Tetsuo Takata threw for a tie-breaking touchdown and Kota Yagi followed with a key interception early in the final quarter Friday as Ritsumeikan University pulled away to pound the Seagulls 36-13 for its first Rice Bowl national championship.

Quarterback Takata, sidelined from last month’s Koshien Bowl national collegiate championship due to a shoulder injury, found wide receiver Akira Hiyamizu up field for an 83-yard touchdown at 2:53 into the fourth quarter as Ritsumeikan broke a 13-13 deadlock at the Tokyo Dome.

Just 21 seconds later, linebacker Yagi intercepted on the next series for a 35-yard touchdown to give the Panthers a 27-13 cushion before backup quarterback Keisuke Sugita hit Minoru Kato on a 10-yard touchdown pass at 11:18 to effectively seal the victory.

“It’s fair to say that we would only beat the Seagulls once out of every 20 meetings. But I’m happy we did it against the odds in the Rice Bowl,” Ritsumeikan head coach Yuichiro Furuhashi said.

Ritsumeikan was the second school in as many years to beat the champion of the X League, which comprises corporate and quasi-corporate club teams, in the Rice Bowl. Last year, Kwansei Gakuin University edged Asahi Soft Drinks 30-27. Yagi, who played a central role in the Ritsumeikan defense, was named the Most Valuable Player of the game.

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