By John Honell
In what might be the biggest win in Azusa Pacific University history, the Cougars knocked off second-ranked Grand Valley State (MI.) 26-23 in double overtime Thursday at Citrus College in the season opener for both teams and the NCAA Division II debut for APU.
At least the biggest since the Cougars’ NAIA national title since 1997.
The Cougars, ranked No. 22 in NCAA Division II, sprang the upset in front of a national TV audience as Terrell Watson scored a touchdown in each overtime and the defense forced the Lakers to settle for a field goal in the second overtime.
“This was an outstanding win,” Cougars coach Victor Santa Cruz said. “This is right up there as our biggest. We’ve got a lot of young guys that are playing with their hair on fire and I’m proud of ‘em.”
Watson, who led the Cougars with 207 yards rushing, carried the ball all 11 plays the Cougars ran in overtime. It took him five plays to go 25 yards for the score in front of one of the largest crowds in school history.
“They don’t give me the ball,” Watson said. “They give the ball to the offensive line. We say you move, and I’ll run. My job is so easy. They block five or six guys and I just run. The defense and special teams did a friggin’ amazing job tonight, we were just all together.”
The Cougars defense, led by C. J. Broussard, came up big in the third quarter. He stole the ball from Lakers running back Kirk Spencer at the Cougars’ 19-yard line to stop a drive and on the next series, he picked off a tipped pass and ran it back to the Lakers 20-yard line to set up a touchdown that put the Cougars up 13-10 with 4:29 left in the third quarter.
“It was a fun game,” Broussard said. “That was the first time I ever stole a ball but, since Spring ball we’ve been preaching we want to be a nationally dominant defense. Our coaches prepared us and had us ready for this game and just came out and did it. It was just our will to win.”
The Cougars never tried a pass in overtime, letting the ground game put the game away.
“At the end of the day, the running game was really wearing them down,” Santa Cruz said. “Terrell picks up steam and our offensive line continues to exert their mass on them . I can’t say enough about what the o-line did and Terrell ran.
By John Honell