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MVP Cameron carries unbeaten Fujitsu to Rice Bowl triumph

by Hiroshi Ikezawa

Staff Writer

Two years ago, Colby Cameron played the role of a cheerleader on the sideline and watched his teammates beat the Kwansei Gakuin University Fighters for their first-ever national championship.

This year, the former Louisiana Tech quarterback was the guy to guide the Fujitsu Frontiers to their second Rice Bowl title in three seasons with a 30-13 triumph over the same opponent on Tuesday at Tokyo Dome.

The X League champion Frontiers wrapped up the season with a perfect 10-0 record.

“I feel great. It’s a great experience to finish out the season strong and happy to actually play and compete against (the Fighters) in such a famous event as the Rice Bowl,” said Cameron, who missed the Rice Bowl in 2015 with a shoulder injury he suffered in the Japan X Bowl. “(Two years ago) I just wanted to support teammates but you always want to play. This year was fun that I actually had a chance to play.”

Not only making his Rice Bowl debut, Cameron also made big plays by tossing three touchdown passes. He threw 30- and 51-yard scoring strikes to Teruaki Clark Nakamura and a 37-yarder to Yuya Fukui en route to completing 20 of 27 for 311 yards and no interceptions. Cameron was named the Rice Bowl MVP.

“Clark is just a great receiver and we knew we (could) get him man-to-man,” Cameron said of his second touchdown pass to Nakamura. “We knew we had a chance and we were able to make it. Clark did a good job.”

Playing before a crowd of 33,521, the Frontiers finished their first two possessions with field goals, but finally found the end zone when Cameron saw Nakamura beat the coverage of Kwansei Gakuin’s Ryota Yokozawa and delivered the game’s first touchdown pass with 2:19 remaining in the first quarter.

Another Cameron-Nakamura connection late in the second quarter and Hidetetsu Nakamura’s third field goal on Fujitsu’s first possession of the second half gave the Frontiers a 23-0 lead midway through the third period.

Finally, the Fighters found their offensive rhythm led by Seiji Hashimoto, who rushed for a team-high 66 yards on 11 carries. Hashimoto’s 3-yard touchdown run capped a 10-play, 65-yard drive that made the score 23-6 before a failed two-point conversion with 1:10 left in the third quarter.

But the Frontiers wasted no time to counter, with Cameron hitting Fukui with a scoring pass just 65 seconds later, widening the lead to 30-6.

The collegiate champion Fighters some some tricky plays, such as flea-flickers, fake punts and tackle-eligible plays. They even went for fourth-down conversion gambles, but finished 1-for-6 in those occasions.

The Fighters scored another touchdown when Mitsuhiro Izu threw a 6-yard scoring toss to Akira Kameyama with 0:45 to play, but it was too little, too late, and they suffered their sixth consecutive Rice Bowl loss.

“Unlike the score implies, it was a tough game and we could not be sure to win until the last seconds,” Fujitsu head coach Satoshi Fujita said. “We have been struggling to score a touchdown in recent games. We did score touchdowns and it was significant. Cameron threw good passes and the defensive players focused on playing their own assignments.

“We knew the Fighters give us some tricky plays, but we just concentrated on doing what we should do as individuals,” Fujita continued. “I have seen this team improve, especially on each player’s skills. That is the major difference from two years ago.”

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