IBM quarterback Yuki Masamoto outperformed former Michigan passer Devin Gardner to lead the BigBlue to a 27-19 victory over the Nojima Sagamihara Rise on Sunday at Fujitsu Stadium Kawasaki in the semifinals of the Pearl Bowl Tournament.

The defending champion BigBlue will take on the Obic Seagulls, who defeated the Lixil Deers 35-7 in the other semifinal at the same venue, in the final on June 19 at Tokyo Dome.

Masamoto, a backup quarterback to Kevin Craft, completed 10 of 18 passes for 135 yards and one touchdown while scoring another on a 6-yard rush to guide the BigBlue offense.

“Masamoto brought a good tempo to our offense,” IBM head coach Shinzo Yamada said. “We have decided to start Masamoto a lot this spring to give him experience. He has improved so much since last season that we let him call the play by himself.”

Statistically, Gardner was better, going 20-for-36 for 279 yards and a score with a rushing touchdown himself, too. But Masamoto led his offense to three touchdown drives and two more scoring on field goals.

Gardner, on the other hand, did have three touchdown drives, but also had three possessions which ended with no score after advancing inside the BigBlue’s 10. Several dropped passes by the Rise receivers also hurt their offense.

With the BigBlue leading 14-12 in the second quarter, Masamoto hit running back Ryo Takagi with a 5-yard touchdown pass to make it a two-score game. Then Genki Odakura’s 31-yard field goal in the third quarter widened the lead to 24-12.

Gardner’s 10-yard scoring pass to Yuhei Yagi with 3:48 remaining in the third quarter made it 24-19, but Odakura kicked another field goal 1:46 later and the BigBlue defense held on.

Meanwhile, rookie quarterback and ex-Hawaii Warrior Ikaika Woolsey tossed two touchdown passes and rushed for two more to guide the Seagulls to the Pearl Bowl final for the first time in two seasons. The Seagulls outgained the Deers 528 yards to 202 and their defense allowed its opponent only 19 yards on the ground.

“Ikaika had struggled a few weeks ago to adjust to the timing of our receivers. It was tough for him to establish combinations with our receivers with fewer practices than he had had in the United States,” Obic head coach Naoki Kosho said. “But he’s getting better. I hope he gets used to our practice schedule and circumstances to play football, which are different from what he’s experienced, soon.”

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