USD's Burst Routs of Pomona-Pitzer

TIMES STAFF WRITER

One, two, three, punt. One, two, three, punt . . . and on it went for the University of San Diego offense Saturday afternoon in its homecoming game against Pomona-Pitzer.

Talk about a funk. For 18 1/2 minutes, which included five Torero drives and zero first downs, nothing was working.

Sweep? Pop. Loss of a yard.

Counter? Crunch. No gain.

Pass? Oh my. Way overthrown.

Final score? USD 56, Pomona-Pitzer 3.

That's right--no need to make an appointment with an optometrist--56-3.

Witnessed by 4,000-plus fans, USD scored its biggest blowout since beating Loyola Marymount, 61-0, right around the time current cornerback Daniel Branch was born on Nov. 17, 1973.

Next to the Loyola rout, Saturday's victory ranked second in margin and points scored in the history of USD's program.

And with its fourth victory in a row, the Toreros, ranked sixth in the NCAA Division III West Region, improved to 6-2 with two games remaining. Should they defeat Azusa Pacific Saturday at home and Occidental on Nov. 16, a playoff invitation might be issued for the first time since '73.

But this victory really wasn't that easy . . . for a while. Four minutes into the second quarter, USD's offense had only 30 total yards, zero first downs and zero touchdowns.

But then:

* Willie Branch, Daniel's brother, who is also a freshman, took a handoff 70 yards.

* Brad Leonard caught a six-yard pass from Michael Bennett.

* Branch went 21 more yards.

* Scott Sporrer caught passes for 25 and four yards.

* John Lambert, who had carried only twice all season, rambled 51 yards up the middle.

* And Ronald Durbin (four carries before Saturday) plunged for four yards.

All of them were touchdowns.

And there could have been at least one more. Backup quarterback Robert Ray took a snap and touched his knee to the ground with the ball at the Sagehen three-yard line and 20 seconds left.

Though the offense took its time establishing control, Dave Paladino, a senior captain and defensive back, set the tempo on the first play. Paladino stepped in front of a Josh Spitzen pass along the right sideline, got a couple of key blocks, and returned his third interception of the season 27 yards into the end zone 10 seconds into the game.

"I didn't believe we could score that many points," Paladino said. "It's not like we tried to run it up or anything. I mean, we put in everybody and quit throwing the ball, but the young guys just kept going."

Indeed. USD Coach Brian Fogarty, who once indicated he would rather have his running backs trip on purpose than run up a score, used everybody except trainer Carolyn Greer throughout the second half and called nothing but running plays in the final 15 minutes. But the way things were going, even the diminutive Greer would have scored.

Asked if he thought USD was unnecessarily padding its lead, Nate Kirtman, Pomona-Pitzer's best player, responded: "I really don't think that's their style. We're just a young team. Inexperience defeats us nine times out of 10."

So does USD. The Toreros are now 19-1-1 against Pomona-Pitzer.

After the rough start, USD finished with 496 total yards. Branch carried 10 times for 124 yards, and Bennett completed nine of 14 passes for 136 yards.

"They came up in an 11-man front and challenged us," Fogarty said. "They played us tough early. They said, 'You're going to have to throw the ball to beat us.' And we were able to do that. It took us awhile to get going but once we started hitting some passes, it opened up everything else."

Yeah, the floodgates.

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