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TOP > Game Report > For the Seagulls, this overtime victory was anything but a snap

Game Report

For the Seagulls, this overtime victory was anything but a snap


Obic quarterback Jerry Neuheisel throws a pass under pressure during the fourth quarter.





KAWASAKI (Oct. 23)—In a game that featured a riveting duel between former UCLA quarterbacks Jerry Neuheisel of the Obic Seagulls and IBM BigBlue counterpart Kevin Craft, and a rabbit-out-of-the-hat touchdown pass by each in the overtime tiebreaker, the decisive play came with both watching from the sidelines.


Obic walked off the field at Fujitsu Stadium Kawasaki still unbeaten and with a 24-23 victory when IBM’s snap on the extra point in the extra session went over the holder’s head, bringing a close to a nail-biting contest that had the crowd of 1,851 on the edge of their seats and both teams knowing they may not have seen the last of each other.


“I didn’t think we were going to have go to overtime, but I knew we were going to win,” Neuheisel said. “It’s just that kind of that feeling that we get around this team that no matter what it takes, we’re going to find a way to get it done. Today, it wasn’t pretty, but we found a way to get it done, and I’m just proud to be a Seagull.”


Neuheisel, playing a full game for the first time since joining Obic (5-0) in the spring, completed 32 of 47 passes for 350 yards and three touchdowns, including a 14-yarder to Ryoma Hagiyama in the tiebreaker session in which he made the play after miraculously scrambling out of a sack. He also had one interception.


IBM (2-3) went with rookie Yuki Masamoto as starter, but after falling behind 14-3, turned the ball over to Craft, who had only returned to action in the previous game from a shoulder injury suffered in the spring. Craft stepped up and threw two short touchdown passes to John Stanton, the second of which put IBM ahead 17-14 early in the fourth quarter.


Craft’s experience and skill came out in overtime, after Neuheisel had thrown his TD pass to put the pressure on. Facing a 4th-and-13 on the 28, Craft did some scrambling of his own before finding Stanton, who made a sliding catch in the end zone to stay in bounds.


“I had a play that I thought would work, whether it was for the end zone or for a first down, it just happened to be the end zone,” said Craft, who completed 15 of 20 passes for 157 yards, with one interception. “It was a read. I just wanted to make sure I had a little bit of space between me and [defensive ends] BJ [Beatty] and Kevin [Jackson] to be able to get it up the field.”


Adding to the drama, IBM’s Genki Odakura initially made the extra point, which would have extended the game to a second tiebreaker, but snapper Takakazu Saito was flagged for holding Jackson on the play. Earlier in the game, Jackson had blocked an 18-yard Odakura field goal attempt just before halftime. The re-snap went awry and ended the game.


“They’re PAT rush is so good, and they blocked one of our [kicks] early in the game,” Craft said. “You have to take care of those guys.”


In a wild fourth quarter that included three turnovers, two 4th-and-1 gambles (one successfully) and a goal-line stand, the Seagulls sent the game into overtime when Takatoshi Hoshino kicked a 25-yard field goal with :32 left. The IBM defense did well to limit the Seagulls to just a field goal, after Obic had a 1st-and-goal at the 2 and ended up losing a yard on three plays.


“We just have to execute better,” Obic offensive coordinator Daniel Lynds said of falling short of a touchdown. “It wasn’t anything they did in particular, it wasn’t anything we did other than not executing at our best. We have to get better, and we will.”


IBM got a break on its first drive of the second half, when a short punt combined with a personal foul gave the BigBlue the ball on the Obic 22. An 11-yard pass to Stanton on 3rd-and-2 put the ball on the Obic 3, and three plays later, Craft rolled out and flipped a 2-yard touchdown pass to Stanton to cut the Seagulls’ lead to 14-10.


Neuheisel came right back and led the Seagulls from their own 31 to the IBM 3, completing three 3rd-down passes en route. But on 1st-and-goal on the first play of the fourth quarter, his pass to the right flat was picked off by defensive back Daisuke Hoso, who returned it 48 yards to the 49.


“They made some good adjustments, got us a little bit out of rhythm,” Lynds said. “We didn’t get back into rhythm until the fourth quarter, and they came up with the big goal-line interception. We just went into a lull, it happens sometimes.”


Tomokazu Sueyoshi, who ran for 71 yards on 11 carries, ripped off a 33-yard run that helped set up Craft’s second TD toss to Stanton, this time from 4 yards out to put IBM ahead for the first time in the game 17-14. Stanton led all receivers with eight catches for 65 yards, while also throwing a 65-yard pass on a trick play.


Obic’s next series ended when 90-kilogram running back Hiroki Kato, taking the snap in the wildcat formation, was stopped on 4th-and-1. IBM would stop Kato on the same play during the goal-line stand before the tying field goal.


“It was a thing that we thought was going to have a little bit more success than it did,” Neuheisel said. “But it’s not for a lack of preparation or anything. They just made a good play.”


Obic was given new life when Keizaburo Isagawa picked off a Craft pass, giving the Seagulls the ball on the 41, only to see three Neuheisel passes fall incomplete, giving IBM the ball back with 7:18 left.


A 39-yard pass from Craft to Takeshi Kurihara, who caught five passes for 69 yards, moved IBM to the Obic 39 as they threatened to either widen the lead or run out most of the clock. But Craft had the ball stripped loose as he got enough for a first down on a 3rd-down scramble, and Obic’s Yudai Tanaka caught the airborne ball and returned it to the 46.


The key play on Obic’s game-tying drive came on a 4th-and-inches at the IBM 4, when Neuheisel plunged ahead on a quarterback sneak for a two-yard gain.


“I told coach, ‘Put the ball in my hand. Don’t ever kick it. I’ll get that inch,’” Neuheisel said. “When it comes down to an inch, there’s nobody in the world who’s going to stop me…Thank you to the coaches for putting the faith in me, but there was no doubt in my mind.”


Neuheisel was also confident of his touchdown pass to Hagiyama in the tiebreaker, when the 1.83-meter receiver outleaped several defenders to haul in the pass.


“My guys are tall, and their corners are not as tall,” Neuheisel said. “There’s a quote from our wide receivers coach at UCLA, coach Eric Yarber, he said, ‘Put it on the shelf so the little kids can’t play with it.’ So we put it on the shelf and Hagi went up and made a big play for us, came down and got a touchdown.”


Hagiyama, who also caught a 24-yard touchdown pass on the first play of the second quarter, said he made an adjustment after he and Neuheisel failed to connect on a pass on the final play from scrimmage in the fourth quarter.


“In the fourth quarter, when I came back to him, Jerry overthrew me thinking that’s where I would be. It was the same situation. I thought to go deep and that’s where he threw it,” Hagiyama said. “Right now, Jerry and I are creating a combination. It’s good that if something fails the first time, we can get it right the second time.”


In the first half, Neuheisel put on perhaps his best performance since arriving in Japan. He needed just four plays—all passes, including a perfect 52-yard rainbow to Noriaki Kinoshita—on the first drive to put Obic on the board with a 3-yard pass to Arito Nishimura.


The next drive, which started at the IBM 28 following the recovery of a Masamoto fumble, ended with Hoshino having a 34-yard field goal attempt blocked by Rykeem Yates. After IBM’s Odakura kicked a 32-yard field goal, Obic made it 14-3 on Neuheisel’s TD toss to Hagiyama, who also had a 32-yard reception during the drive.


“It’s good, it’s just more experience,” Neuheisel said of playing the full game, instead of sharing the QB duties with Takushiro Hata or Shun Sugawara. “We got a little bit out of rhythm, but that’s on me. It’s my job to keep making sure we keep moving the sticks, and keep us on the right track.


“We’re happy to come out of here with a win, but we also know we’re going to see them later down the road and we look forward to the challenge.”


Obic will look to finish the regular season unbeaten on Oct. 30 when they travel to Osaka to face the Elecom Kobe Finies at Expo Flash Field, playing right after IBM takes on the Asahi Soft Drinks Challengers.


—Ken Marantz for the X-League