Puget Sound Edges Bearcats, 14-13, on early Fourth Quarter Touchdown

Jeremiah James (Sr./Jr., WR, Salem, OR/South Salem HS/Chemeketa CC)
Jeremiah James (Sr./Jr., WR, Salem, OR/South Salem HS/Chemeketa CC)

By Robert McKinney, Assistant Athletics Director, Communications

TACOMA, Wash. -- Paul Thomas scored on a 5-yard run and Kyle Continente kicked the extra point to give University of Puget Sound a 14-13 lead over Willamette University with 11:31 left in the fourth quarter. The Loggers held on for the win by stopping the Bearcats deep in Puget Sound territory twice before the game ended. Willamatte was at the Puget Sound 5-yard line when the Loggers blocked a 20-yard field goal attempt with 7:27 left. Later, Puget Sound forced an incomplete pass on 4th-and-6 at the Loggers 19-yard line.

Puget Sound advanced its record to 3-4 overall, 2-3 in the Northwest Conference. Willamette fell to 0-7 on the season, 0-5 in the NWC.

Jeremiah James (Sr./Jr., WR, Salem, OR/South Salem HS/Chemeketa CC) scored on a 31-yard run on Willamette's first drive of the game. The Bearcats started the drive at their own 10-yard line following a 58-yard punt by Puget Sound's Dre Kristensen.

Willamette used just five plays to cover the 90 yards, starting with a 24 pass from Mathew Castaneda (So., QB, Salinas, CA/Salinas HS) to Alex Israel (Sr., WR, McMinnville, OR/McMinnville HS). On the fourth play, Castaneda hit Jordan Fickas (Sr., WR, Gilbert, AZ/Campo Verde HS) with a 22-yard pass. James scored on the next play. Ryan Knowlton kicked the extra point to give Willamette a 7-0 lead.

"The guys played hard and we started faster this week on offense and defense," Willamette Head Coach Glen Fowles said.

Two Willamette possessions later, the Bearcats moved from the WU 19 to the Puget Sound 28. The drive ended when a pass by Castaneda was intercepted by Jason Clayton in the end zone. It was WU's only turnover of the game.

With 3:29 left in the second quarter, Justin Marshall (So., RB, Albany, OR/Crescent Valley HS/Dakota College) of Willamette scored on a 5-yard run, as the Bearcats increased the margin to 13-0. Marshall's score completed a 10-play, 62-yard drive that took 5:22 off the scoreboard in the second quarter. Early in the drive, Castaneda picked up a 3rd-and-1 at the WU 47 with a 5-yard pass to Kevin Martz (Sr., WR, Salem, OR/South Salem HS/Claremont McKenna College). James carried the ball for 10 more yards on the next play.

Later, on 3rd-and-3 at the Loggers 20, James dashed 15 yards for a first down. Marshall reached the end zone on 1st-and-goal, but the extra point failed.

Puget Sound pulled within 13-7 at halftime after Tanner Diebold crossed the goal line for the Loggers on a 10-yard run with 19 seconds remaining in the half. The Loggers began the drive at the Willamette 48 with 1:10 on the clock. Diebold completed passes of 17 yards to Jacob Smith and 21 yards to Dustin Harrison to advance the ball to the 10-yard line. Diebold threw an incomplete pass before running across the goal line on second down. Continente kicked the conversion.

Neither team scored again until Thomas recorded the winning touchdown. Even so, the Bearcats had four strong possessions in the second half.

Willamette started its second drive of the half at the Puget Sound 47 after Terae Jones (So., DB, Seattle, WA/O'Dea HS) intercepted a pass by Diebold and returned it 38 yards. The Bearcats moved to the 22-yard line on the second play, when Matt Stone (Jr., RB, Brainbrige Island, WA/Bainbridge HS/Eastern Oregon Univ.) dashed for 25 yards, and reached the 9-yard line two plays later with a 9-yard run by Marshall. Stone rushed for two yards and Fickas caught a 5-yard pass to get the ball to the 2-yard line, but Stone was stopped for no gain on third down and Castaneda threw an incomplete pass on fourth down.

After forcing Puget Sound to punt four plays later, the Bearcats gained control at the Puget Sound 44. A 15-yard penalty against the Loggers on the first play moved the ball to the 28-yard line. On 4th-and-6 at the 24, Castaneda's pass to Martz was broken up by Zackary Teats.

The Loggers then drove to the WU 39, but a fumble by Thomas at the end of a 22-yard gain was recovered by the Bearcats at the Puget Sound 17. The Loggers limited Willamette to six yards on three plays and the Bearcats punted. Puget Sound responded with a 55-yard drive that took seven plays. The big plays were runs of eight yards and 12 yards by Jesten Kainalu-Moya and a 20-yard pass from Diebold to Harrison that brought the ball to the Bearcats 5-yard line. Thomas rushed into the end zone on the next play. Continente's extra point put Puget Sound in front, 14-13.

WU's last two threatening possessions were earned after the Bearcats trailed on the scoreboard.

Followinig the touchdown by Thomas, the kickoff by Continente went out of bounds. By rule, the Bearcats took over at the WU 35. Willamette kept the ball for nine plays, starting with thee consecutive completions by Castaneda that went for nine yards to Israel and for five yards and 14 yards to Fickas. Puget Sound was called for roughing the passer on the second pass to Fickas, so the ball was moved to the Loggers 22-yard line.

On second down, Castaneda connected with Martz on a 10-yard pass to put the ball at the 9-yard line. The Loggers kept WU out of the end zone, as Castaneda threw incomplete on 3rd-and-goal from the 5-yard line, and Knowlton's 20-yard field goal attempt was blocked on fourth down.

The Bearcats got the ball back following a punt with 3:47 remaining. Castaneda led the Bearcats from the WU 24 to the Puget Sound 14. Key plays were a 14-yard pass to Israel and a 24-yard strike to James. A 9-yard run by Castaneda created 2nd-and-1 at the 14. After two incomplete passes and an illegal procedure penalty against the Bearcats, WU faced 4th-and-6 at the 19. Castaneda's pass toward Fickas was broken up by Teats, and the Loggers ran out the clock.

"There were times of great execution on both sides of the ball today, but we ned to capitalize more on our opportunities," Fowles commented. "Mikael Ruffin made a lot of tackles today and Terae Jones' interception kept them out of the red zone."

Willamette gained 406 yards of total offense, while Puget Sound finished the game with 314 yards. Castaneda was 19 of 40 passing for 206 yards and one interception. He also rushed for 51 yards on 11 carries. James led the Bearcats with 73 yards on six rushing attempts. Stone added 54 yards on 12 carries. Fickas topped the WU receivers with six catches for 52 yards. Israel hauled in five passes for 74 yards and James grabbed three receptions for 33 yards.

Diebold connected on 13 of 29 passes for the Loggers, as he gained 176 yards with one interception. Harrison caught a game-high seven passes for 100 yards. Thomas rushed for 84 yards on 20 carries.

Mikael Ruffin (Sr., ILB, Puyallup, WA/Rogers HS) was Willamette's top tackler with 13 total stops. He recorded 11 unassisted tackles and two assisted tackles. He was credited with one quarterback sack and 1.5 tackles for loss. Tommy MacDevitt (So., OLB, Santa Clara, CA/Saint Francis HS) and Alec Stevenson (So., ILB, Malibu, CA/Calabasas HS) each finished with seven solo tackles, two assists, and nine total tackles for the Bearcats.

Max Washam led the Loggers with 12 total tackles, including nine unassisted tackles. Keanu Songcuan earned 11 tackles, with eight solo stops and three assists. Songcuan registered 3.0 tackles for loss.

Willamette will play at home on Saturday, Nov. 4 against Pacific University. Game time at McCulloch Stadium is set for 1 p.m. (PDT).