The University of San Diego football team's defense, which has played well all year, finally met a team it couldn't stop when it had to.
The Toreros held Menlo College in check for most of Saturday afternoon's key Division III game at USD, but when it mattered most, in the fourth quarter, it was the Menlo offense that came up with the big plays in a 17-15 victory that ended USD's playoff hopes.
"It was frustrating," USD defensive back Bryan Day said. "We'd plug them up for a couple of plays and they'd hit a big pass on third down. It wound up killing us."
Menlo (7-2-0) took a 14-7 lead on a blocked punt by Pedro Rivera that was recovered in the end zone by Joe Torsiello with 6:41 remaining in the third quarter.
On its first possession of the final quarter, Menlo drove 62 yards and used up 9 minutes 36 seconds to set up a 23-yard field goal by Eric Sweet.
Menlo converted four straight third-down plays on the drive to position itself for Sweet's kick, which made the score 17-7 with 4:32 remaining.
USD came back with a 51-yard drive capped when quarterback Brendan Murphy hit Jeff Mansukhani on a 20-yard touchdown pass. Virgil Enriquez ran around right end for the two-point conversion to pull the Toreros within two points with 3:45 left.
Menlo took over and ran out the clock, again connecting on three crucial third-down plays. Twice, Menlo quarterback Jerold Montano connected with Torsiello on third-and-long passes.
"We played about as well as we could play," said USD Coach Brian Fogarty. "But they made the plays when they had to. We were close, but not good enough."
The victory all but assured Menlo a Division III playoff berth. The pairings will be announced today.
USD, at 6-3-1, finished with its best record since Fogarty became coach in 1983.
Defense dominated the first half before Menlo took a 7-0 lead on Montano's one-yard run late in the second quarter. USD tied the score when Murphy ran two yards for a touchdown eight seconds before halftime.