Pacific Lutheran Builds 21-0 Halftime Lead, Defeats Willamette, 27-14

Kevin Martz (Sr./Jr., WR, Salem, OR/South Salem HS/Claremont McKenna College)
Kevin Martz (Sr./Jr., WR, Salem, OR/South Salem HS/Claremont McKenna College)

By Robert McKinney, Assistant Athletics Director, Communications

SALEM, Ore. -- Pacific Lutheran University buiilt a 21-0 halftime lead on its way to a 27-14 victory over Willamette University in Northwest Conference action on Saturday, Oct. 21. The Lutes upped their record to 2-3 on the season, 2-2 in the NWC. Willamette fell to 0-6 overall, 0-4 in the NWC. The game was played in rainy and windy conditions.

Willamette quarterback Mathew Castaneda (So., QB, Salinas, CA/Salinas HS) saw his first action in three games since an injury against Lewis & Clark College. He entered Saturday's game in the second quarter and was 16 of 29 passing for 104 yards and one touchdown. He threw two interceptions. Castaneda also rushed nine times for 33 yards and one score.

Kevin Martz (Sr., WR, Salem, OR/South Salem HS/Claremont McKenna College) and Jordan Fickas (Sr., WR, Gilbert, AZ/Campo Verde HS) each caught seven passes for the Bearcats. Martz gained 85 yards on his catches, while Fickas earned 47 yards.

PLU quarterback Cole Chandler completed just 5 of 17 passes for 150 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions. He kept the ball an additional 14 times for 57 yards on the ground. Running back Marc Gallant rushed 18 times 50 yards and wide receiver Wesley Nixon carried the ball four times for 48 yards. Jacob King grabbed two passes for 77 yards and one score.

"Our second half of football was better than our first half," Willamette Head Coach Glen Fowles said. "Our defense came up with some timely stops, and Mikael Ruffin (Sr., ILB, Puyallup, WA/Rogers HS) made a lot of tackles (12 overall). We played a very good fourth quarter, and the guys never stopped competing. We need to build on that moving forward."

The Lutes scored the game's opening touchdown on their first play from scrimmage after forcing Willamette to punt. King scored the touchdown by hauling in a 15-yard pass from Chandler and running to the end zone for a  46-yard play. Alex Brost kicked the extra point with 13:41 left in the first half. PLU remained in front 7-0 at the start of the second quarter.

Pacific Lutheran increased its lead to on a 3-yard touchdown run by Ethan McElderry with 8:53 remaining in the first half. The drive covered 64 yards and lasted 15 plays, including the first 11 plays of the second quarter. Chandler dashed for 21 yards on 3rd-and-12 at the PLU 45-yard line to keep the drive going. Later, he rushed 3 yards on 4th-and-1 at the WU 13. On 3rd-and-goal, Chandler threw an incomplete pass, but Willamette was called for roughing the passer and the Lutes received a first down at the 4-yard line. McElderry scored on second down.

A 46-yard punt by Ryan Knowlton (Sr., QB/P, Puyallup, WA/Emerald Ridge HS) of Willamette was downed by Caine Farmer (So., RB, Kit Carson, CO/Kit Carson School) at the PLU 3-yard line with 7:00 left in the second quarter. The Bearcats forced the Lutes to punt and took over at the PLU 32. On 4th-and-1 at the 23-yard line, Tristan Zucktriegel tackled Justin Marshall (So., RB, Albany, OR/Crescent Valley HS/Dakota College) for a 2-yard loss.

Mikael Ruffin (Sr., ILB, Puyallup, WA/Rogers HS) The Willamette defense held the Lutes and the Bearcats received the ball at their own 40-yard line following a punt. Three plays later, Castaneda was intercepted by Travis McMillion at the PLU 49. McMillion returned the interception 51 yards for a touchdown. Brost kicked the extra point, giving the Lutes a 21-0 lead.

On the first play after the kickoff, Willamette fumbled and PLU recovered at the WU 41-yard line. Chandler then threw a 31-yard pass to King, who fumbled at the end of the play and the Lutes recovered. The Bearcats stopped PLU on three plays, before Dallan Rodriguez missed wide right on a 27-yard field goal with 12 seconds on the clock.

Pacific Lutheran scored on its first possession of the second half for its final touchdown of the game. The Lutes drove 54 yards on five plays after forcing a punt to begin the half. DJ Winter scored the touchdown on a 32-yard pass from Chandler with 10:10 left in the third quarter. The extra point kick by Brost hit the right upright and was no good.

Neither team scored during the rest of the third quarter, but the Bearcats earned their first touchdown of the game with 10:22 remaining in the fourth quarter. The Bearcats moved 66 yards on seven plays. Castaneda started the drive with a 10-yard pass to Martz and an 8-yard pass to Fickas. On the third play, Castaneda completed another pass to Martz, who gained 12 yards before fumbling at the PLU 36. The ball bounced upfield and was recovered by teammate Jeremiah James (Sr./Jr., WR, Salem, OR/South Salem HS/Chemeketa CC) at the 26-yard line. James was stopped at the PLU 24.

Three plays later, on 3rd-and-1, Castaneda connected with Fickas on a 13-yard toss. Castaneda scored on a 1-yard run on the next play. Benjamin Jahn (Sr./Jr., DL, Juneau, AK/Thunder Mountain HS) kicked the extra point to reduce the Lutes' lead to 27-7.

Willamette took over again with 8:33 on the clock and drove from the PLU 49 to the 13-yard line, but Castanda was tackled for a 1-yard game on 4th-and-4. The Lutes had to punt four plays later. Anthony Louthan's kick went off the end of his foot and into the turf for a negative 5-yard punt. The Bearcats gained control at the Pacific Lutheran 15 and scored in three plays. Matt Stone (Jr., RB, Brainbrige Island, WA/Bainbridge HS/Eastern Oregon Univ.) set up the touchdown with a 9-yard run. Fickas scored the points on a 3-yard pass from Castaneda. Jahn's conversion kick pulled WU within 27-14.

The Lutes gained 355 total yards with 205 rushing and 150 passing. The Bearcats finished with 297 yards on 180 passing yards and 117 rushing yards. PLU earned 16 first downs compared to 13 for Willamette.

Ruffin's 12 tackles led all players. He also recorded one-half sack and broke up a pass for Willamette. Tommy MacDevitt (So., OLB, Santa Clara, CA/Saint Francis HS) contributed 11 tackles (8 unassisted). Carson Ketter topped PLU's defense with 10 tackles (8 unassisted). McMillion had both of the game's interceptions.

The Bearcats will play at University of Puget Sound on Saturday, Oct. 28 in Tacoma, Washington. Kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m. (PDT).