Bearcats Rally Past Southern Oregon, 31-23

By Robert McKinney, Athletics Communications Director, (503) 370-6110

SALEM, ORE. -- Willamette University trailed 23-17 early in the fourth quarter, but Jose Green (So., RB, Downey, CA/Warren HS) dashed 46 yards on a punt return with 12:36 left to give the Bearcats the lead for good in a 31-23 victory over Southern Oregon on Saturday, Sept. 20 at McCulloch Stadium. Willamette, from NCAA Division III, improved to 3-0 on the season. SOU, which competes in the NAIA, fell to 1-3 overall.

The go-ahead touchdown was set-up by Green's decision to run up about a dozen yards to catch SOU's punt as it reached chest level near the sideline. He made a smooth catch while running in stride, then side-stepped a tackler and avoided the nearby sideline for a step or two. As he headed down field, he took advantage of a couple of quality blocks, missed one final tackler near the 10-yard line and ran into the end zone.

Green's punt return and the extra point added by Mitchell Rowan (Fr., PK/P, Cotati, CA/Rancho Cotate HS) put WU in front, 24-23. The Bearcats added a 3-yard touchdown run by Merben WU (Sr., FL, Salinas, CA/North Salinas HS/Hartnell College) with 4:44 remaining, then ran out the clock after forcing the Raiders to punt.

Willamette rallied from a 17-3 deficit with 3:03 left in the first half, after WU committed three turnovers in the first 25 minutes. The Bearcats created an 8-play, 79-yard drive in just 1:55 to cut the lead to 17-9 at halftime.Scott Schoettgen (So., WR, Columbia, CA/Sonora HS) made an impressive catch near the sideline in the end zone to complete the drive with a 19-yard pass from Grant Leslie (Sr., QB, Bainbridge Island, WA/Bainbridge HS). WU's extra point kick was blocked by Will Watson.

A touchdown by Jeff Kahler (So., CB, Honolulu, HI/Saint Louis School/Whitworth University) on a 52-yard fumble recovery run with 11:22 remaining in the third quarter allowed Willamette to tie the game. Schoettgen hauled in a pass from Leslie for a two-point conversion to pull even with SOU at 17-17.

Southern Oregon moved in front with field goals of 31 yards and 28 yards by Corey O'Neill. The Raiders held a 23-17 advantage entering the fourth quarter. Willamette kept the Raiders off the scoreboard in the final period.

After Green moved Willamette in front with his punt return, the Bearcats stopped SOU on the next three plays from scrimmage. On fourth down, the Raiders punted and Green was interfered with as he attempted to catch the ball at the WU 37. The resulting 15-yard penalty against SOU advanced the 'Cats two yards past the midfield stripe.

WU drove down the field in 10 plays and scored on Woo's 3-yard run. The drive included two conversions on 3rd-and-8. On the first, Cody Anthony (Sr., FB, Vale, OR/Vale HS) rushed for 11 yards to the SOU 20. On the second, Woo scampered 11 yards to the SOU 7. Woo scored two plays later.

Marlon Rosales of SOU led all rushers with 166 yards on 27 carries. He scored a touchdown from 1-yard out in the first quarter to give the Raiders a 10-0 lead. Southern quarterback Bryan Lee-Lauduski was 17 of 34 passing for 215 yards. He threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to Brent Koontz for a 17-3 advantage in the second quarter, but later threw the ball that was intercepted by Kahler in the second half.

Woo topped Willamette's rushing chart with 120 yards on 16 carries. He fumbled three times in the first half -- Willamette lost two of the miscues -- then rebounded with a number of big plays in the final 30 minutes. In addition to his rushing total, Woo also caught three passes for 43 yards.

Leslie was 7 of 15 passing for 74 yards. He threw one touchdown pass and had one interception. He was successful on his only two-point conversion pass.

SOU gained 373 yards of total offense, including 215 passing yards. Willamette ended the game with 297 total yards. The 'Cats rushed for 223 yards on 46 carries (4.8 avg.).

Tommy Grove (Sr., ILB, Moccasin, CA/Sonora HS/Butte College) ranked first on Willamette's defense in total tackles for the third consecutive game. He registered 10 total tackles against the Raiders. Jack Bevins (Sr., ILB, Park City, UT/Park City HS) provided nine tackles.

The Bearcats sacked Lee-Lauduski three times and had six tackles for losses. WU also broke up nine passes, led by Ryan Bettencourt (Sr., CB, Danville, CA/San Ramon Valley HS), who disrupted three pass plays.

Southern Oregon had two players with nine tackles each. Jason Young earned seven solo tackles and two assists, while Kevin Harrell finished with two solo stops and seven assists.

Willamette will travel to California next weekend to take on the University of La Verne in a non-conference game. Kickoff in La Verne, Calif., is set for 1 p.m. (PDT).

Willamette University 31, Southern Oregon University 23
Jose Green scored on a 46-yard punt return against Southern Oregon.

Jose Green scored on a 46-yard punt return against Southern Oregon.