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October 15, 2011

End Zone Interception Seals 14-6 Win over Menlo

PUYALLUP - Safety Sean McFadden intercepted a tipped pass in the end zone with 16 seconds remaining in the game Saturday afternoon, sealing Pacific Lutheran's 14-6 football win over the Menlo College Oaks in front of a Homecoming crowd at Sparks Stadium.

With the victory in their final non-conference contest of the season, the Lutes improved their record to 4-1. Menlo College is now 5-2 this season.

Following a touchback on a punt into the end zone, the Oaks started a drive from their own 20-yard with 2:30 remaining in the game. Quarterback Matthias Pelasasa completed a 16-yard pass to Robert Adan on a 4th-and-12 play from the Menlo 18-yard line and later gained two yards on a 4th-and-1 from the Menlo 43-yard line to keep the drive alive.

Completions of 25 yards to Michael Alexander and 15 yards to Daniel Stevenson moved the ball to the PLU 11-yard line, prompting a Lutes timeout. Pelasasa tried to hit a receiver across the middle, but linebacker Mike Warsaw got his hand on the pass, deflecting it high into the air to McFadden, who cradled the ball and then fell to the ground for the touchback.

All of the game's scoring came in the first half. In fact, the Lutes scored on their opening drive when Niko Madison culminated a five-play, 87-yard drive with a 10-yard sweep around right end. The drive got a big boost when quarterback Zack Halverson bought himself some time in the pocket before delivering a bomb to Alex McDiarmid for a 60-yard catch-and-run on the first play from scrimmage. The extra point try sailed wide left.

Menlo knotted the score at 6-6 with 5:39 left in the opening quarter when Pelasasa hit Alexander with a 12-yard touchdown pass. The play capped an eight-play, 57-yard drive for the Oaks. The extra point kick went wide right.

Pacific Lutheran got a short field on what proved to be the game-winning drive when cornerback Justin Whitman intercepted Pelasasa at the Menlo 33-yard line. PLU converted a pair of fourth-down plays on the drive, Halverson hitting Kyle Warner for eight yards on a 4th-and-4 and later finding Lucas Sontra for the necessary three yards on a 4th-and-3 to the Menlo 9-yard line. The Lutes got the first down on that play by about half the length of the football on a measurement.

A Menlo pass interference penalty moved the ball to the 2-yard line, and Halverson lofted the ball to Warner, a freshman wide receiver who caught his first collegiate touchdown pass. PLU converted for two points when McDiarmid made a nice catch of Halverson's pass in traffic.

After halftime, the Lutes struggled to move the ball as the Menlo defense stiffened. Pacific Lutheran managed just 12 total yards on 11 plays in the third period and 66 yards on 18 plays in the final quarter.

The Oaks, meanwhile, had just one sustained drive in gaining 91 yards in the opening half. They had better success in the second half with 180 yards, 69 coming on their concluding frantic drive.

The total offense was very close as the Lutes ended up with 272 yards on 62 plays compared to 271 yards on 64 plays for the Oaks. Halverson was 13-for-29 for 201 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions for the Lutes, hitting nine different receivers, led by Warner with three catches. Pelasasa was 15-for-23 for 170 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions for the Oaks. Adan was his favorite target, finishing the game with eight catches for 105 yards.

Brandon James gained 44 tough yards on 17 carries as the Lutes compiled 71 net rushing yards. Nick Acosta had 75 yards on 20 carries for Menlo, which finished with 101 yards on the ground.

Defensively, McFadden had eight tackles and the big interception, while Warsaw had seven tackles and a tackle for loss. The Lutes finished the game with five quarterback sacks.

For Menlo, James Yoder had 10 tackles, including a tackle for loss, and Tony Ramirez had a sack and two tackles for loss.

PLU has a big game on tap next Saturday when it travels to McMinnville, Ore., to meet defending conference champion Linfield. Kickoff for that game is slated for 1:30 p.m.

- PLU -