Occidental football fell to the Willamette Bearcats 48-33 on Saturday in the first round of the NCAA Division III playoffs in Salem, Ore., as three members of the men's cross country team competed in the national championships in Hanover, Ind.
The loss to the #6-ranked Bearcats was the first of the season for #13-ranked Tigers. Senior quarterback Justin Goltz went 35-for-50 for 317 yards and four touchdowns, but it wasn't enough. "The bottom line is that we made big plays, but not enough big plays, and they did," said Head Coach Dale Widolff. "We needed to make all opportunities count today and we weren't able to."
The Tigers ended the season with a 9-1 record, having won their fourth SCIAC title in five years and gone undefeated in the regular season -- the eighth undefeated regular season in Occidental history.
Team captain Keith Blumenfeld '09 was the top finisher for Occidental cross country in sub-freezing temperatures at the nationals, placing 70th in the 278-man field with a personal best of 25:22:52 in his final collegiate race. Individual SCIAC champion Eric Kleinsasser '12 struggled a bit in his first NCAA championship appearance, crossing the line in 25:47:89, well off his pace at the West Region Championships but still the ninth-fastest time recorded by a first-year runner. Senior Clay Hoadley finished close behind, capping his collegiate career with a time of 25:49.68.
The Tiger cross country team finished fourth at the Nov. 15 NCAA Division III West Region Championships in Salem, Ore. -- just 10 points out of second place, which would have automatically qualified the team to continue to the national championships. It was a remarkable effort by the entire Oxy team, with each runner recording a new personal record.