SALEM, ORE. -- Whitworth University place-kicker Andy Largent kicked a 33-yard field goal in the first overtime period to give the Pirates a 20-17 victory over Willamette University on Saturday, Oct. 27 at McCulloch Stadium. Whitworth improved to 6-2 on the season and remained undefeated in the Northwest Conference at 4-0. Willamette fell to 3-5, 2-2 in the NWC.
Willamette trailed 10-7 at halftime and 17-7 just over three minutes into the third quarter, but rallied to the tie the game. Josh Lee scored for the Bearcats on a 33-yard shovel pass from Ryan Whitcomb with 9:05 remaining in the third quarter to cut the lead to 17-14. Whitcomb was almost sacked in the backfield, but scrambled to his right, then tossed the ball forward to Lee just before being tackled. Place-kicker Matt Bicocca kicked a 24-yard field goal with 1:07 left in the third period to tie the game.
Neither team scored during the fourth quarter. Willamette fumbled on its first play of overtime, but recovered the ball. On fourth down, Bicocca narrowly missed a 46-yard field goal just to the left of the goal. Each team gets one possession in overtime, starting with 1st-and-10 just 25 yards from the opposing end zone.
Whitworth won the coin toss prior to the beginning of the overtime period and decided to take the second possession. WU started on offense, facing the south end zone.
After the fumble on WU's first overtime play, the Bearcats faced 2nd-and-21 at the 36-yard line. Whitcomb threw an incomplete pass intended for Drew Shepherd (So., WR, Park City, UT/Park City HS) on second down, then connected with Merben Woo (Jr., FL, Salinas, CA/North Salinas HS/Hartnell JC) on a 7-yard completion. Bicocca was unable to convert the lengthy field goal on 4th-and-14 at the 29.
Whitworth's possession started with a 4-yard run by Chris Ahsing. Adam Anderson rushed for one yard on second down and Ahsing tacked on four yards with another carry on third down. Largent completed the series with the game-winning field goal.
It appeared the game might be a high-scoring event after Willamette scored a touchdown on its first possession and Whitworth earned a field goal the second time the Pirates had the ball. Willamette's opening TD was scored by C.J. Washington (Sr., RB, Spokane, WA/Shadle Park HS) on a 1-yard run at the 11:18 mark. Willamette, which held Whitworth to three plays and a 20-yard punt to open the game, drove 45 yards on five plays for the score.
Whitworth countered with a 12-play, 65-yard drive that ended with a 27-yard field goal by Largent. The big play was 40-yard pass from quarterback Kory Kemp to Jay Tully that gave the Pirates a 1st-and-10 at the Willamette 9-yard line. Ahsing was tackled by Marcus Ford (Jr., DE, Marina, CA/Monterey JC) for a 3-yard loss on first down and the Pirates were unable to move inside the 10-yard line.
The Pirates went in front 10-7 when Anderson crossed the goal line on a 15-yard run with 1:16 remaining in the first quarter. Whitworth's drive covered 86 yards on five plays, with a 52-yard pass from Kemp to tight end Joey VanHoomissen providing most of the yardage. Anderson scored on the next play.
Neither team scored in the second quarter, but Willamette almost scored three times. The Bearcats opened the period at the Whitworth 47-yard line, three plays into a drive that started at their own 25. Eight more plays moved the ball to the Pirates' five-yard line, but on 1st-and-Goal, Whitcomb had trouble with the handoff and Greg Caster of Whitworth recovered the ball at the four.
On second down, Kemp was sacked and brought down in the end zone. The officials ruled that contact was made about one-half yard in front of the goal line, so the Bearcats just missed recording a safety. After Whitworth punted two plays later, the Bearcats took over at the Whitworth 39, but gained just 13 yards on five plays before Bicocca missed wide left on a 43-yard field goal at the 7:04 mark.
The Pirates had no first downs in the second quarter and Kemp threw an interception shortly before halftime. The pickoff by Grant Piros (Jr., FS, Newberg, OR/New berg HS) was returned 22 yards to give the 'Cats possession at the Whitworth 38-yard line with 13 seconds left in the half. Whitcomb thew an incomplete pass on first down and was intercepted by Phillip Entel at the 2-yard line as time expired.
Following a 36-yard kickoff return by James Yamashita (Jr., WR, Walnut Creek, CA/Diablo Valley College), the Bearcats opened the second half at the Pirates' 49-yard line. Three plays later, on 4th-and-1, Washington was stopped for no gain by Casey Clifton.
Whitworth then drove 60 yard on four plays and scored on 32-yard halfback option pass from Anderson to Largent. Largent also kicked the PAT for a 17-7 Whitworth lead with 11:54 left in the third quarter.
Whitcomb's elusive scramble and shovel pass to Lee followed six plays after the kickoff, as Willamette pulled within three points. On Whitworth's next possession, Anderson fumbled at the Bearcats' 23-yard line at the end of a 17-yard run. Jonathan Feld (Jr., LB, Vacaville, CA/Vacaville HS) recovered the ball for Willamette.
Later in the third quarter, Piros recorded his second interception of the game and returned it 24 yards to the Whitworth 24. Willamette moved to the 12-yard line when Whitworth was penalized for a personal foul at the end of the return. Three plays gained just five yards, but set up Bicocca for a 24-yard field goal to tie the game at 17-17.
A controversial penalty stood out in the scoreless final period of regulation. With Whitworth punting on 4th-and-2 at it's own 25-yard line with about six-and-a-half minutes remaining, a Willamette player appeared to be blocked into punter Zack Clow by a Whitworth special teams player. Officials called the Bearcats for running into the kicker, with the 5-yard penalty giving the Pirates enough yards for a first down.
Seven plays later, Whitworth punted again. Willamette took over at its own 47-yard line with 3:49 left, following a 22-yard return by Jose Green (Fr., RB, Downey, CA/Warren HS). The 'Cats punted four plays later. Whitworth moved as far as its own 42-yard line in the final 2:08, but decided to run out the clock after an illegal blocking penalty on the ensuing play.
The Pirates gained 366 total yards, including 203 passing yards and 163 rushing yards. Kemp was 10 of 19 passing for 171 yards. Anderson rushed for 84 yards and one touchdown on 18 carries. Ahsing was credited with 50 yards on 18 rushes.
Willamette accumulated 274 yards of offense. The Bearcats rushed for 210 yards, led by Washington, who gained 76 yards on 14 carries. Marcus Woo (Fr., FL, Cupertino, CA/Monta Vista HS) added 47 yards on seven carries. Merben Woo rushed for 38 yards on eight rushing attempts and also caught four passes for 26 yards. Whitcomb completed 6 of 14 passes and threw for 64 yards.
On defense, Tully of Whitworth led all players with 18 total tackles, including a game-high 11 assists. Tully also caught three passes for 66 yards on offense. Clifton finished with 13 total tackles for the Pirates.
Matt Banta (So., OLB/RV, Baker City, OR/Baker HS) led the Bearcats with 11 total tackles. Ford provided Willamette with nine tackles, including two tackles for losses. He also broke up two passes and was credited with one QB hurry. Taylor Hermes (Sr., ILB, Keizer, OR/McNary HS/Southern Oregon University) also recorded nine tackles.
Willamette will play at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Ore., on Saturday, Nov. 3. Game time is slated for 1 p.m. (PDT). The Bearcats will return home to take on Pacific Lutheran University in the season finale on Saturday, Nov. 10 at 1 p.m. (PDT).
Willamette University 17 (OT)