SALEM, ORE. -- Junior quarterback Grant Leslie (Bainbridge Island, WA/Bainbridge HS) and senior running back C.J. Washington (Spokane, WA/Shadle Park HS) each scored a rushing touchdown, and the Willamette University defense allowed just 115 total yards, as the Bearcats defeated California Lutheran University, 14-7, Saturday, Sept. 15 at McCulloch Stadium. Willamette, playing its first home game of the season, improved to 1-2. California Lutheran fell to 0-2.
WU and CLU almost played a scoreless first half, but the Bearcats drove 80 yards on 14 plays to set up Leslie's 1-yard touchdown run with six seconds left in the second quarter. Willamette's drive included a 19-yard run by Merben Woo (Jr., FL, Salinas, CA/Hartnell Junior College) and a 14-yard pass from Leslie to Drew Shepherd (So., WR, Park City, UT/Park City HS).
The 'Cats also picked up two third downs during the drive on a 6-yard pass from Leslie to Tony Davis (Sr., TE, Boise, ID/Mountain View HS) on 3rd-and-2 at the CLU 32 and on a 7-yard run by back-up quarterback Ryan Whitcomb (So., Oak View, CA/College of the Canyons) on 3rd-and-7 at the CLU 23. Leslie followed Whitcomb's run with a 9-yard pass to Shepherd, then Washington ran for six yards to the 1-yard line. Leslie scored two plays later.
Matt Bicocca (Sr., PK, San Andreas, CA/Calaveras HS) added the extra point, giving Willamette a 7-0 lead. WU was able to run out the final six seconds, when Bicocca's squib kick bounced off a California Lutheran player and rebounded back toward the kicking team. Bicocca recovered the ball at the WU 26.
The Kingsmen had possession to start the second half and drove from their own 40-yard line until CLU earned a 1st-and-Goal at the WU 7-yard line. Jose Rojas was stopped for a gain of one yard and a loss of two yards on the next two plays. Quarterback Jericho Toilolo ran for two yards on third down to set up a field goal attempt.
Connor Pearce kicked the 23-yard attempt, but it was blocked by Ryan Bettencourt (Jr., CB, Danville, CA/San Ramon Valley HS). The ball went into the end zone, providing Willamette with a touchback.
Willamette earned one first down on a pass from Leslie to James Yamashita (Jr., WR, Walnut Creek, CA/Diablo Valley College), but had to punt four plays later. The punt hit a CLU player at the Kingsmen 23-yard line and was recovered for Willamette by Grant Piros (Jr., FS, Newberg, OR/Newberg HS). Four plays later, Bicocca missed a 36-yard field goal attempt.
After holding the Kingsmen to just three plays and a punt, the Bearcats took over again at their own 29. WU drove to the CLU 31, before an offensive holding penalty and an interception at the 11-yard line killed the drive.
On WU's next possession, Willamette added an insurance score. The 'Cats started at their own 40-yard line and moved five yards upfield on a run by Whitcomb to open the drive. Whitcomb carried again on the next play and dashed 34 yards to the Cal Lutheran 21-yard line. Washington followed with an 11-yard gain.
Dan King (Jr., RB, Nevada City, CA/Nevada Union HS) added four yards for WU, as the ball moved to the CLU 6.
Washington ran up the middle, used a spin move at the 3-yard line to avoid a tackle and battled into the end zone.
Bicocca's extra point kick gave WU a 14-0 lead with 10:26 left in the fourth quarter.
Each team had one quick possession before Cal Lutheran took over at its own 33-yard line following a punt. The Kingsmen marched 67 yards on 11 plays, with Rojas scoring a touchdown on a 3-yard run with 3:16 remaining in the game. Pearce booted the PAT to pull Cal Lutheran within seven points.
Kevin Whipps (Sr., WR/QB, Eagle, ID/Eagle HS) recovered CLU's onside kick attempt, giving Willamette the ball at the Kingsmen 46. The Bearcats then ran out the clock with eight plays on offense, including two third-down conversions. Whitcomb ran for five yards on a 3rd-and-4 play at the CLU 40 and Washington rushed for six yards on 3rd-and-5 at the CLU 30.
Whitcomb led the Bearcats' rushing attack with 102 yards on 11 carries. Washington added 92 yards on 18 attempts. Overall, WU achieved 258 rushing yards on 60 carries. Leslie was 8 of 17 passing for 74 yards and one interception. Whitcomb completed 2 of 6 passes for seven yards.
Merben Woo and Shepherd each caught two passes 23 yards. Marcus Woo (Fr., FL, Cupertino, CA/Monta Vista HS) also caught two passes, but one was behind the line of scrimmage and he gained just one yard on the two plays.
R.J. Benedict started the game at quarterback for Cal Lutheran and went 4 of 8 passing for 24 yards. Toilolo finished the game 7 of 13 through the air for 58 yards.
The Kingsmen managed just 33 rushing yards on 29 carries (1.1 avg.). Toilolo was the leading rusher for CLU with six carries for 20 yards. Rojas rushed for 16 yards on 15 attempts.
Cory Lowe (So., DE, Beaverton, OR/Beaverton HS) led the WU defense with seven tackles, including six unassisted tackles. He recorded two quarterback sacks and was credited with three tackles for losses. Phil Sweet (Sr., ILB, Albany, OR/West Albany HS) provided the Bearcats with six tackles, including 1.5 tackles for loses.
Willamette gained 339 yards to nearly triple CLU's 115 yards. The Bearcats also ran 83 offensive plays, compared to 50 plays for the Kingsmen. Austin Jones and Garrett Redd each registered 10 total tackles for Cal Lutheran. Nick Davy added eight tackles for the Kingsmen.
The defensive battle began with a big play, as Willamette kick returner Jose Green (Fr., RB, Downey, CA/Warren HS) took the opening kickoff and ran 85 yards to the CLU 3-yard line. WU lost two yards on first down and threw an incomplete pass on second down. On the third play, Tony Krikorian (So., FL, Costa Mesa, CA/Costa Mesa HS) fumbled and Jones recovered the ball for the Kingsmen at the 10-yard line.
With 33 more offensive plays than the Kingsmen, Willamette amassed 40:44 in time of possession. WU kept the ball for more than eight-and-a-half minutes in each quarter, including 12:19 in the third period.
The Bearcats remain at home next weekend to take on Southern Oregon University on Saturday, Sept. 22. Game time at McCulloch Stadium is set for 6 p.m. (PDT). Willamette and Southern Oregon did not play last season, but the Bearcats edged the Raiders, 34-28 in two overtimes, at McCulloch Stadium on Oct. 8, 2005.
Willamette University 14, California Lutheran University 7 - Box Score