By Christian Bond, PLU Sports Information Student Writer
PUYALLUP – Pacific Lutheran had the ball with 1:32 left in the game with a chance to drive 96 yards for a win, but the Willamette defense made one final stop to close out the day as the Bearcats defeated the Lutes 10-9 on a rainy Homecoming Saturday afternoon at Sparks Stadium.
The loss dropped PLU's record to 0-4 this season, while Willamette picked up its first win to improve to 1-3. PLU heads back on the road next weekend to take on Whitworth on Spokane.
The 2015 Homecoming contest was played in less-than-ideal conditions, as gusty winds blew throughout and rain poured at various points. Both teams struggled to hang on to the ball, with PLU fumbling three times, although the Lutes were able to retain possession on all three occasions. Reggie Collins recovered a Willamette fumble for the Lutes.
PLU got the scoring started in the second quarter with a touchdown by tight end DJ Winter. Winter caught an 11-yard pass from quarterback Jon Schaub with 12:11 remaining in the first half. The touchdown was Winter's first collegiate touchdown.
"It was just sweet," Winter said of the play. "The O-Line did a great job blocking, Scott drew it up great and it ended up just working out."
That proved to be the offensive highlight for the Lutes, as Willamette got on the board with a 25-yard field goal as time expired in the first half. The Lutes extended their lead back to six points midway through the third on a 32-yard field goal by Dallan Rodriguez through wind and driving rain, but Willamette found the endzone on a 1-yard run on the first play of the fourth quarter for what proved to be the winning points.
Punter Anthony Louthan assisted a PLU defensive effort that limited Willamette to 3.7 yards per play and 253 total yards. His first two punts pinned the Bearcats within their own 2-yard line, as he totaled 237 yards on six punts with a long of 60.
"He's a great young man, and a great punter," PLU head coach Scott Westering said of Louthan. "What a treasure to have for the next three years."
Parker Trewet led the PLU defensive effort with nine total tackles, while Kyle Bennett added seven tackles and Chase Houser, Travis McMillion and Derek Chase all totaled six. PLU and Willamette played to nearly-even offensive totals, as the Lutes out-gained the Bearcats 264-253 while averaging 3.8 yards per play compared to 3.7 for Willamette. Schaub passed for 185 yards, with Juston Lind catching five passes for a game-high 51 yards. Marc Gallant led PLU with 33 rushing yards.
The PLU football season has not started the way coaches, players, and fans wanted it to as the Lutes are still looking for their first win of the season. Even so, Westering expressed confidence that the team will make the best of the second half of the schedule.
"By the tension and focus in our their eyes after the game, I believe our guys will get this figured out," Westering said.