Quarterback Hiroshi Matsuda threw for 149 yards and a touchdown as Ritsumeikan University beat defending champion Panasonic Electric Works 17-13 to win its first Rice Bowl title in five years on Saturday.
Ritsumeikan did its homework by deploying a tight-knit defense against an overwhelmingly more powerful opponent to become the first collegiate team to win the title against a corporate league team since claiming consecutive victories in 2003-2004.
Ritsumeikan claimed its third overall title and denied the Impulse its second title in a row in the process.
“We were determined to play hard and break down this powerful team,” said Matsuda, who was named the game’s MVP after completing 17-for-25 passes with no interceptions.
“I got a lot of help from my teammates. They caught the ball well, hit hard and kept the ball moving. It was a hard season but our efforts paid off.”
The Panthers went to work early, scoring on their first possession when Matsuda connected with tight end Masanari Mori for a 12-yard touchdown and later added Shinichiro Sunahara’s 44-yard field goal on its next drive for a 10-0 lead at Tokyo Dome.
Ritsumeikan scored another touchdown on a 23-yard rush by tailback Shunsuke Matsumori following a 27-yard field goal by Masahiro Ota for the Impulse.
Running back Masahiro Ishino scored the Impulse’s only touchdown of the day with a dive into the end zone on a fourth and goal play at the end of the second quarter to cut the deficit to 17-10 at halftime.
The Impulse had two opportunities to score late in the game but the Panthers’ defense remained impregnable and the final pass by quarterback Tetsuo Takata with just seven seconds remaining was intercepted by defensive back Kenji Mori to clinch victory.
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