By Ray Hamill — The Corsairs will have to wait at least one more year to end their long bowl game victory drought, but there’s every reason to feel optimistic they won’t be waiting much longer.
A memorable season came to a disappointing and somewhat frustrating end on Saturday in a 42-21 loss to Monterey Peninsula in the Grizzly Bowl at the Redwood Bowl.
Six turnovers were not what we were expecting from a CR offense that has been impressively careful with the ball this season, while 19 team penalties and poor special teams all played a big role as well.
But this is a young CR team with just one sophomore and a program that had not fielded a team for two consecutive seasons coming into 2022, so the experience gained in a 7-4 campaign will only make this team stronger a year from now with all but one starter expected back.
“You’re not going to win too many many games having six turnovers,” head coach Jason White said.
The Corsairs took an early lead when Max Hough scored on a QB sneak from one yard out to cap an impressive 19-play first-quarter drive.
Things went south quickly after that, however, with four consecutive second-quarter possessions ending on a turnover, including three interceptions from Hough, who had thrown just one in six previous starts.
Two of those turnovers led to Monterey touchdowns, as the Lobos began to take control and they led 14-7 at halftime.
The visitors added two more TDs in the third quarter to essentially end the game, and even though the Corsairs would add two late scores — including one after recovering an onside kick — the outcome was never in doubt down the stretch.
Field position also played a huge role, with four of the Lobos’ seven first-half possessions beginning inside the CR 18 and the other three beginning close to midfield.
Conversely, the Corsairs began four of their seven first-half possessions inside their own 13.
“Our defense played lights out in the first half, honestly,” White said of the unit that held the Lobos scoreless on three of the four drives that began inside the CR 18. “I was so proud of what they did. They had such poor field position.”
Tyce Whigman had a big day on defense and finished with a sack, two tackles for a loss, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.
Tanner Forkner also capped an outstanding freshman season with a team-high eight tackles including seven solo.
Hough, who is also coming off a sensational freshman season, completed 32 of 48 passes for 319 yards, two TDs and four interceptions.
It didn’t help that he was under constant pressure from an aggressive Monterey defensive front that was much improved from an earlier showdown between these two teams, which the Corsairs had won.
The Lobos had six sacks, including four in the opening half.
“They had an effective pass rush on him,” White said. “They were blitzing and getting pressure on him.
Lobos lineman Joseph Finley was a nightmare for the CR line and finished with four sacks and five tackles for a loss.
Offensively, Emmanuel Igbonagwam was effective running the ball for the home team and finished with 92 yards on 13 carries, while several receivers stepped up to make plays, as has been the case for much of the season.
Donte Hurt had six catches for 86 yards, while Damario Watson had 11 for 60, including a nine-yard TD catch.
Nathan Lopez also had a 13-yard TD reception and finished with three catches for 47 yards, while Jaydon Burns had four receptions for 47 yards and Igbonagwam added five catches for 32 yards.
Tight end Kaleb Price was sidelined with a leg injury in the first half, and losing one of the team’s most consistent and dangerous weapons didn’t help.
Despite the loss, which was the team’s second straight to close out the season after posting a seven-game winning streak, the future appears bright for the reinstated program and a strong freshman class achieved more than anyone could have expected this year.
“Who expected us to play in a bowl game in the first place,” White said. “I’m disappointed we lost, but I’m also trying to put it in perspective. Even I didn’t expect us to be in this place at this time of the year.
“We’re going to be a really good team next year and that’s exciting.”
The bowl loss was the seventh straight for the program, which last won a bowl game in 1993 when White was a first-year assistant with the team.