PARKLAND – The 15th-ranked Pacific Lutheran football team looks to bounce back this weekend following its first loss of the season, as the Lutes host Lewis & Clark in Saturday's homecoming game at Sparks Stadium in Puyallup.
Kickoff is set for 12:30 p.m. as the Lutes (3-1 overall, 0-1 NWC) hope to get back into the win column after last weekend's 29-0 road defeat to second-ranked Linfield. That game was 7-0 going into the fourth quarter before the Wildcats capitalized on PLU turnovers to pull away.
"We had some opportunities to make some plays," PLU head coach Scott Westering said. "That's what football comes down to: you've got to make plays when you have chances, and we didn't do it. Linfield capitalized, and it forced our hand in a lot of ways. They're a great team; they deserve to be ranked No. 2 in the country."
Even with the Lutes taking their first defeat of the season and Linfield's late touchdowns skewing the final score, Westering recalled a perfect Saturday for college football.
"It was a great college football game," Westering said. "It was a great setting; we were blessed with a beautiful day down there; they've got a great facility with a lot of electricity there and it was there homecoming. It was just the essence of college football at its best."
Putting that loss behind them, the Lutes look forward to Lewis & Clark and what should be a high-scoring contest. The Pioneers and their opponents have combined for at least 60 points in every game this season, with the last two taking it to the next level as the teams surpassed 90 in both games.
Despite all the offense, Lewis & Clark is 1-3 overall this season after dropping those first three contests before claiming a 60-30 win over Puget Sound last weekend. Dual-threat quarterback Keith Welch has completed 61 percent of his passes for 1,189 yards and 14 touchdowns while also leading L&C with 292 rushing yards and five touchdowns. When he's throwing the ball, Welch looks first and foremost to Andrew Frisina. Frisina's 38 receptions are as many as the Pioneers' next three receivers combined, and he leads the team with 463 receiving yards and six touchdowns.
"Lewis & Clark presents a significant challenge to us," Westering said. "They have a tremendous quarterback; when you have a quarterback like Keith Welch that can put pressure on you throwing the ball, running the ball, just adlibbing on plays, it presents a big problem, as always, for us as well as any team that they play."
Saturday's game will be the 48th time these two teams have met on the gridiron. The Lutes have held the upper hand throughout the series, holding a 36-10-1 record against the Pioneers. That mark includes a 16-game win streak from 1990 to 2010 before L&C rallied to end the streak with a 34-32 win in 2011. PLU bounced back last season with a 31-14 win over the then-4-0 Pioneers in Portland last season.
After opening the season with three of their first four games on the road, the Lutes return home for consecutive games this weekend and next week. PLU will host Pacific next weekend before closing out the regular season with two of its last three on the road.
"We're so excited to have a home game," Westering said. "We've heard from a lot of alumni and family and friends and expect to see a lot of people at the game. The weather is supposed to be pretty nice, and Sparks can be a great venue to have a game in the fall."
Homecoming festivities will include a halftime recognition of the 2013 PLU Athletics Hall of Fame class. The five-member class of Jody Schwich Marquardt (multiple sports, 1969-72), Chad Johnson (football, 1997-2000), Jim Johnson (swimming coach, 1978-2010), Robynn Rockstad-Rex (rowing, 1984-87) and Ryan Dirks (track & field, 1998-2001) will be inducted into the Hall of Fame in a luncheon ceremony on Friday.
As always, PLU fans who can't make it to the game can tune in to hear Steve Thomas call the action live. Anyone in the Tacoma area can hear the call on KLAY 1180 AM, while fans anywhere can listen online via links on the PLU Athletics website.