A dominant second half defensive effort backed by a potent and balanced offensive attack sparked the University of La Verne to a 31-14 road triumph over Whittier College in SCIAC football action Saturday at Memorial Stadium in Whittier.
La Verne outscored Whittier 17-0 in the second half to earn its second consecutive win to even its record to 2-2 on the season while remaining unbeaten in conference play at 2-0.
Tied 14-14 at the half, Whittier took the second half kickoff and drove to the Leopard five-yard line, but were held out of the end zone. A short field goal attempt by the Poets sailed wide, and La Verne subsequently drove 80 yards for the go-ahead score as Matthew Biggers capped a 13-play drive with a 7 yard touchdown run for a 21-14 lead.
La Verne's defense forced a Poet punt on the ensuing possession, and would march 57 yards on six plays to set up a 26 yard field goal from Alex Miller to take a double-digit lead at 24-14 with 3:21 left in the third quarter.
After forcing another Whittier punt, La Verne started the fourth quarter at its own 20 and proceeded on an 11 play, 80 yard drive in six minutes, culminating in a 19 yard scoring run from Travis Sparks-Jackson for a 31-14 lead with nine minutes to play.
That was more than enough for the Leopard defense, which shut down the high-octane Whittier offense which entered the contest averaging a SCIAC best 44.0 points per game and more than 500 yards per game of total offense. The Leos held the Poets to 71 total yards in the second half.
On offense, La Verne amassed 451 yards on the night with 255 coming through the air and 196 on the ground.
The Poets (1-3, 0-2 SCIAC) jumped out to a 7-0 lead on a 22 yard pass from Chris Lopez to Matthew Asaro to complete a six play, 76 yard drive. La Verne answered with a 72 yard scoring drive on eight plays. Leopard quarterback Travis Carter converted a third down with a 13 yard pass to Gustavo Viramontes to reach the Poet six yard line, setting up a Biggers TD run on the next play to knot the game at 7-7 early in the second quarter.
Viramontes later capped a nine play, 55 yard drive when he hauled in a 19 yard scoring pass from Carter for the Leos' first lead of the game at 14-7 midway through the second quarter.
Whittier's quick strike capability on offense was displayed on the ensuing possession when Lopez connected with Anthony Johnson for a 70 yard touchdown pass with 6:52 left to play before halftime to tie the game at 14.
The Poets were held to just three first downs after intermission as the Leopards took control over the final 30 minutes en route to victory. Overall, La Verne totaled 26 first downs compared to Whittier's 12.
Biggers led all rushers with 123 yards on 32 carries and a pair of scores. Carter enjoyed his best outing of the season passing for 227 yards completing 18 of his 26 attempts and a touchdown. Viramontes caught five passes for a team-high 70 yards.
Lopez completed 13 of his 25 pass attempts for 232 passing yards for the Poets before giving way to backup Steven Rivera who tallied 73 yards through the air on 6-of-15 passing. Dameron Fooks caught six passes for a game-high 110 yards in the defeat.
The win was La Verne's third straight over Whittier with its last loss to the Poets coming in 2009.
La Verne will resume conference action next weekend as it returns home to host Redlands (1-1, 1-3 SCIAC) Saturday in a 7:00 pm start at Ortmayer Stadium.