Quarterback shuttle system lifts UPS to OT victory

Coach Jeff Thomas is anything but boring.

And on Saturday, he tried something in his University of Puget Sound football season opener that you may not have seen — nor will ever see again.

Thomas alternated three quarterbacks in one overtime series.

It worked. After the Loggers defense held to start overtime, Sawyer Petre kicked a 24-yard field goal to lift UPS to a 22-19 non-conference victory over Claremont-Mudd-Scripps on Saturday in Claremont, California.

The Loggers (1-0) rolled up 482 total yards against the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference’s top scoring defense from a season ago in earning their seventh consecutive win over the Stags (0-1).

But UPS quarterbacks registered five interceptions, including four by new full-time starter Hans Fortune. Fortune did rally UPS from a 13-point deficit with fourth-quarter touchdown passes to Brennan Schon (64 yards) and Kevin Miller (8 yards) — the last one coming with 11 minutes, 50 seconds remaining to tie it at 19.

The Stags threatened to retake the lead with three minutes to go. But running back Shane Pico fumbled near the UPS sideline after a hit by safety Jake Wuesthoff. Matt Gilbert recovered for the Loggers.

Claremont got the ball first in overtime. On fourth-and-1 from the Loggers’ 16, quarterback Trey Reynolds faked a handoff, but his pass to Chris Cziesla was too high, and fell incomplete.

UPS took over —and second-string quarterback Tanner Diebold started the series. His 16-yard run around the left end gave the Loggers a first down at the Stags’ 8.

Third-stringer Nick Nestingen came on. He outraced everybody around the right end for what would have been a game-winning 8-yard touchdown run, but UPS was called for holding at the goal line.

Fortune came on to run two safe plays to set up Petre’s field goal.

“We planned on playing all three guys,” Thomas said. “Hans is our starter, but the other two are close enough … that they deserve to be on the field.

“On that last drive, we have a kicker (Petre) … who is money from 42 yards out. It was important we did not lose yards, so we put Tanner in to get positive yards. And Nick is a big body with great top-end speed, so you saw that. And Hans was in there for the two handoffs because he has the best command of the offense.”

Petre had missed two field goals earlier in the game. He also missed a PAT kick, and had another one blocked.

But his 24-yarder from the left hash sailed straight down the middle through the uprights for the game-winner.

“I trust him,” Thomas said. “This is a huge step forward for us to win (playing) bad. We’ve lost playing well in years past in a couple of games.”