Co-Champ Cougars Capture Team Of The Week Honors
There was plenty to celebrate for Azusa Pacific after Saturday afternoon's big victory in Ellensburg.
There was plenty to celebrate for Azusa Pacific after Saturday afternoon's big victory in Ellensburg.

Monday, November 12, 2018

PORTLAND, Ore. – Needing a victory on the road against a top-20 opponent to keep its GNAC championship and Division II Football Playoff hopes alive, Azusa Pacific took care of business on Saturday.

The Cougars walked into Tomlinson Stadium and emerged with a 42-35 come-from-behind victory, clinching a share of the conference title and a trip to the postseason. The win also earned APU the selection as GNAC Team of the Week.

They were led by quarterback Tyrone Williams Jr., who recorded 486 yards of total offense along with five touchdown passes. Williams was named the GNAC Offensive Player of the Week for his prolific performance.

Senior Gaige Allen was Williams’ favorite target, tallying five receptions for 153 yards and two scores. Those two touchdowns came in the final seven minutes of the game, turning a 35-28 deficit into a 42-35 lead.

Central Washington had one more chance to mount a scoring drive in the last 90 seconds, but a strong finish by the Azusa Pacific defense forced a turnover on downs to seal the victory.

“We knew Central Washington had one of the top offenses in the country but we got the stops when we needed them,” said head coach Victor Santa Cruz. “We got more physical as the game wore on, and every time you’re in those battles, it teaches you lessons in how to keep playing and keep believing.”

An ability to come up clutch late in contests has been one of the Cougars biggest strengths this season as seven of their eight victories have come by one or two possessions. In Saturday’s contest, the team found itself with just seven points on the scoreboard and a seven-point deficit at the halfway point.

For Santa Cruz, the ensuing win was a testament to his team playing its best football late in games.

“We have been playing four-quarter football and finding ways to win the last couple of weeks,” Santa Cruz said. “I saw our team continue to thrive until the end.”

Azusa Pacific’s season continues now into the NCAA Division II Football Playoffs, which begin this week at campus sites across the country. The Cougars will make the trip to Stephenville, Texas on Saturday, Nov. 17 to face Tarleton State, the No. 2 seed in Super Region 4.