JP Casey breaks down the UCL Emperors’ victory against BNU in the BUCS American football league.
Following an eight-month offseason, the UCL Emperors American Football team secured a resounding victory in their first ever competitive game, overwhelming the Bucks New University Buccaneers 40-0 in the first game of the BUCS 2A South division.
The Emperors burst out of the gate, with president Daniel Anandie taking the opening handoff of the season 80 yards down the sideline for a touchdown. Quarterback Hugo Wiggington then completed a pass to receiver Alex Blakesley for the two-point conversion, starting a run of 4 successful two-point conversions in the game. With injuries to both kickers Zach Gain and Dom Chao, the Emperors went 4 of 5 on two-point conversions, demonstrating the surprisingly brutal redzone efficiency of an offence without a set of redzone plays.
The offence continued to dominate throughout, scoring a total of five touchdowns, three passing and two rushing, with four different players getting into the endzone for six. Wiggington was accurate on short throws all game, hitting receivers Blakesley and Charles Katz-Summercorn for a total of 142 yards from 12 completions, and was successful finding first-year receiver Zoltan Zolo Kalmar deep behind the Buccaneers defence. On one pass in particular, Kalmar managed to evade three BNU defensive backs to find space along the sideline, a testament to either his superb athleticism and evasiveness, or the fact that he was wearing a yellow helmet for some reason, so the defence might have thought he wasn’t actually playing for the silver-helmeted Emperors.
Special credit must also go to receiver Firas Iskandarani, a man with so much UCL experience he was playing half a decade ago when the team was still called the Trojans and I wasn’t even writing match reports. He took a short pass for 20 yards after the catch, and in the process trucked a BNU defender with such earth-shattering force that despite standing on the sideline, I managed to be injured. Iskandarani’s physicality was matched by the rest of the offence, as both the offensive line and receivers rolled over the BNU defensive front for a total of 145 team rushing yards and 2 touchdowns off 14 carries.
Image: Adam Wiggington
The Emperors defence was similarly dominant; captain Jack Shields registered eight tackles and a safety, perhaps fuelled with rage that his name is misspelled ‘Sheids’ on his jersey. Former Sussex linebacker Jone him-Tsang celebrated his birthday by assisting Shields on the safety, and making several bone-rattling hits in the box. The coaching staff were also flexible, withdrawing a safety to add an additional linebacker to the field, creating a hard-hitting 3-5 defensive front that repelled the Buccaneers’ aggressive run game all day; the team finished the day conceding no points, securing 31 tackles, and forcing three fumbles.
The secondary also performed admirably, holding the Buccaneers’ offence to four passing attempts and a single completion, and two near-interceptions. This has led to my ego becoming massively inflated, as with my single pass breakup I can accurately claim to have been responsible for single-handedly shutting down a quarter of the opponent’s aerial. The Emperors’ defence was also solid at the end of the half, conceding around 60 yards to the Buccaneers’ smashmouth attack, yet ultimately keeping them out of the endzone as time expired on a three-down goal-line stand.
The Buccaneers’ offence was somewhat stagnant and predictable throughout the day, using a run-heavy wedge formation, with four wings and a fullback, to try to plough through the Emperors’ defence. They also employed an intricate system of up to three fake hand-offs per play, in an attempt to confuse the UCL defenders, yet these tricks were quickly snuffed out and it was BNU who were ultimately the more confused side, racking up two offensive penalties for illegal motions prior to the snap. The Buccaneers were also hindered by their relatively small squad; boasting around 25 players, half of the Emperors’ 50, the BNU offensive line was worn down by a rotating cast of UCL defensive backs and linebackers. Ultimately, thirteen different UCL defenders registered a tackle against the Buccaneer’s outnumbered offence.
On special teams, UCL were not fooled by BNU’s myriad of fake hand-offs from their kick returners, and only gave up special teams yardage due to missed tackles late in the game, as starting linebackers Jone and Ogen Osiegbu went down with injuries, and tired starters were pressganged into special teams duty. The punt return unit, however, was stellar; BNU punted out of their base offensive formation, rather than a punt formation, forcing the Emperors base defence to shift to a punt return team on the fly. Safety Leo Gambetta performed admirably as an emergency return man, and Jone blocked a punt that could have been recovered by the defence, but he and linebacker and noted sportswear designer Byron Chatzis ran into each other, fumbling the ball and giving possession back to the Buccaneers.
Yet it is a testament to the dominance of UCL that events such as blocked punts could be squandered with little negative impact on their game. Relentless on offence and aggressive on defence, the Emperors shut down the Buccaneers on both sides of the ball. With no game scheduled this weekend, the Emperors will have a fortnight to prepare for an emotional visit to the Southampton Stags, the program where UCL head coach Nik Maxey won back-to-back national championships.
Passing: Hugo Wiggington, 12-19, 142 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT, 120.9 passer rating, plus 2 2-point conversions
Rushing: Daniel Anandie, 2 carries, 88 yards, 1 TD, 0 fumbles
Receiving: Alex Blakesley, 3 catches, 53 yards, 2 TD, plus 1 2-point conversion
Defensive: Jack Shields, 8 tackles (1 for loss), 1 QB hurry, 1 fumble recovery, 1 safety
All images: Adam Wiggington