David DeLaTorre slammed his helmet to the ground in frustration.
A few of his Merced College defensive teammates sat on benches with their heads down, trying to catch their breath.
The Blue Devils defensive unit that had turned Laney away a number of times on Saturday afternoon finally ran out of gas.
Down 28-14 and in desperate need of a stop with about six minutes left in the game, the MC defense had Laney pinned with a fourth-and-10 from its own 30-yard line.
Defensive coordinator Sam Severo dialed up a blitz, and got the pressure he wanted as Laney quarterback Jeff Murphy was flushed out of the pocket.
Just feet from the sideline -- with a number of Blue Devils closing in on him -- Murphy heaved what appeared to be a desperation pass.
Instead, Murphy's throw found receiver Chuck Jacobs 15 yards downfield for an improbable first down.
The Eagles scored three plays later, all but sealing their 41-21 victory at Don Odishoo Field.
The loss dropped MC to 1-7 overall and put to rest any Golden Gate Conference (1-2) title hopes.
"We knew it was going to be a tough go," MC coach Tony Lewis said.
"We were right there. We just made four mistakes in the game and they took advantage.
"You can't make those kind of mistakes against a good team like Laney."
They were the same mistakes that have haunted the Blue Devils all season.
A muffed punt and a Ryan Williston fumble helped Laney (3-0, 6-2) take a 13-0 lead nine minutes into the game.
The Eagles pushed their lead to 19-0 and threatened to break the game open when Williston was intercepted at the MC 39-yard line.
Laney went for the knockout blow on the next play, but Blue Devils corner TJ Reddick intercepted a throw to halt momentum.
The MC offense seized on the swing, responding with a 17-play, 8-minute drive. Darius Roland punched the ball across from 5 yards out, cutting Laney's lead to 19-7 at the half.
Unfortunately, the Blue Devils couldn't keep it going.
MC opened the second half with three three-and-outs and a fumble.
The MC defense did its best to hold -- forcing Laney to turn the ball over on downs at the MC 21-yard line and blocking a field goal -- but finally yielded a touchdown after spending nearly 11 minutes on the field in third quarter.
"People don't realize how tough it is to stop them, have the offense do nothing, and then go right back out," said MC cornerback Jamicheal Turner, who led the team with 6 1/2 tackles.
"There was one series where we sat down for 10 seconds and were right back out there.
"We just got tired."
Williston helped keep things competitive with a couple of fourth-quarter touchdown passes.
Lihikai Domingo hauled in a 47-yard TD throw to make it 28-14 and Dennis Parks-Griffith caught a 14-yard slant to make it 34-21.
But the Blue Devils never got any closer.
"The guys played hard against a very good team, so I'm proud of the effort," Lewis said. "I thought the defense did enough to win, but we couldn't take advantage."
Sean Lynch is a Sun-Star sports writer. He can be reached at 385-2476 or via e-mail at email@example.com.