Tony Werbelow was performing well below the level he and just about everyone else in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference had expected.
Werbelow, Occidental College's senior quarterback and the fourth most efficient passer in NCAA Division III last season, entered Saturday's game against Claremont dead last on the SCIAC passing list.
However, partly because of a Claremont defense that was geared to stop the breakaway threat of Tiger tailback Gary Little, Werbelow regained his form in grand fashion as Occidental cruised to a 44-14 victory at Claremont.
Werbelow completed 11 of 14 for 198 yards and threw three touchdown passes to tight end David Grossklaus as Occidental improved its record to 5-1 overall, 3-0 in the SCIAC.
"Now I feel like I'm playing like I did last year," Werbelow said. "Everything is coming together.
"I think Claremont came in going, 'Well, Tony isn't having the type of season he had last year and this new back is just a god, so we'll play hard against the run.' "
Who could blame Claremont?
Little, a freshman from San Francisco, entered the game as the conference's leading rusher with 609 yards and was coming off last week's 263-yard effort against San Diego.
Little ran for 68 yards in 21 carries and scored a touchdown against Claremont (2-4, 1-2). It was the first time since he became a starter in the third game of the season that Little was held to less than 100 yards.
However, Little still did plenty of damage, converting several third-down plays with short gains as the Tigers rolled to a 28-0 halftime lead.
"We used a lot of play-action stuff," Werbelow said, "and it just destroyed them."
Occidental's most dangerous weapon turned out to be the 6-foot-2, 220-pound Grossklaus, a sophomore from Mesa, Ariz., who caught scoring passes of 50, 12 and 56 yards.
The Tiger offense, which piled up 406 yards, overshadowed another stellar effort by a defense that limited Claremont to 135 yards.
Lineman Tony Ferguson spearheaded a unit that intercepted two passes, caused three fumbles and scored on a safety--Occidental's second in two games.
Occidental already led, 14-0, when the Tiger defense effectively ended any Claremont threat by knocking senior quarterback Mike Pembroke out of action with an injured left ankle with 9:23 left in the first half.
Claremont's only touchdowns, both scored by tailback Reed Pangborn, came in the second half when the Stags were operating against Occidental reserves.
Occidental fullback Malek Doulat gained 61 yards in 11 carries and reserve tailback Kevin Vegas rushed for 49 yards in 11 carries and scored two touchdowns.
Pangborn led Claremont with 40 yards in 14 carries.
Occidental will travel to Whittier this week for the first of two conference games against the Poets this season.