CLAREMONT, Calif. — Trailing by one with the 1:35 left and the season hanging in the balance, Bobby Phillips made a diving catch in the end zone, giving the Occidental College football team a 42-35 win over Pomona-Pitzer in the oldest college football rivalry in Southern California dating back to 1895. With the victory in the 113th meeting between the Tigers (3-2, 2-1) and the Sagehens (0-5, 0-2), Occidental retains possession of the "Drum" for the eighth straight season.
"Bobby's made big plays throughout his entire career here," Occidental coach Dale Widolff said. "Being a senior, to make a play like that against Pomona-Pitzer. …That's a big time play."
Phillips' game-winning catch was especially memorable in his last game against a rival that no team he has been a part of at Oxy has lost to.
"It's a great feeling. …We worked hard all week," said Phillips, who had four receptions for 46 yards. "We knew Pomona was going to give us their best game cause it's such a big rivalry. It's been going on for forever."
What was as equally impressive as Phillips' catch for the go-ahead score, was the amount of big plays the Tigers made in just 1 minute and 13 seconds to answer a Pomona-Pitzer scoring drive.
"I feel like there was a lot of momentum building up, a lot of big plays our guys made leading up to that play," Phillips said.
First Will Stanton brought a short kick back to the 49-yard line, setting up prime field position. Then, Oxy running back Wes McDaniel took a swing pass 30 yards down to the Pomona-Pitzer 19. On the next play, quarterback Luke Collis found Phillips on a fade route to the corner, giving Oxy a five-point cushion they extended to seven with a two-point conversion to Matthew Tuckness.
"Obviously it was a big drive," Occidental coach Dale Widolff said. "It was something we had to have at the time. It was either get it done, or we weren't going to win."
Down the stretch, there were a few of those pressure-packed drives for the Tigers, on both sides of the ball. Defensively, the Oxy motto "bend, but don't break" was on full display with Pomona trying to tie the game with less than a minute left.
The Sagehens marched the ball all the way down to the Oxy nine, before John Hansbrough picked off Luke Ferguson in his own end zone as time expired.
"The defense, to get a stop on that last drive, when the game's on the line, that was huge," Widolff said.
Collis was 26-42 for 343 yards and four touchdowns for Oxy. Tuckness led the Tigers with seven receptions for 106 yards and McDaniel ran for 121 on 24 carries. Stanton had two touchdown receptions.
Although the road will be difficult, Oxy is still in the drivers seat for a SCIAC Championship. The Tigers play the University of Redlands for sole possession of second place at Jack Kemp Stadium on Oct. 22.
"Any win is nice and any conference win in particular is great. This keeps us in the conference hunt," Widolff said. "Obviously we have to play better in the three remaining conference games."