After thoroughly being outplayed in the first half Saturday, Bakersfield College turned things aound.
The Renegades shut out Cerritos over the final two quarters, highlighted by a goal-line stand with less than four minutes left in the game, and rallied for a 21-14 National Northern Conference win at Memorial Stadium.
Marquise Johnson caught a 9-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Brian Burrell with 9:14 left and Brock Martin added a 2-point conversion reception that turned around what had been a 14-13 Cerritos lead.
The Renegades (6-2 overall, 3-1 NNC) allowed two second-quarter touchdowns, including a go-ahead 3-yard run by Cerritos' Michael Jasper with 22 seconds left in the half that gave the Falcons a 14-7 halftime lead.
But BC limited Cerritos (4-4, 2-2) to only five first downs and 47 net yards in the second half.
The outcome came down to a goal line stand when Cerritos, thanks to a short punt and an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty against the Renegades, got possession on the BC 25 with 5:09 left.
A facemask penalty helped the Falcons get a first down at the BC 5.
Two running plays gained 3 yards, and an incomplete pass made it fourth-and-goal from the 2. Cerritos quarterback Paul Lopez ran a quarterback draw into the end zone but an offensive holding penalty nullified the score and cost the Falcons 10 yards.
On the fourth-down replay, Lopez’s pass into the end zone was batted away by safety Chris Hannible, giving BC possession with 3:12 remaining and Cerritos out of time outs.
BC eventually had to punt, but the Falcons had only 32 seconds to drive 59 yards. Linebacker Keylon Hollis finished it by tackling Lopez at the BC 47 on the final play.
“We talked all week,” BC coach Jeff Chudy said. “We talked Thursday, Friday, before the game today, at halftime — that this would be a four-quarter game, and at the end of the day, it would be decided on who could persevere. Our guys played extremely well. ... I’m elated our guys hung in there. It was great to see us make a goal-line stand at the end.”
BC took a 7-0 lead when Johnson got behind the Cerritos defense and caught Burrell’s pass in stride at the Falcon 25 en route to a 59-yard touchdown play with 2:52 left in the first quarter.
But after that, the Renegades struggled the rest of the first half. Cerritos had nearly 10 more minutes of time-of-possession and BC never approached midfield after the first-quarter touchdown.
But all of that changed in the second half.
On its second possession of the third quarter, the Renegades drove 76 yards in 14 plays and pulled within 14-13 on a trick play, a 22-yard option pass touchdown from running back Curtis McGregor to wide receiver Brock Martin. That was the first passing attempt this season by a BC player other than Burrell.
That drive also introduced another wrinkle: BC went to a wildcat formation several times when in third and fourth down with short yardage for a first down. Running back Jalen Sykes took the snap from center on each occasion with Burrell lined up at wide receiver. Sykes ran each time and got four first downs out of that formation.
“We’re pretty bland, boring sometimes,” Chudy said of the new-look plays. “We’ve got to utilized our personnel groups and what we’ve got. ... We haven’t done any trick plays all year. The timing was right.”
McGregor said he was surprised he was called upon to throw the option pass.
“We’ve been practicing it, but I haven’t been doing it,” McGregor said. “Sykes normally does it. I practiced it (Friday) and tried it one time.”
The play worked. As McGregor rolled to his right, the defense converged toward him and Martin was open inside the 5-yard line.
“I told Brock, ‘Get open and I’ll throw it to you on the run,’ ” McGregor said. “They all started biting on it. I looked up and he was wide open.”
Cerritos defender Jamie Turner closed on Martin quickly, but Martin caught the ball at the 3 and fought into the end zone.
The extra point attempt was blocked after a low snap, keeping Cerritos ahead 14-13 with 1:31 left in the third quarter.
But the Renegades went 71 yards in 13 plays on their next possession for the go-ahead score. A holding penalty nullified a touchdown pass, but Cerritos made a huge mistake by drilling Sykes on a third-down overthrown pass, prompting a personal four penalty and first down. Johnson caught the go-ahead TD pass from Burrell on the next play.
Penalties played a huge part in the game. Cerritos was flagged eight times for 137 yards, BC had 10 for 153.
Chudy was frustrated about the calls.
“You look at the first half: penalties kept them in the game from an offensive perspective and from a defensive perspective, it kept us on the field,” he said. “Then it was a role reversal. The late hit on Sykes hurt them bad. And the holding penalty (nullifying Lopez’s TD run late in the game). But that’s football. It’s an ebb and flow game.
“We had momentum in the first quarter. We lost it, they gained it. Then they had it, and we took it back. Sykes and Curtis did a great job running the ball in the second half.”
BC had 23 rushing yards in the first half and only 108 passing yards but finished with 100 rushing and 251 passing.
BC plays at Allan Hancock on Saturday.
“I think it will be the same kind of game next week,” Chudy said.