FOREST GROVE, Ore. - Pacific Lutheran took a 28-2 lead into the fourth quarter and added two late touchdowns as a knockout punch to beat the Pacific Boxers, 41-23, in a Northwest Conference football game played Saturday at Lincoln Park Stadium.
With the victory the Lutes move above the .500 mark for the first time this season with a 3-2 record, and they are 2-1 in the conference. Pacific is now 2-4 overall and 1-2 in the NWC.
As they did a year ago, the Lutes built a big early lead and then held off a comeback effort by the pesky Boxers.
PLU scored four of its touchdowns on running plays, another on a pass, and the final one when nose tackle Mychael Tuiasosopo intercepted a pass and returned it 22 yards for PLU's final touchdown with 2:36 remaining in the game.
Brandon James capped a seven-play, 75-yard drive by scoring on a 2-yard run with 45 seconds left in the first quarter to get the Lutes on the board. James scored the second touchdown on a 1-yard pass from Dalton Ritchey, finishing off a nine-play, 58-yard drive, but failed conversions after those scores kept the score at 12-0. Pacific Lutheran's third consecutive sustained drive, this one a six-play, 62-yard journey, ended with Niko Madison's 4-yard run. One of the Boxers' few first half highlights came on the PAT when the kick was blocked and returned for a two-point scored by Craig Bailey.
The Lutes took their 18-2 lead into the third period and added a 22-yard field goal by Nick Kaylor and a 1-yard touchdown run by Dalton Ritchey, making the score 28-2.
Pacific tallied back-to-back touchdowns on a pair of 6-yard scoring passes by P.J. Minaya, the second coming after a successful onside kick recovery.
The next onside kick was recovered by PLU's Connor Cummings, and the Lutes proceeded to drive 46 yards on eight plays with Cody Pohren crashing into the end zone from the 3-yard line. That made the score 35-16, but it stayed that way for only one play after the ensuing kickoff because Tuiasosopo was in the right place to pick off a Minaya and take it to the house. The "pick six" was the second of the season for the PLU defense.
Pacific added its final score with 16 seconds remaining, Minaya throwing his third scoring pass of the period to cap an 80-yard drive.
By the time the game ended Pacific owned a 415-413 advantage in total yards, but the Lutes held the ball for nearly 36 minutes to just 24 for the home team.
James led the Lutes with 70 rushing yards on 11 carries, while Ritchey was 24-for-31 for 262 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions. Kyle Warner was his favorite receiver with 11 catches for 142 yards.
Greg Hibbard had seven tackles and Cummings ended up with four tackles, an interception and a fumble recovery. Minaya was 32-for-45 for 342 yards with three interceptions and his three touchdowns, and the PLU defense limited Pacific to 73 rushing yards on 23 attempts.
The Lutes return to Northwest Conference action, and to Sparks Stadium in Puyallup, when they host the unbeaten Willamette Bearcats at 12:30 next Saturday.
- PLU -