Defense Lets Vaqs Down in OT Thriller

Ross Coleman

“Can you tackle?” head coach John Rome asked his young daughter after a poor display by his defense in the Nov. 1 loss in triple overtime to Allan Hancock College 57-55 in the Vaqueros final home game of the season.

In a game where the defense was almost non-existent on either side, the Vaqs gave up 683 yards to the Bulldogs from Allan Hancock, 473 of those yards coming on the ground. The Bulldogs had two players rush for over one hundred yards and put up six touchdowns on the ground, including four by the Bulldog quarterback.

The Vaqs did display their own set of offensive fireworks.

Freshman Lavelle Peterson rushed for 110 yards on 21 carries and had five rushing touchdowns. Fellow freshman Willie Youngblood also played well with 95 yards on 19 carries and a pair of touchdowns.

Quarterback Stephen Miller had an efficient game passing, completing 13 of 20 passes for 240 yard and a touchdown pass to Robert Linda. Linda finished with 46 yards on four catches. Michael Harrison had three catches for 70 yards.

In what turned out to be a game-deciding play in the first half, the Vaqs kicker Chris Chapman had a 25-yard field goal blocked with just one minute left in the half. Had the kick been converted, the Vaqs might have pulled the game out in regulation.

However, that wasn’t the only mistake for the Vaqs. With 5:15 left in the fourth quarter, Peterson scored his third touchdown of the game putting the Vaqs up 35-21 and seemingly out of reach for the run heavy Bulldogs.

On the second play of the ensuing drive, the Vaqs defense gave up a 78-yard touchdown run to pull back within seven with 4:46 left in the game. Then after a quick stop by the Bulldog defense the Vaqs gave up a 91-yard drive for the game-tying touchdown that came on the lone passing score for the Bulldogs with just 16 seconds left.

The first overtime saw the Vaqs score on a 23-yard touchdown from Miller to Linda. The Bulldogs answered on a 1-yard touchdown run.
The second overtime was more of the same. The Bulldogs got the first possession and quickly put it in the end zone. The Vaqs answered with Peterson’s fourth touchdown of the game.

In college overtime, starting in the third overtime, teams must begin to try for the two-point conversion instead of kicking the PAT. This is usually how close games are decided, and this game was no different.

On the Vaqs possession Peterson scored his fifth and final touchdown of the game, but the Vaqs were unable to convert for the two-points. The Bulldogs quickly answered with a touchdown and converted on the two-point conversion for the victory.

“If I was a defensive player I would be embarrassed,” said a frustrated Rome after the game. “It’s hard to play for so long and not come up with a stop when you need one. We can’t let an offense answer all of our scores and to lose a game that we have that kind of a lead against this team is absolutely astonishing to me.”

The game took a scary turn during the final overtime when Allan Hancock player Brian Hughes collapsed on the sidelines after a big hit with an apparent head and neck injury. Hughes lost feeling in his extremities for a short while before regaining some feeling. He was carted off the field and taken away in an ambulance.

After being taken to the hospital, Hughes was quickly released by doctors after being deemed healthy. However on the Vaqs side, freshman defensive back Francis McDonald will be out for the rest of the year after breaking hid fibula.

The loss drops the Vaqs to 3-5 overall and 1-3 in the conference play. The Vaqs final game of the season will be Saturday at Pasadena City College.