Toreros hold off Drake 31-24 to stay unbeaten in PFL

USDTOREROSDOTCOM Hoekstra's 85-yard punt return sparks Toreros
Hoekstra's 85-yard punt return sparks Toreros

Oct. 15, 2011

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(San Diego, CA) - In a game of unbeaten PFL teams, the host USD Toreros (4-0 PFL; 6-1) held off the visiting Drake Bulldogs (3-1 PFL; 5-2) 31-24 in front of 2,529 fans at Walter J. Zable Field at Torero Stadium. With their fourth straight victory the Toreros stay atop the PFL standings with Jacksonville (4-0 PFL; 5-2). The JU Dolphins dealt Morehead State a 50-14 defeat today.

"We knew it was going to be a tough, physical football game, and I am just really proud of our team," said head coach Ron Caragher. "We had a few too many turnovers, and a few too many penalties to my liking. Nevertheless, we kept battling, we kept pushing, and when you never quit and never give up, you just never know what can happen, and good things happened for us today."

The hard-fought physical contest was tied at 17-all early in the fourth period when Drake's Jacob Schmudlach found the end zone from 2 yards out with 11:14 to go that capped off a 7-play, 50 yard Bulldog drive. Just over two minutes later the Toreros regained the lead as Mason Mills connected with Brandon White for a 3-yard TD pass that culminated a 5-play, 57-yard drive of their own with 9:09 to go.

The Torero defense forced Drake to punt away from their own 39-yard after just six plays from scrimmage, and USD sophomore Sam Hoekstra fielded the punt at his own 15-yard line and returned it 85 yards for a touchdown. The 85-yard punt return ties the second best mark in Torero history; just 6 yards shy of the school record (91, Ed Bunsic vs. Mexico Poly, 1957). Hoekstra redeemed himself from a first quarter fumbled punt return attempt that led to the game's first points, a 33-yard Billy Janssen field goal. That brilliant play gave USD a 31-17 edge with 7:42 to go.

Drake responded with a solid 10-play, 80-yard drive that ended on a Trey Morse 2-yard TD run that pulled the Bulldogs to within 31-24. The Toreros took over with 3:48 to go and were able to run down the clock to under 40 seconds left before Ernie Collins boomed an excellent 55-yard punt all the way down to the Drake 4-yard line. The Bulldogs began their last drive with just 34 seconds to go, and QB Mike Piatkowski completed his first attempt for 15 yards to Nick Rosa. His second attempt fell incomplete and his third was picked off at midfield by senior strong safety Loka Kanongataa to seal the victory.

USD answered Drake's early field goal with back-to-back touchdowns by the Scudellari twins. Nick Scudellari scored on a 2-yard pass from Mills with 1:02 left in the first half, and Sam hauled in a 6-yard pass from Mills at the 10:34 mark of the third period. This was the third straight game for the Scudellari's to each score a touchdown. Mike Levine added a 23-yard field goal with 4:50 to go in the third that gave the Toreros a 17-10 cushion heading into the final period.

For the game Mason Mills completed 25-of-37 passes for 315 yards and 3 touchdowns. His main target was Sam Hoekstra who hauled in 8 balls for 86 yards. Hoekstra was followed by John McGough (5-72) in the receiving column. Ken James rambled for 58 yards on 19 carries, and added 95 yards on 3 kickoff returns.

Defensively the Toreros were led by Loka Kanongataa (8 solo stops, 1 interception), Zach Dunaj (8 tackles), and Joe Martin (7 stops). USD's bookends of Mario Kurn (4 tackles, 2 sacks) and Blake Oliaro (5 stops, 2 sacks) also caused havoc in the Drake backfield. For the game USD totaled 396 yards of offense to Drake's 296. Drake was paced by QB Mike Piatkowski (21-37 for 296 yards, 1 TD).

The Toreros continue PFL play next Saturday at Campbell, followed by a bye week. USD does not return to Torero Stadium until November 12th when they take on Marist College (1pm).