By Robert McKinney, Assistant Athletics Director, Communications
SALEM, Ore. -- Willamette University gained 364 yards and 21 first downs on offense, but the Bearcats threw four interceptions, two on tipped passes, and lost the ball on downs in George Fox University territory four times, as the Bruins claimed a 21-7 win at McCulloch Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 12. With the win, GFU ended its season with a 5-4 overall record, 5-2 in the NWC. Willamette finished the year at 3-7 overall, 2-5 in the NWC.
The Bruins earned just 293 total yards and 11 first downs, but broke a 7-7 tie after the first quarter by scoring once in the second quarter and once in the third quarter. Willamette finished with 35:09 in time of possession, and the Bearcats ran 80 offensive plays compared to 55 for the Bruins
A key offensive player for George Fox was quarterback Grant Schroeder, who rushed for 118 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries, and also completed 9 of 19 passes for 103 yards and one touchdown. His 221 yards of total offense represented 75.4% of GFU's overall attack.
On defense, GFU linebacker Charles Riga had a big impact with 19 total tackles (11 solo) and one interception.
Willamette running back Taylor Wyman (Sr., RB, Bellevue, WA/Issaquah HS) reached the 1,000-yard mark in rushing this season and the 2,000-yard mark for his career. He gained 56 yards on 16 carries on Saturday to finish the year with 1,037 rushing yards (103.7 per game). He concluded his career with 2,027 rushing yards.
The Bearcats' starting quarterback, Ryan Knowlton (Jr., QB, Puyallup, WA/Emerald Ridge HS) was 25 of 36 passing for 188 yards, but was intercepted three times, including one on a tipped pass. During the game, he reached the 3,000-yard mark in career passing and finished the evening with 3,129 yards.
WU scored the game's first touchdown on a 1-yard run by Jimmy Sharpe (Jr., RB, Walnut Creek, CA/Northgate HS) at the end of a 12-play, 56-yard drive. Benjamin Jahn (Jr./So., DL, Juneau, AK/Thunder Mountain HS) kicked the extra point for a 7-0 lead with 8:53 left in the first quarter.
The drive by the Bearcats included three passes to Joey Thurman (Jr., Carson City, NV/Carson HS/Yuba College) for a total of 31 yards, including a 13-yard pass and a 15-yard pass.
During the drive, Sharpe converted on 4th-and-1 at the GFU 23 with a 4-yard run. After a false start penalty, Thurman made his 15-yard catch to advance the ball to the 9-yard line. Sharpe scored the touchdown four plays later on 4th-and-goal.
Schroeder threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to Trevor Daniels for GFU just 3:18 later. The Bruins tied the score when Uriel Gonzalez added the extra point. The drive covered 62 yards on seven plays, starting with a 17-yard run by Schroeder. Three plays later, Schroeder hit Lane Hadley with a 38-yard pass on 3rd-and-5 at the WU 40. Two running plays lost a total of three yards before Daniels scored.
Immediately following GFU's tying touchdown, the Bearcats drove to the Bruins' 42-yard line, but punted on fourth down. In the second quarter, Willamette threw an interception on 1st-and-10 at the George Fox 17, stalled on downs at the GFU 8-yard line, and was stopped on 4th-and-1 at the Bruins' 42 with 2:25 remaining in the half.
After stopping the Bearcats on 4th-and-1, George Fox quickly moved the ball 58 yards to take the lead. The Bruins started out with a 38-yard run by Grant Schroeder to the WU 20-yard line. A 6-yard pass to Daniels and a 13-yard toss to Brad Lander moved the ball to the 1-yard line. Schroeder ran into the end zone on the next play. Gonzalez kicked the PAT with 0:48 on the clock to give GFU a 14-7 lead.
Two interceptons hurt the Bearcats in the third quarter. The second pickoff was on a pass by Mathew Castaneda (Fr., QB, Salinas, CA/Salinas HS) that was tippped at the line of scrimmage. Charles Riga intercepted the pass at the WU 38. On second down, Schroeder scored for the Bruins on a 35-yard run.
Willamette began a drive with 30 seconds left in the third period. The Bearcats kept the ball for 13 plays and drove 76 yards to the GFU 4, where the Bearcats faced 3rd-and-goal. Knowlton threw an incomplete pass on third down. On fourth down, Knowlton passed the ball under pressure while rolling to his right. The pass was caught by Sharpe at the 4-yard line, where he was tackled for no gain.
Sharpe led Willamette's rushing attack with 58 yards on 12 carries. Wynan's 56 yards ranked second for the Bearcats. Willamette rushed for 176 yards overall on 42 carries.
Thurman, Jordan Fickas (Jr., WR, Gilbert, AZ/Campo Verde HS) and Kevin Martz (Jr./So., WR, Salem, OR/South Salem HS/Claremont McKenna College) each caught five passes for the Bearcats. Fickas earned 46 yards, wiht Thruman gaining 42 and Martz contributing 27. Ben Verhoeven (Fr., WR/P, Redlands, CA/Redlands HS) hauled in three passes for 40 yards.
George Fox rushed for 190 yards on 36 carries. Schroeder's 118 yards led the way. Damian Cook added 54 yards on five carries, including a 46-yard run. James Nguyen caught four passes for 35 yards.
Riga led all players with his 19 tackles for GFU. Steven Lindstrom recorded 14 tackles for the Bruins. Riga was one of four players with an interception. The others were Austin Tayhlor, Caylen Clardy and Ryan Russo.
Kendrick Pearson (So., CB, Pebble Beach, CA/Robert L. Stevenson HS) provided the Bearcats with eight total tackles, including seven unassisted stops. Nikk Ryan (Jr., DE, Oakdale, CA/Oakdale HS) contributed five tackles and led WU with 1.5 sacks. Overall, the Bearcats registered three sacks and eight tackles for loss.
It was Senior Day for the Willamette football squad. Prior to the game, the Bearcats honored the 25 seniors on this year's team.