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November 10, 2010

Lutes Host Bearcats in Battle for Second Place

THIS WEEKEND: Pacific Lutheran (7-1 overall, 4-1 NWC) hosts Willamette (7-2, 4-1), Saturday, 12:30 p.m., Sparks Stadium in Puyallup.

A LOT AT STAKE ON SATURDAY: Second place in the Northwest Conference, and possibly a NCAA Division III football postseason playoff berth, will be on the line Saturday afternoon when Pacific Lutheran hosts the Willamette Bearcats at Puyallup's Sparks Stadium. The winner of Saturday's game could tie Linfield for the conference title, but that isn't likely because the Wildcats play at Lewis & Clark, currently tied for fourth place with a 2-3 record. Even if Linfield loses, it has the tiebreaker over both PLU and Willamette because of wins over those teams earlier this year, thus giving Linfield the NWC's automatic bid to the NCAA Division III playoffs. So the winner between PLU and Willamette would technically still be in the hunt for a spot in the postseason playoffs, but even that would depend on the national tournament selection committee looking favorably on their inclusion. PLU made NCAA Division III postseason appearances every year from 1998-2001, but hasn't been in the postseason since then.

FOLLOW THE LUTES: You can listen to PLU football throughout the year in the Tacoma area on KLAY 1180 AM with Steve Thomas and Karl Hoseth calling the action. The broadcasts are also available online on the KLAY website (www.klay1180.com). Additionally, listeners can access the PLU football broadcasts on the PLU athletics website at www.golutes.com, then clicking on Listen Live and following the link.

THE SERIES: Saturday's matchup will be the 41st meeting between Pacific Lutheran and Willamette, dating back to 1966. The Bearcats won the first four meetings (1966-69) and tied for their longest winning streak in the series with a recent four-game skein from 2002 to 2005. The Lutes have had a pair of six-game winning streaks (1970-75 and 1979-84) and lead the overall series with a record of 22-16-2. Willamette has won two straight against the Lutes, including last year's 35-17 win in Salem, Ore.

LAST YEAR: Willamette rallied from a 14-0 first half deficit, scoring three touchdowns in the final period to defeat the visiting Lutes, 35-17, at McCulloch Stadium. Sophomore tailback Jamiere Abney scored three touchdowns in the second half to lead the Bearcats. PLU running back Drew Griffin scored a rushing touchdown and a receiving touchdown as the Lutes surged to a 14-0 lead. Griffin's two-yard scoring run with 8:50 remaining in the first quarter capped a 13-play, 70-yard drive. With 3:37 left in the half he took an AJ Palazzolo pass 12 yards for a score to put the Lutes on top, 14-0. The drive consumed 15 plays and covered 80 yards. Willamette responded with a 63-yard scoring drive, Terrell Malley scoring from six yards out to make it 14-7 at the half. The Lutes made it 17-7 on Richard Isett's 22-yard field goal with 8:04 left in the third period, and that kick capped another impressive 13-play, 69-yard drive. Again, Willamette responded with another scoring drive, going 74 yards with Jamiere Abney diving in from two yards out. With the score 17-14 in favor of the Lutes, the host Bearcats benefitted from three short-field drives to tally a trio of touchdowns. Scott Schoettgen caught a 3-yard pass from Kevin Ramay and Abney added 1- and 4-yard scoring runs. Schoettgen's touchdown with 6:48 remaining in the game gave Willamette its first lead at 21-17, and it would not trail after that. The three drives covered 21, 22 and 35 yards. The Lutes gained 429 yards to 325 for the Bearcats, but they threw four interceptions and lost one fumble. Jordan Rasmussen was 20-for-31 for 248 yards with two picks, and Palazzolo was 11-for-16 for 80 yards and two interceptions. Griffin led the Lutes with 11 receptions for 135 yard.

ABOUT THE COACHES: Scott Westering is in his seventh year as head coach at Pacific Lutheran, where he has compiled a 33-29 overall record. Scott joined the PLU coaching staff in 1981 after playing tight end for the Lutes under his father, Frosty Westering. Scott served as the Lutes' offensive coordinator from 1983-2003, helping PLU to two NAIA Division II titles and one NCAA Division III national championship, as well as four runner-up finishes. He has coached 11 first-team All-Americans, including the 2000 NCAA Division III Player of the Year, Chad Johnson. Scott was a captain and All-America 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. Mark Speckman is in his 13th year as the leader of the Willamette University football team, as well as his 16th season on the coaching staff. Speckman's career record as a head coach is 78-52. Under Speckmann's direction, Willamette claimed the 2008 NWC title, ended the regular season 10-0, qualified for the NCAA Division III playoffs and went 11-1 overall.

LUTES LAST WEEK: Pacific Lutheran scored 19 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to pull away from upset-minded Pacific, 50-23, in a soggy Northwest Conference football game played last Saturday night. The Boxers, 0-8 overall and 0-6 in the conference, pulled to within eight points at 31-23 after scoring on a 12-yard pass from TC Campbell to Brian Taylor late in the third quarter, but the Lutes responded with touchdown drives covering 73, 51 and 50 yards to wrap up the victory. The game was played in a relentless rain throughout its three-hour duration, but that didn't stop PLU quarterback Jordan Rasmussen from throwing for 313 yards and four touchdowns on 26-for-38 accuracy. His scoring aerials covered 36 yards to Greg Ford, 38 yards to Kyle Whitford, three yards to Isaac Moog and two yards to Aaron Blaska. The Lutes also scored four touchdowns on the ground. Alec Simmons, who finished with a game-high 162 yards on 15 carries, scored on a 36-yard run. Other rushing touchdowns came from Rasmussen from one yard, Va'a Logotala from one yard, and Cody Pohren from 15 yards. PLU finished the game with 580 yards of offense, including 267 on the ground, compared to 254 for the Boxers. Linebacker Adam Schwander led the Lutes with 10 tackles, linebacker Richard Isett had three tackles for loss among his eight stops, and defensive back Trevor Fox had eight tackles and a forced fumble.

BEARCATS LAST WEEK: Playing in the 62nd annual Wagon Wheel Game, Willamette outscored Lewis & Clark 44-3 in the second half to pull away from a 21-21 halftime tie and pick up a 65-24 victory. Wide receiver Scott Schoetgen caught four touchdowns passes in the final 30 minutes to spur the rally. Keith Welch accumulated 363 yards of total offense against the Bearcats.

ABOUT THE BEARCATS: Not surprisingly, Willamette boasts one of the top running attacks in Division III football, averaging 243.7 yards per game. The Bearcats have shown an ability to pass the ball pretty well in recent years, however, and the passing attack focuses on all-conference wide receiver Scott Schoettgen. The 6-4 target has 46 catches for 923 yards (20.1 per reception) and 13 of the team's 16 touchdowns through the air. Jake Knecht is next on the receiving list with 10 catches, so Schoettgen is the focal point on the passing attack. Quarterback Brian Widing is 76-for-110 (69 percent) for 1,322 yards with 14 TDs and six interceptions. The Bearcats average 185.6 yards passing per game for a total of 429.2 yards, in addition to 38.9 points, per contest. The rushing leader is Terrell Malley, who has 77 carries for 628 yards (8.2 per carry) and seven touchdowns, but Malley is injured and is not expected to play. Chad Pollard, the "fly" in Willamette's deceptive fly offense, has 295 rushing yards and four touchdowns on 55 carries this season. Defensively, the Bearcats have allowed 20.3 points and 318.2 yards per game this season, and they have 24 takeaways in their nine games while turning the ball over 15 times. The defensive leaders are inside linebacker Ralph Pineda with 76 tackles and three interceptions, defensive end Walter Robinson with 54 tackles, including team highs of 12.5 tackles for los and 4.5 quarterback sacks, and outside linebacker Harmon Bruno with 45 tackles. Pineda, cornerback Cody Pastorino and safety Arlin Taylor all have three interceptions this season.

BEST START SINCE 1999: Pacific Lutheran's 7-1 start this season is the program's best since the NCAA Division III national title team of 1999. That team won its first three games, lost during the regular season to conference champion Willamette, and then closed with 10 consecutive victories on the way to the national title. The 1999 team finished the regular season with an 8-1 record, received the final at-large bid to the playoffs, and then won five straight on the road (including an opening round win at Willamette) on the way to the program's fourth national title (NAIA Division II titles in 1980, 1987 and 1993).

LUTES IN TOP 25: Pacific Lutheran has moved up to 19th in this week's D3football.com national poll, its highest ranking of the year. Additionally, the Lutes re-enter the American Football Coaches Association Top 25 at No. 25. PLU had been ranked No. 23 in the AFCA poll before losing to Linfield.

LUTES BY THE NUMBERS: The Lutes have averaged 33.1 points and 409.9 yards of total offense while allowing 22.6 points and 359.9 yards per contest. The Lutes average 252.0 passing yards and 157.9 rushing yards per contest. Opponents have compiled 175 first downs to 161 for the Lutes. Senior quarterback Jordan Rasmussen is 152-for-240 passing (63.3 percent) for 1,966 yards with 22 touchdowns and nine interceptions. His favorite target is Greg Ford, who has 48 receptions for 761 yards (15.9 yards per catch) and eight touchdowns. Isaac Moog has 39 catches for 524 yards (13.4 yards per catch) and a team-best nine touchdowns. Senior running back Alec Simmons averages 108.1 rushing yards per game and has seven touchdowns via the run. Defensively, the Lutes have a total of 20 takeaways this season, 10 fumble recoveries and 10 interceptions. Defensively, the Lutes have a total of 20 takeaways this season, 10 fumble recoveries and 10 interceptions. Junior linebacker Richard Isett continues to lead the Lutes with 55 total tackles, including team bests of 11.5 for loss and 3.5 quarterback sacks. Junior linebacker Adam Schwander follows with 52 tackles, while frosh safety Sean McFadden has 49 tackles and three interceptions. Junior linebacker Michael Warsaw comes in at 47 tackles and junior defensive lineman Erik Magnussen has 45 tackles, including 9.5 for loss. Senior defensive back Trevor Fox and senior linebacker Colby Davies both have 40 tackles, and Fox leads the team with four interceptions, all coming in the first two games. Senior defensive lineman Cameron McMillan has had a very good season with 38 tackles, including 4.5 for loss.

HIGH-PERFORMANCE FORD: Greg Ford, the Lutes' senior wide receiver from Steilacoom, continues his move up PLU's all-time receiving lists. He has 193 career receptions to rank fifth in that category. Within striking range are Kyle Brown (1999-2002) with 195, current PLU receivers assistant coach Gavin Stanley (1992-95) with 197, and Mike Welk (1987-90) with 201. Karl Lerum (1994-97) is the career leader with 237 receptions. In career receiving yards, Ford has 3,354 and is within range of Lerum's career record of 3,507. In touchdowns receptions, Ford has 34 and trails Welk by one.

WHO IS THIS GUY?: Alec Simmons had a break-out game in the second week of the season, rushing for 225 yards, more than double his PLU career total, in the Lutes' win over Cal Lutheran. The senior from Sumner has been steady since, putting together four games with at least 100 rushing yards and now totaling 865 yards on 116 carries, an average of 7.5 yards per carry. He averages 108.1 rushing yards per game and, if he stays in that neighborhood, would become the first PLU back to average at least 100 rushing yards per contest since Aaron Binger averaged 112.9 yards during the 2003 season. Additionally, should Simmons gain at least 135 yards against Willamette, he would become the first PLU running back to gain 1,000 or more yards in a season since Anthony Hicks gained 1,633 yards during the 1999 championship season.

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