Fujitsu Frontiers down Panasonic Impulse to capture 75th Rice Bowl

The Fujitsu Frontiers captured their sixth Japanese title since 2013 in downing the previously unbeaten Panasonic Impulse 24-18 in the 75th Rice Bowl this past weekend in the Tokyo Dome.

This was the first year that the Rice Bowl determined the XLeague title. Normally, this game pits the XLeague champions and the Japanese college champions.

Frontiers quarterback Tsubasa Takagi led the charge completing 17 of 26 passes for 220 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for a third becoming the first Japanese quarterback to win the title as a starter since 2013. His main target was Riki Matsui. He hauled in five passes for 124 yards and one touchdown while running back Traushawn Nixon was a workhorse carrying the ball 26 times for 147 yards. Kicker Shintaro Saeki added a field goal and three extra points.

For Panasonic, quarterback Anthony Lawrence left it all on the field completing 41 of a whopping 57 passes for 435 yards and two touchdowns with Wing Brennan his key receiver. Brennan caught 12 passes for 116 yards while Leonsha Fields had six receptions for 101 yards and one touchdown. Running back Victor Mitchell had seven catches for 70 yards and Kido Takato had six for 65 yards and another score. Mitchell also had 50 yards rushing on 12 carries.

Both defenses played well in the first quarter, and it wasn’t until early in the second quarter that Panasonic opened the scoring with Shintaro Saeki kicking a 34-yard field goal to give the Impulse a 3-0 lead. Then Takagi took charge, marching his team on a seven play, 80-yard drive which included a 56-yard completion to Matsui down the sidelines. Then, on fourth and two, Takagi called his own number and waltzed into the end zone to give the Frontiers a 7-3 lead.

Fujitsu defenders surrounding Impulse ball carrier

After forcing Panasonic to punt, Takagi and the Fujitsu offense went back to work. Starting from his own 24-yard line, the young quarterback engineered a six play, 76-yard drive which included another long completion to Matsui, this time 38 yards, who was punishing the Impulse secondary. Takagi capped it off with an 11-yard touchdown pass to Matsui to extend the lead to 14-3.

Panasonic responded on the very next possession as Lawrence first found Fields for a 47-yard gain on a 2nd and 15 from his own 20-yard line. Then, he connected with him again straight down the middle for a 13-yard gain. With just over 20 seconds to go in the half, Mitchell took a screen pass down to the seven-yard line. Fields scored on the next play as Lawrence found him wide open for the touchdown. The two-point conversion was good, and the teams went into the break with the Frontiers out in front 14-11.

Panasonic QB Anthony Lawrence threw for 435 yards Photo: XLeague

Both defenses tightened up in the second half but four minutes in, Lawrence began moving the ball and aided by a pass interference penalty and a beautifully executed flea flicker play, maneuvered his team down to the Frontiers six-yard line. The savvy quarterback then found Takato Kido at the back of the end zone and Panasonic were back on top, 18-14, late in the third.

Takagi went back to work on the very next drive, orchestrating a 69-yard drive that culminated with a two-yard touchdown run from the Fujitsu quarterback, putting the Frontiers back in the lead, 21-18.

The Impulse responded as Lawrence began finding his receivers, marching the team from the 17 down to the Fujitsu six-yard line. But an devastating fumble by Mitchell as he was headed across the goalline handed the ball back to the Frontiers.

Two possessions later, with three minutes left, Fujitsu added a field goal after Nixon put them in position. He found a gap, burst over right tackle and raced 51 yards down to the Panasonic 20-yard line. Kicker Shintaro Saeki did the rest.

With the score 24-18, Panasonic took the ball over with three minutes to play on their own 34-yard line, but a ferocious Frontiers front seven shut down the potent Impulse offense finishing with an emphatic fourth down stop in the backfield with two minutes left.

The Frontiers then simply ran out the clock and began celebrating.

American Football International is your source for news and updates about American Football outside the United States!