The Fujitsu Frontiers have started a new dynasty. Nihon University’s glory, however, still remains only as part of its proud history.
Colby Cameron threw three touchdown passes to guide the Frontiers to a 37-9 triumph over the Nihon University Phoenix in the Rice Bowl in front of a crowd of 34,500 at Tokyo Dome on Wednesday.
The X League champions became back-to-back Rice Bowl (which pits Japan’s college champion against the X League champion) winners and claimed their third title in four years. The Phoenix failed in their bid for a first national title in 27 years.
“I’m happy about winning the championship for the second consecutive year. My players improved a lot during the season,” Fujitsu head coach Satoshi Fujita said. “We started slow today, having incomplete passes and drops in the first half, but the players managed to keep their concentration.
“Defeating the Phoenix is something special for me, because I was beaten by them in the past,” Fujita said, referring to the collegiate championship games against the Phoenix he was involved in as a player and coach for Kyoto University in 1980s.
Fujita wasn’t the only person with special motivation for playing the Phoenix, who have won 21 collegiate national championships and also four Rice Bowls, the last of which came in 1991.
Frontiers wide receiver Teruaki Clark Nakamura was facing his alma mater and was happy to record a 49-yard touchdown reception during the second quarter.
“I learned a lot of the fundamentals with the Phoenix, such as the techniques of catching long passes,” said Nakamura, who played for the Phoenix from 2007-10. “I’m happy to be able to catch a long pass today and show wide receivers from the Phoenix can play well.”
Even Cameron, the game’s MVP, came into the contest with a deep respect for Nihon University.
“I knew about the Phoenix because we have many ex-Nihon teammates,” Cameron said. “I knew they were such a strong team in the past. I think now it’s gonna cycle back. They will probably be here (in the future). They’re really good.”
That it took Cameron some time to find a way to deal with the Phoenix’s aggressive defense shows the validity of his words. The Frontiers’ first two possessions ended with punts, uncharacteristic of one of the X League’s highest scoring clubs.
Fujitsu scored touchdowns on its next two offensive series, but also had a pair of potential scoring passes nullified during the first half.
One was a 24-yard reception by Nakamura that was denied when the official replay showed his foot was out of bounds. The other was negated by a penalty.
The Frontiers led 17-3 at halftime and really found their offensive rhythm after the break, scoring 20 unanswered points.
Cameron finished 17 of 29 for 275 yards and an interception. Running back Gino Gordon rushed for 126 yards and a score on 15 carries. Nakamura gained 182 yards on eight receptions.
For the Phoenix, quarterback Taiki Hayashi completed 11 of 23 passes for 92 yards and an interception while adding 48 yards on the ground before leaving the game late in the fourth quarter because of an injury to his right foot.
Sophomore Masamichi Muroi replaced Hayashi and threw a 9-yard touchdown pass to Go Ogura with 15 seconds remaining (two-point conversion failed).