By Robert McKinney, Assistant Athletics Director, Communications
EAGLE ROCK, Calif. -- Willamette University quarterback Mathew Castaneda (Jr., QB, Salinas, CA/Salinas HS) completed 22 of 40 passes for 262 yards and a touchdown to lead the Bearcats to a 25-6 victory over Occidental College on Saturday, Sept. 15 in the NWC-SCIAC Challenge. Castaneda also carried the ball 13 times for 38 yards and one touchdown, as the Bearcats improved to 1-1. The Tigers fell to 0-1.
The Bearcats ended their losing streak at 12 games. Willamette lost the final two games in 2016, nine games in 2017 and this year's season-opener on the road against NCAA Division II opponent Simon Fraser University (Canada). Willamette and Occidental compete in NCAA Division III.
Willamette's KayLyn Stirton (Sr./So., PK, Cottonwood, CA/West Valley HS) scored five points on 2 of 3 extra points and a field goal to move into first place on Willamette's all-time list for women's scoring on the football team with 7 points. She entered the game tied with Liz (Heaston) Thompson ('99) with 2 points. Thompson was the first woman to play and score in a college football game when she went 2 for 2 on extra points against Linfield College in 1997.
Stirton also is the first woman to successfully kick a field goal for the Bearcats. Her 21-yarder in the second quarter gave WU a 10-0 lead. It is one of only a few field goals kicked by women in NCAA Division III history.
Willamette extended its margin to 12-0 with 9:16 left in the third quarter when Preston Doyle (Fr., LB, Sacramento, CA/Inderkum HS) blocked an Occidental punt that was recovered by the Tigers in their own end zone. Jeremiah James (Gr./Sr., WR, Salem, OR/South Salem HS/Chemeketa CC) added a 12-yard touchdown catch from Castaneda to complete an 11-play drive 10 seconds into the fourth quarter. The PAT kick failed, but the Bearcats held an 18-0 lead.
The Bearcats finished the game with 374 total yards and limited Occidental to 164 yards.
"It was great to get the win in front of so many Bearcat supporters at Occidental," Willamette Head Coach Glen Fowles said. "The defense played fast and did a great job versus the run."
Willamette limited the Tigers to just 7 net rushing yards on 25 carries. Meanwhile, the Bearcats rushed for 85 yards on 33 carries.
"On offense, we capitalized on a turnover (1st score), executed a two-minute situation for points (Stirton's field goal on the final play of the half), and converted on a fourth down to set up our final touchdown and ensure the win," Fowles added.
After a scoreless first quarter, Willamette had the ball 4th-and-goal at the Tigers' 6-yard line. An incomplete pass ended the drive. A bit later, Willamette was stopped at the Occidental 4-yard line. On the Tigers' fifth play after the change of possession, Nick Di Fiori (So., DL, Monrovia, CA/Bishop Amat HS) surged through the line for the Bearcats and forced a fumble by DJ Adams. The ball was recovered by Alec Stevenson (Jr., LB, Malibu, CA/Calabasas HS) for Willamette at the 5-yard line.
Caine Farmer (Jr., RB, Kit Carson, CO/Kit Carson School) ran all 5-yards into the end zone on the next play, as the Bearcats scored first with 3:59 left in the second quarter. Stirton kicked the extra point for a 7-0 lead.
Willamette ended the half with a 10-play, 65-yard drive that led to Stirton's field goal and a 10-0 halftime lead. The safety by Willamette's special teams unit in the third quarter and the touchdown catch by James early in the fourth period gave the Bearcats solid control of the game.
Occidental put its only points on the scoreboard with 6:08 left in the fourth quarter on a 33-yard pass from Joshua Greaves to Lucas Savoie. The Tigers failed on a two-point conversion attempt.
Castaneda completed the scoring on an 8-yard run with 2:46 to go. The touchdown ended a 46-yard drive by the Bearcats that featured seven plays. The key play was a 5-yard pass from Castaneda to Jared Paredes (Fr., WR, West Covina, CA/Northview HS) on 4th-and-3 at the Occidental 13-yard line. Castanda reached the end zone on the next play. Stirton kicked the extra point.
Nine Bearcats caught at least one pass during the game. James led the way with seven receptions for 87 yards and a touchdown. Ben Verhoeven (Jr., WR/P, Redlands, CA/Redlands HS) hauled in four passes for 48 yards. Farmer rushed for 36 yards on 10 carries.
Greaves was 14 of 26 passing for Occidental for 157 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Savoie caught six passes for 8 8yards, while DJ Adams grabbed five passes for 43 yards.
Willamette's defense was led by Stevenson, who produced nine total tackles, including 1.5 quarterback sacks and 2.0 tackles for losses. He also earned the game's only fumble recovery. Tommy MacDevitt (Jr., LB, Santa Clara, CA/Saint Francis HS) finished with six total tackles. Andrew Rodriguez (Jr., DB, Santa Clara, CA/Wilcox HS) intercepted a pass on Occidental's final possession of the game. The Bearcats registered 5.0 quarterback sacks and 9.0 tackles for loss.
The top tackler for the Tigers was Sam Meinhard with 10 total tackles. Jackson Caudle added eight total tackles.
Up next for the Bearcats in an open date on Sept. 22, followed by the home opener on Saturday, Sept. 29 against Lewis & Clark College at 4 p.m. (PDT). It will be the NWC opener for both teams.