GLENDORA, Calif. – The Azusa Pacific Cougars football team expected a tough battle against rival GNAC (Great Northwest Athletic Conference) opponent, Humboldt State. However, the Cougars were given more than they could handle on Saturday night, losing to the Lumberjacks 30-19 in front of a large APU crowd.
Prior to the game, the Cougars had won their last nine GNAC conference games and their last eight home games. The last time they lost at home and to a GNAC opponent was in 2015.
This upset will also drop APU in the national rankings, as the Cougars were the eighth ranked Division-II team in the nation in the AFCA (American Football Coaches Association) National Coaches Poll.
“The offense played well today, but there are some final plays that we have to make. Defensively, I loved our effort, but once again, there are just some plays that we have to make on third down,” Cougars head coach Victor Santa Cruz said. “They grinded this game out. They’re a good football team, we’re a good football team, but they just made a few more plays than we did.”
The Jacks would score a touchdown on their opening drive of the game, but the Cougars would answer back quickly with two offensive touchdowns in order to take a 13-7 lead in the second.
Both teams would proceed in a back-and-fourth battle, as the Jacks would score two more touchdown runs to retake the lead, 20-13. The Cougars would add another touchdown in the third, but would miss the extra point, resulting in Humboldt State still leading, 20-19.
In the fourth, the Cougars would be unable to comeback as the Jacks relied on their power running game. The Jacks would add a field goal and a touchdown in the fourth, in order to win 30-19 over the Cougars.
Mistakes hurt the Cougars throughout the game, especially on special teams as APU would miss a field goal, two extra-point attempts and would mishandle a punt. Santa Cruz addressed those mistakes and that the team is going to have to fix them soon.
“It all comes down to mechanics. We just have to look at the tape and see where the mechanics went wrong with that. There were mistakes that threw off our rhythm a little, so we have to take a deeper look at that,” Santa Cruz said.
Jacks senior RB Ja’Quan Garner had an impressive night, rushing for 168 yards and three touchdowns on 31 carries against APU.
For the Cougars, senior QB Andrew Elffers would throw for over 300 yards with two touchdowns in the air; Elffers also led the team in rushing, totaling 75 yards on the ground and a touchdown. Sophomore WR Weston Carr also had a big night for the Cougars, totaling 13 catches for 190 yards and a touchdown.
Elffers was proud of the way his team performed, but admits that games like this are always tough–yet he believes that this loss will help motivate the team to perform better.
“That one hurt. I hate losing,” Elffers said. “Whenever you lose a game, it puts a sense of urgency in you. Our guys will grow from this, I know we’ll come back hungry to win. I’m watching film tonight and I’m not going to waste a second to get better.”
The Cougars are now 1-1 on the season and intend to get back to their winning ways next Saturday in their second home game where they will take on Central Washington at Citrus College.
“We’re going to stick with the plan. We’re going to be a good football team and we’re excited for next week,” Santa Cruz said.