Kwansei Gakuin Fighters Win 2016 Koshien Bowl, Japan’s College Championship

The Kwansei Gakuin Fighters defeated the Waseda University Big Bears 31-14 Sunday at Koshien Stadium in front of 35,000 spectators to win the 2016 Koshien Bowl and capture their 28th Japanese college championship title. The Fighters, Western Japanese champions, have played in the Koshien Bowl 40 times.

The Fighters took a 21-7 halftime lead and then kept control of Waseda in the second half for the win. Quarterback Mitsuhiro Izu completed 16 of 27 passes for 171 yards and ran a touchdown in himself in leading the Fighters to their second title in three years.

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The Fighters will now play the X League champion Fujitsu Frontiers on Jan. 3 at Tokyo Dome for the overall national crown in the Rice Bowl.

Izu was solid in leading Kwansei Gakuin on four scoring drives that saw three different players score rushing touchdowns. Ryosuke Nonogaki and Takayui Kato were the others. Shintaro Nishioka added three points in the fourth quarter with the game’s only field goal.

East Japan champion Waseda, resorted to trickery and even the wildcat offense as well as empty backfields in an attempt to win their first ever championship. The Big Bears had appeared in the game twice before – in 2015 and 2010 – losing both times to Ritsumeikan University.

Some of the trick plays were effective, such as a fake field goal pass that resulted in a touchdown in the third quarter, but they were not enough on a day when Kwansei Gakuin did not make mistakes.

The game turned late in the second quarter with the Fighters up 14-7. Kwansei Gakuin linebacker Yuki Yamamoto intercepted Waseda quarterback Yuta Sasaki and returned it for a touchdown.

That proved to be the turning point in the game with the Big Bears struggling on offense throughout the second half failing to find the end zone in the fourth quarter.

Izu was named the game’s MVP and Fighters linebacker and captain Akio Yamagishi earned the Chuck Mills Trophy, the Japanese version of the Heisman Trophy, for the collegiate player of the year.

AFI
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