SALEM, OR Steve Wilbon scored three times in the second half and the Willamette University football team scored on its first five possessions after halftime as the Bearcats (1-3) won their first game of the season with a convincing 52-20 win over Menlo College (0-4) Saturday afternoon at McCulloch Stadium.
The Bearcats used a punishing ground game to rack up 526 yards of total offense (417 on the ground). Wilbon (pictured left) scored on runs of two yards, 55 yards and five yards, all in the second half as the senior running back racked up 85 yards on seven carries.
Ryan Hernandez, who scored the Bearcats first touchdown on a 41-yard run with 5:22 to play in the first quarter, led the Bearcats with 94 yards rushing on nine carries. Quentin Brock racked up 73 yards on 13 carries. Quarterback Cameron Walton added 54 yards and five other Bearcats combined for another 115 yards on only 18 carries.
The young Bearcat defense also played its best game of the season, limiting Menlo to one offensive touchdown and stuffing the Oaks' ground game while forcing three fumbles.
The game didnt look like a blowout to start. Menlo scored the games first three points following a seven-play, 41-yard drive that began after a Bearcat punt. Brandon Greshams 31-yard field goal with 8:06 to play in the first quarter put the Oaks ahead 3-0.
Willamette came right back on its next possession to march 75 yards in six plays. Hernandez broke several tackles en route to a 41-yard TD run to put the Bearcats up 7-3.
Menlo looked like it was driving for its own score on its next possession when tailback Eddie Connor fumbled at the Bearcat 39. Mitch MacCready recovered the fumble and the Bearcats immediately started another drive, getting to the Menlo 10-yard-line as the first quarter ended.
Brock punched it in for a Bearcat touchdown n the first play of the second quarter and Matt Bicoccas extra-point put the Bearcats up 14-3.
Menlo got a big break on its next possession when Patrick Allen fumbled a booming 51-yard punt that was recovered for a Menlo touchdown by Antoine Barlow. Barlow lost his helmet during a scramble for the ball, yet was able to recover the fumble in the end zone to make it 14-10 Willamette.
The Bearcats put together another long drive on its next possession, going 73 yards in 12 plays before Kevin Dean punched it in for the Bearcat score. Skylar Swinford and Walton each had 11 yard runs in the drive and Walton completed a key third down pass to Michael Plank to the Menlo 4 before Deans TD run and Bicoccas PAT made it 21-10.
Menlo closed the first half scoring with another Gresham field goal, this time from 35 yards, as Willamette went into halftime leading 21-13.
The second half started out much the same as the first. Willamette drove 67 yards in 11 plays before Wilbons touchdown made it 28-13. But Menlo responded with its first offensive touchdown of the game when Jihad Mahasin raced 13 yards to cap a 7-play, 80-yard drive to pull Menlo within 28-20.
Willamette came right back on its next possession when Wilbon raced 55 yards for a 35-20 Bearcat lead.
Willamettes defense stopped Menlo on its next possession, forcing a punt to the Bearcat 48. Another Walton to Plank pass for 14 yards, and a 14-yard run from Hernandez, set up Wilbon's third touchdown run of five yards and the rout was on.
Willamettes final TD came on its next possession when Walton hit a wide-open John Irizarry for a 39-yard scoring strike. Bicocca closed the scoring in the fourth quarter when he booted a 29-yard field goal to put Willamette up 52-20 early in the fourth quarter. Bicocca was perfect on extra points and his one field attempt.
Defensively, the Bearcats were led by 14 tackles from Phillip Sweet and eight each from Megdy Khoury and Ben Fennimore. MacCready, Brody Nivens and Ryan Bettencourt all recovered fumbles for the Bearcats.
The Bearcat defense shut down Menlos top rushing threat. Sophomore tailback Eddie Connor managed only 34 yards in 15 carries. Quarterback Dustin Guglielmo rushed for 38 yards in seven carries. He also completed 20-36 passes for 225 yards and no interceptions. Walton was an efficient 7-11 passing for 109 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions. Irizarry and Plank each had three receptions for the Bearcats.
Willamette opens Northwest Conference play next week with as the Bearcats travel to the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma WA. UPS did not play this week.