyoshi rushed twice for 22 yards, and three plays later, Chitaka Kishi made a slick catch of a 6-yard Craft pass, bobbling the ball before hauling it in as he kept his feet in the end zone for a 20-7 lead.

 

Nojima’s Kinoshita fumbled the ball away on the final play of the first quarter, but IBM was unable to capitalize, just as the Rise failed to take advantage of a Nakano fumble which they recovered. The lone score of the second quarter came when Craft engineered a 12-play, 95-yard drive, in which he had a 30-yard run and capped with an 18-yard touchdown pass to Nakano.

 

Nojima started to turn things around in the third quarter, when they cut the gap to 27-17 on Seitaro Iwasaki’s 22-yard field goal and Kinoshita’s rushing touchdown. Miller broke up a pass in the end zone on the play before the field goal, but was also burned for a 46-yard pass from Kinoshita to Yuji Otaki that helped set up the touchdown.

 

IBM regrouped and, running the ball on eight straight plays, moved from its own 31 to the Nojima 20. From there, Craft opened the fourth quarter with his touchdown toss to Stanton. On its next two drives, a desperate Nojima came up short on fourth-down gambles near midfield and IBM took advantage, with Craft running for a 3-yard touchdown and Harada gaining a little bonus for his efforts with a 6-yard scoring run to conclude the scoring.

 

For Nojima head coach Takayuki Sunaga, he knows the team will have to rise to new heights to overcome Panasonic. “They’re strong, but we’ll see how we match up,” Sunaga said. “We won’t know what will happen until we play. But anyway, we know that if we don’t win, it’s over.”

 

—Ken Marantz for the X-League

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