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TOP > Game Report > Japan pays heavy price for missed chances in loss to U.S.

Game Report

Japan pays heavy price for missed chances in loss to U.S.


There was the drive inside U.S. territory that stalled that could have given Japan the lead late in the first half. There was the dropped pass on fourth down when Japan was close to making it a one-possession game. There was the recovery of an onside kick, only to be followed by an interception.


Japan’s 43-18 loss to the United States in its opening game at the IFAF World Championship on Sunday in Canton, Ohio, was not one of domination, but of missed opportunities. The Japanese trailed just 11-3 at halftime, but the two-defending champion Americans pulled away by making the most of their scoring chances.


Sedale Foster rushed for two touchdowns, including a 60-yarder early in the third quarter, and Dylan Favre ran for one touchdown and completed 15 0f 19 passes for 193 yards as the Americans followed up their 30-9 victory over Mexico by piling up 580 yards of offense against the Japanese.


“We had a chance in the first half, but we couldn’t make a play,” Japan coach Kiyoyuki Mori was quoted as saying on the tournament website. “All we can do is do our best in the next game to get a chance to play against the United States again.”


The United States will next face France on Wednesday for a place in Saturday’s championship game, while Japan will have to get by Mexico to earn a possible rematch with the host nation. France kept its title hopes alive by topping Group B with a 53-3 rout of Australia.


Lixil Deers quarterback Shohei Kato was 28 of 49 for 273 yards and a touchdown pass to Asahi Beer Silver Star receiver Yuta Hayashi, while Japan’s other touchdown came on a trick play, with Obic Seagulls running back Takuya Furutani chest-passing a 1-yard TD to defensive tackle Mitsunori Kihira, who had lined up as an eligible receiver.


Kihira also caught a touchdown pass against the United States in the final of the 2007 tournament, which Japan lost 23-20 in overtime. Sunday’s TD cut the Americans’ lead to 25-10 late in the third quarter, and when Obic defensive back Masashi Fujimoto intercepted a Kevin Burke pass at the US 39, it gave Japan the chance to pull within a touchdown.


Moving into the fourth quarter, Japan faced a 4th-and-1 at the U.S. 18. A false start made it 4th-and-6, then a Kato pass that would have at least been enough for a first down instead went in and out of the hands of Hayashi.


After that, the U.S., which went for 2 points after four of its five touchdowns and converted three, broke the game open with an 18-point spurt as Favre scored on a 7-yard run, Ed Ruhnke kicked his second field goal of the game and Burke threw a 43-yard touchdown pass to Brad Smithey.


Japan picked up a late touchdown on Kato’s 25-yard touchdown pass to Hayashi with 1:09 left in the game. After the score, Japan perfectly executed an onside kick, with IBM  BigBlue speedster Takashi Kurihara grabbing the high-bouncing ball in full stride near the left sideline. But on the next play, T.L. Edwards intercepted a Kato pass and the U.S. then ran out the clock.


Japan, facing the U.S. for the first time since that loss in the 2007 final, got off to a shaky start when Furutani fumbled on the second play of the game and defensive back Lucky Dozier recovered at the Japan 35. Burke then drove the U.S. to the 2, where Foster, who rushed for 84 yards on 12 carries, went over for his first touchdown. The 2-point conversion made it 8-0.


“We want to come out and win every game,” Foster told the website. “Mentally, we wanted to dominate. We wanted to play the game at a high level.”


Panasonic Impulse kicker Shintaro Saeki missed a 45-yard field goal attempt, but Japan got the ball back when Impulse defensive back Atsushi Tsuji picked off a Favre pass at the Japan 37. A 39-yard pass from Kato to Lixil teammate Naoki Maeda helped set up Saeki for a 36-yard attempt, which he made.


Favre then drove the U.S. from the 24 to the Japan 12, but Obic defensive back Keizaburo Isagawa blocked Ruhnke’s 29-yard field goal attempt. With a chance to take the lead, a combination of Kato passes and a 24-yard run by IBM running back Ryo Takagi gave Japan the ball at the U.S. 38. But the Japanese could only advance five yards and opted to punt, putting the U.S. deep in its territory with 2:11 left in the half.


But that was enough for Burke to engineer a drive from the 7 that culminated with Ruhnke’s 21-yard field goal as the second quarter expired.


The U.S. scored on its first two possessions of the second half, with Foster breaking away for his long touchdown run and Aaron Wimberly scoring from the 4 to make it 25-3.


—Ken Marantz for the X-League