The article below originally appeared in the San Mateo Daily Journal and is being reprinted with permission.
The College of San Mateo fully expected this year’s Bothman Bulldog Bowl to be its Northern California championship game.
Instead, after losing four games by a combined 15 points, the eighth annual Bulldog Bowl was just another postseason game to reward a team that had a good – but not great season.
It would have been easy for CSM to simply mail it in, but that’s not the Bulldogs’ style. There was a game to play Saturday and darn it, if they weren’t going to go out with guns blazing.
Sierra College really didn’t stand a chance. CSM beat up the Wolverines in every aspect of the game — offense, defense and special teams — as the Bulldogs rolled to a 49-20 win, in a game that wasn’t nearly as close as the final score indicated.
“I thought we played well,” said CSM head coach Bret Pollack. “We came out and jumped them in the first quarter.”
CSM scored 21 points in the first quarter as it amassed 438 yards of offense. The Bulldogs defense held Sierra to just 298 yards of offense, well off the Wolverines’ average of 322. Sierra had just 157 yards after three quarters, before it finally moved the ball about the Bulldogs’ second- and third-string defense. On special teams, place kicker Austin Pacheco was a perfect 7 for 7 on extra points and averaged 39 yards on six punts, with a long of 48. The kick coverage unit held Sierra to just 79 yards while Damien Ross blocked a third-quarter punt for the Bulldogs as well.
Even Pollack noticed how in sync his team was.
“There was a point where I said, ‘We’re clicking on all of this,’” Pollack said.
CSM (7-4 overall) picked off a pass on the second play of the game and then preceded to score on three of four first-quarter possessions. Following Nate Jackson’s interception on a play “that is one of their favorite routes and we took it away early,” said CSM defensive coordinator Tim Tulloch, the Bulldogs wasted little time in taking advantage, going 27 yards on two plays. Jerrel Brown ripped off a 14-yard run on first down and starting quarterback Blake Plattsmier did the rest, going 13 yards for the score on a quarterback keeper for a 7-0 just over a minute into the game.
From there, it was George Naufahu’s time to shine. The grey shirt freshman out of San Mateo High had a record-breaking bowl game. Although he carried the ball just six times, he rushed for 135 yards and three touchdowns, which tied a Bulldog Bowl record. On his first carry of the game, he ripped off a 72-yard touchdown run, setting a record for longest touchdown run in the bowl game’s history and giving CSM a 14-0 lead. On his fourth carry, he torched the Wolverines for a 30-yard touchdown run, using a devastating stiff arm that floored the defender at the 15 and allowed him to get into the end zone for a 21-0 Bulldogs advantage.
He later added a 4-yard scoring run late in the second quarter to put CSM up 35-7 at halftime.
“It was fun. I just play to have fun,” Naufahu said. “It was easy. The (offensive) linemen opened up the holes and I just had to finish.”
The Bulldogs dominated on the ground, rushing for 326 yards on 43 carries. Plattsmier added 64 yards and Brown had 62 yards. They rushed for 172 yards in the first quarter alone and had 247 yards on the ground at halftime.
“The first half was great,” Pollack said. “We were running the ball well. Early on, they had a hard time taking away the running back and we exploited that.”
With a 28-point lead to start the third quarter and the defense locking down Sierra, Pollack can understand the offense being a little less effective in the second half. The offense did convert two turnovers into 14 points – one touchdown in both the third and fourth quarters – to round out the scoring for the Bulldogs.
The way the CSM defense was playing, however, the offense did not have to do a whole lot. Linebackers Eric Tuipoulotu, out of Serra, and Tevita Lataimua, from Mills, were tacking machines Saturday, combining for 15 tackles. Tuipulotu’s nine tackles earned him Defensive Player of the Game honors.
“Overall, we did pretty good. We played Bulldog football,” Tuipulotu said. “We’re undefeated in this bowl and we wanted to be get to 7-0.”
The Bulldogs’ defense hounded Sierra quarterback Myles McKee all game long, taking him out of his comfort zone. Sierra (5-6) came into the game averaging 241 passing yards per game. Saturday, the Wolverines barely eclipsed the 200-yard mark.
“He got hit a little bit early and that made him speed up his clock in terms of getting rid of the ball,” Tulloch said.
The Bulldogs are did an admirable job of containing the Wolverines’ wideouts, Frankie Gomes and Vince Mayle. Gomes finished with seven catches for 105 yards, but Mayle managed only five catches for 52 yards.
“The secondary did a good job of trying to slow down [Mayle] and [Gomes] and make sure those guys did not get off,” Tulloch said. “[Mayle] is a legit BCS receiver. That kid is going to play on TV.”
While the Bulldogs did not live up to the expectations they set for themselves at the beginning of the year – which was to play for a state championship – they did prove to themselves they were a good enough squad to make a run at such lofty goals.
“Very rarely do you see a bowl game lopsided like this,” Tulloch said. “It was nice to see us play well in all three phases. It was great to see a great team victory.”