This article originally appeared in ZU News.
Azusa Pacific beat rival Humboldt State 45-13 on Oct. 15 in the program’s 500th game, led by the efforts of junior quarterback Andrew Elffers and a three-headed rushing attack.
The Cougars jumped out to an early 7-6 lead, and didn’t let the Lumberjacks score again until the game was well into the fourth quarter.
Sophomore running back Kurt Scoby broke through a group of Humboldt defenders on the two-yard line to open up scoring with a 17-yard touchdown.
Humboldt countered with a score of their own on the next drive, when Humboldt quarterback Robert Webber hit wide receiver Richard Doctor for a 50-yard touchdown. APU blocked the point after touchdown and never lost the lead.
On the next APU drive, Scoby fumbled the ball and Humboldt recovered. The Lumberjacks appeared to have some momentum until they fumbled, and APU sophomore linebacker Aaron Berry recovered the ball and returned it 62-yards for a touchdown.
“I picked it up and I took it five yards and the ref didn’t say anything. I looked to the side and I saw a couple other [teammates] who I knew would block for me, and I took it to the house,” Berry said. “I just ran for dear life.”
Berry’s touchdown was a momentum changer as it appeared that Humboldt was on the verge of scoring again and taking the lead.
“Coach says that we all put a brick onto this wall that APU has built. Every player that has played here has added on to the wall. It’s just amazing that I was able to put another brick up on that wall,” Berry said.
The Cougars forced a three and out on Humboldt’s next drive. APU also punted on their next drive, but came up with a field goal on the following series.
On their last drive before the half ended, Elffers connected with senior wide receiver Ethan Zeidler for a 28-yard catch that would have set the Cougars up for first and goal if they hadn’t drawn an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. The penalty was one of seven Cougar penalties during the game that cost the team 60 yards. The offense was able to make up for their mistake, and Elffers was able to overcome this and hit Scoby for a seven-yard touchdown.
“In football, you don’t want to let your emotions get too high or too low. Mistakes will happen, yet it is not about the mistakes but how you come back from them,” Elffers said.
The Cougars led at halftime 24-6. On the second-half kickoff, the Cougars went for an onside kick, which Humboldt recovered in APU territory. The Cougars were able to defend their decision by forcing a second three and out.
Neither team scored during their first three drives of the second half. APU had two turnovers during this span, which the Lumberjacks were unable to capitalize on. Humboldt went for a fourth down conversion but failed. APU took over on downs and junior running back Aaron Baltazar ran for a 40-yard touchdown on the first play of the drive. Junior running back Chris Solomon led the team in rushing on the night, racking up 68 yards on six carries.
“It’s great to see Baltazar get out there. It’s really exciting to see Chris Solomon be able to be in there also and get some carries,” head coach Victor Santa Cruz said.
The Cougars scored again twice before the end of the game on an 18-yard touchdown run by Elffers and a 10-yard touchdown pass by quarterback Chad Jeffries.
Humboldt managed to score once more, but the game was well out of reach with only three minutes remaining.
Speaking to the occasion of the 500th game, head coach Victor Santa Cruz believes it was an important moment for APU, for both current and former players, coaches and students.
“This 500th game marked a special opportunity in life to come out and display a lot of what this school represents,” Santa Cruz said. “It makes a statement about what this program has stood for, about what the alumni are a part of.”
Santa Cruz saw how special this game was, highlighted by hundreds of APU students wearing a commemorative 500th game shirt. He also noted the importance of big plays in a game such as this one.
“Big plays beget big plays. You can sense the frenzy on the sideline start to take over,” Santa Cruz said.
This game was especially important for APU to bounce back, as it followed the Cougars’ first loss of the season.
“Last week’s loss was a great lesson, a teachable moment, and our guys took the teaching,” Santa Cruz said. “Within themselves, they wanted to grow more and get after it.”
This was APU’s second time playing GNAC rival Humboldt State this season. They won the first meeting 38-27 on Sept. 10.
“In the GNAC, we have a very competitive league,” Elffers said. “It’s hard to beat a team twice, but that’s part of the joy of playing in this league. Our team accepts the challenge and we’ll battle any team that comes in front.”
Coach Bo Beatty has seen the success this year and through hundreds of the program’s previous games. Beatty is a linebacker coach that played for APU in 1992 and ’93 and has been coaching for the Cougars since 1995.
“This team to me this year is special because I’m watching first-teamers coach up second-teamers. Guys truly care about each other and enjoy their success,” Beatty said. “To me, when a guy cares more about his teammates than he does himself, that’s when I think you’re onto the right thing.”
After another dominant performance at Simon Fraser on Oct. 22, the Cougars defeated the Clan 57-0 and tied an NCAA Division II record with three pick-six plays on defense.
The Cougars moved up four spots over the past two weeks in the AFCA D-II Coaches Poll, jumping to 15th in NCAA Division II football.
The Cougars will play their next game against Central Washington at APU’s Homecoming game on Oct. 29. The game will have major implications as both teams are fighting to finish in first place of the GNAC. APU beat Central Washington 27-17 on Sept. 17, but since then, the Wildcats have been on a four game winning streak.
APU is currently 7-1 on the season and remains undefeated in GNAC Conference play.