The University of La Verne used a potent rushing attack to post a 31-15 triumph over Claremont-Mudd-Scripps in the SCIAC football opener for both teams Saturday evening at Burns Stadium in Claremont.
La Verne outscored CMS 24-8 in the second half and rolled up nearly 500 yards of total offense on the Stags, compiling 491 for the contest. Senior running back Matthew Biggers helped solidify the Leopard ground attack with a game-high 200 yards on 31 carries and a touchdown. Led by Biggers, the Leos amassed 317 rushing yards.
The Leopard defense also made an impact as it picked off three passes while also recording three sacks.
CMS got on the board late in the first quarter when it drove 72 yards on six plays as running back Corey Bickler scored on a 26 yard touchdown to give the Stags a 7-0 lead.
The Leopards knotted the contest at 7-7 after driving 57 yards on seven plays in just 1:45, culminating on a 10 yard scoring pass from Travis Carter to Jonathan Lilly with 10:58 remaining in the first half.
La Verne (1-2, 1-0 SCIAC) took the second half kickoff and proceeded on a 73 yard scoring drive with 62 coming from from Gustavo Viramontes. After consecutive rushes of 13 and 41 yards, Viramontes capped the Leopard drive with a 8 yard scoring run to give the Leos a 14-7 advantage.
The Stags (0-3, 0-1 SCIAC) closed to win five points after recording a safety, but the Leopards would respond with 17 unanswered points to put the game away.
After a 39 yard pass from Carter to Viramontes, Biggers scored on the very next play by outracing the CMS defense for a 39 yard touchdown to give La Verne a 21-9 lead with 6:32 left in the third.
The La Verne defense set up the next score early in the fourth when safety Donald Mull intercepted a CMS pass at the Stag 36 and returned it 15 yards to the 21. Four plays later, Carter connected with Andres Fernandes for a 21 yard score and a 28-9 lead with 11:41 left to play.
CMS cut the deficit with a 74 yard scoring drive on eight plays. Kris Otterholt hauled in a 21 yard pass from Sean McKaveney to trim the Leopard lead to 28-15 with over nine minutes remaining.
Undaunted, the Leopards would ice the contest with a 10 play drive - all running plays - which elapsed 4:10 off the clock, ending in a Alex Miller field goal from 27 yards out to close the scoring.
Biggers reached the 200-yard mark for the second time in his Leopard career, having rushed for 235 yards last season against Pomona-Pitzer (Nov. 5, 2011). Carter finished with 174 yards on 9-of-16 passing with a pair of scores. Viramontes contributed 65 yards rushing with one touchdown. Lilly caught three passes for 52 yards and a TD.
For CMS, McKaveney threw for a game-high 230 yards, completing 20 of his 43 pass attempts. Bickler rushed for a team-best 142 yards on 14 carries while Otterholt caught 13 passes for a game-high 153 receiving yards.
La Verne posted its first win over CMS in nearly five years. The last Leopard victory over the Stags occurred November 3, 2007 in a 31-7 triumph.
La Verne continues on the road next weekend to battle Whittier College in league action on Saturday, October 6.