Defense Leads Bearcats to 38-21 Win Over Western in Season Opener

SALEM — Steve Wilbon rushed for 114 yards and the Bearcat defense shut out Western Oregon University in the second half as the Bearcats came from behind to defeat the Wolves 38-21 in the season opener for both teams
Saturday night at McCulloch Stadium.

After the Wolves scored on their opening drive on a 30-yard pass from Danny Bies to Greg Coleman, it looked as if the Division II Wolves would outman the Bearcats. But Cameron Walton brought the Bearcats back on a 48-yard quarterback draw midway through the first half and the Bearcats were right back into the game.

After falling behind 21-7, mostly due to four first half fumbles, the Bearcats scored twice in the final 3:23 of the first half to pull within one at the break. It was the Bearcat defense that led to both scores. The first occurred when Jeff Na forced a Coleman fumble that was recovered by Megdy Khoury (pictured above) on the Western 15-yard line.

Two plays later, Walton hit Brett Meyer for a 13-yard touchdown pass to bring Willamette within 21-14.

The Bearcat defense held on the ensuing kickoff, forcing the Wolves to punt from their own 35-yard line. Jeff Kenblocked the punt, Khoury picked up the loose ball and ran 16 yards for the touchdown.

After halftime, it was all Bearcats.

Randall Wesley intercepted a Bies pass early in the third quarter and returned it to the one-yard-line. The Wolves defense initially held, but a key personal foul penalty, one of six on Western in the game gave the Bearcats a first down deep in Western territory.

Wilbon swept wide left from one yard out to give the Bearcats their first lead. A two-point conversion on a pass from Walton to Calvin Keyser Allen pushed the Bearcats lead to 28-21.

Keyser-Allen put the game away on a gritty 22-yard run, blasting through several Western players to give the Bearcats a 35-21 lead.

Matt Bicocca capped the scoring with a 32 yard field goal at the 6:44 mark.

For the game, penalties cost the Wolves badly as they racked up 15 penalties for 158 yards. The Bearcats rushed for 351 yards on 54 carries, rolling up 416 yards in total offense.

Along with Wilbon’s 114 yards, boosted by a 53-yard jaunt in the fourth quarter, Ryan Hernandez ran for 86 yards, Walton added 78 yards and Keyser-Allen gained 42.

Walton was 8-15 passing for 65 yards and one touchdown. He threw no interceptions.

Bies was 20-42 in his first game back after breaking a leg last season. He threw for 261 yards and one touchdown. The Bearcats had three interceptions. Coleman led the Wolves with 34 yards rushing.

Willamette’s schedule doesn’t get any easier. The Bearcats travel to the University of Mary Hardin Baylor next weekend for a game against one of the top schools in Division III. Western plays Linfield next week.

Steve Wilbon

Steve Wilbon