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TOP > Game Report > Frontiers’ Nixon caps defensive rampage with fumble return to beat Impulse

Game Report

Frontiers’ Nixon caps defensive rampage with fumble return to beat Impulse


Fujitsu running back Gino Gordon tries to get over a Panasonic defender during the second quarter.





OSAKA (Oct. 1)—Fujitsu Frontiers defensive end Trashaun Nixon had been a thorn in Panasonic’s side all game. Then he became the dagger that killed off Impulse hopes for victory before their hometown crowd.


Nixon returned a fumble — that he himself had forced — 41 yards for the winning touchdown with three minutes left, giving the Frontiers a 20-13 victory and a measure of revenge for last season’s loss to the Impulse in the Japan X Bowl.


“The opponent was strong and we could not do what we wanted in the first half,” Fujitsu head coach Satoshi Fujita said. “But our players never gave up. In the second half, we kept our concentration and that led to being able to make plays.”


Teruaki Clark Nakamura returned a kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown and Colby Cameron threw a 4-yard touchdown pass for the Fujitsu’s lone offensive score as the defenses reigned in the battle of unbeatens before the crowd of 1,603 at Osaka’s Expo Flash Field.


Fujitsu (4-0) picked up the win in its first-ever regular-season game against a West Division opponent, a clash set up by the revamped league schedule that has the top teams facing each other more often in the regular season. Panasonic dropped to 3-1.


Both Cameron, who completed 13 of 20 passes for a tame 82 yards, and backup Keiya Hiramoto had a pass intercepted in the end zone as the Frontiers were outgained in total yardage 276 to 203, and trailed in time of possession 27:12 to 20:48.


Panasonic’s Benjamin Dupree rushed 18 times for 103 yards, including a 64-yard romp that set up a 2-yard touchdown run by Shun Yokota in the second quarter. Eita Saeki booted two field goals, the first of which came after Fujitsu put on a goal-line stand.


The Impulse led 10-6 at halftime and 13-6 midway through the third quarter before the Fujitsu offense finally put points on the board. Sparked by a 14-yard pass from Cameron to Yoshimatsu Iwamatsu, the six-play, 65-yard drive was helped by a pass interference penalty in the end zone and capped when Cameron scrambled to the left before flipping a pass to Takeshi Akiyama in the back corner of the end zone.


Hidetetsu Nishimura, who missed the extra point after Nakamura’s touchdown, was perfect this time to tie the score at 13-all with :48 left in the third quarter.


Hiramoto came on in the fourth quarter and engineered a drive from the 23 to the Panasonic 10, which included his own third-down run for a first down and a 41-yard completion to Nakamura.


But on 3rd-and-6, his pass into the end zone was picked off by defensive back Emory Polley, who had returned an interception 32 yards in last year’s Japan X Bowl,  which the Impulse won 24-21 for their first league title since 2008.


Panasonic still had six minutes left as it started from the 20. And prospects initially looked good when veteran Tetsuo Takata, who was making his first start this season, threw a 35-yard pass to Tatsuya Tonka to put the Impulse into Frontiers’ territory.


The Impulse then went back and forth across midfield after consecutive false start penalties and a 6-yard run by Dupree. On the next play, Nixon perfectly read a screen pass and nailed Dupree for a 3-yard loss.


Then the second-year end out of New Mexico really did some damage. Sweeping past a block on the left side as Takata went back to pass, he swiped at the ball while barreling into Takata. The ball popped loose, and Nixon quickly scooped it up and took off running, going untouched into the end zone with 3:04 left on the clock.


Panasonic’s final drive, which started at the 27, ended up losing 10 yards and fizzled out when a pass on 4th down fell incomplete. Fujitsu then ran out the clock.


Panasonic struck first in the game, but rued not coming away with more. On the Impulse’s first drive, Tonka took a pitch on an inside reverse and ran 42 yards before Nixon chased him down at the Fujitsu 3. But the Impulse went no further and had to settle for Saeki’s 21-yard field goal.


After Nakamura took the ensuing kickoff back for a touchdown, Takata and Panasonic put together a sustained drive that ended up being knocked off course by Nixon, who had a game-high five tackles. Starting at the 21, the Impulse advanced to the Frontiers 32, where they converted on 4th-and-2. But on 3rd down at the 27, Nixon sacked Takata for a 10-yard loss, which pushed the Impulse out of field goal range and forced them to punt.


Still, the Impulse came back on their next drive and, after Dupree’s long run, they went ahead 10-6 when Yokota bulled in off left guard with 4:49 left in the half.


Saeki kicked his second field goal of the game, a 32-yarder, midway through the third quarter. On the next play from scrimmage, Cameron underthrew his receiver and was intercepted by Kenta Saito at the Fujitsu 34. But that opportunity ended with nothing as Saeki came up short on a 52-yard field goal attempt.


“We let the chance get away ourselves and we lost the game,” Panasonic head coach Nobuyoshi Araki said. “The players did well. It was my mistakes [that led to the loss].”


The 35-year-old Takata, last year’s league MVP who had decided to retire once before reconsidering, completed 11 of 16 passes for 124 yards, while Tonka had five receptions for 69 yards.


Next up for Fujitsu is a Oct. 15 clash in Kawasaki against another West opponent, the Elecom Kobe Finies, while Panasonic takes on the Central Division’s Nojima Sagamihara Rise the next day at Osaka’s Kincho Stadium.


—Translated from West Division report