Merben Woo Rushes for 113 Yards as Willamette Rolls Past California Lutheran, 31-17

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

THOUSAND OAKS, CALIF. -- Willamette University exploded for 28 points in the second half, as the Bearcats rallied from a 7-3 halftime deficit to defeat California Lutheran University, 31-17, on Saturday, Sept. 13. Senior flanker Merben Woo (Salinas, CA/North Salinas HS/Hartnell College) led the way with 113 yards and two touchdowns on 11 carries. The WU defense also chipped in by forcing five turnovers for the second week in a row.

Willamette improved to 2-0 on the season. California Lutheran started its season at 0-1.

In the first half, California Lutheran claimed its four-point lead by outgaining the Bearcats, 193-152, in total offense. Over the final 30 minutes, however, the Kingsmen managed only 93 yards, while Willamette amassed 193 yards. CLU committed three of its five turnovers in the second half.

The game changed tremendously during a 51-second span in the third quarter. With 8:31 remaining in the period, the Kingsmen still held a 7-3 lead and were at their own 23-yard line following a punt. On the next play, quarterback Jericho Toilolo fumbled as he was sacked by Matt Banta (Jr., OLB, Baker City, OR/Baker HS). Tommy Grove (Sr., ILB, Moccasin, CA/Sonora HS/Butte JC) recovered the ball for Willamette at the CLU 18-yard line.

Willamette cashed in quickly following the turnover. Woo gained all 18 yards on a running play to give the Bearcats the lead. Mitchell Rowan (Fr., PK/P, Cotati, CA/Rancho Cotate HS) kicked the extra point for a 10-7 advantage.

Following the ensuing kickoff, Cal Lutheran had the ball at its own 10-yard line. Antoine Adams rushed for one yard on first down. Toilolo was intercepted on second down by Arlin Taylor (So., SS, Spring Valley, CA/Steele Canyon HS), who returned the ball 18 yards to the end zone. Rowan added the PAT, and with 7:22 left in the quarter, Willamette held a 17-7 margin.

"The turnovers are huge," Willamette Head Coach Mark Speckman said. "As long as we do that, we're going to be in games.

"I'm very pleased," Speckman added regarding his team's performance. "Our kids are starting to feed off of those turnovers. I like the way that defense is playing."

WU increased the lead to 24-7 with a 2-yard touchdown run by Deon Horne (Jr., TB, Issaquah, WA/Liberty HS) at the end of a six-play, 37-yard drive. Horne's touchdown and Rowan's extra point were scored with 12:09 remaining in the game. Quarterback Grant Leslie (Sr., Bainbridge Island, WA/Bainbridge HS) completed two passes for a total of 22 yards to Scott Schoettgen (So., WR, Columbia, CA/Sonora HS) during the drive.

Cal Lutheran cut three points from the lead on a 39-yard field goal by Jackson Damron at the 9:21 mark. CLU set up field goal by moving 38 yards in nine plays following a kick return to the CLU 40. Toilolo completed a 13-yard pass to Danny Hernandez on 3rd-and-9 at the CLU 41 to keep the drive going, and later hit Hernandez with a 24-yard toss to the WU 22. Two plays later, Toilolo fumbled, but the Kingsmen kept possession.

Damron's kickoff after the field goal went out of bounds, which gave Willamette the ball at the 40-yard line. Woo scampered 60 yards on the first play for his second touchdown. Rowan converted the extra point with 9:09 left.

The Kingsmen followed with a 12-play drive that covered 54 yards and ended with a 1-yard touchdown run by Toilolo with 4:35 on the clock. Willamette ran out the remaining time and had possession at the CLU 3-yard line before Leslie took a knee on the final play of the game.

Woo led a solid rushing game for the Bearcats, who finished with 240 yards on 45 carries, an average of 5.3 yards per rush. Woo's 113-yard effort was followed by Kyle Johnson (So., TB, Tualatin, OR/Tualatin HS/Assumption College) with 18 carries for 72 yards. Marcus Woo (So., FL, Cupertino, CA/Monta Vista HS) gained 33 yards on six carries and Horne covered 27 yards on three attempts.

Leslie converted 10 of 17 passes for 105 yards. Johnson hauled in three passes for 14 yards, while Woo caught two passes for 33 yards. Willamette ended the game with 345 total yards.

California Lutheran rushed for 116 yards on 18 carries in the first half, but gained only 13 yards on 16 running plays in the second half. Adams rushed 14 times for 73 yards. Toilolo kept the ball 17 times for 56 yards and was 18 of 38 passing for 157 yards. Hernandez topped all receivers with seven caches for 69 yards.

In the first half, Willamette struck first on a 32-yard field goal by Rowan with 3:44 left in the opening quarter. The kick completed a 12-play, 45-yard drive. Cal Lutheran countered with a 10-play, 63-yard drive, but Jesse Matlock fumbled after gaining 13 yards on a pass reception at the WU 13-yard line. Willamette took over after Taylor recovered the ball.

Later in the second quarter, the Kingsmen put together a 98-yard drive on 13 plays. Adams opened the drive with a 19-yard run, added another 19-yard run later and finished the drive with seven carries for 60 yards. He scored CLU's first touchdown on a 2-yard jaunt with 1:15 remaining in the half. Adams gained only five yards on six carries in the second half.

WU almost regained the lead before halftime. Jose Green (So., TB, Downey, CA/Warren HS) returned the kickoff 42 yards to the Willamette 44. A 10-yard pass to Johnson, plus two personal fouls on CLU, moved the ball to the Cal Lutheran 14. On 4th-and-7, Leslie's attempted a pass to Schoettgen, but it fell incomplete. The Kingsmen ran one play to end the half.

The Bearcats have a +9 turnover margin after two games. Willamette has forced its opponents into six lost fumbles and three interceptions. WU committed its first turnover of the season against CLU, on a fumble in the second quarter.

In the win over the Kingsmen, Grove topped Willamette's defensive chart with seven total tackles. He recorded one tackle for a loss and recovered one fumble. Banta and three other Bearcats recorded six tackles each. Banta was credited with a sack and a forced fumble.

Clay Cardenas achieved seven solo tackles and two assists for Cal Lutheran, while Jacob Calderon accumulated five solo tackles and four assists for the Kingsmen.

Willamette University 31, California Lutheran University 17
Merben Woo scored touchdowns on runs of 18 yards and 60 yards against California Lutheran.

Merben Woo scored touchdowns on runs of 18 yards and 60 yards against California Lutheran.

Arlin Taylor returned an interception for a touchdown and made a fumble recovery against California Lutheran.

Arlin Taylor returned an interception for a touchdown and made a fumble recovery against California Lutheran.

Jose Green returned three punts for 40 yards and two kickoffs for 67 yards on Saturday.

Jose Green returned three punts for 40 yards and two kickoffs for 67 yards on Saturday.