Pacific Lutheran, Ranked #19, Nips Bearcats, 24-21

Pacific Lutheran, Ranked #19, Nips Bearcats, 24-21

WU Finishes 7-3 Despite Playing Five Nationally Ranked Teams

By Robert McKinney, Athletics Communications Director, (503) 370-6110

PUYALLUP, WASH. -- Pacific Lutheran University took an early 14-0 lead, but needed a 13-yard touchdown pass from Jordan Rasmussen to Tyler Bowen with 1:10 remaining in the game to defeat Willamette University, 24-21, at Sparks Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 13. The Bearcats had a chance to tie the game with 14 seconds left, but a 37-yard field goal hit the crossbar and bounced out.

PLU, ranked #19 in the Top 25, improved to 8-1 overall, 5-1 in the Northwest Conference. The Lutes took second in the NWC and may receive an NCAA Division III Playoff berth when selections are announced on Sunday (Nov. 14). WU concluded its season at 7-3 overall, 4-2 in the NWC (3rd place).

The Bearcats played five opponents this season who were nationally ranked at the time they faced Willamette. Four of Willamette's games against Top 25 teams were played on the road.

Pacific Lutheran began its decisive scoring drive with 4:36 remaining and the Lutes trailing the Bearcats, 21-17. PLU drove 76 yards on 10 plays. The Lutes faced only one third down during the drive, but it was an important play, as Kyle Whitford caught an 11-yard pass from Rasmussen on 3rd-and-10 at the PLU 40. A roughing the passer penalty on the play added another 15 yards, as the Lutes moved to the WU 34.

Three plays later, the Lutes owned an 1st-and-10 at the Willamette 13. On the ensuing first down play, Rasmussen threw an incomplete pass, but on second down he ended the drive with his 13-yard scoring pass to Bowen.

Willamette took over at the WU 31 following the kickoff. After an incomplete pass, quarterback Brian Widing (So., Canby, OR/Canby Union HS) rushed for 11 yards. Two plays later he threw a 38-yard pass to Jake Knecht (So., WR, Issaquah, WA/Skyline HS/Illinois State Univ.) that moved the ball to the PLU 20.

Widing's next three passes were incomplete. On 4th-and-10, Mitchell Rowan (Jr., PK/P, Cotati, CA/Rancho Cotate HS) attempted a 37-yard field goal. The kick was a line drive that appeared to have a chance, but the ball hit the underside of the crossbar. PLU took over at its own 20-yard line and ran one play to end the game.

Pacific Lutheran received the opening kickoff and drove 83 yards on 10 plays for a 7-0 lead. Alec Simmons, who was the game's top rusher with 117 yards on 21 attempts, ran four times for a total of 32 yards on the opening drive.

A key play during the drive was a 24-yard pass from Rasmussen to Isaac Moog that brought the ball to the WU 11-yard line. Three plays later, on 3rd-and-2, Simmons rushed for 3 yards into the end zone. Richard Isett kicked the extra point with 9:41 left in the first quarter.

On PLU's second possession, the Lutes scored quickly after taking over at their own 22-yard line. Two plays moved the ball 13 yards. On the third play, Rasmussen connected with Greg Ford for a 65-yard touchdown pass.

Neither team scored during the final 7:17 of the first quarter, but WU cut the lead in half early in the second period. Jake Turner (So., FL, Ontario, OR/Ontario HS) scored the touchdown on a 4-yard run with 11:50 remaining in the half. Kyle Derby (Fr., PK/P, Oakdale, CA/Oakdale HS) kicked the extra point to complete the 11-play, 80-yard drive and pull WU within 14-7.

The Lutes maintained their seven-point lead through the remainder of the first half and all of the third quarter. Willamette finally tied the score just over one minute into the final period.

Matt Williams (So., FL, Encinitas, CA/La Costa Canyon HS) scored the TD on an 8-yard run with 13:50 on the clock. The run ended a 10-play, 66-yard drive that also include a 17-yard scamper by Williams. The drive could have ended on the fourth play, but Wes Wenzel (So., ILB, Portland, OR/Sunset HS) rushed for 21 yards on a fake punt that started at the WU 42.

The touchdown by Williams opened a high-scoring final quarter.

PLU responded to WU's tying score by going 58 yards on eight plays to earn a 31-yard field goal by Isett with 9:59 left. The Bearcat defense put in a solid stand after the Lutes earned 1st-and-goal at the WU 9.

Walter Robinson II (Sr., DE, Altadena, CA/Cathedral HS) and Mark Meek (Jr., DT, Gladstone, OR/LaSalle Catholic Prep/Western Oregon Univ.) sacked Rasmussen for a 3-yard loss on first down, the Lutes had a 3-yard run on second down and Rasmussen threw an incomplete pass on third down.

WU was unable to move the ball on its next possession, but a 42-yard punt by Rowan pinned PLU at its own 5-yard line with 8:16 remaining. Three of Rowan's punts were downed at or inside the 5-yard line during the game.

The Lutes managed to get a first down three plays later at the PLU 16. Simmons gained five yards on the next play, but Robinson forced a fumble and Reed Warner (So., OLB, Salem, OR/South Salem HS) fell on the ball for WU at the PLU 25.

Willamette moved into the lead three plays later. Jose Green (Sr., TB, Downey, CA/Warren HS) started the possession with a six-yard run and Williams dashed 18 yards on the second play. Jamiere Abney (Jr., TB, Bremerton, WA/Bremerton HS) scored on a 1-yard run with 4:40 left on the clock. Derby's extra point gave WU a 21-17 advantage.

Pacific Lutheran finished the game with 434 total yards. PLU rushed for 135 yards on 31 carries, while Rasmussen completed 21 of 37 passes for 299 yards and two touchdowns. Moog caught five passes for 109 yards for the Lutes.

Willamette achieved 303 yards, including 170 rushing yards on 41 carries. Williams led the Bearcats with 75 yards and one touchdown on eight carries.

The Bearcats' played without their top two rushers, Terrell Malley (So., TB, Portland, OR/Roosevelt HS) and Chad Pollard (Jr., FL, Bakersfield, CA/Liberty HS/Bakersfield Coll.), who missed the game due to injuries. Mikey Lemon (Sr., FL, McMinnville, OR/McMinnville HS/Linfield Coll.), who scored two TDs last week before suffering an injury against Lewis & Clark, also did not play.

Blitzing and stunting helped the Lutes limit the Willamette passing attack for much of the game. Widing completed 9 of 25 passes for 133 yards. Knecht caught three passes for 77 yards and Scott Schoettgen (Sr., WR, Columbia, CA/Sonora HS) earned three catches for 37 yards.

Ralph Pineda (Sr., ILB, Los Angeles, CA/Cathedral HS/San Jose State Univ.) was WU's top tackler with eight stops (6 solo). Warner tacked on seven tackles and Cody Pastorino (So., S, Glenn, CA/Willows HS) achieved six tackles. Arlin Taylor (Sr., S, Spring Valley, CA/Steele Canyon HS) hauled in the game's only interception.

Isett (Sr., LB/PK) was PLU's leading defender with nine tackles, including a team-high 3.0 tackles for losses. Trevor Fox (Sr., DB) added seven tackles.

Willamette's 7-3 record represents the Bearcats' seventh winning season during the past nine years. The Bearcats have registered an overall record of 26-6 since the start of the 2008 season.

Pacific Lutheran University 24
Willamette University 21

Matt Williams rushed for 75 yards and tied the score at 14-14 with an 8-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter.

Jake Knecht grabbed three passes for 77 yards, including a 38-yard catch. He's shown here against Southern Oregon earlier in the season.

Walter Robinson (right) forced a fumble by the Lutes in the fourth quarter and Reed Warner (left) recovered the ball for Willamette (Photo courtesy PLU Sports Information).