The conditions couldn’t have been more perfect for Loughborough University American Football Club’s first home BUCS fixture of the season; no wind, blue skies, and the finest pitch that this writer has ever played on. Team 25 welcomed their local rivals, Leicester University Longhorns, to the ‘New Cage’ next to Loughborough’s brand new stadium at Holywell to contest the annual Leicestershire Rose Bowl and bragging rights in the county for another year. The Students looked to build on their hot start from a week ago, a 52-0 win at De Montfort University.
After a minute’s silence for Remembrance Sunday, Loughborough kicked to Leicester to start the game. The Longhorns came out in their Double-Wing offense, something that often provides problems for defenses. Loughborough had worked to study it all week at practice, and the hard work paid off, as Leicester were forced into a quick three and out, punting the ball to The Students. The offense picked off from where they left off last week, driving methodically down the field with some key plays made by receiver James West (No.88) and Ben Burslem (No.1). Loughborough capped the drive with a two-yard strike from QB James Slack (No.6) to James West for a touchdown (his first for Loughborough). With the extra point kicked by Alex Lenkowski (No.17) the score was 7-0 to Team 25. Leicester began another drive on offense, but couldn’t breach the impenetrable Loughborough D, losing three yards on three plays and having to punt again.
The Students’ offense kept their momentum rolling on the first play of the drive, with Slack hitting wideout James Draper (No.81) in stride on a play action pass, deep down the right sideline for a 51 yard touchdown, Draper’s first for Loughborough, and with the following PAT, it was 14-0 Students. Leicester continued to struggle against the Loughborough defense and had to punt again. It wasn’t all clear sailing for the Team 25 offense though, as the offense started making some mistakes, and couldn’t score any points on the next drive, ending with a missed field goal. Another three and out by Leicester closed out a lightning quick first Quarter with Loughborough leading 14-0.
Loughborough’s first score of the second quarter didn’t come from the offense, or the defense, but special teams. Team 25’s Swiss Army knife Ben Burslem returned a punt 40 plus yards for a score, meaning that in two games, he has scored four touchdowns coming three different ways (rushing, receiving, and returning). The extra point made the score 21-0 Loughborough. On The Students’ next offensive possession, they got back into their groove. Running back Andy Mayall (No.23) made some consistent yardage, before James West ran a jet sweep 6 yards for a touchdown, breaking tackles on the way in. Lenkowski kicked the point after for a 28-0 lead. This was the last signifiant play of the half, as Leicester was still unable to move the ball against the Loughborough D.
Team 25’s second string players proved again that they more than capable of putting up points in the second half, as the coaches rotated them in for the starters. QB Tim Lewis (No.12) drove the team down the field on The Students’ first drive of the half, capping it off with a ten-yard touchdown run on an improvised play. He also kicked the extra point, giving Loughborough a 35-0 lead. The Longhorns responded by trying to pass more out of their Double-Wing style offense, but still had no success, with a drive ending sack coming from Linebacker Ben Davies (No.44). Team 25 kept rolling offensively, with another long drive ending in a one-yard touchdown run from Diekola Lanre-Ojo (No.25). TIme Lewis added another PAT building the score to 42-0 Loughborough.
Mistakes began to creep back into The Students’ offense, with a fumble being lost, giving The Longhorns their best field position of the game so far. But as always, the defense responded by holding strong and forcing the Leicester team to punt; however The Longhorns got another lucky break when Loughborough fumbled the short kick, and Leicester got the ball back inside the Students’ half.
Penalties and a decent run by The Longhorns running back got the losing side into field goal range. This gave them a chance to do what DMU couldn’t last week and score some points against the formidable defensive unit. However, Team 25 weren’t going to make it that easy, with a strong defensive rush up the middle, they blocked the kick, keeping a clean sheet. The Loughborough O managed to squeeze in one last touchdown, a thirteen-yard sweep by Dan Reeves (No.16) making the final score 49-0 Loughborough.
Team 25 showed some more good points this week; the offense continued to show dominance, and everyone from the starters to the rookies proved they are capable of contributing to the team. The defense kept their second straight clean sheet, and avoided slipping up against a completely different offense to the one they practice against regularly and played against last week. The Students proudly retain the Leicestershire Rose Bowl for another year, establishing their position as the top team in the county. With next weeks opponent still not confirmed, Loughborough look to have a hard week of practice and keep their gaze fixed inwards; improving on both sides of the ball, staying ready for whatever challenges lie ahead….