SALEM, OR The Willamette University football team opens its 2005 season this Saturday when they travel to Monmouth to face Western Oregon University at 7 pm for a non-conference match-up.
This will be the second year in a row that NCAA Division III Bearcats and that NCAA Division II Wolves have met. Last season, Willamette defeated Western Oregon 38-21, in what was the 2004 opener for both schools.
Willamette is coming off a 7-4 season, one in which they finished second in the Northwest Conference and reached the national playoffs for the first time since 1999. The Bearcats return only ten starters, and have just four seniors on the roster, but there is plenty of optimism throughout the football program heading into this weekends game.
We have a lot of talented young guys, said senior linebacker Megdy Khoury (pictured above, from Elko, Nev.), who was a second team All-NWC selection last season. They (the younger players) are raw, but really talented. For a lot of people this is their first college start. It will be good to see how they react and play. Especially with the defensive line, most of those guys didnt get much time last season.
Fourteen Willamette players will be starting for the first time Saturday, seven on both sides of the ball.
The Bearcat offense will be led by quarterback Cameron Walton (SR, Arroyo Grande, Calif.), running back Quentin Brock (SR, Fresno, Calif.), and tackle Brandon Bennett (SO, San Marcos, Calif.). Brock was a first team All-NWC selection last year, while Walton and Bennett were both honorable mention picks.
Khoury, linebacker Phil Sweet (SO, Albany, Ore.), and defensive backs Wesley Randall (JR, Los Angeles, Calif.), Tyler Gill (SO, Fresno, Calif.), and Tim Alton (JR, Oregon City, Ore.) anchor a Bearcats defense that Saturday will go up against what could be arguably the best tight end they face all season in the Wolves Kevin Boss.
Boss, who is a two-time first team All-Great Northwest Conference selection, is the focus of the Wolves passing attack. The 6-7, 255-pound junior caught 39 passes for 506 yards and five touchdowns last year.
Hes probably the biggest tight end we will face all year, said Willamettes first year defensive coordinator Nathan Naggi. Hes the complete package. We have got to try and control him the best we can. I think hes a big key to the game for them.
Western Oregon is looking to rebound from a 1-9 campaign in 2004. Among the twenty starters returning for the Wolves are Boss, first team All-GNAC offensive lineman Ryan Belcher, and first team All-GNAC safety Bret Hughes.
Junior Ryan Thorson was expected to be Western Oregons starting quarterback this year, but he is still recovering from a knee injury he suffered in spring conditioning drills. Thorsons younger brother Matt, a sophomore, will get the nod Saturday.