Creators Step On The Gas
Tokyo Gas Need Just 99 Minutes To Beat Minerva 30-0
True to their word, Tokyo Gas Creators once again kept the ball on the ground (at least in the first half), to defeat Fuji Xerox Minerva AFC 30-0 at Fujitsu Stadium on Saturday.
Perhaps it was the threat of rain that sped things up but the entire game from kickoff to final whistle took just one hour and 39 minutes. The average for an XLeague game is usually around two hours and 15 minutes making yesterday's game incredibly short.
The running game that Creators employ is of course the main reason as the clock rarely stops when they have possession. In fact, after Minerva went three and out to start the game, they didn't see the ball again for the entire first quarter.
Tokyo Gas built an early lead, and in the second half, took advantage of Minerva having to load up the box to stop the run, by hitting three long TD passes. For most of the game though they stuck with their tried and true read-option style offense. Very effective were plays where the RB would fake a carry right and the QB would keep it and go straight up the gut. Ryo Murota was particularly successful on those. He had a good game in general carrying 10 times for a team high 63 yards.
The Creators are strong up the middle on the other side of the ball too. Richard Ellebie, who was a running back in high school, uses quick feet and impressive size to help force things outside, and has the speed to follow up and make a play there. On one play he hurdled a man to get in on a fourth down stop. Ellebie and co were so effective on the ground that they kept Minerva to a ridiculously low 13 yards on 17 carries on the day.
It's not like Fuji Xerox fared much better in the air either. Tokyo Gas didn't allow Minerva QB Kenta Sasa time in the pocket, and with the receivers unable to get separation, he was often left with little choice but to throw it away or tuck and run. In fact Sasa completed only nine passes all game for 71 yards.
The Creators attempted just three passes (for a total of two yards) in the first half. As a result, after the break, Minerva started to stack the box in order to shut down their running game. That however is exactly what Tokyo Gas was waiting for. They only completed three passes in the second half but all were 30-yard plus Murota TD bombs. Wideout Taito Ikeda caught two of them. Those were his only two receptions of the day, but in a statistically strange game that still gave him double the number of catches of any other Tokyo Gas player to have a reception.
With Tokyo Gas keeping a stranglehold on possession, there was little Minerva could do. Every punt they were forced into was a dagger blow to their hopes. They only had the ball for 18 minutes of the game and ran just 34 plays in total.
Despite being 0-2 though, three of their next four games are against Eagles, Bulls and Cyclones so there is a decent chance they could finish the season 3-3. The biggest thing they'll need to improve on is the offense. None of the aforementioned opponents will run up the score but Minerva will have to do better than the solitary TD (and missed PAT) that they've managed in their first two games.
The Creators conversely are 2-0 but have a much tougher road ahead. First up for them is Fujitsu. They are unlikely to beat the champions but if they can get those long drives going they'll keep the ball out of Colby Cameron's hands and the score low. The remaining three games are against Challengers, Lions and Pirates. Tokyo Gas won't be favored in any of those but any or all of them are winnable if they play like they did against Minerva.
- John Gunning: September 16th 2017
Tokyo Gas Creators (30) - (0) Fuji Xerox Minerva AFC
Photos: Chris Pfaff ・John Gunning - September 16th 2017: Fujitsu Stadium