SALEM, Ore. - Willamette rallied from a 14-0 first half deficit, scoring three touchdowns in the final period to defeat visiting Pacific Lutheran, 35-17, in a Northwest Conference football game played Saturday afternoon at McCulloch Stadium.
Sophomore tailback Jamiere Abney scored three touchdowns in the second half to lead the Bearcats, ranked No. 17 in the D3Football.com Top 25, to their sixth consecutive victory after a season-opening loss. Willamette, the defending conference champion, currently sits atop the NWC standings with a 3-0 record. With the loss, Pacific Lutheran is now 1-4 overall and 1-1 in the conference.
PLU running back Drew Griffin scored a rushing touchdown and a receiving touchdown as the Lutes surged to a 14-0 lead. Griffin's two-yard scoring run with 8:50 remaining in the first quarter capped a 13-play, 70-yard drive. With 3:37 left in the half he took an AJ Palazzolo pass 12 yards for a score to put the Lutes on top, 14-0. The drive consumed 15 plays and covered 80 yards.
Willamette responded with a 63-yard scoring drive, Terrell Malley scoring from six yards out to make it 14-7 at the half.
The Lutes made it 17-7 on Richard Isett's 22-yard field goal with 8:04 left in the third period, and that kick capped another impressive 13-play, 69-yard drive. Again, Willamette responded with another scoring drive, going 74 yards with Jamiere Abney diving in from two yards out.
With the score 17-14 in favor of the Lutes, the host Bearcats benefitted from three short-field drives to tally a trio of touchdowns. Scott Schoettgen caught a 3-yard pass from Kevin Ramay and Abney added 1- and 4-yard scoring runs. Schoettgen's touchdown with 6:48 remaining in the game gave Willamette its first lead at 21-17, and it would not trail after that. The three drives covered 21, 22 and 35 yards.
The Lutes gained 429 yards to 325 for the Bearcats, but they threw four interceptions and lost one fumble. Jordan Rasmussen was 20-for-31 for 248 yards with two picks, and Palazzolo was 11-for-16 for 80 yards and two interceptions. Griffin led the Lutes with 11 receptions for 135 yard. Nick Caraballo, who converted from quarterback to wide receiver at the start of the season, had his best game with five catches for 63 yards.
PLU returns to conference action next Saturday when it hosts the Puget Sound Loggers at 12:30 p.m. at Sparks Stadium in Puyallup.
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