Fujitsu Frontiers 49 - 10 Meiji Yasuda Penta Ocean Pirates
The first real surprise of the 2018 spring season was not the fact that Frontiers beat Pirates by 'just' 39 points. The back to back champions treat the Pearl Bowl as a testing ground for new players & ideas and in the past couple of years have generally rested most of their starters for the entire tournament.
No the surprise was when standout Trashaun Nixon did start...but not at LB where he has been All-XLeague the past two seasons. Nixon lined up at RB and had a fairytale-like debut at the position in Japan, rushing for 140 yards and three TDs on just 9 touches - an incredible 15.6 yards per carry.
The New Mexico State man was able to move to the other side of the ball thanks to the retirement of veteran star RB Gino Gordon. In fairness it wasn't a huge surprise that he did well. Nixon has power and balance and played the position growing up. The thing that makes him stand out though is his ability to cut and accelerate. Nixon in college once tackled speedy Chicago Bear WR Taylor Gabriel on a game winning play.
Whether or not he stays on offense, switches back to defense or does a Shohei Ohtani, Nixon has given the Fujitsu coaches the kind of problem every team would love to have. It's an unexpected boost for a team that saw a lot of talent leave / retire this offseason.
The departures of Gordon, Thom Kaumeyer and especially QB Colby Cameron have certainly weakened the champions but there are rumors of a big name signal caller coming in and the nucleus of the past two title winning sides is still there.
Fujitsu should still be considered one of the favorites when the regular season starts. Their next game is against Obic Seagulls and even if Frontiers keep most starters rested it should should be an entertaining contest.
- John Gunning: April 22nd 2018