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Given At-Large Berth, Lutes Prep for Linfield in National Playoffs

Jordan Patterson (48) and his defensive teammates will have their hands full trying to stop John Shaffer and the high-powered Linfield offense.

PLAYOFF BOUND: Pacific Lutheran returns to the NCAA Division III football playoffs for the first time since 2001 when it faces Northwest Conference rival Linfield in an opening round game on Saturday at Maxwell Field in McMinnville, Ore. Kickoff is slated for noon.

FOLLOW THE LUTES: The PLU vs. Linfield playoff game can be heard in the Puget Sound 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.

VIDEO STREAMING: Linfield College provides a live video stream, which will be available at http://client.stretchinternet.com/client/linfield.portal#.

HOW THEY GOT HERE: PLU is one of seven "Pool C" conference runner-up teams to receive a berth in the national playoffs. Northwest Conference champion Linfield, which defeated PLU 31-24 during the regular season in Puyallup, is one of 24 "Pool A" conference winners to receive an automatic bid to the postseason. The other berth in the 32-team field is reserved for a "Pool B" non-conference-affiliated team.

WHAT'S NEXT: Should Pacific Lutheran win Saturday's contest will face the winner of another Saturday afternoon contest pitting Cal Lutheran and North Central (Ill.). Should Linfield win, it will host the winner of that game. The other half of the region bracket has these matchups - Bethel (Minn.) at Concordia (Ill), and St. Scholastica (Minn.) at UW-Oshkosh.

PLAYOFF TICKET INFORMATION:

• Phone orders are accepted, however, those purchasing tickets in person will be given priority. Pacific Lutheran fans are asked to call 503-883-2229 to reserve tickets.

• By NCAA requirement, Linfield has allotted 500 seat for Pacific Lutheran fans behind the PLU bench. That section of seats is not covered, but Lutes fans are encouraged to purchase tickets in that section.

• When placing a ticket order over the phone, be prepared to leave a message with your credit card information.

• All covered reserved seats are $15, uncovered reserved tickets are $12 and adult general admission is $10.

• General admission for students is priced at $6 with a current college or high school ID card and sold day of the game only. Children under 3 are admitted free.

• No complimentary tickets will be issued and Northwest Conference passes will not be honored.

• Tickets may be picked up starting at 10 a.m. at Maxwell Stadium's Will Call on game day, and the gate will open at that time.

PLU IN THE NCAA DIVISION III PLAYOFFS: When the Northwest Conference made the switch from the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) to NCAA Division III affiliation in the fall of 1998, Pacific Lutheran became the first conference football program to participate in the Division III playoffs. That year, the Lutes traveled to Collegeville, Minn., where they lost a 33-20 opening-round game to Saint John's. PLU would return to the Division III playoffs each of the next three seasons, and Saint John's was an opponent each of those years. During that four-year run Pacific Lutheran won eight of its 11 games. The Lutes won the 1999 national title (read more about that in the next note), and in 2000 won at Bethel (Minn.), 41-13, before falling to Saint John's in overtime, 28-21, in the only Division III playoff game that they played at Sparks Stadium, their home field. In 2001, the Lutes, second place in the conference, again received an at-large bid and won their opener at NWC champion Whitworth in overtime, 27-26. The next week they beat host Central in Pella, Iowa, 27-21 in overtime, but then saw their season come to an end in a 31-6 loss to Saint John's in a game played at the Fargo (N.D.) Dome because of blizzard-like conditions in the area.

Year Opponent Location Result
1998 Saint John's (Minn.) Collegeville, Minn. L, 33-20
       
1999 Willamette Salem, Ore. W, 28-24
  Wartburg (Iowa) Waverly, Iowa W, 49-14
  Saint John's (Minn.) Collegeville, Minn. W, 19-9
  Trinity (Texas) San Antonio, Texas W, 49-28
  Rowan (N.J.) Salem, Va. W, 42-13
      NCAA Championship 
       
2000 Bethel (Minn.) St. Paul, Minn. W, 41-13
  Saint John's (Minn.) Puyallup, Wash. L, 28-21 (OT)
       
2001 Whitworth (Wash.) Spokane, Wash. W, 27-26 (OT)
  Central (Iowa) Pella, Iowa W, 27-21 (OT)
  Saint John's (Minn.) Fargo, N.D. L, 31-6

 

1999 CHAMPIONSHIP SEASON: In 1999, the Lutes finished second in the conference standings behind Willamette but received the final at-large bid in the West Region bracket. They opened the playoffs at Willamette and rallied for a 28-24 victory. That set the Lutes on a 16,000-mile journey and eventually to a national championship, making Pacific Lutheran's football program the only one in Division III history to win a title while playing all of its games on the road. In the second round PLU defeated Wartburg 49-14 in Waverly, Iowa, and in the following round the team topped Saint John's, 19-9, again in Collegeville, Minn. In the national semifinals, the Lutes defeated Trinity 49-28 in San Antonio, Texas, and in the championship game they beat Rowan 42-13 in Salem, Va.

LINFIELD IN THE DIVISION III PLAYOFFS: Linfield makes its fourth consecutive appearance in the Division III playoffs and its ninth overall. It has compiled an overall record of 14-7 in 21 previous playoff contests. The Wildcats have played 16 of their 21 NCAA playoff games at home and are 13-3 at Maxwell Field. Like PLU, Linfield also won a Division III national championship in 2004, and it most recently made a semifinal appearance in 2009 when it lost to Wisconsin-Whitewater.

Year Opponent Location Result
2000 Central (Iowa) McMinnville, Ore. L, 20-17 (OT)
       
2002 Wartburg (Iowa) McMinnville, Ore. W, 52-15
  Saint John's (Minn.) McMinnville, Ore. L, 21-14
       
2003 Redlands (Calif.) McMinnville, Ore. W, 31-23
  Wartburg (Iowa) McMinnville, Ore. W, 23-20
  Saint John's (Minn.) Collegeville, Minn. L, 31-25
       
2004 UW-La Crosse (Wis.) McMinnville, Ore. W, 52-14
  Occidental (Calif.) McMinnville, Ore. W, 56-27
  Rowan (N.J.) McMinnville, Ore. W, 52-0
  Mary Hardin-Baylor (Texas) Salem, Va. W, 28-21
      NCAA Championship
       
2005 Occidental (Calif.) McMinnville, Ore. W, 63-21
  Concordia-Moorhead (Minn.) McMinnville, Ore. W, 28-14
  UW-Whitewater (Wis.) McMinnville, Ore. L, 44-41
       
2009 Cal Lutheran (Calif.) McMinnville, Ore. W, 38-17
  Mary Hardin-Baylor (Texas) McMinnville, Ore. W, 53-21
  St. Thomas (Minn.) McMinnville, Ore. W, 31-20
  UW-Whitewater (Wis.) Whitewater, Wis. L, 27-17
       
2010 Cal Lutheran (Calif.) McMinnville, Ore. W, 42-26
  St. Thomas (Minn.) St. Paul, Minn. L, 24-17 (2OT)
       
2011 Cal Lutheran (Calif.) McMinnville, Ore. W, 30-27
  Wesley (Del.) Dover, Del. L, 49-34

 

THE SERIES: Linfield has a 37-21-4 advantage in the series that dates all the way back to 1933 when it beat Pacific Lutheran College, 20-6. The Wildcats are currently on an 11-game winning streak against PLU, which is the longest winning streak for either team in the series. During the first 10 games of that streak Linfield scored at least 40 points six times and averaged 39.1 points per game compared to 15.7 for the Lutes. PLU's last victory in the series came by a 31-20 score in 2001 in McMinnville. Pacific Lutheran has twice put together three-game winning streaks against Linfield (1939-41, 1994-96). Linfield's biggest margin of victory was 45 points (45-0) in 2008, while Pacific Lutheran's biggest win came by 39 points (45-6) way back in 1940.

THE FIRST MEETING: In a regular season game played on Sept. 29 at Sparks Stadium in Puyallup, John Shaffer ran 32 yards for the winning touchdown with about seven minutes left as Linfield held off Pacific Lutheran, 31-24. Shaffer's winning touchdown run came at the conclusion of a five-play, 70-yard drive and turned what looked like a loss of yards into the winning points. He swept to the right, escaped a tackler, maintained his balance with one hand on the ground, and then followed a block by quarterback Mickey Inns around the left side and into the end zone. Pacific Lutheran had two more possessions after that but could not scoring the tying touchdown. 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. 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. Through the first quarter PLU had a 134-33 dominance in total offense, and on the second play of the second period the Lutes scored again. This time Westering leaped above two Linfield defenders to pull in a 32-yard scoring strike from Ritchey to put the home team on top, 21-7. Linfield pulled even by the intermission, however, on a pair of Inns touchdown passes covering 15 yards to Zach Young and eight yards to Aaron Hire. 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 tied the game at 24-24 when Kaylor booted a 37-yard field goal 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 and Nasca added 62 on 17 attempts. 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. Michael MacClanathan had two quarterback sacks for Linfield, while Jordan Patterson was in on 11 tackles for the Lutes.

LINFIELD FAST FACTS: Linfield, 9-0 and ranked third in the d3football.com poll and fourth in the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) poll, is one of four top-seeded teams in the regional brackets. It won its 36th Northwest Conference championship this season with a 6-0 record. Riding a 26-game regular-season winning streak dating to the 2010 season, Linfield completed an unbeaten regular season for the eighth time since 2000 and 19th time in its history.

PLU FAST FACTS: Pacific Lutheran is 7-2 this season and is ranked No. 20 in the d3football.com national poll. PLU is in "others receiving votes" in the AFCA national poll.

SCOUTING LINFIELD: The Wildcats swept the top awards in the recently announced All-Northwest Conference football list. Not only was Joseph Smith named Coach of the Year, senior quarterback Mickey Inns was selected as Offensive Player of the Year and junior linebacker Dom Forrest was picked as Defensive Player of the Year. In all, Linfield placed 15 players on the all-conference team. Inns is 187-for-309 this season (.605 percent) for 2,526 yards with 27 touchdowns and just five interceptions. His favorite targets are senior wide receiver Deidre Wiersma with 46 receptions for 528 yards and seven TDs, sophomore wide receiver Charlie Poppen with 40 catches for 648 yards and eight scores, and senior wide receiver Lucas Jepson with 33 grabs for 455 yards and three touchdowns. The running game is led by freshman John Shaffer with 413 yards and seven touchdowns on 85 carries. The Wildcats average 44.8 points and 485.8 yards per game while allowing 16.2 points and 270.8 yards per game. Forest leads the defense with 56 total tackles, including 8.5 for loss, and he has a pair of interceptions. Junior defensive backs Kyle Wright and Colin Forman are next on the tackles list with 50 and 42, respectively, and Forman has three interceptions. Junior linebacker Ty Robitaille has seven tackles for loss among his 37 total tackles, while junior defensive end Brynnan Hyland has created havoc on opposing offenses with 19 tackles for loss (110 yards), including 16.5 quarterback sacks (101 yards). Senior kicker Josh Kay is 8-for-19 on field goals with a long of 45 yards.

LUTE NOTES: Pacific Lutheran averages 33.6 points and 412.0 yards per game while allowing opponents 21.7 points and 336.7 yards per contest. Its only losses of the season came at home against nationally ranked Cal Lutheran (37-23) in the first week of the season and to nationally ranked Linfield (31-24) in the third week of the campaign. Since then, PLU has run off seven consecutive wins. Senior Brandon James leads the running game, which averages 138.6 yards per contest, with 490 yards on 96 carries. He has scored four rushing TDs. Senior Cody Pohren has 264 rushing yards and four touchdowns. Sophomore quarterback Dalton Ritchey and sophomore running back Niko Madison both have six rushing TDs for the Lutes. Ritchey is 163-for-273 (.597 percent) for 2,439 yards with 18 touchdowns and nine interceptions. Kyle Warner has been his favorite target as the sophomore wide out has 55 catches for 1,059 yards (19.3 yards per catch) and eight touchdowns. Sophomore slotback Daniel Herr has 30 catches for 391 yards and sophomore wide out Kellen Westering has 29 catches for 484 yards and four scores. Westering is back on the field despite what was earlier called a season-ending ACL injury. Placekicker Nick Kaylor has made five of his seven field attempts with a long of 37 yards. Defensively, junior linebacker Jordan Patterson leads the team with 66 tackles including 13 for losses of 69 yards. Sophomore safety Greg Hibbard had 57 tackles, followed by junior safety Sean McFadden with 55 tackles. Junior nose tackle Mychael Tuiasosopo has 10 tackles for loss and 4.5 quarterback sacks among his 42 tackles, and senior cornerback Tayler Angevine has 41 tackles and leads the team with five interceptions. PLU as a team has 19 interceptions and 14 fumble recoveries for a total of 33 takeaways, which gives the team a +12 in that category.

ABOUT THE COACHES: Scott Westering is in his ninth year as head coach at Pacific Lutheran, where he has compiled a 46-34 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. Joseph Smith, an All-America defensive back at Linfield, was a longtime Wildcats assistant coach before taking over stewardship of the Linfield football program in 2006. No in his seventh season, his career record stands at 59-13. A popular but demanding coach, Smith served as an assistant at Linfield for 13 years, including seven seasons as defensive coordinator from 1999 to 2005.

NAIA CHAMPIONSHIP TRADITIONS: During the 1980s and into the early 1990s, these two programs generally alternated long runs into the NAIA national playoffs. PLU won NAIA Division II nationals titles in 1980, 1987 and 1993 and finished as runner-up four times, while Linfield took NAIA championships in 1982, 1984, and 1986 and finished as runner-up three times. The teams faced each other five times in the NAIA national playoffs between 1980 and 1992, with Pacific Lutheran winning three of those games.

18 LUTES EARN ALL-CONFERENCE RECOGNITION: A total of 18 Pacific Lutheran players received first team, second team or honorable mention All-Northwest Conference recognition. Sophomore quarterback Ritchey (Onalaska, Wash. / Onalaska HS) and sophomore wide receiver Warner (Tumwater, Wash. / Tumwater HS) were two of seven Pacific Lutheran players to earn first team all-conference honors in a vote of the league coaches. Joining that duo on the first team were junior offensive guard Chris Edison (University Place, Wash. / Curtis HS), junior defensive lineman Mychael Tuiasosopo (Everett, Wash. / Mariner HS), junior linebacker Jordan Patterson (Lakewood, Wash. / Lakes HS), senior defensive back Tayler Angevine (Kent, Wash. / Kentlake HS), and junior defensive back Sean McFadden (Honolulu, Hawaii / Punahou HS).  PLU players named second team all-conference are senior offensive lineman Kyle Hofmann (Orcas Island, Wash. / Univ. of Montana), junior linebacker Ben Kaestner (Snohomish, Wash. / Glacier Peak HS) and sophomore defensive back Greg Hibbard (Olympia, Wash. / Capital HS). Named to the honorable mention list are sophomore wide receiver Kellen Westering (Puyallup, Wash. / Rogers HS), senior running backs Brandon James (Gig Harbor, Wash. / Peninsula HS) and Cody Pohren (Mount Vernon, Wash. / Sedro-Woolley HS), sophomore tight end Lucas Sontra  (Everett, Wash. / Everett HS), sophomore offensive lineman Tevon Stephens-Brown (Tacoma, Wash. / Wilson HS), junior defensive lineman Sam Lavis (Spokane, Wash. / Gonzaga Prep), senior linebacker Erik Hoium (Centralia, Wash. / Centralia HS), and junior defensive back Jonny Volland (Auburn, Wash. / Thomas Jefferson HS). Of that group, only McFadden and Angevine had previously earned all-conference recognition at any level. McFadden was a first team honoree in 2010 as a freshman and a second team choice in 2011, while Angevine made the honorable mention list in 2011.

ACADEMIC ALL-DISTRICT: A trio of Pacific Lutheran football players - senior center Court Knoblauch, junior defensive end Sam Lavis and sophomore safety Greg Hibbard - have earned Capital One Academic All-District 8 recognition. Knoblauch (Sumner, Wash. / Life Christian Academy) maintains a 3.64 grade point average as a business finance major. Knoblauch is one of the team's three captains. Lavis (Spokane, Wash. / Gonzaga Prep) has a 3.91 grade point average as a biology major, and Hibbard (Olympia, Wash. / Capital HS) has a 4.0 grade point average with a major in business.

LODGING IN OREGON: The Crowne Plaza Hotel in Lake Oswego, Ore., the PLU team hotel, is offering PLU football supporters special rates for Saturday's game. To obtain more information or make a reservation call (503) 624-8400.

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