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October 27, 2009

Lutes Head East to Face Injury-Plagued Pirates

THIS WEEK: Whitworth (3-5 overall, 1-3 Northwest Conference) hosts Pacific Lutheran (2-4, 2-1) in a Northwest Conference game at the Whitworth Pine Bowl in Spokane, Wash., Saturday, 1:00 p.m.

THE SERIES: Saturday's meeting will be mark the 65th time Pacific Lutheran has met Whitworth on the gridiron. In the series that dates back to a 26-0 PLU victory in 1931, the Lutes have dominated the Pirates, compiling a 46-18 overall record. From 1966 to 2000, PLU won 32 straight games against the Pirates, but Whitworth has turned the tables recently with a stretch of five consecutive wins from 2004 to 2008.

LAST YEAR: In a game that featured nearly 900 yards of total offense, Whitworth tailback Adam Anderson broke his own school record with six rushing touchdowns to lead the Whitworth Pirates past Pacific Lutheran, 40-29, at Sparks Stadium. Anderson led a Whitworth ground game that controlled the clock and took the air out of Pacific Lutheran's quick-strike offense. With the junior tailback carrying the ball 31 times for 217 yards and the six scores, the Pirates were able to dominate in time of possession with 39 minutes to just 21 for the Lutes. As it turned out, the host Lutes actually out-gained the Pirates in total yardage, 450-431, but Whitworth's relentless ground game eventually wore down PLU. The Pirates scored the final 19 points of the game to erase a 29-21 lead that Pacific Lutheran built early in the third period. In addition to Anderson's 217 yards, Milton Nelson gained 68 yards as the Pirates finished with 293 rushing yards on 58 carries. Whitworth was efficient in the air, completing 10-of-13 pass attempts for 138 yards. Michael Byrne completed 22-of-46 passes for 405 yard with three interceptions and three touchdowns for the Lutes, and Nick Caraballo added a 38-yard touchdown pass on one attempt. Greg Ford finished the game with 180 receiving yards on six catches, Drew Griffin had seven catches for 112 yards, and Kyle Whitford had six receptions for 78 yards. Of Pacific Lutheran's 60 offensive plays, only 13 were rushes and they netted just seven yards.

ABOUT THE COACHES: Scott Westering is in his sixth year as head coach at Pacific Lutheran, where he has compiled a 25-26 overall record. Scott joined the PLU coaching staff in 1981 after playing tight end for the Lutes under his father, Frosty Westering. Since 1983, Scott has served as the Lutes' offensive coordinator, helping PLU to two NAIA Division II and one NCAA Division III national championships, as well as four runner-up finishes. He has coached 11 first-team All-Americans, including the 1999 NCAA Division III Player of the Year, Chad Johnson. Scott was a captain and All-American tight end on the 1980 PLU team that won the Lutes' first NAIA national championship. He was inducted into the PLU Hall of Fame in 1998. For the Pirates, John Tully is 75-58 in 14 season as Whitworth's head coach, including a 61-25 record over the last nine years. A three-time Northwest Conference Coach of the Year, he has led Whitworth to three NWC titles and two NCAA Division III playoff appearances.

ABOUT THE PIRATES: After winning back-to-back Northwest Conference titles in 2006 and 2007, Whitworth has struggled with injuries in falling to 3-5 through eight games this season. The Pirates rank fifth in the NWC in both scoring offense and scoring defense, putting an average of 20.8 points per game on the board while giving up an average of 25.4. Whitworth's passing offense ranks fourth in the conference, as the Pirates quarterbacks have completed 60 percent of their passes for an average of 181.2 yards per game with 13 touchdowns and 7 interceptions. The Pirates' pass defense has struggled as well, allowing an opponents' completion percetage of 58.3 while giving up a league-high 1,597 yards and 16 touchdowns. However, Whitworth does rank second in the conference in interceptions with 13. The rushing offense that has dominated opponents in recent years has struggled this year, averaging 110.4 yards per game, 2.8 yards per carry and scoring eight touchdowns through eight games. Running back Adam Anderson, who torched the Lutes last season for six touchdowns and more than 200 yards on the ground, is out for the season with an injury.

LAST WEEK: Pacific Lutheran made two huge goal-line stands and took advantage of six Puget Sound turnovers in garnering a 35-13 victory at Sparks Stadium. Despite out-gaining the Lutes by nearly 100 total yards, the turnover-prone Loggers drop to 0-6 for the season and 0-3 in the conference. PLU scored on its first two possessions - both coming after Puget Sound turnovers - to take a 14-0 lead in the first quarter. The first score came on a 20-yard pass from Jordan Rasmussen to Isaac Moog and capped a four-play, 51-yard drive following a fumble recovery. On Puget Sound's next possession, Lutes linebacker Tim Cumming intercepted a Kavin Williams pass that had been tipped into the air by Bryan Neumiller. The Lutes started their drive on their own 40-yard line and drove 60 yards in nine plays. Cody Pohren scored his first of two touchdowns on a 2-yard run. After that, the Loggers dominated the second quarter, rolling up 206 first-half rushing yards. All they had to show for it, however, was Casey Larson's 3-yard touchdown run that capped a 72-yard drive in six plays. Earlier, they drove all the way to the PLU 1-yard line before the Lutes got the ball back with a goal-line stand. Trevor Fox stuffed Kavin Williams for no gain on fourth down to end that drive. The next time that UPS had the ball it fumbled at the PLU 14-yard line. The half ended with another stop by the PLU defense at the goal-line, this time Andy Sturza getting into the backfield to stop Williams for a one-yard loss on fourth-and-goal at the 1-yard line. At the intermission, UPS had possessed the ball for 20 minutes compared to just 10 for the Lutes and the Loggers also had 17 first downs and 264 yards to just seven first downs and 142 yards for the hosts. Fortunately for the Lutes, the Loggers continued to have trouble holding onto the ball in the second half. Of their five second-half possessions, the Loggers turned the ball over once on an interception by PLU's Andy Sturza and twice more on fumbles. The Lutes turned all three of those turnovers into touchdowns, driving 61 yards, 34 yards and 60 yards for the scores. In the third quarter, Rasmussen hooked up with Drew Griffin on a 4-yard scoring toss, and in the fourth period Rasmussen found Nick Caraballo in the back of the end zone on a 17-yard aerial. Pohren added his second touchdown and PLU's final score on a 3-yard run with 3:56 remaining. After that, the Loggers drove 61 yards in six plays to score on a 1-yard pass from reserve quarterback Spencer Crace to Ross Zuhl. The Loggers finished with 413 total yards, including 260 on the ground. Quarterback Kavin Williams rushed 20 times for 134 yards and Larson added 102 yards on 22 carries. Williams and Crace combined to complete 18-for-26 passing for 167 yards with an interception apiece. For the Lutes, Rasmussen was 17-for-26 for 176 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions, and AJ Palazzolo was 3-for-5 for 25 yards before injuring his knee in the second quarter. The Lutes finished the game with 319 net yards, and after trailing in time of possession by 10 minutes at the half managed to narrow that margin to just two minutes by the end of the game.

LUTES ON THE AIR: All Pacific Lutheran football games may be heard in the Puget Sound area on KLAY 1180 AM with Steve Thomas calling the action and Karl Hoseth handling the color commentary. The games may also be heard online at www.klay1180.com.

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