Cougars start year 0-2 after disheartening 17-51 loss on Saturday night.

Azusa Pacific’s football team is off to a rough start for the season after dropping their second consecutive contest. This defeat came against Missouri S&T by a score of 17-51. 

Last week, the Cougars dropped their opener against West Texas A&M, and suffered two huge injuries to running back Aaron Baltazar and linebacker Willie Fair, both captains on the team.

Unlike the contests against WT, it was APU’s slow start that led to the disappointing finish in this game. In the first quarter, MST scored two touchdowns on short-run plays, and after a blocked extra point attempt, MST led 13-0 at the end of the first quarter. 

The second quarter was even worse. After a field goal by Missouri kicker Ben Styron made it a 16-0 game, APU quarterback Tyrone Williams Jr. threw his lone interception of the night, which was returned 19 yards for yet another MST touchdown.

The team experienced a minor jolt after Williams threw a bullet to wideout Jasiah Richard-Lewis for a 79-yard completion, setting APU up at their opponent’s ten-yard line. But the Cougars were unable to capitalize with three straight incomplete passes and settled for a field goal from kicker Ramzee Jaridly to finally get on the board. MST’s offense continued to stay hot, and by halftime, they led 37-3.

The third quarter was the only positive period of the game for APU. The Cougars scored a touchdown on their first two possessions of the half, with an 11-yard pass from Williams to receiver Brandon Jackson and a  five-yard run into the endzone by Williams. Yet, MST continued to add on to their lead with just over four minutes left, after another touchdown pass by MST quarterback Brennan Simms, giving him a total of three for the game.

The final 15 minutes once again favored Missouri, and the Cougars left Allgood-Bailey Stadium in disbelief after dropping their second consecutive game of the season. 

MST has a  star-studded defense, highlighted by  Tershawn Wharton, who was a preseason first-team All-American selection. Nevertheless, it was a complete team effort by MST that led to their dominant win, and clearly APU had no answers on how to stop them.

“We had some scoring chances throughout the game, but we simply failed to capitalize on any of them. Over the long run, it led to us being outplayed,” head coach Victor Santa Cruz said per APU Athletics.

With the injuries on their roster and a daunting schedule that saw the team travel more than 4,500 miles throughout the first two weeks of their season, it’s clear that Santa Cruz’s group of men have had a difficult time adjusting to their frustrating circumstances. This upcoming week will be of vital importance for the Cougars as it will show how this football team responds after a  0-2 start in which they were outscored 33-86.

APU’s next contest is a home game at Citrus Stadium where they will take on Western Oregon, who has also had a disappointing 0-2 record to start their season. The Cougars have won nine of the last 10 matchups against Wester Oregon and are riding a six-game winning streak. The game is on Saturday at 6:30 p.m.