KAWASAKI – Taiyo Tezuka kicked a 28-yard field goal to break a 14-14 tie with 5:14 in the fourth quarter as the Keio University Unicorns rallied to beat the Meiji University Griffins 24-14 on Saturday at Kawasaki Fujimi Stadium.
The Unicorns are now 2-0 in the Kanto Collegiate League’s “Top 8” division while the Griffins fell to 0-2.
The Unicorns defense, which gave up 42 points to Rikkyo University two weeks ago, improved greatly to hold the Griffins to only 153 yards of total offense. It sacked Meiji quarterback Yuki Hirose five times and a fumble recovery by defensive tackle Yosuke Kaneko in the fourth quarter set up the winning field goal.
But the Unicorns were sluggish offensively in the first half, especially in the red zone. They marched inside the the opponent’s 3-yard line twice in the first half, but had to settle for a field goal both times for an early 6-0 lead.
The Griffins answered back when Jun Koriyama scored on a 6-yard run with 50 seconds remaining to take a 7-6 halftime lead.
The Griffins extended their lead to 14-6 as Koriyama rushed three yards for another score on the first possession of the third quarter.
The eight-point margin, however, put the Unicorns in emergency mode midway through the third quarter. They had two fourth-down conversions during an 11-play, 66-yard drive that was capped by Tsubasa Takagi’s 14-yard touchdown pass to Yuhei Yagi and a successful two-point conversion tied it at 14-14.
In the fourth quarter, Hirose lost the ball when he was hit on a run play and Kaneko recovered it on the Meiji 36-yard line. Six plays later, Tezuka kicked the go-ahead field goal.
On the following possession, the Griffins failed to convert a fourth-and-6 at their own 44-yard line, giving an opportunity for the Unicorns to score an insurance touchdown with 2:15 to play. The Unicorns held onto the lead for the rest of the game.
“Our defense was good today,” Keio head coach David Stant said. “Our offense started slow a little bit at the start because Tsubasa (Takagi) tried to do too much. I told him to calm down and play relaxed as he normally does in the practices. He calmed down in the second half and that enabled our offense to find the rhythm and play well.”
“I wouldn’t say I was nervous, but I did not play the way I normally do,” Takagi said. “We struggled at the goal-line offense. That’s the issue we have to solve until the next game.”
The Unicorns are in their second year under Hawaiian coach Stant, who led the Seagulls of the X League to national championships in the 1996 and 1998 seasons. The Unicorns were 5-2 last season after back-to-back 4-3 seasons.
“I coach a little bit harder than last year because I know the players and coaches better now,” Stant said. “I go tough in practices, meetings and in disciplining the players. We have good seniors. They buy into the system.”
The Unicorns play the 17-time Kanto champion Hosei University Tomahawks (2-0), who defeated the Nippon Sports Science University Triumphant Lion (0-2) 38-0 later on Saturday at the same venue, on Sept. 27 at Amino Vital Field in Chofu, Tokyo.