In a game with more twists and turns than San Francisco’s famous Lombard street, the Santa Clara Bruins football team came up just short in double overtime, losing to the Mountain View Spartans, 40-34. The game, which took place at Foothill College in Los Altos, wasn’t the prettiest of contests with penalty flags aplenty. However, the second half drama was quite a sight to behold. Each team had two potential game-winning drives in the final four minutes, but neither team could score as regulation ended 27-27. The heartbreaking loss drops the Bruins to 2-6 on the season (0-4 in league) with the Spartans improving to 5-3 (2-2 in league).
Despite the high scoring affair, it was the Bruins defense that shined through the first two-and-a-half quarters. Mountain View came into the game averaging nearly 300 yards rushing, but the Bruins defense stood tall early. After the Spartans took the opening kickoff all the way down to the Santa Clara 30-yard line, the Bruins front seven stepped up. An impressive tackle by senior linebacker Pako Vehikite helped force the Spartans into a missed field goal attempt.
After a Bruins punt, Mountain View would open the scoring with a methodical touchdown drive led by their running attack. However, that would be the only Spartan scoring drive of the first half that could be blamed on the Santa Clara defense. The only other touchdown allowed by the Bruins over the first two quarters was a 1-play drive. The Spartans scored on a 10-yard run after Santa Clara quarterback Chris Brown threw an interception on the previous play. Otherwise, the Bruins defense held the Spartans to the missed field goal attempt, three punts and an interception in the first 24 minutes. Thanks to their impressive defense, Santa Clara trailed by just the slimmest of margins, 14-13 at halftime.
The second half would see this game turn into a see-saw nailbiter.
Santa Clara’s defense forced a fumble on Mountain View’s first drive of the half and on the very next play Brown would find his go-to receiver in sophomore wide receiver Nick Garcia. The shifty youngster stands at just 5’9” and 135 pounds, but he continually got the better of the Spartans defensive backs. On this particular touchdown, he beat his man down the sideline and made the catch at the 30-yard line before scampering to the endzone for a 55-yard score.
“I knew at that point, the offense needed one big play” commented Garcia on his touchdown grab. “I sprinted my [butt] off to get past [my man] and the ball floated right to me. I caught it and booked it to the endzone. It was a great feeling.”
The 20-14 Santa Clara lead would be short lived however, as Mountain View would immediately counter with a touchdown of their own, regaining a one-point advantage, 21-20. After another Bruins punt, the Spartans would score again to go up 27-20.
With the back-to-back Spartan scores, one might have thought Mountain View would be able to hold on for the win. But Santa Clara had other ideas. Brown led the offense down the field with a number of impressive passes. A short touchdown run capped off a lengthy drive to tie the game at 27-27.
The next Spartans drive would stall in Santa Clara territory with around six minutes remaining. Mountain view elected to try a 36-yard field goal, but junior Osbaldo Ortiz-Verdi would miss wide right. With a chance to win the game on the next drive, the Bruins would go for it on fourth and medium from just across midfield. An incomplete pass turned the ball back over to the Spartans in terrific field position with just under three minutes remaining.
Back and forth they went, this time it looked like Mountain View was putting together a potential game-winning drive until losing a shocking fumble with just under 30 seconds left. The Bruins would recover at their own 35-yard line and run it all the way back down to the Spartans 12.
At this point, a late field goal was all that was needed to win the game. However, with time running down and the Bruins out of timeouts, Santa Clara didn’t have enough time to get their field goal unit on the field. Instead the offense had to throw to the endzone from 17 yards out as the final seconds ticked away. That pass would fall harmlessly incomplete and we would go to overtime.
“My mouth and brain didn’t work” commented Bruins Head Coach Hank Roberts about the inability to attempt a field goal in the final seconds. “We were out of timeouts. In my head I was calling one thing and my body I was calling another.”
In overtime, the Spartans were able to score on both their attempts from the 10-yard line while Santa Clara was only able to score on their first series.
The Bruins take on Saratoga next week at home in Santa Clara.