By Bontã Hill
In a season that had its ups and downs, the Rams didn’t envision the 2008 season to end the way it did on Dec. 6. The Rams, riding on a four game winning streak coming into the Hawaiian Punch Bowl, lost 36-14 to the San Joaquin Delta College Mustangs.
The Rams finished the season with a record of 7-4, the program’s worst record in 20 years.
Turnovers, missed tackles and critical penalties all proved too much to overcome as the Rams dug themselves a hole they could not manage to climb out of.
The Mustangs took control of the game early as they recovered a fumble on a punt return by Myles Gates at the 13-yard line. During the next play, Delta quarterback Alesana Sausau completed a 13-yard pass to receiver Zuri Nance for a quick 7-0 lead.
“Things didn’t go well from the first punt on,” Head Coach George Rush said. “The first series, we made them go three and out, they punted, and it went downhill from there. [We] have no excuses. Their [the Mustangs’] kids played great.”
The Rams could not find an offensive rhythm with their first three offensive possessions, all ending with turnovers.
Rams running back Andre Patterson and quarterback Kevin Vye each threw interceptions, and on fourth-and-one at the end of the first quarter, running back Monte Davis was stuffed short of the first down.
Midway through the second quarter, the Rams’ offense was still struggling. Delta took the advantage and scored on a 23-yard touchdown pass to receiver Garrett Andrews from quarterback Peitro Murdaca. Andrews went on to score four touchdowns that day. During the play, the Rams’ defense was unable to react after an offsides penalty was thrown, allowing Delta to take a 16-0 lead with just under five minutes of play left in the first half.
“We thought it was a false start,” Rams Jarrell Harrison said of the touchdown play. “ I think D.J. [Gomes] saw something else that made him jump up, and the receiver kept going. It’s real unfortunate.”
With the Rams feeling a sense of urgency, they quickly drove 82 yards to get themselves back in the game. Vye hit Patterson on a screen pass, and with some great blocks down field, Patterson took the catch 32 yards for a touchdown bring the Rams closer with a score of 16-7.
Delta though, playing with nothing to lose drove right back. Quarterback Murdaca came and hit Andrews for a 42-yard touchdown to put the Mustangs up 22-7 going into halftime.
“With the early turnovers, we basically couldn’t build up any rhythm offensively,” Vye said.
Beginning the second half, Vye threw another interception halting a Rams drive, but the defense tightened up and forced the Mustangs to punt. The Rams then got in gear as Vye completed a 25-yard pass to receiver to Daniel Cannon. A play later, Vye threw to receiver Randell Washington for a touchdown cutting Delta’s lead to 22-14.
Whenever the Rams would seize the momentum, Delta had an answer. Delta quickly drove into Rams territory, and again Murdaca hit Andrews down the right sideline for a 44-yard catch and run. It was Andrews third touchdown of the game as he beat All-league cornerback Gomes for the third time of the day, making the score 29-14, seemingly sucking the life out of the Rams.
“For the first time in a long time we didn’t tackle well and our pass coverage wasn’t what it normally was,” said Rush. “For the most part [pass coverage] was pretty good.”
Delta scored another touchdown making the score 36-14 as the Rams remained offensively out of sync. With the Rams struggling to run the ball and showing no passing rhythm, the Rams fought to the final whistle, but it wasn’t meant to be.
“I have no problems with our players, they played real hard,” Rush said. “What they need to remember is what they did to get here playing shorthanded. They won some big games down the stretch. I’m real proud of our kids with the way they fought.”
“It’s disappointing for players and coaching staff because we had such a great run to get here, but I’m real proud of how we played, we played hard,” Rush said. “In the end, it just wasn’t our day.