By Robert McKinney, Assistant Athletics Director, Communications
LA VERNE, Calif. -- Willamette University quarterback Mathew Castaneda (Sr., QB, Salinas, CA/Salinas HS) completed 22 of 38 passes for 270 yards and five touchdowns, including three touchdown passes to Jordan Jenkins (Gr., WR, Placentia, CA/Valencia HS), but University of La Verne downed the Bearcats, 43-33, on Saturday, Sept. 14 at Ortmayer Stadium. Willamette, playing its season opener, fell to 0-1. The Leopards evened their record at 1-1. The game was played with the temperature near 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
La Verne built a 23-13 advantage in the first quarter, only to have Willamette move in front 27-23 late in the half. The Leopards scored just before halftime and early in the third quarter to regain the lead. WU trailed by just four points, 37-33, after Castaneda connected on a touchdown pass to Caine Farmer (Sr., WR, Kit Carson, CO/Kit Carson School) with 9:26 left in the game, but La Verne scored a touchdown with 7:31 remaining to gain the final 10-point margin.
During the game, Kyla Gordon (Fy., PK, Salem, OR/West Salem HS) became the third woman in Willamette football history to score points for the Bearcats. Gordon was 3 for 5 on extra points against the Leopards and also took Willamette's kickoffs. La Verne's female place-kicker, Mika Makekau, was suited up for the game, but did not play. Today's game is believed to be the first time that two female student-athletes suited up for opposing teams in the same college football game.
Castaneda Gains 350 Total Yards, Jenkins Catches 6 Passes for 96 Yards
Castaneda earned 350 yards of total offense, including eight carries for 80 yards on the ground, while Jenkins caught six passes for 96 yards. Jenkins, who was competing in his first college football game, played basketball for the Bearcats during the past four seasons. He was named Third Team All-West Region and First Team All-Northwest Conference in basketball this past season. He received his bachelor's degree in May as part of WU's 3/2 MBA program, and is now attending Willamette's Atkinson Graduate School of Management to finish the overall five-year program with an MBA degree.
The Leopards scored the the game's opening touchdown with 11:04 left in the quarter on a 19-yard pass from Sam Taylor to Spencer Pool. The 56-yard drive started with a 34-yard pass from Taylor to Grayson Kline. Willamette answered with a 7-play, 75-yard drive that ended with a 15-yard scoring pass to Jenkins. La Verne blocked the extra point following a bad snap and Torii Hilbert returned the ball all the way to the end zone for a defensive extra point, giving the Leopards a 9-6 lead.
La Verne faced 4th-and-11 at the Willamette 24-yard line on their next possession. On the 4th-down play, Taylor avoided a strong pass rush from the Bearcats, escaped toward the left sideline, and hit a diving Jordan Moore in the back of the end zone for a touchdown. The extra point kick by Diego Garcia increased ULV's margin to 16-6.
A bit later, Castaneda completed an 11-play, 88-yard drive with a 7-yard pass to Kodiak Hussey (So., WR, Idaho Falls, ID/Skyline HS) at the 0:45 mark. Gordon kicked the extra point. La Verne benefited from a 59-yard return by Ethan Landry on the ensuing kickoff, and the Leopards scored on a 22-yard run by James Gonsalves to take a 23-13 advantage into the second quarter.
The scoring slowed down a bit over the final three quarters, with each team adding 20 points. Willamette tallied the first two scores of the second quarter, both on passes to Jenkins, as the Bearcats grabbed a 27-23 lead with 2:22 left before the halftime break. The touchdown catches by Jenkins covered 34 yards and 5 yards, with the shorter catch occurring just three plays after a 42-yard run by Castaneda. Gordon converted both PATs.
La Verne recorded the final score of the half. First, the Leopards got out of a 3rd-and-14 situation at their own 29-yard line when Gonsalves rushed for 10 yards and a face mask penalty was added against Willamette, creating a 1st-and-10 at the WU 48. Four plays later, Taylor kept the ball for a 6-yard touchdown run with 49 seconds on the clock. ULV was in front, 30-27, at halftime.
Bearcats and Leopards Continue to Battle in Second Half
The Leopards regained a 10-point cushion two minutes into the second half on a 8-yard run by Martaveous Holliday. WU answered quickly with an 8-play, 67-yard drive that led to a 21-yard touchdwon pass from Castaneda to Farmer with 9:26 left in the third quarter, cutting the deficit to four points at 37-33. The extra point kick failed.
On ULV's next two possessions, the Bearcats stopped the Leopards on downs at the Willamette 35 and the Willamette 25. The Bearcats had the ball for just three plays after the first defensive stop, but put together a seven-play drive following the second stop. Dylan Sparks (So., RB, Beaumont, CA/Beaumont HS) provided carries of 11 and 12 yards on four total rushes during the drive. Willamette reached the ULV 21-yard line, but Castaneda was intercepted by Hilbert in the end zone to end the threat with 13:28 to go in the game.
After the interception, La Verne drove 80 yards on 12 plays and ate 5:57 off the clock. Taylor ended the drive with an 8-yard touchdown pass to Jared Beamon with 7:32 left, as the Leopards increased the margin to 43-33.
Taylor was 7 of 14 passing for 114 yard and three touchdowns for La Verne. Gonsalves led all runners with 134 yards on the ground, as he carried the ball 16 times. Holliday tacked on an additional 123 rushing yards on 21 carries for the Leopards, while Taylor rushed for 76 yards on 12 attempts.
Stevenson Records 12 Tackles; McLellan Intercepts Pass
For Willamette, Castaneda and Jenkins led the way. Sparks rushed for 68 yards on 18 carries. Hussey caught four passes for 55 yards, while Farmer hauled in four passes for 50 yards, and Miles Bryant (Jr., H, Pasadena, CA/Bishop Alemany HS) grabbed four passes for 34 yards.
Alec Stevenson (Sr., LB, Malibu, CA/Calabasas HS) topped the WU defensive chart with 12 total tackles on nine solo stops and three assists. Zach McLellan (Fy., DB, Vacaville, CA/Will C. Wood HS) added eight total tackles (6 solo) and intercepted a pass. Tommy MacDevitt (Jr., LB, Santa Clara, CA/Saint Francis HS) also registered eight tackles. Andrew Allen (Fy., DB, Oxnard, CA/Calabasas HS) and Keaton Adams (So., DL, Colorado Springs, CO/Doherty HS) each provided the Bearcats with seven tackles. Preston Carr led La Verne with eight total tackles, including five unassisted stops.
Willamette will take on Occidental College (Calif.) on Saturday, Sept. 21 at McCulloch Stadium. Game time in Salem, Oregon, is scheduled for 12 p.m. (PDT).
Castaneda Throws 5 Touchdown Passes, Three to Jenkins, but Leopards Win 43-33