1997 Football
1997 Football
Title: Team
Team: Football
Induction: 2007

The 1997 football team experienced one of the most successful seasons in the program’s history. Willamette finished the year in the NAIA Championship game, before falling to Findlay (Ohio), 14-7. The team was 13-1 overall, led the NAIA in scoring defense during the regular season and finished second in the NAIA in total defense. Willamette outscored its opponents, 470-167, including a 205-27 advantage against conference foes. WU also featured the first woman to play and score in a college football game in Liz Heaton, who scored two extra points against Linfield on Oct. 18. The Bearcats achieved the highest ranking by a WU football team in a final poll by finishing #2 in the nation. Willamette won the Northwest Conference of Independent College (NCIC) title with a 5-0 record.

Along the way, the Bearcats annihilated many school records. On offense, the team still holds the following records: most rushing yards in a game, 554 versus Montana Tech on Dec. 6; most rushing yards in a season, 3,940; most rushing attempts in a season, 744; most rushing touchdowns in a season, 49; most total yards in a season, 5,802; most plays in a season, 969; most touchdowns in a 10-game season, 53; most touchdowns including the postseason, 67; and most first downs in a season, 296.

On special teams, additional WU records were set for most punt returns in a season at 49 and for most punt return yards in a season at 488. On defense, the team set the following records: fewest rushing yards allowed in a
10-game season, 680; fewest passing yards allowed in a 10-game season, 1,215; fewest total yards allowed in a season, 1,895; and most interceptions in a season, 23.