By Robert McKinney, Assistant Athletics Director, Communications
NEWBERG, Ore. -- George Fox University held a slim 17-12 lead over Willamette University at halftime on Saturday, Oct. 14, but the Bruins scored 41 points in the second half to pull away from the Bearcats for a 58-12 win in Northwest Conference football action. George Fox, ranked #21 in the D3football.com Top 25, improved to 5-1 on the season, 3-0 in the NWC. Willamette fell to 0-5 overall, 0-3 in the NWC.
Joey Thurman (Sr., RB, Carson City, NV/Carson HS) scored WU's first touchdown on a 13-yard run with 9:36 left in the second quarter. Alex Israel (Sr., WR, McMinnville, OR/McMinnville HS) earned Willamette's second touchdown on a 21-yard pass from Miles Bryant (Fr., QB, Pasadena, CA/Bishop Alemany HS) to reduce the Bearcats' deficit to 17-12 with 21 second remaining in the first half.
Alec Stevenson (So., ILB, Malibu, CA/Calabasas HS) led Willamette on defense with 15 total tackles. He recorded seven unassisted tackles and eight assisted tackles, including 2.0 tackles for loss.
The Bruins scored the game's first two touchdowns in the opening quarter. James Nguyen recorded the first score on a 7-yard pass from Grant Schroeder to complete a 9-play, 60-yard drive with 10:02 left in the quarter. GFU added a wide receiver pass from Evan Nelson to Schroeder for a 9-yard touchdown with 2:17 on the clock. The second scoring drive started at the GFU 28-yard line and began with a 36-yard run by Anthony Garcia. Later in the drive, Garcia added an 18-yard run. Jason Santoni kicked both extra points.
Thurman's touchdown run pulled Willamette within 14-6. The carry ended a 7-play drive that covered 91 yards. Bryant, in his first start for the Bearcats, threw a 43-yard pass to Jordan Fickas (Sr., WR, Gilbert, AZ/Campo Verde HS) on the second play of the drive to move WU to the GFU 46. Several plays later, on 3rd-and-1 at the 37-yard line, Thurman carried the ball nine yards for a first down. Bryant then hit Matt Stone (Jr., RB, Brainbrige Island, WA/Bainbridge HS/Eastern Oregon Univ.) with a 15-yard pass. Thurman scored on the net play. Benjamin Jahn (Sr./Jr., DL, Juneau, AK/Thunder Mountain HS) missed the extra point kick.
Santoni added a 24-yard field goal for the Bruins at the end of a 14-play, 56-yard drive with 2:18 left in the half, but the Bearcats had just enough time to create a touchdown.
Five plays into the drive, on 3rd-and-10 at the WU 39, the Bearcats picked up 13 yards on a pass from Bryant to Kevin Martz (Sr., WR, Salem, OR/South Salem HS/Claremont McKenna College). Two runs by Bryant tacked on 12 yards, and another pass from Bryan to Martz added 15 more. After two incomplete passes, Bryant connected with Israel for a 21-yard touchdown. Bryant's pass on the two-point conversion was incomplete.
Willamette committed four turnovers during the game and all four were during the second half. The turnovers led to 14 points for the Bruins.
GFU had the first possession of the second half, and the Bruins drove 64 yards on seven plays. A 19-yard run by Garcia began the drive. Schroeder rushed 23 yards to end the drive with a touchdown. Santoni missed the extra point.
Two plays later, Bryant of Willamette was sacked by Justin Kruse and fumbled the ball. Austin Taylor recovered for GFU at the WU 9-yard line. Wesley Riddell scored on the fist play and Santoni kicked the PAT, giving George Fox a 30-12 lead.
Schroeder scored on a 9-yard run with 4:19 left in the third quarter, and Garcia added a 5-yard carry for another touchdown at the 3:14 mark. The Bruins completed the game with two touchdowns in the fourth quarter.
George Fox gained 484 total yards, including 355 rushing yards on 55 carries. The Bruins passed for 129 yards, with Schroeder accounting for 109 while completing 13 of 21 attempts. Garcia led all rushers with 123 yards on 10 caries. Brad Lander caught for passes for 41 yards. In addition to place-kicking, Santoni also punted and averaged 43.0 yars per punt with three kicks inside the 20-yard line.
Charles Rigas topped the Bruins on defense with 15 total tackles, including 1.5 tackles for loss and 0.5 sacks. Rudy Hughes and Ryan Russo each intercepted a pass.
Willamette finished with 242 yards of offense. Bryant hit 9 of 19 passes for 143 yards and one touchdown. WU passed for 153 yards overall. Marts and Israel each caught three passes for 35 yards, while Fickas grabbed two receptions for 52 yards. Bryant ran 10 times for 32 yards.
The Bearcats will host Pacific Lutheran University at McCulloch Stadium in an NWC match-up on Saturday, Oct. 21. Kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m. (PDT).