By Robert McKinney, Assistant Athletics Director, Communications
PUYALLUP, Wash. -- Willamette University scored with 10:41 left in the fourth quarter to pull within 23-12 against Pacific Lutheran University on Saturday, Oct. 20, but the Lutes held on for a 33-20 Northwest Conference win over the Bearcats at Sparks Stadium. PLU improved to 3-3 on the season and to 2-2 in the NWC. Willamette dropped to 1-5 overall, 0-4 in the NWC.
The game was scoreless at the end of the first quarter. Pacific Lutheran took a 10-0 lead into the halftime break. Willamette cut the margin to 10-6 less than five minutes into the second half, but couldn't catch the Lutes.
Willamette quarterback Mathew Castaneda (Jr., QB, Salinas, CA/Salinas HS) played the final 30 minutes and completed 18 of 30 passes for 282 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. One of his passes was an 80-yard touchdown strike to Jeremiah James (Gr./Sr., WR, Salem, OR/South Salem HS/Chemeketa CC) for Willamette's first score. Freshman quarterback Doug Jackson (San Juan Capistrano, CA/San Juan Hills HS) received his first start and was 11 of 20 for 64 yards and one interception.
James caught six passes for 116 yards to move beyond the 1,000-yard mark in his career. He now has 1,097 yards on 96 career catches. Anthony Sammut (Sr., WR, Gilroy CA/Christopher HS/Minot St. Univ./Gavilan College) added six catches for 88 yards and one touchdown.
"Our defense played very well in the first half and kept us in the game," said Willamette Head Coach Glen Fowles. "In the second half, our offense moved the ball much better. Castaneda, James and Sammut all made some big plays."
Quarterback Walker LaVoy of PLU was 10 of 18 passing for 154 yards and two touchdowns. Nolan Hoover went 9 for 16 passing for the Lutes and earned 122 yards plus one touchdown. Brady Winter caught six passes for 136 yards and two scores.
PLU punted after three plays to start the game. Jackson threw his only interception on Willamette's fourth play of the game on 2nd-and-11 at the WU 27. Matt Anthony grabbed the pass three yards upfield and returned it to the original line of scrimmage, where PLU took over.
The Bearcats gave up a first down on a roughing the passer penalty on the first play following the turnover. Two plays later, Willamette forced a fumble by LaVoy at the 11-yard line, but LaVoy recovered the ball. On 4th-and-7 at the WU 11, Alex Brost missed wide right on a 29-yard field goal attempt for the Lutes with 9:40 left in the first quarter.
Neither team scored before the start of the second period. With 13:41 remaining in the half, Willamette took over at its own 2 after a 30-yard punt. The Bearcats soon faced 3rd-and-5 two, but Jackson hit Sammut on a 17-yard pass. The Bearcats kept the ball for 13 plays and drove 70 yards before an incomplete pass stopped the drive at the PLU 28.
The Lutes countered with a 14-play, 72-yard drive of their own that was completed with a 26-yard touchdown pass from Hoover to Winter with 2:41 left in the half. Brost kicked the extra point to give PLU a 7-0 lead.
With 53 seconds left in the half, the Lutes moved from the PLU 45 to the WU 25. The key play was a 17-yard pass from Hoover to Alex Rendon on 3rd-and-7 from the PLU 48. A 10-yard pass from Hoover to Marcus Wiley on 3rd-and-10 brought the ball to the WU 25. The Lutes called timeout with three seconds on the clock. After WU also called timeout, Brost kicked a 42-yard field goal to give PLU a 10-0 halftime margin.
Willamette reached the end zone quickly at the start of the second half. The kickoff by PLU resulted in a touchback, before the Bearcats lost five yards on a false start penalty. Castaneda, on his first pass of the game, connected with James on an 80-yard touchdown. The conversion failed following a high snap, but WU trailed by just a 10-6 margin.
Pacific Lutheran answered with a drive that covered nine plays and 65 yards. On the fifth play, Alec Stevenson (Jr., LB, Malibu, CA/Calabasas HS) and Teddy Rose (Jr., DL, Atascadero, CA/Atascadero HS) sacked LeVoy for a 10-yard loss leading to 2nd-and-20. LaVoy then hit Wesley Nixon with a 22-yard pass to the WU 27. Three plays later, PLU scored on a 12-yard pass from LaVoy to Ethan McElderry. Brost kicked the PAT for a 17-6 lead with 10:14 left in the quarter.
After forcing the Bearcats to punt, the Lutes started at their own 33. On the second play, LeVoy threw a 61-yard touchdown pass to Winter, and Brost added the extra point, as Pacific Lutheran increased its lead to 23-6.
The Bearcats drove early in the fourth quarter from their own 15. Passes by Castaneda to James for 11 yards and Ty Benny (Jr., WR, St. Louis Park, MN/St. Louis Park HS) for 14 yards, moved the ball to the WU 40. Matt Stone (Sr., RB, Brainbrige Island, WA/Bainbridge HS/Eastern Oregon Univ.) then rushed for 10 yards. After PLU jumped offside, Michael Hamp (Fr., WR, Rocklin, CA/Whitney HS) made a 6-yard catch. Castaneda had an incomplete pass, before spotting Sammut down the left sideline for a 39-yard touchdown strike.
McElderry scored on a 1-yard run to end of a 60-yard drive for the Lutes with 6:03 left. The Bearcats replied with a 10-play, 75-yard drive for a 6-yard touchdown catch by Benny. WU added two points on a conversion pass from Castaneda to Hamp, cutting the lead to 30-20 with 1:40 to go. Brost added a 22-yard field goal for PLU with 34 seconds on the clock.
Willamette gained 381 total yards, while Pacific Lutheran achieved 322 yards. The Bearcats passed for 346 yards and the Lutes gained 276 yards through the air.
The Bearcats registered five quarterback sacks for 38 yards in losses and finished with 8.0 tackles for losses of 45 yards. PLU had two sacks for three yards lost and earned 10.0 tackles for losses of 20 yards. Stevenson, Rose and Christian Tovar (Fr., LB, Covina, CA/South Hills HS) each recorded nine tackles to lead Willamette. Tommy MacDevitt (Jr., LB, Santa Clara, CA/Saint Francis HS) added eight tackles. Anthony topped PLU with 10 tackles, three pass break-ups and an interception. Hunter Briggs provided the Lutes with eight tackles.
The Bearcats will take on University of Puget Sound at McCulloch Stadium in Salem, Oregon, on Saturday, Oct. 27. Kickoff is slated for 1:30 p.m.
Big Moment of the Game for Willamette
Jeremiah James hauled in an 80-yard touchdown pass
from Mathew Castaneda just 19 seconds into the third
quarter to pull Willamette within 10-6. The long scoring
play moved James over the 1,000-yard mark in career
pass receiving. For the game, he caught six passes for
116 yards. James now has 96 catches for 1,097 career