PARKLAND – With a tough road win under their belts, the 11th-ranked Lutes return home for their next test on the gridiron this weekend when PLU hosts Redlands in nonconference football action beginning at 12:30 p.m. Saturday at Sparks Stadium.
Pacific Lutheran knocked off 18th-ranked California Lutheran down in Thousand Oaks, Calif., last Saturday in the annual rivalry matchup. The win helped PLU move up one spot in the national rankings, from 12th to 11th in the latest d3football.com poll.
"We're very, very excited that the team played extremely well," PLU head coach Scott Westering said of the win over CLU. "We really made some character drives offensively and stands defensively in the fourth quarter of that game. It was really exciting to watch this team grow as the team progressed down there and to come away with the victory."
The Lutes overcame an early 7-0 deficit and had to put together a game-winning drive in the fourth quarter to clinch the victory. Dalton Ritchey passed for 194 yards and added 89 rushing yards to go with four total touchdowns for the junior quarterback. Kyle Warner surpassed the 100-yard receiving mark and caught a scoring pass and Jordan Patterson snagged a key interception in the second half.
"This is probably a great thing, actually, for us to go through: to face adversity and to be behind, ahead and to deal with the weather and all those kinds of things that were a part of this," Westering said of the game. "We were very excited as a staff at the learning and teaching possibilities and the growth that our team experienced down there this past the weekend. It sets the stage for what's ahead."
And what's ahead for the Lutes is a home matchup with the University of Redlands. After knocking off a 25th-ranked Redlands team down in California 28-14 in the second game of the 2012 season, the Lutes have a chance to host the Bulldogs Saturday in only the second matchup between the two teams.
Redlands comes into the weekend looking to bounce back from a 31-13 home defeat to No. 3 Mary Hardin-Baylor in the Bulldogs' season opener on Sept. 7. The Crusaders held the Bulldogs without a touchdown until late in the contest and ran for 395 yards in the win. Taylor Irwin totaled 165 receiving yards on nine catches – including a 99-yard reception – as the 2012 all-West Region wide receiver returns to lead the UR offense. All-American kicker Kevin Grady also returns this season, along with all-SCIAC defensive linemen Steven Locke, Jr., and Daniel Kane.
Westering remembers a tough contest down in California last year against Redlands that led to a good win for the Lutes and the first step toward PLU's first NCAA Div. III postseason appearance since 2001. With that in mind, the Lutes' coach expects a challenge on Saturday.
"We had a great game with them last year," Westering said. "We're looking forward to a real donnybrook of a game here this week."
Fans coming out to the game are encouraged to arrive early, as parking will be a challenge with Sparks Stadium right next to the Washington State Fairgrounds and the fair's final weekend. Lute fans who can't make it out to Puyallup can listen to Steve Thomas call the game on KLAY 1180 AM or online on golutes.com.