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Cougars Can't Overcome Early Deficit In Playoff Opener
Azusa Pacific head coach Victor Santa Cruz led his team to an 8-4 record in 2018.
Azusa Pacific head coach Victor Santa Cruz led his team to an 8-4 record in 2018.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

STEPHENVILLE, Texas – No. 7 seed Azusa Pacific fell into an early hole and was never able to climb out in a 58-0 loss against No. 2 Tarleton State in the NCAA Division II football playoffs on Saturday.

The undefeated Texans staked themselves to a 37-point halftime advantage thanks to an evenly distributed offensive attack. Quarterback Ben Holmes threw for a pair of touchdowns in the first 30 minutes and running back Xavier Turner added two more as the home team jumped out to the early lead. 

The trip to the Division II playoffs was APU's second in the last three years and just its second appearance in school history.

Led down the field by quarterback Tyrone Williams Jr., the Cougars threatened to get back into the game halfway through the first quarter. Looking to cut into a 13-0 deficit, Williams threw three consecutive completions and had a first down at the TSU eight-yard line before the drive stalled on a holding penalty and interception.

Lineman Ma'ake Muti was one of the bright spots for the APU defense. The senior finished the afternoon with four tackles and forced a fumble that was recovered by Adam Berryman to stop a second-quarter drive in the red zone.

Linebackers Adrian Shocks and Aaron Berry ended the contest leading the team in tackles. Shocks accumulated 17 (13 solo), while Berry finished the day with 12.

Offensively, Williams threw for 216 yards on 17 of 37 passing. The sophomore was intercepted just once by the Lone Star Conference's top defense. 

Junior Darrell Adams Jr. was Williams' favorite target through the air. The wideout brought in six receptions (for 63 yards), his second-highest total of the season (8, at Colorado Mines). 

Azusa Pacific's passing attack stayed with its opponent throughout the day, finishing the afternoon with 216 yards compared to Tarleton State's 224.

The team entered the playoffs having won three consecutive games, the last two coming on the road. It ranked second in the GNAC in total offense and total defense en route to a shared conference title.

With the loss, the Cougars end their season with an 8-4 record. The Texans improved to 11-0 and will face No. 6 and defending national champion Texas A&M-Commerce in the second round next Saturday.

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