COMING UP: There are four Northwest Conference teams that are unbeaten at this point in the season, and one week after facing Linfield the Lutes will meet another one of them when they travel to Portland, Ore., to battle Lewis & Clark. Kickoff is slated for 1 p.m. at Griswold Stadium, which is on the L&C campus.
FOLLOW THE LUTES: You can listen to PLU football action throughout the year in the Tacoma area on KLAY 1180 AM with Steve Thomas and Karl Hoseth calling the action. The broadcasts are also available online on the KLAY website (www.klay1180.com). Additionally, listeners can access the PLU football broadcasts on the PLU athletics website at www.golutes.com, then clicking on Listen Live and following the link.
SERIES HISTORY: With the series dating back to the early 1930s, there is plenty of history to note between these two programs. Pacific Lutheran and head coach Clifford Olson won the inaugural match up back in 1933 by a score of 6-0. Moving to 1947, the two teams battled to a 0-0 tie in a season that saw the Lutes finish 7-0-2. The 1960s and early 70s offered highly contested games that saw the overall series record tilt 7-5-1 in L&C's favor. Since the 1972 season, the Lutes are 30-3 against the Pioneers, though L&C ended a 16-game PLU winning streak last year with a 34-32 win in Puyallup. Through 46 total contests the Lutes hold the series record at 35-10-1.
SCOUTING THE PIONEERS: It used to be that when you talked about Lewis & Clark, there was only one player to talk about - quarterback Keith Welch. Well, he's still as dynamic an offensive player as there is in the Northwest Conference, but the Pioneers are about so much more than Welch. No question, though, that you start your discussion of the Pioneers with Welch. The senior quarterback is a right-handed Northwest Conference version of Michael Vick. An elusive runner who can throw the ball effectively, Welch has earned all-conference honors while serving as the lynch pin behind L&C's football resurgence. This season, he leads the team with seven rushing touchdowns while averaging 46.2 yards on the ground. Through the air, he is 82-for-134 for 1,091 yards with 10 touchdowns and just one interception. Jacob Constantino has 21 catches for 298 yards and three touchdowns, and Nico Ohland has added 14 grabs for 263 yards and two scores. Curtis Shirey, at just 160 pounds, averages 100 rushing yards per contest through the Pioneers' first four games. Defensively, linebackers Andrew Traver with 25 tackles and Jon Bielawicz with 21 tackles are among the team leaders, sandwiching safety Joe Kopp and his 23 stops, including five tackles for loss. Defensive back Josh Cena leads the team with three interceptions. The Pioneers average 38.5 points and 437.5 yards per game while allowing 24.0 points and 318.8 yards per contest.
LUTE NOTES: For the first time this season, Pacific Lutheran will not be playing a nationally ranked team. PLU has lost twice at home to ranked teams - 37-23 to then No. 11 Cal Lutheran and 31-24 to No. 3 Linfield - in addition to a 28-14 road win against then No. 25 Redlands. Still, Lewis & Clark will provide a difficult challenge for this young PLU team. Overall this season the Lutes are averaging 25.0 points and 389.0 yards of offense per game while giving up averages of 27.3 points and 342.7. The Lutes' offense is built around the passing attack led by sophomore quarterback Dalton Ritchey and his corps of young receivers. Ritchey is 61-for-107 (57.0 percent) for 918 yards with five touchdowns and three interceptions. Redshirt freshman wide receiver Kellen Westering is his favorite target with 19 receptions for 349 yards and two touchdowns, while sophomore wide receiver Kyle Warner has 14 grabs for 270 yards and two scores. Another sophomore, slot back Daniel Herr, has 13 catches for 117 yards. Senior running back Brandon James averages 62.7 rushing yards per game and has two of PLU's four rushing TDs this season. While we're on the offense, it's interesting to note that while the Lutes have outscored their opponents 38-17 in the second quarter, they have been outscored 23-0 in the third period of their three games. In the turnover battle, PLU has given the ball away seven times and taken it away 11 times. On defense, senior linebacker Jordan Patterson leads the team with 22 tackles, followed by sophomore safety Greg Hibbard with 19, junior nose tackle Mychael Tuiasosopo with 18 and junior linebacker Dalton Darmody with 16. Junioir cornerback Jonny Volland has 13 tackles and a team-high three interceptions, and sophomore cornerback Connor Cummings has 11 total tackles and two fumble recoveries.
PUT ON THE HEAT: Through three games the Lutes have six sacks, and while adding to that number is a priority for the defense, all-out pressure on Lewis & Clark quarterback Keith Welch can be a tall order. Welch is as mobile a quarterback as the Lutes have faced in a very long time, so their ability to contain him and prevent long gains when he breaks out of the pocket will be a key to PLU's success this coming Saturday. So while sacks are nice - and the Lutes would like lots of them - keeping Mr. Welch's scary-good scrambling down to a minimum is the higher priority.
ABOUT THE COACHES: Scott Westering is in his ninth year as head coach at Pacific Lutheran, where he has compiled a 41-34 overall record. Scott joined the PLU coaching staff in 1981 after playing tight end for the Lutes under his father, Frosty Westering. Scott served as the Lutes' offensive coordinator from 1983-2003, helping PLU to two NAIA Division II and one NCAA Division III national championships, as well as four runner-up finishes. He has coached 11 first-team All-Americans, including the 1999 NCAA Division III Player of the Year, Chad Johnson. Scott was a captain and All-American tight end on the 1980 PLU team that won the Lutes' first NAIA national championship. He was inducted into the PLU Hall of Fame in 1998. Chris Sulages is in his sixth year as the Pioneer head coach after spending his first two seasons coaching the offensive line and serving as the recruiting coordinator. He has an 18-40 overall record, including an 11-2 record since the start of the 2011 campaign. Sulages led the 2011 Pioneers to a 7-2 mark, the program's first winning season since the 1995 team finished 5-4 under Chuck Solberg. After compiling consecutive 0-9 seasons in his initial two seasons at L&C, Sulages has led the program to gradual improvement, leading to last year's breakout record. He served as the offensive coordinator in the 2005 season. From 2001-2002, Sulages coached offensive line and tight ends at Division I-AA Cal State Northridge. In 2001, the Matadors were the second-ranked total offense in the nation.
LAST YEAR: Lewis & Clark College ended several decades of frustration on a sunny October 29, 2011 afternoon in Puyallup, rallying from a 13-point halftime deficit to beat Pacific Lutheran, 34-32. The Pioneers put an end to a 16-game losing streak to the Lutes that dated back to 1990, and it did so with an impressive offensive display in the second half. After managing just 82 total yards through the game's first 30 minutes, the Pioneers added 282 yards in the second half. The Pioneers scored on four of their six second half possession, not including a kneel down to end the game. A lot of that second half yardage came via the ground game as quarterback Keith Welch and tailback Joevonte Mayes sliced through the PLU defense. Mayes gained 97 of his 116 net yards in the second half, while Welch ended up with 48 on 20 carries, though he had to recover from a negative nine rushing yards in a first half in which he was bottled up by the PLU defense. Welch also was effective throwing the ball in the final half with 103 yards and he finished with 168 yards on 15-for-31 accuracy with one touchdown and two interceptions. The game started like many in the series between the programs as the Lutes scored on their first two possessions. They took the opening kickoff and drove 65 yards on five plays with Zack Halverson hitting Dalton Ritchey on a 41-yard scoring pass. PLU scored in a hurry on its next possession when Alex McDiarmid got behind the defense and Halverson found him for a 68-yard score. Lewis & Clark made some noise in the second quarter, going 66 yards on 13 plays before Curtis Shirey swept the left end and tiptoed down the sideline from nine yards out. The Lutes got the score right back, however, going 60 yards on 11 plays before Halverson and Ritchey connected for the second time, this one from seven yards. The teams traded touchdowns in the third period, L&C scoring on a 24-yard pass from Welch to Shawn Evans to cap a 60-play drive, while PLU scored on Daniel Herr's 11-yard sweep to cap a 69-yard drive. Entering the final period, the Lutes were on top 26-14 and seemed well on the way to their 17th straight win in the series. The Pioneers responded with three touchdowns in the final quarter, starting with Welch's 15-yard pass to Andrew Frisina at the end of a 12-play, 83-yard drive. The PAT made it 26-21 in favor of the Lutes. Lewis & Clark took the lead with 7:32 remaining on a 5-yard Mayes run that capped a 53-yard drive set up when the Pios held the Lutes on downs. The two-point pass attempt failed, but the Pios had their first lead of the game at 27-26. Needing a score to regain the lead, the Lutes instead gave the ball away at their own 37-yard line when a fake punt was easily sniffed out. The Pioneers made the most of that opportunity when Shirey scored his second rushing touchdown, this time from 10 yards, giving the visitors a 34-26 advantage with 1:49 remaining. The Lutes had one last chance to tie it, and Herr's 33-yard kickoff return to the L&C 48-yard line set them up in good position. Halverson completed five straight passes to move the ball to the L&C two-yard line. After three incompletions and facing fourth down, Halverson connected with Kyle Warner for the touchdown with 30.4 seconds left. Halverson's two-point pass attempt to Jon Zeglin was batted away, however, keeping L&C on top 34-32. Pacific Lutheran's attempt at an onside kick was grabbed by Chris Kelly, who returned the ball to the PLU 21-yard line, and the Pios ended the game with Welch's kneel down. The Lutes actually finished with a 435-364 advantage in total yards, with 364 of those yards coming through the air. Halverson was 26-for-39 with four touchdowns and one interception. Ritchey had seven catches for 104 yards and two scores to lead the Lutes.
LAST WEEK: John Shaffer slipped away from a couple of tacklers, reversed field and raced 32 yards for the winning touchdown with about seven minutes left as No. 3-ranked Linfield held off Pacific Lutheran, 31-24, last Saturday at Sparks Stadium. The game marked the Northwest Conference opener for both teams. While Linfield had dominated the previous 10 games, outscoring the Lutes by an average of almost 34 points per contest, this was a return to some of the classic Pacific Lutheran versus Linfield clashes of the 1970s through 1990s. The Lutes took the opening drive 82 yards on just four play, scoring when wide receiver Kellen Westering took a short pass, spun away from a defender and then raced 71 yards to paydirt. That score came less than three minutes into the contest, and PLU's next touchdown came about 2 1/2 minutes later following a Greg Hibbard interception and 28-yard return to the Linfield 17-yard line. Dalton Ritchey hit Kyle Warner with a 6-yard pass, and after Nick Kaylor's kick the Lutes led 14-0. A PLU miscue on its next possession led the Linfield's first touchdown. Ritchey bobbled the center snap in the shotgun formation and Linfield's KeAlii Poomaihealani fell on the ball at the PLU 6-yard line. On a fourth-and-goal, Inns passed to Westly Meng for three yards and a touchdown. On the second play of the second period the Lutes scored again when Westering leaped above two Linfield defenders to pull in a 32-yard scoring strike from Ritchey. The athletic play capped a seven-play, 64-yard drive and put the home team on top, 21-7. Linfield pulled even by the intermission when Inns hit Zach Young with a 15-yard touchdown pass and then found Aaron Hire with an 8-yard scoring aerial. The third quarter belonged to the Wildcats, who despite gaining 131 yards on 23 plays to 25 yards on eight plays for the Lutes, managed just three points on a 45-yard Josh Kay field goal. Pacific Lutheran's defense made the next big play as Conor Gabbert forced Stephen Nasca to fumble, with Hibbard falling on the ball at the PLU 41-yard line. The Lutes took the ball down the field and looked to have a touchdown pass to Lucas Sontra on a third-and-19, but Sontra couldn't hold on to the ball. Kaylor came into the game and booted a 37-yard field goal to tie the score with 9:00 left in the game. That left it up to the 'Cats and Shaffer to drive the ball down the field and score the winning touchdown. Linfield ended up with 341 total yards to 315 for the Lutes. Inn was 17-for-31 for 208 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions, while Shaffer netted 83 yards on 14 carries. David Singler had four catches for 39 yards and Charlie Poppen added three grabs for 69 yards as Inns connected with nine different receivers. Ritchey was 18-for-33 for 296 yards with three touchdowns and one interception. Westering had five grabs for 146 yards and two scores, Daniel Herr had five grabs for 31 yards, and Warner ended up with four catches for 60 yards. The PLU ground game, hindered by seven Linfield sacks, accounted for just 19 net yards on 27 carries. For the Lutes defensively, Jordan Patterson was in on 11 tackles, while Ben Kaestner contributed a quarterback sack among his eight tackles.
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