A last-ditch scoring drive late in the fourth quarter with a chance to win a conference game on the road?
It’s a situation the young Simon Fraser Clan are certainly not accustomed to, yet when the opportunity arose Saturday night in Arcata, Cal., they came a within a hair’s breadth of ringing the bell.
Final score: Humboldt State 23 Simon Fraser 16.
“I don’t believe in moral victories but our guys played as hard as they could for four quarters and they did good things on both sides of the ball,” said Clan head coach Thomas Ford as SFU (1-5, 0-4), trailing by seven, came up just shy of converting on fourth-and-goal in the end zone with 3:51 remaining against the Lumberjacks (1-4, 1-3). “I think we showed the rest of the league that we’re a program on the rise.”
Clan starting quarterback Miles Richardson had his best conference outing of the season, going 24-of-44 for 321 yards and two touchdowns against just one interception.
Each member of his six-man receiving core each caught at least three passes and each totalled at least 38 yards in receptions, led by freshman Robert Meadors who made six grabs for 98 yards.
Meadors was huge on the Clan’s last extended drive of the game, hauling in a 26-yard catch to get the drive started, moving the ball to the Humboldt State 42-yard line.
Kester Iwunze’s finger-tip grab for 11 yards kept the chains moving, and freshman running back K.C. Kircher’s 11-yard carry got the Clan to within first-and-goal with a chance to either tie or win the game.
The Clan were forced to burn their final time out just ahead of their fourth-and-goal attempt, yet Richardson steadied his troops for what would be the game’s defining play: A pass in the end zone to receiver Rysen John.
“We had the perfect play call, Miles ran the perfect play, we just didn’t make the play at the end,” said Ford.
On the series before that one, the Clan were boxed in at their own one-yard line, yet Richardson connected on back-to-back gainers of 24 and 10 yards to freshman wide-out Devin O’Hea to get his team to midfield.
And on the last play of the third quarter, Richardson led the Clan on a six-play, 95-yard drive that was capped by his 17-yard touchdown strike to sophomore tight end Christian Phillips to pull his team to within 23-16.
Richardson called his own number on the first play of that drive with a 33-yard rush.
And before it was done, he had connected with four different receivers including Meadors, John, Ethan Beselt and Phillips.
The Clan’s first touchdown was a four-yard catch by John to make the score 16-7.
Kees Metselaar added a 27-yard field goal to pull SFU to within 16-10.
“I thought in the second half, our offensive line came to life and a did a great job opening the holes,” said Ford, who went with freshman Kircher after starter Jason Nelson got dinged up just before the half.
“I also felt like Miles did a good job of extending plays and showing his athletic ability,” continued Ford, “and on defence, it was great to get (senior defensive end) Brad Lyons back.”
The Clan six-pack of receivers gave the offence a varied look, especially in the second half, and with 24 pass completions and 32 carries on the night, the frequency of positive plays and the overall balance was reflected by a near-miss on the scoreboard.
“The last two weeks we have not been able to be balanced, but tonight was really an opportunity for us to show what we can do in terms of both phases, the run and pass,” said Ford. “It wasn’t a typical night, but it’s where we want our offence to be.”
Getting so many receivers involved was key, as was watching the change of pace Kircher brought out of the offensive backfield with his elusiveness and quickness.
“Miles traditionally does a good job of spreading the wealth,” said Ford of the aerial attack. “We have playmakers and I thought he did a good job of finding them tonight. They are really young, but I think maybe their maturation process skipped step tonight. I thought they all fought.”
The only points Humboldt State scored after the first quarter came from its defence on a very bizarre play.
Freshman defensive back Evan Camarena intercepted Richardson at the Humboldt State 45-yard line and returned it some 50 yards to SFU five-yard line.
There, he fumbled it into the Clan end zone where it was recovered for a touchdown by the ‘Jacks linebacker Demetrick Watts. It gave Humboldt State a 23-10 lead midway through the third quarter, but most importantly, proved to be the winning points.
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