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.
Devin Gardner threw for three touchdowns and ran for another as the Nojima Sagamihara Rise outgunned the As One Black Eagles from the Battle 9 division, 49-6. The game was played at Osaka’s Expo Flash Field in rainy conditions, due to Typhoon Lan as it reached Japan over the weekend.
The Rise led 21-0 at halftime, and Gardner (8-15-3-1) was relieved of quarterbacking duties midway through the 3rd quarter after throwing his third TD pass of the game with Nojima safely ahead 35-6.
The Rise (4-1) will next face league- leading Panasonic Impulse (5-0) in their final game of the regular season on October 29th at Yokohama Stadium.
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.
Typhoon Talim certainly played a part, but costly Devin Gardner turnovers- twice when they had reached the red zone- and some solid play from the Obic Seagulls resulted in a 14-0 loss for the the Nojima Rise. It was their first loss of the 2017 X-League regular season.
Steady rain and intermittent wind affected game plans somewhat, as both teams tried to establish their running games. Sione Houma, who saw limited action in the season opener, carried the ball 12 times for 57 yards. His counterpart Taku Lee carried the ball 18 times for 84 yards, while Asaki Mochizuki- the other half of what has been dubbed Obic's "Thunder & Lightning" backfield- gained 48 yards on ten carries and had one TD.
Obic QB Shun Sugawara also ran seven times for 13 yards, including the first score of the game, an 8 yard run on their second possesion. Gardner picked up 47 yards on a dozen carries on the ground. Gardner was 14-28 in the air with three interceptions, while Sugawara completed 9 of 13 and no intereceptions.
On the third play of the game, Gardner was hit by DE Kevin Jackson (U of Hawaii) as he threw and the ball was intercepted by Obic DB Takeshi Miyake. When Sugawara scored on their second posession, Obic had a 7-0 lead.
Early in the second quarter, Nojima took possession at their own 4, and Gardner took them on a 12 play, 77-yard drive, mixing up runs by Houma, Takeshi Miyako, and himself, and short passes and WR screens. But on 3rd & 8 from the Seagull 19 yard-line, Gardner tried to float a screen pass to Houma. The ball was deflected and intercepted by Jackson to kill the drive, and the half ended 7-0.
Both teams started the second half with solid drives. Obic took the second half kickoff and drove 62 yards on 12 plays, with Mochizuki scoring from 11 yards out for the Seagull's second score, so it was 14-0.
After the kickoff, the Rise started from their own 10, and Gardner responded with an impressive 89 yard drive in 11 plays. On one third down play, as he was about to be tackled near the sideline Devin made a two-handed toss to a receiver to get the first down and a gain of 15. On another, Gardner used his unusually long stride to leap just past the first down marker.
Nojima drove near the Obic goal line and looked like they were about to score. But on 2nd and goal from the 6, Gardner tried to run through the middle. As he approached the goal line, he tried to reach out and put the ball across the line. The ball was knocked out, and the Seagulls recovered.
On their next possession, after taking them near midfield, Gardner was intercepted when he tried to throw on a deep post by Seagull Safety Keizaburo Ichigawa.
Gardner seemed to be trying to do a bit too much, and his receivers seemed to lack some of the confidence and aggressivenss they had showed in their opening game against the Bulls.
Mario Ojemudia had three TFL, including two sacks.
After the game Gardner confessed that he was disappointed in his performance saying you can't expect to commit four turnovers and win such games. Houma said while he was glad to become a bigger part of the offense,"We have a lot to work on. A lot to work on."
Both teams are now 1-1. Obic players and coaches were glad to get the win, and said they expect to see the Rise again in the playoffs later in the fall.
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 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]
The Nojima Rise fell to the Asahi (Beer) Silver Stars 29-26 in another game that came down to the final minute. Nojima is now a disappointing 1-3 on the season, and in danger of missing the playoffs.
Trailing 26-10 at halftime, Devin Gardner began to bring the Rise back late in the 3rd quarter, when he ran the ball in from the 5-yard line, and passed to Jeremy Gallon for the two-point conversion to bring the score to 26-18. Midway through the 4th quarter, Garner scored on a 23 yard scramble, but Gallon was called for a block in the back. On the next play, Gardner hit Eisuke Tomatsu for a TD, and with Gardner on a QB draw for the extra point, the game was tied.
A five minute drive by the Silver Stars set up a 30-yard field goal to make it 29-26, and after the kickoff went out of bounds, the Rise took over from their own 35 with 1:03 remaining. The Silver Stars had missed an earlier field goal from 31-yards and one extra point; while Nojima had two FG kicks blocked
Gardner was able to move the ball into Asahi territory with a combination of throws and runs, but was unable to complete the 4th down pass and the ball was turned over on downs with 5 seconds remaining. Gardner missed on his last four passes, and said he had fallen on the ball at one point and was coughing up blood, but seemed fine when talking with fans after the game.
Once again Gardner was the leading rusher in the game,carrying it 14 times for 79 yards. He was 18-34 passing for, 299 yards, 2 TDs for the Rise (including their first, a 25 yard strke to Gallon), and 1 interception. Gallon had 7 catches for 133 yards.
Gardner's counterpart Mason Mills was 24-33, 341 yards and 3 TDs.
The Rise next face perrenial league power the Panasonic Impulse in a game next Sunday in Osaka.