Western Oregon Powers Past Willamette, 42-0, in Season Opener for Both Teams

SALEM, OR -- Western Oregon University, which competes in NCAA Division II, held a size advantage over Willamette University of NCAA Division III when the teams met in front of 2,679 spectators on Saturday, Sept. 2 for their season opener at McCulloch Stadium. The Wolves used their advantage to gradually pull away from the Bearcats for a 42-0 victory. Eliot Vinzant rushed for 174 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries for the Wolves, while Brad Ching added 79 yards and two touchdowns on three pass receptions.

Willamette kept the game scoreless for the entire first quarter, plus the first three minutes of the second quarter. The stats at the end of the opening period showed the Bearcats with 75 yards on 15 plays and Western Oregon with just 46 yards on 17 plays. The Wolves, however, scored three touchdowns before halftime on a 36-yard run by Vinzant at the 9:24 mark, a 26-yard pass from Mark Thorson to Ching with 5:06 on the clock and a 43-yard pass from Thorson to Ching on the final play of the half. Bruce Voges converted all three extra points, giving WOU a 21-0 lead at the break.

Western tacked on two touchdowns in the third quarter. Thorson completed a nine-play, 48-yard drive by scoring on a 1-yard run with 9:24 left n the period. Vinzant reached the end zone on a 55-yard run just over four minutes later for a 35-0 advantage. The Wolves closed out the scoring on Tyler Wilson's 3-yard run with 12:10 remaining in the fourth quarter.

The Bearcats received poor field position throughout the night. Willamette began 10 of 12 possessions
inside its own 30-yard line. The only possessions beginning outside the 30-yard line came in the final quarter, when Willamette took over at its own 34-yard line following a kickoff with 12:01 left and started at its own 38-yard line after receiving a punt with 1:50 to go.

WOU's offensive trio of Vinzant, Ching and Thorson combined to lead the Wolves to 423 yards of total offense. Western rushed for 266 yards on 37 carries and completed 13 of 27 passes for 157 yards. Thorson was 13 of 23 before giving way to back-up quarterback, Ryan Thorson, his brother. The Wolves also benefited
from the efforts of starting punter Josh Vanlue, who averaged 46.6 yards per punt, while placing three kicks inside the 20-yard line.

Willamette gained 216 total yards, with just 104 rushing yards on 33 carries. Ryan Hernandez (Sr., FL, Portland, OR/Portland Christian HS) rushed for 79 yards on 11 carries. Skylar Swinford (Jr., RB, McCall, ID/McCall-Donnelly HS) added 20 yards on 11 carries. Junior quarterback Kevin Whipps (Eagle, ID/Eagle HS), in his first start for the Bearcats, completed 8 of 14 passes for 87 yards, but threw two interceptions.

The Bearcats were credited with four turnovers, while Western Oregon did not have a turnover. Willamette also converted just 4 of 14 third downs and was 0 for 2 on fourth down. WOU was successful on 7 of 14 third-down attempts.

Phil Sweet (Jr., LB, Albany, OR/West Albany HS) led the Bearcats with eight total tackles, while Ben Fennimore (Jr., FS, Salem, OR/McKay HS) added six total tackles, including a team-high four solo tackles. Western's top defensive players were Zach Christopherson, Jeff Cloud and Matt Buche, each with eight total tackles.

Willamette plays at home again next weekend, when the Bearcats host Gustavus Adolphus College on Saturday, Sept. 9. Kickoff at McCulloch Stadium is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. (PDT). The game will match two teams in the West Region of NCAA Division III.