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.