Willamette Rushes Past Whitworth, 32-23, in NWC Opener

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

SPOKANE, WASH. -- Willamette University rushed for 256 yards on 40 carries and rallied from a 14-0 deficit early in the second quarter to defeat Whitworth University, 32-23, in the Northwest Conference opener for both teams on Saturday, Oct. 4 at the Pine Bowl. The Bearcats scored the go-ahead touchdown with 9:20 remaining, five plays after Tommy Grove (Sr., ILB, Moccasin, CA/Sonora HS/Butte College) intercepted a pass and returned it 30 yards to the Pirates' 20-yard line.

Willamette, ranked #23 in this week's D3Football.com Top 25, improved to 5-0 on the season, 1-0 in the conference. The Bearcats have scored more than 30 points in all five games. Whitworth, the defending NWC champion, dropped to 2-2 overall, 0-1 in the NWC.

Deon Horne (Jr., TB, Issaquah, WA/Liberty HS) carried the ball 19 times for 132 yards and two touchdowns for Willamette, including the go-ahead score on a 1-yard run. Jose Green (So., TB, Downey, CA/Warren HS) added nine carries for 83 yards and one score, while Merben Woo (Sr., FL, Salinas, CA/North Salinas HS/Hartnell College) ran eight times for 53 yards. The Bearcats averaged 6.4 yards per carry.

Whitworth took an early lead when quarterback Mike Peck thew a 24-yard scoring pass to Eric Entel with 4:58 left in the first quarter. The pass completed a 9-play, 80-yard drive for the Pirates. Andy Largent kicked the extra point for a 7-0 lead.

The Pirates increased the margin to 14-0 on another touchdown pass by Peck. He hit running back Adam Anderson with a 7-yard toss for the score with 11:30 to go in the second period. The drive lasted 16 plays and covered 67 yards, including eight carried for 45 yards by Anderson.

After falling behind, the WU defense limited Whitworth to just three more points until the final minute of the game. Meanwhile, the Willamette offense went into gear.

Late in the first half, the Bearcats drove from the Pirates' 48-yard line to the end zone in just 2:47. The drive included a 15-yard pass from Grant Leslie (Sr., QB, Bainbridge Island, WA/Bainbridge HS) to Scott Schoettgen (So., WR, Columbia, CA/Sonora HS), a 12-yard carry by Woo and an 11 yard rush by Horne. The drive lasted seven plays and ended with a 2-yard touchdown run by Horne.

Anderson rushed for 100 yards on 22 carries in the first half for Whitworth. He gained just 33 yards on 13 carries in the second half. Horne, who gained 39 yards for Willamette on eight first-half carries, rushed for 93 yards on 11 carries over the final 30 minutes.

Willamette took possession to start the third quarter and moved from its own 20-yard line to the Whitworth 12. the big play was a 40-yard run by Horne to the 18-yard line. Four plays later, Mitchell Rowan (Fr., PK/P, Cotati, CA/Rancho Cotate HS) kicked a 29-yard field goals to cut the Pirates' lead to 14-10.

Seven carries by Anderson netted 37 yards for Whitworth on the next series, but he was stopped by Jack Bevins (Sr., ILB, Park City, UT/Park City HS) on 3rd-and-4 at the Willamette 15. Largent kicked a 32-yard field goal on the next play.

The Bearcats responded with an 11-play, 74-yard drive that ended with three consecutive completed passes by Leslie. The first went for seven yards to Horne and the second covered nine yards to Woo. The third toss also went to Woo and covered 25 yards to the end zone. Rowan's PAT kick tied the game at 17-17.

Grove's interception with 12:24 left in the game set up the tie-breaking score. Grove caught the interception at the midfield stripe and returned the ball 30 yards. A pair of 5-yard carries by Horne moved the ball to the 10-yard line. Green followed with another 5-yard carry, and Horne brought the ball to the one with a 4-yard gain.

On 3rd-and-Goal at the one, Horne was stopped for no gain by Brandon Martin. A face mask penalty was called on the play, giving WU a first down. Horne scored on the ensuing play

The conversion attempt by Rowan was blocked, but Leslie picked up the loose ball and ran into the end zone for two points and a 25-17 lead. Nearly all of the players on both teams stopped after the block, but the ball went behind the line of scrimmage and the play remained alive.

Whitworth reached the Willamette 48 on its next possession, but had to punt. The Bearcats then drove 81 yards on eight plays and ate 4:52 off the clock. Green scampered 44 yards to complete the drive. Rowan added the extra point with 1:26 remaining.

Trailing by 15 points, the Pirates went to the air and drove 70 yards. The drive ended when Peck rushed two yards for a touchdown on the game's final play. No extra point was attempted.

The Bearcats outgained Whitworth 387-343 during the game, including a 188-47 rushing edge in the second half. Willamette also had no turnovers, while the Pirates lost the ball twice.

Leslie completed 12 of 19 passes for 131 yards and a touchdown. Woo led the receiving corp with eight catches for 99 yards.

Peck was 14 of 24 in the air for Whitworth for 168 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. Anderson gained 133 yards on 35 carries for the Pirates.

Bevins achieved 11 total tackles (7 solo) for the Bearcats. Grove tallied nine total tackles (6 solo). The top tacklers for Whitworth were Dane Gilbertson and Jesse Clark, each with nine stops. All nine of Gilbertson's tackles were unassisted.

The Bearcats will return home to take on Lewis & Clark College at McCulloch Stadium in Salem, Ore., on Saturday, Oct. 11. Kickoff is slated for 1:30 p.m. (PDT).

Photos included with this story are by Naomi Stukey (www.naomistukey.com), Willamette athletic photographer.

BOX SCORE
Willamette University 32, Whitworth University 23
Tommy Grove (#42) returned an interception 30 yards to set up the go-ahead score in the fourth quarter.

Tommy Grove (#42) returned an interception 30 yards to set up the go-ahead score in the fourth quarter.

Deone Horne rushed for 132 yards and two touchdowns against the Pirates.

Deone Horne rushed for 132 yards and two touchdowns against the Pirates.

Against Whitworth, Merben Woo caught eight passes for 99 yards and rushed eight times for 53 yards.

Against Whitworth, Merben Woo caught eight passes for 99 yards and rushed eight times for 53 yards.

Jack Begins led Willamette with 11 tackles versus the Pirates.

Jack Begins led Willamette with 11 tackles versus the Pirates.