Football Moves Into Offseason With Heads Held High
The Pacific Lutheran University football team wrapped up the 2011 season this past weekend with a 13-6 victory over Willamette University. The win brought the Lutes overall record to 6-3 and with a 4-2 mark in Northwest Conference action, Pacific Lutheran ends the season in a second place tie with Lewis and Clark College in the NWC standings.
Although 2011 did not end with a berth to the elusive NCAA postseason, there are many positives to take from this Pacific Lutheran squad. Led by senior linebackers Steven McDonald and Adam Schwander, the Lutes boasted the second best scoring defense in the NWC. Limiting opponents to just over 18 points per game, PLU held the opposition to seven points or fewer in five of its nine games this season. Schwander and McDonald finished the year No. 1 and No. 2 on the team in tackles with 60 and 48, respectively. On the defensive line, Erik Magnussen spearheaded the group that combined for 15 total sacks. The senior finished his final season with a career-high seven sacks. Sean McFadden led the Lute secondary as the sophomore put together another All-NWC season at safety. McFadden led the Lutes with four interceptions ranking him second in the conference.
On the other side of the ball, Pacific Lutheran's offense struggled to find the explosiveness they displayed in 2010. Needing to replace five First-Team All-NWC players from a season ago, the Lutes offense ranked six in the NWC this season.
Quarterback Zach Halverson performed admirably in his first season leading the PLU offense. The senior finished the year averaging 228 passing yards, ranking him fifth in the NWC. In addition, his 17 touchdown passes puts him atop the conference trailing only behind Linfield College quarterback Mickey Inns (25).
A young core of wide receivers emerged as Halverson's favorite targets in 2011. Freshman Dalton Ritchey led all Lute receivers with 24 catches. Senior Alex McDiarmid and freshman Kyle Warner followed closely behind Ritchey with 22 receptions each. Warner led all Lute receivers with four touchdowns. PLU appears to have a strong nucleus of young receivers as first-year players caught 12 of the 17 total touchdowns in 2011.
Running back Brandon James led the way on the ground for PLU this season. The junior finished the year with 527 total rushing yards ranking him sixth in the NWC. Senior linemen Nick Oglesby and Rob Marlow paved the way for James who ended the season with three rushing touchdowns.
Head Coach Scott Westering moved into third place all-time in total wins during the 2011 season. With 40 wins in his eight season career, Westering moved infront of Roy E. Carlson after the Lutes 14-6 victory over Menlo College. By reaching six wins in 2011, Pacific Lutheran acheived its second consectutive winning season and the programs third winning season in the past seven years.