Ol' 98 will be doing some passing and running for the Roughriders.
Ol' 98 will be doing some passing and running for the Roughriders.
The Sagamihara Nojima Rise's Devin Gardner was name the X-League's 1st team QB, while Panasonic Impulse QB Benjamin Anderson was named the league's Most Valuable Player.
Other Americans on the 1st team on offense were Panasonic Center Edmond Davis, OT Lealakai Maiava (Obic Seagulls), TE John Stanton (IBM), and RB Gino Gordon (Fujitsu Frontiers)
On defense were Gordon's teammates CB Al-Rilwan Adeyami, and LB Trashaun Nixon. Panasonic placed four members on the 1st team, including DB Emory Polley, and defensive linemen David Motu and Carlton Jones. IBM's DL James Brooks also made the first team.
In the X-Bowl at Tokyo Dome, the Fujitsu Frontiers started fast, returning the opening kickoff for a TD and scoring 21 points in the first quarter, and easily defeated the IBM Big Blue 63-23 to repeat as X-League champions.
Frontiers QB Colby Cameron ran for two touchdowns and threw for four TDs and 306 yards, including 203 yards to game MVP Teruaki Clark Nakamura.
Fujitsu will play on January 3rd against the university champion Nihon University in the annual Rice Bowl to conclude the season.
It was the 99th anniversary of the Armistice concluding World War I, which ended at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of the year. The Nojima Sagamihara Rise kicked off their quarterfinal game at 11 AM on 11/11 (Japan Time), but their season lasted only a few hours more.
The weather was fine for a change- wind and rain affected many of their regular season games, including their 14-0 loss to the Obic Seagulls in September. But this time, there was no such excuse. Devin Gardner and the 3rd-seeded Rise suffered one of their most miserable performances of the season with a shocking nine turnovers, losing to the 6th-seeded Seagulls 41-22, and knocking them out of the playoffs.
Sagamihara's opening drive went three and out, and they proceeded to turn the ball over on their next five possessions- including four times in five offensive plays and a muffed kickoff return. Meanwhile Obic scored three TDs and two field goals the first five times it had the ball, and led 27-0 by early in the 2nd quarter.
While they outgained the Seagulls 441 to 336, the Rise were simply dominated by the Obic defense. “We couldn’t run the ball, so now we’re passing it the whole game. Jump off the bus, 14 down,” said Gardner.
Gardner and the Rise finally responded with an 86 yard drive for a TD, and nearly had another on a 65 yard drive when Sione Houma carried it to the Seagull's one yard line. But Nojima was stopped on the final play of the first half.
Devin did hit Takahide Dejima on a 9 yard scoring pass mid-way through the 3rd quarter to make it 27-13, but that was as close as they got.
For the most part, Nojima's receivers were no match for Obic's physical defensive secondary, and their defensive line was putting relentless pressure on Gardner all throughout the game. “They got pressure whenever they wanted,” he said. Seagull’s defensive end B.J. Beatty said they only blitzed about 10% of the time. Beatty and Kevin Jackson and the rest of the Obic defensive line continually overwhelmed the Sagamihara offensive line, and Jackson and Beatty even had one interception apiece.
Devin was frustrated throughout the game and disappointed afterward, and said it was difficult for Nojima because they couldn't run the ball, so play action passes had little effect. Leaving more in to block didn’t seem to help either, and Obic was in tight zone coverage downfield. The Seagulls were jumping all the quick timing routes, and the rush was too fierce for slower developing routes.
On defense, Mario Ojemudia was credited with one assist and three tackles, including two sacks.
Gardner, who often had Seagulls defenders hanging on to him as he threw, was 27 of 52 for 378 yards and 2 touchdowns, but with a season-high 6 interceptions. Devin admitted that sometimes, “You just got to chuck it and see what happens…You got to hope your guys make a play for you.” Unfortunately, not enough plays were made by his teammates, although Yuhei Yagi did have10 catches for 148 yards and one touchdown.
Gardner also ran or scrambled 11 times for 30 yards, and Houma carried 9 times for 36 yards and a fumble, and caught two passes for 15 yards.
Obic will meet rival Fujitsu in Kawasaki in one semi-final game on 11/26 in a rematch of the regular season finale won 13-10 by the Frontiers in overtime; while the IBM Big Blue will go down to Osaka to face the top-seeded Panasonic Impulse for the other semi-final. The Japan X Bowl will be held on December 18th at Tokyo Dome. The winner will face the collegiate champion in the Rice Bowl, traditionally held on January 3rd.
After going back to the States to spend some time with friends and families, Devin said the Wolverine alumni will evaluate their plans for next season.
In sloppy, wet, rainy conditions from yet another typhoon drenching Japan, the Nojima Sagamihara Rise fell to the Panasonic Impulse 28-26 to close out their regular season in front of a sparse crowd at Yokohama Stadium.
The Rise went no-huddle and took an early 7-0 lead, as a long drive featuring mostly runs by QB Devin Gardner and a healthy RB Sione Houma took Nojima to the Impulse 3, and Gardner hit Yuhei Yagi for the TD.
Gardner was 12-29 passing for 160 yards in the game, with a touchdown and an interception. He connected with Yagi on 7 throws for 55 yards.
In the 2nd Quarter Panasonic scored on a QB keep on the Inverted Veer by Benjamin Anderson (University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff). That was quickly answered when Toshira Maejima returned the ensuing kickoff 87 yards and Houma bulled his way from 11 yards out on the next play. Houma finished with 18 carries for 53 yards and two TDs.
But Panasonic then scored twice in the last 1:19 of the first half on a couple of quick drives sandwiching a Nojima three-and-out, and the score was 21-14 at the half in favor of the Impulse.
In the 3rd Quarter, Houma took a pitch from Gardner and scored from 3 yards out, but the try for point was no good, and Panasonic clung to a 21-20 lead.
A muffed snap by the Impulse punter gave Nojima the ball at the +32 and they drove to the 18. But a fumble on a scramble by Gardner ended that threat.
With an exchange of punts, Panasonic made a 69 yard drive count midway through the 4th Quarter. Anderson, slogging through the baseball marshland, was the beneficiary of several missed tackles on the drive (including a potential sack by Mario Ojemudia), and scored on a 1 yard sneak to make it 28-20. Ojemudia had six tackles and one sack, but missed a few more due to the slippery conditions on the field.
Gardner responded with a drive of his own, using a couple of runs by Houma and several by himself, then scoring a TD on an option keep with 1:43 left, to bring the deficit to two points. Gardner's pass on the conversion attempt was knocked down, however, so the score remained 28-26.
The unsuccessful onside kick resulted in Panasonic taking over at midfield. But Nojima's use of timeouts, an illegal motion penalty, and a poor punt gave the Rise a chance with the ball at their own 39 with 43 seconds left. Gardner completed several passes to move Nojima into scoring position. But a fake Spike Go for an apparent touchdown was called back for Offensive Pass Interference, moving them back to the 45. Then Gardner's final three throws- including a Hail Mary to the end zone as time expired- fell incomplete, and gave Panasonic the victory.
The Rise outgained the Impulse 344 to 289 for the game, and Anderson only managed 96 yards passing for the impulse (throwing 9-14). But that was enough for them to manage the victory and finish first in the standings in the regular season at 6-0. Nojima (4-2) finished third, behind the Fujutsu Frontiers.
In the second game of the tripleheader at Yokohama, Fujitsu (5-1) defeated the Obic Seagulls 13-10 with a TD in overtime.
Nojima will next meet Obic in the league quarter-finals played on November 11th (Armistice Day) at Yokohama Stadium. Coincidentally (or perhaps ironically?), kickoff happens to be scheduled for 11 AM.
Obic, regularly a league powerhouse, shut out Nojima 14-0 in the second game of the regular season, but finished the season with a disappointing 3-3 record, also losing to IBM (34-36) and Panasonic (13-16) only good enough for sixth place.
Devin Gardner led the Nojima Rise to another high scoring victory, this time besting the Lixil Deers 38-35 at Amino Vital Field.
Mario Ojemudia recorded a sack on the opening series of the game for Nojuma. Starting from their own 42 after the subsequent punt, Gardner drove the Rise down to the Deer 11 yard line, and a field goal made it 3-0.
Lixil responded with a long drive and 2 yard touchdown pass to go up 7-3, and after the Rise missed their next field goal attempt, the Deers scored within five plays to go up 14-3.
But Gardner and the Rise responded in four plays with Gardner throwing a 21 yard touchdown pass to #21 Hikaru Asayama to make it 14-10.
Then after Lixil QB Shohei Katoh fumbled on their next series in their own territory, Gardner was able to take advantage, with a touchdown coming on an end zone fade throw to Takahide Dejima from 20 yards out, and it was 17-14 at halftime.
Early in the 3rd quarter, Gardner hit a 12 yard slant to extend the lead to 24-14. Lixil responded scoring in six plays, and after Nojima went three and out, Lixil took the ball near midfield and helped by a pass interference and face mask penalty, retook the lead on a 19 yard pass to make it 28-24.
A good kickoff return and a few Gardner runs and passes brought the Rise to the Deer 16, and Gardenr hit Yuhei Yagi on a post to reclaim the lead.
Then on their next drive, Gardner connected with Dejima on another fade and was was ahead 38-28 midway through the 4th quarter.
But Naoki Maeda for the Deers took the following kickoff from 8 yards deep in the end zone and ran it all the way back for a touchdown, making it 38-35.
Nojima was unable to pick up a first down and punted away. Lixil drove from their 20 to the Rise 24 yard line, but the drive stalled and the Deers missed a 48 yard field goal with a little over a minute and a half left.
The Rise took over, and Gardner was able to complete a third down pass for a first down after Lixil had exhausted their timeouts, and the Rise were able to run out the clock.
The next game for Nojima (now 3-1) will be on October 21st in Osaka against the As One Black Eagles.
The Nojima Rise bounced back from their disappointing 14-0 loss to the Obic Seagulls with an impressive 49-42 victory over the IBM Big Blue.
Devin Gardner accounted for all seven Rise touchdowns, throwing for four TDs and rushing for three more and two-point conversion, totalling 505 yards of total offense.
Gardner seemed to have his best game yet for Nojima, completing 27-37 and 405 yards passing with one interception. Gardner carried the ball 11 times for 100 yards, and Sione Houma gained 49 yards on seven carries and a 1-yard touchdown catch that tied the game at 14-14 after the conversion. Houma appeared to injure his ankle on the touchdown and did not return.
The Rise led 35-21 at halftime.
Mario Ojemudia recorded a sack and an interception on a tipped ball.
The Rise, who finished 1-5 last season losing nearly all their games late by within a touchdown, are now 2-1 along with IBM, Obic, Lixil, and Elecom, behind Super 9 division leader Panasonic (4-0) and Fujitsu (3-1).
The next game for the Rise will be October 9th against the Lixil Deers.
The Nojima Rise began their regular season with a resounding win over the Bulls football club, 84-0. Devin Gardner threw for three touchdowns, and ran for three more.
Naoki Arai ran back the opening kickoff for Nojima, and the Rise scored touchdowns on every possesion except for an interception of Gardner on their second series.
With the lopsided nature of the game, the three Michigan Wolverine alumni saw intermittent action. Mario Ojemudia (wearing #53) had three tackles, including a fumble recovery, while Sione Houma (#39) picked up 9 yards on four carries.
Devin Gardner (again wearing #98), seems to be feeling comfortable in his second year in Japan, as he completed 7 of 10 passed for 141 yards and three TDs and one INT, and also picked up 27 yards on five carries running the ball.
Gardner only played in the first half, as the Rise led 56-0 at halftime. He has taken on the role of training his two backup QBs by "trying to create some chaos in practice, so they don't get so rattled in games."
Gardner said he enjoyed the the chance to play live, "It was good to get our feet wet, because I hadn't been hit at all since spring," and was glad to see the start of the regular season. He said Sione and Mario would probably prefer to have played a little stiffer competition. They'll certainly get that chance in their next game on September 17th, when they take on perennial powerhouse Obic Seaguls.
With the time difference and a game scheduled that afternoon, they were only able to catch the second half (lucky them!) of the Michigan win over Florida, but they were quite pleased with the result and the directions both Michigan and their own team seem to be headed.
In Japan X-League Pearl Bowl sem-final action, Devin Gardner and the Nojima Rise were defeated by the IBM Big Blue (yeah) 27-19.
Gardner put in another impressive performance, rushing for 122 yards on 17 carries and an 18 yard TD run; and completing 20 of 36 passes for 279 yards and one TD and one INT.
IBM's defense was led by DE James Brooks (Arizona State), who had five tackles for loss in the game. Gardner was stopped by IBM's defense at two key points of the game- once near the goal line at the end of the first half, as IBM took a 21-12 lead into the intermission, and again late in the game.
Trailing by eight midway through the 4th quarter, on what turned out to be their second-last possession, a 56 yard pass from Gardner to Takahide Dejima to the 7 and a Gardner run brought Nojima as close as the IBM 1, but the Rise were unable to score. Gardner was stopped twice near the goal line, apparently injuring his hamstring on one play, but he remained in the game. Nojima burned their last two timeouts in that series.
A fourth down Gardner pass was too high, and IBM took over at their 3, allowing them to run some more time off the clock. Yuichiro Araki took over for Gardner at QB with around 2 minutes left at Nojima's 36 yard-line for a couple of plays, and a hobbled Gardner came back into the game on 3rd down, but with two more misfires the Rise turned the ball over on downs.
Overall, Gardner and the Rise seemed to lack some of the sharpness in all phases that they showed in their 38-20 defeat of defending X-League Champion Fujitsu two weeks earlier. Gardner said the Rise expect to add more Americans to the fall roster. Mario Ojemudia was spotted observing the game.
In the second semi-final game Obic defeated Lixil 35-7. They will face IBM for the Pearl Bowl Championship on June 19.
Devin Gardner led the Nojima Rise to a 38-20 victory over defending Japan X-League champion Fujitsu Fronteirs in 'Pearl Bowl' spring season football on Sunday.
Gardner scored four TDs on the ground, rushing 13 times for 164 yards. Devin also completed 15 of 23 passes for 207 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT.
[more to come]
Devin Gardner and Jeremy Gallon led the Nojima Rise to a convincing win, 69-7, in their final game of the 2016 season. Dubbed the "Copper Bowl", they easily defeated the Tokyo Gas Creators [really] in a rematch of a game earlier in the season.
Gardner was 15-24, 317 yards and four TDs in the air, adding two more on the ground.
When asked his plans for the evening, Devin said he'd try to get some sleep and then make it to the gathering of Michigan and tOSU alumni and fans at a sports bar in Tokyo for the 2AM kickoff of The Game.
[More details later- like Devin, I need to do the same]