SALEM, ORE. -- Pacific Lutheran University built a 14-0 lead in the first quarter, then held off Willamette University for a 17-10 win on Saturday, Nov. 10, in a Northwest Conference game at McCulloch Stadium. PLU improved to 7-2 overall, 4-2 in the NWC. Willamette ended its season at 4-6 overall, 3-3 in the NWC.
The Bearcats scored their only touchdown on a 54-yard pass from quarterback Ryan Whitcomb (So., Oak View, CA/Nordhoff HS/College of the Canyons) to running back C.J. Washington (Sr., Spokane, WA/Shadle Park HS) with 9:51 remaining in the second quarter. WU trailed 14-7 at halftime.
For PLU, Chase Reed scored on a 7-yard run with 3:25 left in the first period and Greg Ford reached the end zone on a 91-yard pass from Brett Gordon on the final play of the opening period. The lengthy touchdown pass to Ford began as a 25-yard pass over the middle. A WU defender was unable to make the tackle as Ford caught the ball and the PLU receiver outraced two more defenders down the field. Neal Chalmers kicked both extra points.
After Washington's touchdown cut the lead to seven points, the Bearcats forced PLU to punt four plays later. Willamette took over at its own 35-yard line and drove 60-yards in 10 plays, but was stopped on 4th-and-1 at the PLU 4. Whitcomb began the drive with a 25-yard run and later added a 9-yard run for a first down at the Lutes' 13. On 3rd-and-4, Whitcomb carried for three yards to the four. He also ran on fourth down, but was stopped for almost no gain.
Whitcomb fumbled on the play and Willamette recovered a bit closer to the goal line, but NCAA rules do not allow a team to gain additional yardage after a fumble on fourth down. PLU achieved control at its own 4-yard line.
Neither team scored during the remainder of the second period or during the third quarter. The next points on the scoreboard were recorded when Chalmers kicked a 40-yard field goal, his longest of the season, for PLU with 13:44 left in the game.
The Lutes almost scored on an earlier drive, following a fumble by Willamette in the third quarter. Pacific Lutheran recovered the fumble at the Willamette 43 and quickly moved 20 yards upfield, on a pass from Gordon to Craig Chiado. On 4th-and-4 at the WU 17, the Lutes faked a field goal and Evan Bratz completed a pass to Lawrence Woods to the 2-yard line. The play was wiped out by an illegal formation penalty. Gordon threw an incomplete pass on the next play.
Whitcomb was sacked at the Willamette 3-yard line three plays later, which forced WU to punt from its own end zone. Clinton Moran (Sr., Mission Viejo, CA/Capistrano Valley HS) recorded a 36-yard punt, but Matt Wolford earned 22 yards on the return. The Lutes netted no yards on the next three plays. Chalmers actually made two field goals, but the first was negated by another illegal formation penalty.
Willamette's final three points were earned by Matt Bicocca (Sr., PK, San Andreas, CA/Calaveras HS), on a 19-yard field goal with 9:46 to go in the fourth quarter. The Bearcats drove 57 yards on nine plays, including a 20-yard run by Whitcomb, but faced 4th-and-2 at the PLU 2-yard line.
Bicocca's field goal, the 22nd of his career, pulled Willamette within a touchdown. On the play prior to the field goal, Whitcomb nearly completed a touchdown pass to tight end Tony Davis (Sr., Boise, ID/Mountain View HS), but Bratz was credited with a pass break-up.
WU did not score on its remaining three possessions. The Bearcats had the ball for the final time with 17 seconds left and moved from their own 7-yard line to the WU 43 before time expired.Both teams put pressure on the opposing quarterbacks throughout the game. Pacific Lutheran registered eight sacks, including two each by Andy Eisentrout and Andy Holden. Willamette earned six sacks, with four recorded by Cory Lowe (So., DE, Beaverton, OR/Beaverton HS) for 18 yards in losses. Lowe (pictured at left), who also achieved seven tackles (5 solo) during the game, produced three of his sacks in the second quarter, when PLU gained only 23 yards.
Willamette finished with 289 yards on offense, while PLU accumulated 284 yards. WU had the ball for 32:21, while PLU was in possession for 27:33. Willamette's fumble lost in the third quarter was the game's only turnover.
The Bearcats rushed for 189 yards on 53 carries. Whitcomb, despite losing 46 yards in sacks, finished with 128 rushing yards on 29 carries. Washington gained 29 yards on eight carries and caught two passes for 63 yards.
PLU gained most of its offense through the air. Gordon completed 16 of 26 passes for 262 yards. Chiado hauled in seven passes for 129 yards, while Ford caught four passes for 106 yards. The Lutes' leading rusher was Anthony Canger, with 18 carries for 25 yards.
Linebacker Chad Blau and defensive lineman Robert Thomsen topped the PLU tackle chart with nine tackles each. Thomsen led all players with five tackles for losses. Bratz had eight tackles and three pass break-ups for the Lutes.
Taylor Hermes (Sr., ILB, Keizer, OR/McNary HS/Southern Oregon University) tied for Willamette's defensive lead with eight total tackles (7 unassisted). Marcus Ford (Jr., DE, Marina, CA/Monterey JC) also registered eight tackles for Willamette.
The game was the final contest for 22 seniors on the Willamette roster, who were honored during pregame introductions. Many of the seniors were freshmen on WU's 2004 team that qualified for the NCAA Division III Playoffs.
This year, the Bearcats defeated arch rival Linfield College, 33-32, when the Wildcats were ranked #12 in NCAA Division III. WU's 4-6 record included five losses by nine points or less. One of the close contests was a 20-17 overtime loss to NWC champion Whitworth University on Oct. 27.