The University of La Verne football squad concluded its season on a winning note as it defeated Occidental College by a 36-24 verdict in SCIAC action Saturday at Ortmayer Stadium.
La Verne (4-5, 4-3 SCIAC) trailed 24-23 before closing with a pair of fourth quarter touchdowns from Matt Biggers to seize victory. The win secured the Leopards' first winning mark in conference play since the 1999 season.
Biggers scored the go-ahead touchdown from 14 yards out with 12:34 to play to give La Verne a 29-24 lead, and he later iced the game with an electrifying 94-yard scamper with 2:10 remaining to provide the Leopards with a 12-point cushion to close the scoring. The junior running back totaled 226 yards on 27 carries to post his third game of at least 200 yards this season.
Early in the fourth quarter, Occidental (2-7, 2-5 SCIAC) drove 55 yards on 10 plays to reclaim the lead from the Leopards as Samuel Crizer scored from a yard out with 13:10 remaining to give the Tigers a one-point lead.
The Leopards responded on the ensuing possession on just three plays covering 67 yards. The score was set up by a 38-yard run from Biggers and subsequent personal foul on the Tigers to reach the Oxy 14. Biggers found the end zone on the next play, darting through several defenders to give the Leos the lead for good at 29-24.
Oxy did not go away quietly, and took advantage of a fumbled snap of a La Verne punt to gain possession at the Leopard 25-yard line with 6:51 remaining. After six plays, the Tigers faced a fourth-and-one at the La Verne 6-yard line. The Leos would hold, as Ky Dorsey stopped Crizer for no gain to seize possession.
Biggers then took a handoff from Travis Carter and sprinted past the Tiger defenders untouched for a 94-yard TD to put the Leos up 36-24.
La Verne trailed much of the first half but led 20-17 at intermission.
The Leos took the opening kickoff and marched 56 yards on 12 plays, reaching the Tiger 3-yard line before settling for a field goal of 22 yards from Alex Miller for a 3-0 lead.
That advantage was short lived, as the Tigers scored on their first play from scrimmage, courtesy of a 60-yard touchdown pass from Tommy Edwards to Matthew Tuckness to lead 7-3.
The two teams traded field goals before the Leopards blocked a Tiger punt to retake the lead. Joey Smith spiked a punt attempt from Marc Kuzbari and recovered at the Occidental 20. Four plays later, Carter scored on a quarterback bootleg to give the Leopards a 13-10 edge with 3:59 left in the second quarter.
Occidental countered on its next possession, covering 82 yards on eight plays. The drive culminated with a second scoring strike from Edwards to Tuckness - this time from 22 yards out - to push the Tigers back on top at 17-13 with 52 seconds to play.
That was just enough time for the Leos to strike again, as it efficiency moved 65 yards on six plays in the less than a minute. At the Oxy 5, Carter connected with senior Oscar Bauman for the touchdown with a second remaining to help the Leos enter halftime on top by three at 20-17.
The tandem of Edwards and Tuckness, the SCIAC leaders in passing yards and receptions, respectively, lived up to their billing as Edwards threw for 322 yards and a pair of scores while Tuckness hauled in 16 passes for 234 yards, both game-highs.
Carter finished with 155 yards through the air on 17-of-23 passing with one touchdown while also adding 53 rushing yards on 12 attempts.
Biggers concludes the season with 1,397 rushing yards and moves into fifth on the Leopard career rushing list with 2,014 yards through two seasons.