APU football’s victory over Colorado School of Mines keeps them alive in the NCAA Division II playoff race
The Azusa Pacific football team earned a much-needed victory at home in a non-conference battle with Colorado School of Mines. The Cougars’ played a solid game on both sides of the ball and finished strong, keeping their opponent scoreless in the fourth quarter and winning by a score of 35-21.
Both teams entered this matchup with a 3-2 overall record and knew that this game was a must-win with playoff implications already on the line.
“They’re an amazing football program, so that’s a good win,” head coach Victor Santa Cruz said. “That’s a good job of being able to contain them to only 342 yards.”
Colorado Mines runs an explosive offense that has averaged 39.8 points per game entering today’s matchup. Holding the Orediggers to only 342 total yards and 21 points was an accomplishment for the Cougars.
“Everyone has to be scrappy out there, but our team wants it bad, and there are some moments where scrappy is the best thing to be,” Santa Cruz said about his defense.
The Cougars had only played Colorado School of Mines once before this, and that was last year in Colorado, where the Cougars lost 23-27. The Cougars were ranked 10th in the nation at the time with a 5-0 record, and the Orediggers pulled off the upset.
However, this is a different team and a different night compared to then.
Offensively, the Cougars scored first and never looked back. APU went up 14-0 over the Orediggers after junior running back Kurt Scoby and sophomore wide receiver Weston Carr each scored a touchdown.
In the second quarter, the Orediggers would score two touchdowns of their own thanks to the power running of sophomore Cameron Mayberry. The Cougars would connect on another touchdown pass from senior quarterback Andrew Elffers to Carr to gain a 21-14 lead by halftime.
In the third, the Cougars would add two more touchdowns—one being a 13-yard pass from Elffers to freshman WR Jordan Bogardus and the other being an 11-yard rushing touchdown by Scoby. Mayberry would score his third touchdown for Colorado Mines, but it would not be enough.
Scoby served as the reliable workhorse for the Cougars, totaling 191 yards rushing on 30 carries and two touchdowns.
“[Scoby] doesn’t go down easy. He’s so electric and makes guys miss,” Elffers said. “He’s another guy that works so hard, day-in and day-out, which says a lot to his character and who he is as a man. He’s getting better, working on his moves and just playing hard football. I love that guy.”
Elffers went 20-30 on the night for 280 yards and three touchdowns. Carr led all receivers with 10 catches for 162 yards and two touchdowns.
Elffers believes that the strong competition from this Colorado Mines team may have encouraged or elevated APU.
“They are a good and smart opponent, but when you play a good opponent, that elevates your play. We matched up with them and fought to be the better team,” Elffers said.
APU never trailed in this game, and they denied the Orediggers comeback effort by forcing three turnovers, two of which were interceptions that came in the fourth quarter. The Cougars were also able to shut down junior WR Brody Oliver, who is currently one of the top receivers in Division II football.
Junior defensive back LeAndre Jefferson explained that the Cougars were well-prepared against the Orediggers and that the defense executed their job tonight.
“We kept the game small. The box controlled the box and the perimeter controlled the perimeter. We have a great scout team that gave us amazing looks all week at practice. We were prepared for their tempo and the coaches prepared us very well for everything that they can possibly throw at us,” Jefferson said. “Our whole momentum going into this game, we stayed grounded, and if we control the box and the perimeter, good things will happen.”
This was perhaps one of the strongest performances by the Cougars’ defense all season, who bent, but refused to break when called upon by their team. Regardless, this defense only looks to improve from here on out.
“We are stronger than we were when we first began the season, but there is still work to be done, there’s still so much left on the table for us,” Jefferson said.
The Cougars have now won their third consecutive game—all forming a sense of déjà vu for opposing teams, as all three games have included multiple touchdowns by both Scoby and Carr, an interception by senior safety Taliuaki Suliafu, and three fourth quarter defensive shutouts.
“We preach that we want to win the game by Thursday, and that’s how we practice…and tonight, our team executed. It wasn’t perfect by any means, but you win your games early on in the week and we just have to keep that going and have that tenacity and work ethic to us,” Elffers said.
The Cougars will look to have the same result next week, as they carry this momentum into Arcata, Calif., for a rematch against Humboldt State. The Lumberjacks had beat APU at home, 30-19, on Sept. 9. Now APU will have to earn another needed win against their GNAC rivals in the hopes of securing a playoff spot.
“We’ll take it one day at a time, but you can’t beat playing against Humboldt [State],” Elffers said. “We’ll all be looking forward to it for sure.”