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November 7, 2011

Football Set For Final Game At Willamette

THIS WEEK: The Pacific Lutheran University football team will travel to Salem, Ore., this weekend for its final game of the 2011 season against the Willamette University Bearcats. Pacific Lutheran is coming off of a 35-24 win over the Pacific University Boxers in a game that saw the Lutes rack up more than 430 yards of total offense. With the win, PLU improved its record to 5-3, which guarantees the Lutes a second consecutive winning season. With a 3-2 mark in Northwest Conference action, the Lutes sit in a tie with Willamette for third place in the NWC standings. Saturday's game in Salem will be played on the campus of Willamette at McCulloch Stadium. Game time is set for 1 p.m.

FOLLOW THE LUTES: You can listen to PLU football action 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.

SERIES HISTORY: The Lutes and Bearcats have met 41 times in the series history dating back to the 1966 season. The Lutes hold the overall series lead at 23-16-2. The two longest winning streaks in the series belong to the Lutes as PLU registered two six-game winning streaks over the Bearcats. The first of those streaks came between the 1970 and 1975 seasons. The Lutes registered their second six-game win streak between 1979 and 1984. However, this series has been highly contested over the past eleven seasons. Since 2000, the Bearcats hold a slim 6-5 advantage over the Lutes.

RUNNING BEARCATS: With a 4-5 overall record in 2011, the Bearcats come into this week's match up on the heels of a 57-28 stomping of Lewis & Clark College. Willamette rests on its  hard-hitting defense as the squad is ranked second in the NWC in scoring defense. Offensively, the Bearcats attack primarily on the ground with their vaunted fly sweep. Through nine games, Willamette is averaging more than 230 rushing yards per game. The Bearcats' rushing game does not offer one feature back but instead attacks through a number of different options. Led by senior Jamiere Abney, five Bearcat running backs are averaging at least 20+ yards on the ground per game. Quarterback Brian Widing is averaging only 119 passing yards through the air, which ranks the junior last among regular starting quarterbacks in the NWC. 

ABOUT THE COACHES: Scott Westering is in his eighth year as head coach at Pacific Lutheran, where he has compiled a 39-32 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 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. Head Coach Mark Speckman is heading into his 14th year as the leader of the Willamette University football team as well as his 17th season on the coaching staff. Speckman's career record as a head coach from 1998 through 2009 is 71-50 (.587), including an impressive 19-3 (.864) since the start of the 2008 season. Speckman is regarded as an authority on the "The Fly" offense. "The Fly" brings the flanker in motion across the formation before the snap to take a handoff, block on a running play or become a receiver. The ball can go in a number of directions on any given snap. As a result, the Bearcats have provided their fans with an exciting, fast-paced offense. The team has established many offensive records under Speckman's guidance. (Courtesy of Willamette Sports Information)

LUTES LAST YEAR: Pacific Lutheran finished with an 8-1 overall record in 2010. The Lutes were 5-1 in the Northwest Conference, good for second place behind Linfield, but were not extended an at-large bid to the NCAA Division III national playoffs.

BEARCATS LAST YEAR: Willamette finished third in the NWC by way of a 4-2 mark in conference play. Averaging 37.1 points per game, the Bearcats finished with the second-best offense in the conference. 

LAST SEASON: Pacific Lutheran drove 76 yards and scored on Tyler Bowen's 13-yard reception with 1:10 remaining as the Lutes defeated the visiting Willamette Bearcats, 24-21, in a Northwest Conference football game played at Sparks Stadium. The Lutes put together two long scoring marches to open the game, fell behind 21-17 with 4:40 remaining, drove for the winning touchdown with just over a minute left, and then watched Willamette's potential game-tying 37-yard field goal hit the underside of the crossbar with 14 seconds remaining. Pacific Lutheran came out on fire, taking the opening kickoff and driving 81 yards on 10 plays before scoring on a 3-yard run by Alec Simmons. The senior running back carried four times on the drive for 32 yards and also caught a 16-yard pass from Jordan Rasmussen. After a Willamette three-and-out, the Lutes struck quickly with a three-play, 78-yard drive capped by Rasmussen's 65-yard scoring pass to Greg Ford. The senior wide receiver caught the ball across the middle, broke loose from a jersey tackle, and then outraced the defense to the end zone. By the end of the first quarter, PLU had compiled 180 yards of offense on 18 plays compared to 26 yards on 13 plays for the Bearcats. After that, however, Willamette made it tough on the home team. The Bearcats started their comeback by scoring a touchdown with 11:50 to go in the first half. They drove 80 yards on 11 plays, including a 24-yard run by quarterback Brian Widing that moved the ball to the PLU 17-yard line. Jake Turner capped the drive with a 4-yard scoring run. The score remained 14-7 in favor of Pacific Lutheran entering the final quarter, and that's when the fireworks really started. Willamette finished off a 66-yard drive it started in the third period when Matt Williams scored on an 8-yard run with 13:50 left to play. Kyle Derby's kicked tied it at 14-14. PLU marched right back down the field, going 58 yards on eight plays and taking a 17-14 lead on Richard Isett's 31-yard field goal. Jose Green returned the ensuing squib kickoff 23 yards to the Willamette 48-yard line, but the Lutes defense held and forced a punt that was downed at the PLU 5-yard line. The Lutes worked their way out of the shadow of the end zone, but Walter Robinson forced Simmons to fumble and the Bearcats' Reed Warner recovered at the PLU 25-yard line. Willamette needed just three plays to score, that coming on Jamiere Abney's 1-yard plunge, and with that the visitors had a 21-17 lead with 4:40 remaining. Undaunted, the Lutes started what proved to be the winning drive at their own 24-yard line. Rasmussen ran for one first down, and on a third-and-10 passed 11 yards to Kyle Whitford for another first down. Rasmussen was hit late and an additional 15 yards was added at the end of the play, moving the ball to the Willamette 34-yard line. Facing second down on the 13-yard line, Rasmussen got time in the pocket and waited until Bowen drifted free in the end zone, and the two hooked up for Bowen's first touchdown reception of the season. Willamette had one last gasp on offense, and when Widing hit Jake Knecht with a 38-yard pass to the PLU 20-yard line, the potential for a game-winning touchdown or game-tying field goal increased dramatically. After three straight incompletions, Mitchell Rowan hit a line drive field goal attempt that struck the underside of the cross bar. Pacific Lutheran finished the game with 434 yards of total offense on 68 plays, with Rasmussen completing 21-of-37 passes for 299 yards and two scores. Isaac Moog had five catches for 109 yards and Simmons caught five balls out of the backfield for 40 yards. Simmons carried the ball 21 times for 117 yards, giving him 982 yards for the season. The PLU defense had seven tackles for loss, including three quarterback sacks. Isett led the Lutes with nine tackles, including three tackles for loss. Trevor Fox had seven tackles and Nick Edwards broke up two passes and had a quarterback sack among his four tackles. Widing completed 9-of-25 passes for 133 yards, including three for 77 yards to Knecht. Willamette's big-play receiver, Scott Schoettgen, was held to three catches for 37 yards. Of their 303 total years, the Bearcats got 170 of them on the ground, with Williams carrying eight times for 75 yards to lead his team.

PLU 35, PACIFIC 24: Pacific Lutheran built a 35-0 lead in the third period and withstood a furious fourth quarter Pacific rally to defeat the visiting Boxers, 35-24, in a Northwest Conference football game played Saturday afternoon at Sparks Stadium. With the victory, PLU improved to 5-3 overall to assure itself of back-to-back winning seasons. The Lutes are 3-2 in the conference. Pacific, in its second year of collegiate football after a 19-year hiatus from the sport, finishes its season with a 1-8 overall record and a 1-5 mark in the conference. The Lutes dominated the Boxers through the first half in building up a 28-0 lead at the intermission. Quarterback Zack Halverson, one of 19 seniors introduced prior to the game on Senior Day, was 13-for-14 for 263 yards and four touchdowns in the first 30 minutes. His touchdown passes covered 41 yards to senior Alex McDiarmid, 19 and 2 yards to Lucas Sontra, and 69 yards to senior Tyler Bowen. The ground game accounted for 93 first half yards, including 38 on four carries by Zack Baldwin, as the Lutes piled up 356 yards to 89 for the Boxers. PLU added a touchdown six minutes in the third quarter on another Halverson aerial, this one covering 32 yards to Kyle Warner, to make it 35-0. Pacific finally got on the board at the 5:12 mark of the third period when Moses Villareal-Gomez converted a 28-yard field goal after the Lutes turned the ball over deep in their own territory on a bad punt snap. The final quarter featured three onside kicks, two of which scrappy wide receiver Blake Anthony recovered for Pacific, and a passing frenzy against PLU's defensive reserves by second string Boxers quarterback P.J. Minaya. It also led to some uneasiness in the PLU side of the grandstands. Minaya drove the Boxers 65 yards in 10 plays and hit Matt Nyberg with a 3-yard scoring pass to make it 35-10. PLU's Matt Johns recovered the first of the Pacific onside kicks, but the Lutes were forced to punt after failing to pick up a first down. After getting the ball at their own 15-yard line, the Boxers went 85 yards in nine plays, scoring on Minaya's 2-yard pass to Bryce Kershner with 2:40 remaining. Minaya scrambled 22 yards on a 3rd-and-13 to highlight the drive. That made the score 35-17, and when the Anthony came up with the ball at the bottom of a scrum on the next onside kick, the Boxers were again in business. This time they drove 55 yards on nine plays for the score. Minaya hit a sliding Nelson Kawai with a 19-yard pass to the 2-yard line, and after a false start penalty moved the ball back five yards Brian Taylor caught a 7-yard scoring aerial. With 40 seconds left on the clock and still needing two scores, Pacific again recovered the onside kick, Anthony coming up with the ball at the bottom of a scrum of players. On the first play from scrimmage, Minaya just missed connecting with Jordan Fukumoto, who had gotten behind the PLU secondary, and the game ended six plays later on Minaya's incomplete pass into the end zone. When all was said and done, the Lutes had the 35-24 victory. PLU ended the game with 438 yards of offense, including 336 through the air. After his hot start, Halverson finished 18-for-26 for 336 yards with a career-best five touchdowns (one from the school record) and no interceptions. Dalton Ritchey caught four balls for 39 yards to lead a group of nine different receivers with at least one catch each. The Lutes ground game netted 102 yards on 29 carries, with Baldwin's halftime numbers of 38 yards on four carries leading the way. After managing slightly more than 12 minutes of possession in the first half, Pacific had the ball for 21:07 of the final 30 minutes. Minaya was 23-for-34 for 223 yards with three touchdowns and one interception. Fukumoto had eight receptions for 83 yards, Nelson Kawai added six catches for 89 yards, and Nyberg had five gabs for 42 yards. Of Pacific's 43 net rushing yards, Minaya had 35 of them on five carries. The Boxers finished with 369 yards of offense and 24 first downs to 19 for the Lutes. They also enjoyed nearly seven minutes more than the Lutes in time of possession. Senior linebackers Michael Warsaw and Adam Schwander led the Lutes with nine and eight tackles, respectively. Another pair of seniors, end Erik Magnussen and linebacker T.J. Suek, both had a pair of quarterback sacks.