By Robert McKinney, Assistant Athletics Director, Communications, (503) 370-6110
SALEM, Ore. -- Willamette University scored on a 3-yard touchdown catch by Max Andersen (Jr./So., WR, Chico, CA/Moreau Catholic HS/Butte College) in the back corner of the end zone with 57 seconds left, as the Bearcats took the lead for good in a 34-31 win over Occidental College on Saturday, Sept. 21 at McCulloch Stadium. The game-winning pass was thrown by WU quarterback Mathew Castaneda (Sr., QB, Salinas, CA/Salinas HS) to end a 5-play, 67-yard drive that began with 2:22 remaining in the game.
The game was part of the NWC-SCIAC Challenge, which featured eight games on Saturday between team from the Northwest Conference and the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. Willamette improved to 1-1 on the season, while Occidental fell to 1-1.
Jenkins Scores on Three Pass Receptions
For the second week in a row, Jordan Jenkins (Gr., WR, Placentia, CA/Valencia HS) of WU scored on three touchdown catches. His touchdowns against the Tigers covered 34, 7 and 23 yards. During the game, he caught four passes for 76 yards. He has hauled down 10 passes for 172 yards in the first two games, with six catches resulting in touchdowns. On Saturday, he left the game with about 10 minutes remaining after he was injured on a hard contact from an Occidental defender who was ejected on the play for targeting.
Including the foul for targeting, Occidental amassed 16 penalties for 177 yards. There were several unsportsmanlike conduct penalties against the Tigers, and a second Occidental player was ejected in the closing minutes for receiving a second unsportsmanlike conduct penalty during the game.
Bearcats Earn Winning Touchdown
WU's game-winning drive was aided by a 10-yard holding penalty on Occidental, plus back-to-back major penalties on the Tigers after WU faced 2nd-and-goal at the 14-yard line.
The drive began at the WU 33 after a punt by Occidental went just 27 yards and landed out of bounds. On 2nd-and-10, Castaneda threw a 32-yard pass to Miles Bryant (Jr., H, Pasadena, CA/Bishop Alemany HS) that brought the ball to the Oxy 35. A 15-yard pass from Castaneda to Bryant moved the Bearcats to the Tigers' 20-yard line. On the next play, a defensive holding penalty sent WU to the 10-yard line.
After Castaneda was forced to run out of the bounds at the 14-yard line while rolling out to his right, a dead ball penalty advanceed the ball to the 7-yard line and gave WU a new first down. On the next play, an Occidental defender was called for a unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, which placed the ball near the 3-yard line. Castaneda then passed to Andersen for the winning score. Andersen was open for the catch, but was hit immediately. He held onto the ball for the score, and Kyla Gordon (Fy., PK, Salem, OR/West Salem HS) kicked the PAT for a 34-31 lead.
Soon after the touchdown, two additional unsportsmanlike conduct penalties were called against the Tigers. The result was that Willamette's ensuing kickoff was taken at the Occidental 35-yard line. Gordon took the kickoff, and sent the ball toward the 25-yard line to reduce the chances for Occidental to return the kick. The play, similar to an onside kick, left the Tigers with 1st-and-10 at their own 24 yard-line with 55 seconds remaining and three timeouts.
On 3rd-and-7 quarterback Joshua Greaves connected with Ben Rosen for 10 yards to the Oxy 37. A false start by the Tigers three plays later created a 3rd-and-15 situation. After throwing a 5-yard pass on third down, Greaves hit Rosen with an 11-yard pass on 4th-and 10 for a first down at the Tigers' 48.
Occidental called timeout with 16 seconds to go. When play resumed, Greaves threw the ball over the middle, where Tommy MacDevitt (Jr., LB, Santa Clara, CA/Saint Francis HS) of Willamette intercepted the pass and knelt down at the WU 45 with 12 seconds left. Castaneda took one snap to run out the clock.
Quarterbacks Combine for Eight TD Passes
Both quarterbacks completed four touchdown passes. Castaneda finished 15 of 30 through the air for 238 yards. He also rushed eight times for 30 yards. Greaves was 35 of 53 passing, including many short shovel passes. He threw for 370 yards.
The first score of the game was by the Tigers on a 51-yard pass from Greaves to John Isaac Cordova on Occidental's first play from scrimmage after Willamette punted on the game's first possession. A missed assignment left Cordova unmarked near the right sideline, where Greaves found him for the touchdown. WU pulled within 7-6 when Christian Tovar (So., LB, Covina, CA/South Hills HS) picked up a fumble on a punt return and took the ball 48 yards to the end zone with 6:27 left in the opening quarter. A bad snap on the conversion attempt led to an incomplete pass.
Willamette grabbed a 13-7 lead on Jenkins' first touchdown of the afternoon less than two minutes later. The drive lasted just two plays and covered 38 yards, including the 34 yards on the scoring catch by Jenkins. Gordon kicked the extra point.
After Occidental grabbed a 14-13 lead on a 16-yard pass from Greaves to Cordova with 9:54 left in the half, the Bearcats responded with a 12-play, 58-yard drive. The possession ended with Jenkins catching a 7-yard touchdown pass from Castaneda. Kyler Parris of Occidental kicked a 29-yard field goal on the final play of the half to pull the Tigers within 20-17.
Jenkins hauled in a 23-yard scoring strike while avoiding two defenders and staying in bounds with 8:43 to go in the third quarter, as Willamette claimed a 27-17 lead. Occidental scored touchdowns with 14:51 and 10:43 left in the fourth quarter to move in front, 31-27. The second score by the Tigers was six plays after Occidental blocked a punt and took over at the WU 23.
In addition to Jenkins, other top receivers for WU were Bryant, who caught five passes for 71 yards, and Kodiak Hussey (So., WR, Idaho Falls, ID/Skyline HS), who brought down three passes for 68 yards. Cordova topped Occidental with nine receptions for 148 yards. DJ Adams caught nine passes for 50 yards. Willamette's Dylan Sparks (So., RB, Beaumont, CA/Beaumont HS) led all rushers with 22 carries for 79 yards. Willamette limited the Tigers to 58 rushing yards on 25 carries (2.3 avg.).
Alec Stevenson (Sr., LB, Malibu, CA/Calabasas HS) contributed 12 total tackles for the Bearcats on defense. MacDevitt, Andrew Rodriguez (Sr., DB, Santa Clara, CA/Wilcox HS), and Keaton Adams (So., DL, Colorado Springs, CO/Doherty HS) each registered eight tackles. Keaton Adams made 2.5 tackles for loss, including a 10-yard quarterback sack. For Occidental's defense, Sam Meinhard led the way with nine total tackles. Raffi Titizian and Jackosn Caudel each achieved eight tackles.
The Bearcats will play Lewis-Clark Valley (Idaho) on Saturday, Sept. 28. Game time at McCulloch Stadium is scheduled for 4 p.m. (PST).