Wolverines in Japan 2017 X-League Quarter-Finals

Wolverines in Japan 2017 X-League Quarter-Finals

Submitted by Carcajou on November 13th, 2017 at 9:21 AM

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.

Wolverines in Japan 2017 Regular Season Game 6

Wolverines in Japan 2017 Regular Season Game 6

Submitted by Carcajou on October 30th, 2017 at 4:17 AM

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.

Wolverines in Japan 2017 Regular Season Game 3

Wolverines in Japan 2017 Regular Season Game 3

Submitted by Carcajou on October 3rd, 2017 at 10:30 AM

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.

Wolverines in Japan 2017 Regular Season Game 2

Wolverines in Japan 2017 Regular Season Game 2

Submitted by Carcajou on September 17th, 2017 at 6:39 AM

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.

Wolverines in Japan 2017 Regular Season Game 1

Wolverines in Japan 2017 Regular Season Game 1

Submitted by Carcajou on September 5th, 2017 at 7:23 AM

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.

Mario Ojemudia Fifth Year?

Mario Ojemudia Fifth Year?

Submitted by Toby Flenderson on October 13th, 2015 at 4:53 PM

http://www.detroitnews.com/story/sports/college/university-michigan/201…

Sorry if this was already posted. I know there have been talks on the board with the concesus that he has already passed the deadline for a medical redshirt. However, it says that Harbaugh wants to gather more information and possibly see if there are any exceptions. Thoughts?

Any Chance of Ojemudia 5th Year?

Any Chance of Ojemudia 5th Year?

Submitted by JCV16 on October 12th, 2015 at 10:58 AM

During the NW Broadcast, one of the commentators said Harbaugh told him Michigan was looking into the possibility for Mario getting a 5th year. I thought that was completely impossible since he played in 5 games this year, but I wonder why Harbaugh would even mention it if that's the case. Is there any precedent for someone getting a 5th year in this circumstance? It does look like Mario didn't play much his first year, so maybe that could be factored in?

Taco and Mario's performance vs. Maryland

Taco and Mario's performance vs. Maryland

Submitted by Salinger on November 24th, 2014 at 10:38 AM

Since we've all been so #FireHoke obsessed recently I thought it would be nice to, you know, have a talk about actual football.

Anyway, in light of the very disappointing loss of Frank Clark, of which nothing more needs to be said, I was pretty impressed with the way that Taco Charlton and Mario Ojemudia played this weekend. Both had good motor, made some "plays" and in general did not feel like a step down from what we'd come to expect from the position. 

I think we can look forward to a lot from these two next year and was wondering if anyone else had a take on that position group. Further, are there any other players who we hope to see a leap from next year regardless of coaching staff?