USA Beats Japan, Shows Why They Are Number 1

Photos: USA Football/Ed Hall Jr.

USA 43 – Japan 18

Team USA took its time but ultimately proved why they are the number one seed at the International Federation of American Football World Championships knocking off Japan 43-18 at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium Sunday.

The United States entered the game as the favorites having won the last two World Championship tournaments without a loss and easily coasted past Mexico in the opening round last week. Japan had won the previous two tournaments almost beating Team USA in 2003.

On this day though, the United States asserted its superiority although it took them a couple of quarters to find their footing.

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Holding on to an 11-3 lead early in the third quarter running back Sadale Foster broke around the end and scampered for a 60 yard touchdown giving Team USA a two touchdown lead.

“We want to come out and win every game,” Foster said. “Mentally, we wanted to dominate. We wanted to play the game at a high level.

“Most importantly, we wanted to play USA football the way it needed to be played. We just try to get behind our pads and play the game fast.”

The run was a thing of beauty, as team MVP Foster (12 carries, 84 yards, 2 touchdowns) took a handoff from Dylan Favre and split the seams on the right sideline and outraced two Japanese defenders to paydirt.

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While that one play only gave the United States a two-score lead, it was exactly what was needed, as Japan could never catch up.

“It was huge,” Favre said. “Especially since we did it running the ball. Our defense was playing lights-out like they have these first two games. Just to get things going and get some momentum on our side. It’s always huge to score to open the half.”

The United States kept shooting itself in the foot in the first half as both quarterbacks –  Kevin Burke and Favre – each threw an interception.

To make matters worse, Japan blocked a 29-yard field goal by Ed Ruhnke when Keizaburo Isagawa snuck through the line.

While Ruhnke redeemed himself with a 21-yard field goal as time expired in the first half, the United States was very much in a dogfight with an 11-3 lead.

“We had a chance in the first half, but we couldn’t make a play” Japan coach Kiyoyuki Mori said. “All we can do is do our best in the next game to get a chance to play against the United States again.”

Team USA truly benefited from their game against Mexico at this juncture having  faced the same situation then holding on to a slim first half lead. This time the Americans showed poise under pressure.

By the end of the game, the United States had rolled up 580 yards in offense with Favre completing 15-of-19 passes for 193 yards, and Burke going 8-of-16 for 160 yards with a touchdown.

Running back Aaron Wimberly rushed for 68 yards and a score on 14 carries and the United States rushed for 227 yards on 39 carries.

Nevertheless, Japan’s quarterback and team MVP Shohei Kato, was not too shabby himself completing 28-of-49 passes for 273 yards and a touchdown for Japan in a losing cause.

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With the win, Team USA will face a very strong French squad in the next round on Wednesday. France has won its two games by a combined 84-9.

Although it has racked up 308 yards in penalties, France’s offense has managed to weather the storm by accumulating 620 yards in offense while spectacular kick returner Anthony Dable has taken two kickoffs back for touchdowns and would have had a third if not for a penalty.

U.S. head coach Dan Hawkins knows thought that he still has a formidable task in front of him:

“They’ve got dudes,” Hawkins said. “We have guys that have coached in France and they know them very well.

“We respect everybody. We don’t put everybody up here or anybody down there. We’re trying to chase greatness daily and that’s what we’ll do against these guys. I’ve always been of the mind that you respect everyone and you fear no one. You play the game as hard as you can and look up at the end to see what happened. We know how talented they are.”

With info and excerpts from Brad Bournival/USA Football.

Roger Kelly is an editor and a writer for AFI. A former PR Director the B.C. Lions of the Canadian Football League for 7 years, he now lives in Sweden writing about and scouting American Football throughout the world.