Poets suffer setback to Menlo, 28-24
WHITTIER, Calif. - Menlo College went a perfect 3-of-3 on fourth-down conversions which includes a 14-yard pass from Nick Ruhl to Kenny Cavness with under 1:30 to play in the fourth quarter to seal a 28-24 win for the visiting Oaks and spoil the 100 year celebration of Whittier football on Saturday evening at Memorial Stadium.
Alesana Sausau threw for 308 yards on 18-of-25 passing with two touchdowns and ran for a team-high 50 yards. He hooked up with Josh Ollison on the longest play from scrimmage of the day for the purple and gold; a 67-yard scoring strike that capped a four-play, 81-yard drive in the second quarter.
Menlo (1-3) struck first and needed only 54 seconds to take an early 7-0 lead. Ruhl threw for 73 of his game-high 361 yards on the Oaks' third play from scrimmage. He found James Bassett and gave Menlo the 7-0 lead with 10:15 left in the first quarter.
The Poets were able to capitalize on their ensuing possession. Rodrigo Muratalla found the endzone from 10 yards out and evened the score with less than six minutes left in the first frame.
Whittier failed on its next possession to put three points on the board as freshman Roman Ferreira had his 24-yard field goal attempt blocked. Ferreira misfired on his first two attempts of the game. He missed wide right on a 42-yard attempt on WC's first possession.
Sausau and Ollison gave the Poets a 14-7 lead early in the second quarter with their long pass play and Bassett was on the receiving end of Ruhl's second scoring toss with 3:21 left in the second to tie things up at 14.
Ferreira gave Whittier a three-point cushion at the intermission with a 40-yard field goal. The Poets led 17-14 at halftime.
Menlo scored the lone touchdown of the third quarter on a 20-yard scramble from Ruhl. Whittier flushed him from the pocket but couldn't contain the 6-3 junior. Ruhl marched in for the go-ahead score with 4:13 left in the third quarter.
Whittier held the ball for 11 plays and gained 78 yards in the third quarter but came away empty on the scoreboard. WC's first drive of the second half ended on a fumble that was turned into Ruhl's rushing score.
Canvess, who was on the receiving end of Menlo's 14-yard fourth-down conversion late in the game, gave Whittier a prequel to his late game heroics with a 14-yard score from Ruhl with 5:28 to play in the game.
Canvess finished the game with 109 receiving on 10 catches with one touchdown. He was outdone by his teammate, Bassett, who had 208 yards and two touchdowns on nine receptions.
Whittier answered and cut the Menlo lead to four at 28-24 with 3:25 left but that would prove to be as close as the Poets would get. Sausau faced a third-and-three from the Menlo 35 and found Eddy Newton for the 35-yard score. That was the last possession of the game for the purple and gold.
The Poets gained 450 yards to Menlo's 434 and ran 11 fewer plays
than the Oaks (68-57).
Brandon Boehm and Giovanni Salinas each hit double-digits in tackles as they went for 14 and 10, each, respectively. Boehm added one sack for a loss of eight yards and Salinas forced the only Oaks turnover on his first interception of the season.
The starting cornerback duo of Brandon Johnson and Allen Russell each broke up two passes.
The Poets open conference play next week in Thousand Oaks, Calif., as they play Cal Lutheran at 1 pm.