By Robert McKinney, Athletics Communications Director
SALEM, Ore. -- Pacific Lutheran University scored three plays into the game on a 32-yard interception return, and went on to take a 23-0 lead at the half, during a Northwest Conference game against Willamette University at McCulloch Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 8. The Bearcats pulled within 23-10 in the third quarter, before PLU scored the final touchdown with 2:13 left in the game, as the Lutes defeated Willamette, 30-10.
With the win, PLU improved to 3-1 on the season, 2-0 in the Northwest Conference. Willamette fell to 2-3 overall, 1-1 in the NWC.
Taylor Wyman (Sr., RB, Bellevue, WA/Issaquah HS) rushed 25 times for 133 yards and a touchdown for Willamette. He also completed a pass for 62 yards and caught a pass for 2 yards. Wyman entered the game averaging 114.5 rushing yards per game. He now has 591 rushing yards this season and has gained 1,581 rushing yards in his career.
Jordan Fickas (Jr., WR, Gilbert, AZ/Campo Verde HS) of Willamette caught a game-high eight passes for 109 yards, including the 62-yard pass from Wyman.
For PLU, Nate Gallant carried the ball 14 times for 80 yards. Cole Chandler rushed 12 times for 76 yards and two touchdowns. Chandler also completed 4 of 6 passes for 27 yards and one score. Travis McMillion of PLU intercepted two passes, and scored on the first of his two pickoffs to give the Lutes a 7-0 lead.
After McMillion's touchdown, the Lutes added a field goal with 4:52 left in the first quarter to complete a 15-play, 69-yard drive. The Lutes converted three third downs during the drive, but failed on 3rd-and-7 from the WU 16-yard line when Jon Schaub's pass fell incomplete. Dallan Rodriguez kicked the field goal from 33 yards out.
The Lutes increased their advantage to 17-0 after Chandler scored on a 14-yard run with 14:17 left in the second quarter. Rodriguez converted the extra point.
McMillion's second interception, with 2:51 remaining in the half, set up PLU's next touchdown. The Lutes took over at the Willamette 37 and kept the ball for nine plays, including three third-down conversions.
The final play of the drive was on 3rd-and-goal from the 1-yard line. Chandler hit Kellen Westering in the back of the end zone for the touchdown with 26 seconds on the clock. The extra point kick went wide, leaving PLU with 23-0 lead.
Willamette outscored the Lutes 10-7 in the second half, but couldn't overcome the first half deficit. The Bearcats also outgained Pacific Lutheran over the final 30 minutes, with WU earning 214 yards and allowing the Lutes just 151 yards.
Wyman shifted from running back to "Wildcat" for much of the second half and provided a spark for the Bearcats on offense.
Midway through the third quarter, Wyman carried the ball on five of six plays during Willamette's touchdown drive, including a 35-yard run that brought the ball to the PLU 1-yard line. He scored his fifth rushing touchdown of the season on the next play. Nathan Dunford (So., LB/PK, San Diego, CA/Mt. Carmel HS) kicked the extra point with 6:36 on the clock.
Willamette held PLU on downs after the kickoff, and took over at its own 19-yard line following a punt. Wyman rushed for six yards and five yards, before throwing a mid-range pass to Fickas, who made the catch and dashed to the PLU 8-yard line, where Carson Ketter made a touchdown-saving tackle. The play covered a total of 62 yards.
A substitution penalty cost Willamette five yards prior to the next play. Jimmy Sharpe (Jr., RB, Walnut Creek, CA/Northgate HS) ran for six yards on first down, but the next two plays combined for just two yards. On 4th-and-goal, Dunford kicked a 22-yard field goal to reduce PLU's lead to 23-10 with 2:11 left in the third quarter.
Pacific Lutheran answered by taking the ball at its own 28-yard line and driving deep into Willamette territory. An offensive holding penalty on 3rd-and-9 at the WU 11 sent the ball back to the 21. Schaub was sacked for a 6-yard loss on the next play by Conner Olson (Sr., LB, Tigard, OR/Tigard HS). Schaub completed a 22-yard pass to Jacob King on fourth down, but WU took over on downs inside the 6-yard line with 9:59 to go.
Willamette kept the ball for 10 plays, but a pass by Ryan Knowlton (Jr., QB, Puyallup, WA/Emerald Ridge HS) fell incomplete on 4th-and-11 at the WU 42.
Nine plays later, Chandler scored the game's final touchdown for PLU with 2:13 remaining. Rodriguez kicked the extra point.
PLU finished with 338 total yards, while Willamette recorded 293 yards. The Lutes rushed 46 times for 225 yards. Schaub and Chandler combined for 17 completions on 30 attempts for 113 yards and no interceptions.
The Bearcats carried the ball 29 times for 141 yards. Knowlton was 11 of 28 passing for 73 yards and two interceptions. Jeremiah James (Jr./So., WR, Salem, OR/South Salem HS/Chemeketa CC) gained 76 yards on three kickoff returns, while Rayvon Owens (Sr., FS, El Cajon, CA/Christian HS) achieved 24 yards on one kick return.
Defensive leaders for Willamette were Kendrick Pearson (So., CB, Pebble Beach, CA/Robert L. Stevenson HS) and Trent Spallas (Sr., LB, Elk Grove, CA/Franklin HS), each with nine tackles. Pearson registered seven solo tackles, while Spallas provided eight assisted tackles. Tao Oulman (So., DB, Portland, OR/Lincoln HS) and Benjamin Jahn (Jr./So., DL, Juneau, AK/Thunder Mountain HS) each finished with eight tackles.
Three PLU players earned nine tackles apiece. They were McMillion, Ketter and Derek Chase.
Willamette will play at Linfield College on Saturday, Oct. 15. Game time in McMinnville, Oregon, is set for 1:30 p.m. (PDT).