The Mark Speckman era kicked off with a bang on Saturday, after the Oaks scored three second half touchdowns to come away with a 28-13 victory over the University of British Columbia. Menlo trailed 13-7 midway through the third, but found a way to rattle off three rushing TD's, including two in the fourth quarter to score the game's final 21 points, pushing their record to 1-0.
An impressive ground attack was the story in Speckman's Oaks coaching debut, with Menlo racking up a remarkable 230 yards on the ground, while posting four rushing touchdowns in the process. Junior wide receiver Michael Alexander led the charge with three of the four scores, including the contest's first touchdown, a 1-yard rush with 6:39 to go in the second to give the Oaks a 7-0 lead.
The advantage would be short lived for Menlo, as on the ensuing drive the Thunderbirds found the end zone to knot the score at 7-7 with only 2:17 remaining until intermission. Freshman quarterback Lucas Spagnuolo did the damage with a 21-yard rushing TD, one of three plays that tabbed over 13-yards for Spagnuolo on a nine play, 75-yard scoring drive that spanned four minutes and 26 seconds. The Grimsby, ON native finished the afternoon with 36 rushing yards on only six attempts while throwing the ball to the tune of 3-of-6 for 23 yards.
UBC wasn't finished before the two squads hit the locker room, finding the end zone with just seven seconds left in the half to take a 13-7 lead into the break (Thomas Moult extra point attempt was blocked by Sean Gray). The final scoring drive began at the British Columbia 42 with only 59 seconds left, after Menlo stalled on a three-and-out on their previous possession. The Thunderbirds called on fifth year senior Billy Greene as their new signal caller, who orchestrated a four play, 58-yard drive, capped off by a 35-yard TD pass to freshman Daniel English.
The two scores in the final 2:17 would be it for UBC, after a stingy Oaks defense excelled in the second half. Menlo forced a three-and-out on the second half's opening possession, and then promptly pushed the ball right down the field for a ten play, 65-yard touchdown drive, finished off by a Michael Alexander 3-yard scoring run to propel Menlo to a 14-13 lead with 8:31 remaining in the third. Alexander ended the day with 84-yards on the ground and with the aforementioned three touchdowns, the Pasadena, CA native has now found the end zone four times against UBC over the last two seasons.
The fourth quarter belonged to the Oaks, as two more rushing touchdowns sealed the deal on the first "W" of 2012. Sophomore Vince Snyder punched it in from three yards out less than a minute into the final frame, and Alexander did it one final time with a 10-yard scoring scamper with 3:30 left until the final gun.
Defensively, Menlo held the Thunderbirds to a measly 105 total yards in the second half, in addition to winning the turnover battle, 2-1. The game's only interception was thanks to sophomore defensive back Kaiiron Richards, who picked off sophomore quarterback Dominik Bundschuh late in the fourth to effectively end any British Columbia comeback hopes.
The Oaks received stellar play from junior linebacker James Yoder, senior linebacker Devon Jonsson, and senior defensive lineman Tony Ramirez. Yoder led the defense with nine total tackles, Jonsson chipped in with 7.5, two tackles for loss, and a team leading 1.5 sacks, while Ramirez did his part with six tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, and one sack totaling 15-yards.
Shifting the offensive side of the ball, junior running back Thomas Reynolds led Menlo with 90 rushing yards, averaging a strong 5.6 yards per carry. Senior quarterback Matt Pelasasa managed the game nicely, completing 11-of-15 for 117-yards, while not producing a turnover and was sacked just once. Senior wide receiver Robert Adan came away with four catches for 52-yards after a dominating 2011 campaign in which the Pittsburg, CA native earned NAIA All-Independent First Team recognition last year.
The Oaks travel to perennial NCAA DIII powerhouse Linfield College next Saturday, September 1st for a 12:30pm kickoff at Mawell Field. Menlo has never beaten the Wildcats, winless in 13 chances all-time.