COSTA MESA — The Orange Coast College football team could justifiably blame the officials for coming up just short on its final possession of the first half of Saturday's nonconference game against visiting Grossmont.
But when it comes to blame for a scoreless second half that turned a three-point lead into a 38-17 loss, the reasons get far less convenient.
The Pirates (1-3) could point to a suddenly listless offense that earned just 136 yards after intermission.
They might also cite a porous run defense that made it appear that the Griffins, not the Pirates, were the top rushing team in Southern California.
Grossmont (1-3), which came in ranked No. 36 in the state in rushing offense, 34 spots behind the Pirates, assumed the smashmouth identity the hosts seemed to leave in the halftime locker room. The visitors rolled up 229 of their 312 rushing yards in the final two quarters and scored on their final four possessions.
OCC, which averaged 326 yards on the ground in its first three games, collected only 78 yards on 20 second-half rushing attempts to finish with 270 rushing yards.
The Pirates found no answers through the air, either, passing for just 112 yards, with three quarterbacks completing 12 of 25 with one interception. First-time starter Mike Frank was nine for 17 with the aforementioned interception. He produced 78 passing yards.
OCC freshman tailback Domenic Betts held his form, collecting 173 yards on 23 carries, including a 44-yard scoring burst that tied things, 14-14, on the first play of the second quarter.
Freshman Josh Hawkins earned 54 of his 77 rushing yards on the first of his five fly sweeps, and freshman receiver Tyler Duncan netted 53 yards on three catches. But there was little progress made by 12 other Pirates who took either a handoff or caught a pass as OCC produced a season-low point total.
OCC moved the ball inside the Grossmont 40-yard line on only one of five second-half possessions, and did not take a snap in the red zone. Its deepest penetration was the Griffins' 27.
The Pirates used touchdown drives of four and six plays, respectively, to match the Griffins for just more than one quarter.
And when OCC freshman Jackson Dionne nailed a 48-yard field goal with 2:43 left in the second period, the hosts had their first lead.
OCC's final scoring possession benefited from a line-drive punt striking the back judge and bouncing back toward midfield, instead of its path inside the OCC 20.
But the officials proved unkind to the Pirates after Grossmont went three-and-out and punted to OCC's 28-yard line with 1:14 left in the half.
After two plays gained three yards, Betts broke runs of 14 and 22 yards to the Griffins' 33. On the next play, a completed pass gained five more, putting Dionne in range for what would have been a 45-yard field goal.
But, after an incomplete pass on second down, the officials inexplicably marked the ball back on the 33. And when a third-down pass fell incomplete, the spot was the 34. On two incomplete passes, and without a penalty, OCC lost six yards.
Dionne then tried a 51-yard field goal that, though centered between the uprights, came up about three yards short of the crossbar with 20 seconds left.
"That was a big deal," Taylor said of two mistaken spots that appeared to cost OCC three points and added momentum going into halftime. "We missed that field goal by three yards and that would have made a big difference. But, you know, [Grossmont] wound up scoring a bunch in the fourth quarter. I don't know what happened with the box [down marker], but it didn't get moved [on the five-yard pass to the 28]. Then all of a sudden, we had an incomplete pass and we were moved back."
Grossmont 38, Orange Coast 17
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Grossmont 14 – 0 – 7 – 17 — 38
Orange Coast 7 – 10 – 0 – 0 — 17
Gros – Payne 2 run (Carillo kick), 5:48.
OCC – Chimphalee 2 run (Dionne kick), 4:40.
Gros – Powell 22 pass from Bonner (Carillo kick), 2:35.
OCC – Betts 44 run (Dionne kick), 14:53.
OCC – Dionne 48 FG, 2:43.
Gros – Spight 4 run (Carillo kick), 0:59.
Gros – Carillo 35 FG, 8:21.
Gros – Spight 57 run (Carillo kick), 4:49.
Gros – Thomas 4 run (Carillo kick), 0:21.
Gros – Spight, 11-132, 2 TDs; Payne, 13-102; 1 TD.
OCC – Betts, 20-173, 1 TD; J. Hawkins, 5-77.
Gros – Bonner, 8-27-2, 155, 1 TD.
OCC – Frank, 9-17-1, 78.
Gros – Payne, 2-32.
OCC – Duncan, 3-53; Betts, 3-8.