Bearcats Clinch Playoff Berth with 49-27 Win over Puget Sound

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

SALEM, ORE. -- Senior quarterback Grant Leslie (Bainbridge Island, WA/Bainbridge HS) three for 285 yards and five touchdowns, leading 10th-ranked (D3Football.com) Willamette University to a 49-27 victory over the University of Puget Sound, Saturday, Nov. 8 at McCulloch Stadium. The Bearcats, who improved to 9-0 on the season and 5-0 in the Northwest Conference, have clinched the NWC's automatic bid to the NCAA Division III Playoffs.

WU also clinched at least a tie for the NWC Championship. With one game remaining in the regular season, only Linfield College (4-1) can tie the Bearcats for the title. WU defeated Linfield, 52-28 on Oct. 25 in McMinnville, Ore.

Leslie was 7 of 13 passing and got the most out of his completions. His five touchdown passes went for 30, 93 (one short of the school record), 65 , 31 and 39 yards. Leslie finished one TD pass short of the school record of six, set by John Horner against Lewis & Clark College on Oct. 23, 1993.

Merben Woo (Sr., WR, Salinas, CA/North Salinas HS/Hartnell College) caught two touchdown passes (65 and 31 yards) and also reached the end zone on a 3-yard run. Three other Bearcats each hauled in one touchdown pass. Scott Schoettgen (So., WR, Columbia, CA/Sonora HS) scored on the 93-yard strike with 11:51 left in the second quarter to give WU a 14-7 lead.

The lengthy touchdown pass from Leslie to Schoettgen missed the WU record for longest pass by just a single yard. Todde Greenough threw a 94-yard touchdown to David Shirley against Whitworth University on Oct. 8, 1988.

Although Leslie just missed setting a couple of WU records, the Bearcats did establish a team record on Saturday. The 49 points scored against UPS gave the Bearcats 395 points for the season, breaking the school record for points during a 10-game schedule (376). The previous record was set by WU's national runner-up team in 1997, which played 10 regular season games.

Willamette held a 14-13 edge at halftime and owned a 21-20 margin with 4:56 left in the third quarter. The 'Cats exploded for two touchdowns before the third quarter ended, then added two more in the first 4:06 of the fourth period, to take a commanding 49-20 advantage.

The Bearcat special teams excelled during the game. WU blocked two Puget Sound punts, including one returned 23 yards for a touchdown by Lukkes Gilgan (Jr., FS, Sherwood, OR/Sherwood HS). Jonathan Feld (Sr., FB, Vacaville, CA/Vacaville HS) and Grant Piros (Sr., FS, Nerberg, OR/Newberg HS) each blocked a punt.

Willamette also tackled the UPS punter, Wyatt Evenson, for an 11-yard loss following a bad punt snap early in the third quarter. Harmon Bruno (Fr., OLB, Danville, CA/San Ramon Valley HS) recorded the tackle on the play, which gave WU the ball at the Puget Sound 30-yard line. The 'Cats scored eight plays later for a 21-13 lead on Woo's 3-yard run.

WU's tandem of senior inside linebackers led the way on defense. Jack Bevins (Park City, UT/Park City HS) topped all defensive players with 18 total tackles, including nine solo stops. He also forced a fumble and had one tackle for a loss. Tommy Grove (Moccasin, CA/Sonora HS/Butte College) provided 13 total tackles and led all players with 12 assists.

The Bearcats will close out the regular season by hosting Menlo College at McCulloch Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 15. Game time is set for 2 p.m. (PST).

BOX SCORE
Willamette University 49
University of Puget Sound 27
Merben Woo scored against UPS on a 3-yard run and on pass receptions of 65 and 31 yards.

Merben Woo scored against UPS on a 3-yard run and on pass receptions of 65 and 31 yards.

Jack Bevins led the Bearcats with 18 tackles versus UPS.

Jack Bevins led the Bearcats with 18 tackles versus UPS.