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KAWASAKI, JAPAN – Nebraska-Omaha’s Kyle Kasperbauer rushed for two touchdowns and Southern Illinois’ Craig Coffin kicked three field goals, including a game-winning 23-yarder in overtime as the United States rallied to defeat Japan, 23-20 in the title game of the 2007 World Championship of American Football at Todoroki Stadium on rainy, windswept Sunday afternoon.
Kasperbauer rushed for 41 yards on the day and was named the MVP of the tournament. In three games he rushed for 168 yards and three touchdowns.
"The biggest thing was to come out here and represent our country and we did a good job of that," Kasperbauer said. "When Craig kicked that ball through the uprights it was bliss. You couldn't ask for a better ending."
The tournament victory is the first for the United States, which made its first appearance in the world championship this year. Japan had won the previous two tournaments in 1999 and 2003 and was looking for a threepeat on its home turf.
Kasperbauer staked Team USA to a 7-0 lead with a 5-yard touchdown run with 9:03 left in the first quarter. The four-play, 15-yard drive was set up by a Kenny Chicoine interception on Japan’s opening possession of the game. But Japan found its tempo offensively following that series and ran off 10 unanswered points to close the half. After forcing a U.S. three-and-out deep in its own territory, Japan engineered a six-play 45-yard drive that culminated in a two-yard touchdown pass from Yuichi Tomizawa to Mitsunori Kihira to tie the score at 7-7 with just over eight minutes left in the half. Kasperbauer made his only gaffe of the day on the next possession when he fumbled after a short run to set Japan up at the U.S. 36-yard line. Six plays later Yosuke Kaneoya drilled a 49-yard field goal to Japan a 10-7 lead that held up through halftime.
Team USA found its offensive groove in the third quarter as Arizona’s Adam Ausitn engineered a short 17-yard scoring drive that culminated in a 35-yard field goal by Coffin to knot the score at 10-10.The United States appeared to have swung the momentum in its favor late in the fourth quarter when Cal Poly’s Chicoine blocked 40-yard field goal attempt by Kaneoya with just over eight minutes to go in the game. But the officials ruled that Team USA gained possession of the ball after the block then fumbled the ball back to Japan. Team Japan was given a first down on the U.S. 46-yard line and five plays later Tomizawa found Takuro Mayuzumi from six yards out for a 17-10 lead.
With the crowd and the elements working against them, Austin led the Americans on an 11-play, 80-yard drive that ended with a five-yard run by Kasperbauer to tie the score at 17-17 with 2:51 to go. After holding Japan on its final possession of regulation Coffin was perfect a 43-yard field goal to open the first overtime. Japan answered with a field goal of its own to push the score to 20-20 and send the game to a second overtime. "We played the second half with a calm confidence and when we got into overtime I felt the tide had swung our way,” Head Coach John Mackovic said. "Our offense was moving the ball and defensively we began to gauge their offense much better. Japan used their speed to their advantage and their offensive and defensive lines both played very well against a bigger opponent."
Team USA’s defense kept Japan out of the end zone again in the second overtime and its field goal attempt was deflected by Syracuse’s Chris Thorner, giving the Americans a chance to win the game on the next possession. Kasperbauer and Hobart’s Doug Blakowski split six carries and pushed the ball down to the six-yard line to set up Coffin’s game winner."I was just thinking good snap, good hold, keep your head down," Coffin said. "I turned around and my teammates were running on the field. I’m just happy. I’ve never won anything in my life."
The loss was the first for Japan in World Championship competition.