IBM defensive back Tatsuma Kobayashi’s 98-yard interception return touchdown turned out to be the momentum-changer as the BigBlue defeated the Obic Seagulls 38-36 on Tuesday at Tokyo Dome.
The BigBlue picked up their first victory over the Seagulls in the X League club’s 40-year history and avenged a 29-27 loss in the Pearl Bowl Final in June.
“Obic has been the team to beat for us for a long time,” IBM head coach Shinzo Yamada said. “But we have a long way to go to the X Bowl. We keep moving on to win over them again if we meet (in the playoffs) again.
“Kobayashi’s touchdown really gave us the momentum, but Obic was good enough to make the comeback effort that threatened us.”
The Seagulls grabbed momentum first, scoring a touchdown on each of their first three possessions. Shun Sugawara, who started for injured quarterback Ikaika Woolsey, threw two scoring passes in the second quarter alone en route to a 21-17 halftime lead for Obic.
But the BigBlue’s big defensive linemen, led by 195-cm James Brooks and 196-cm rookie Charles Tuaau, kept pressuring Sugawara, who was sacked four times.
Sugawara looked to maintain his rhythm into the third quarter when the Seagulls advanced to the BigBlue 3 on their first drive of the second half. But Kobayashi intercepted Sugawara’s pass at the 2 and ran into the end zone without being touched.
“It was my first touchdown in the X League,” Kobayashi said. “After the interception, I saw the open space in front of me and just went straight. I have confidence in my speed.”
Kobayashi’s pick-six not only gave the BigBlue a 24-21 lead, but also shifted momentum to them. The BigBlue forced their first three-and-out and followed with 14 unanswered points to pull ahead 38-21.
The BigBlue used a lot of running plays to eat up time in the second half mainly featuring Ryo Takagi, who was absent in the first half. Takagi works in Nagoya and arrived at Tokyo Dome during the second quarter. He took time to warm up and got on the field in the third quarter, helping keep drives alive with six carries for 30 yards.
With the BigBlue up 38-28, the Seagulls got the ball back on a blocked field-goal attempt with 3:51 to go. They advanced to the BigBlue 13, but a 28-yard field goal try sailed wide left.
The Seagulls scored a touchdown in the closing second, but fell short.