Willamette Football Chosen to Finish First in NWC Preseason Poll

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

SALEM, ORE. -- Willamette University is predicted to repeat as the Northwest Conference football champion according to the 2009 NWC Preseason Poll, as voted on by the league's head coaches. The Bearcats won last year's NWC title with an undefeated record (6-0).

Willamette (11-1 overall in 2008) received four of seven first place votes and 47 total points in the Preseason Poll. Linfield College (6-3, 5-1 NWC) was listed second with three first place votes and 45 points. Whitworth University (6-3, 4-2 NWC) was third with 37 points, while Pacific Lutheran University (3-6, 3-3 NWC) was fourth with 27 points.

Menlo College (3-7, 2-4 NWC) ranked fifth with 19 points in the poll. The University of Puget Sound (3-6, 1-5 NWC) was sixth with 17 points and Lewis & Clark College (1-8, 0-6 NWC) was seventh with seven points.

The Bearcats led the NWC in conference games last season in scoring offense and scoring defense. Willamette averaged 47.0 points per game against conference opponents, while allowing only 18.2 points per contest. The 'Cats also topped the NWC in total offense (430.2 yards per game), rushing offense (259.5 yards per game), sacks allowed (3 in 6 games) and turnover margin (+1.00 per game).

Willamette finished the regular season undefeated at 10-0 and qualified for the NCAA Division III Playoffs. The 'Cats defeated Occidental College, 48-33, in the first round of the playoffs, before losing to eventual national runner-up University of Wisconsin-Whitewater in the second round, 30-27.

Overall, the Bearcats averaged 41.5 points per game, while gaining 415.6 total yards and 251.2 rushing yards per contest. Willamette set school records with 498 points and 69 total touchdowns. WU allowed just nine quarterback sacks during the season.

Last year, Willamette limited its 12 opponents to 338.6 total yards per game. The Bearcats forced 31 turnovers and lost the fall just 15 times for a +1.33 turnover margin.

Head Coach Mark Speckman enters his 12th season with a 63-48 (.568) record at Willamette. In 2008, he was chosen NCAA Division III Region 5 Coach of the Year by the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) and was named West Region Coach of the Year by D3Football.com.

NWC Football Preseason Poll (1st place votes in parentheses)
1. Willamette (4), 47 points, 11-1 overall, 6-0 NWC in 2008
2. Linfield (3), 45 points, 6-3, 5-1 NWC
3. Whitworth, 37 points, 6-3, 4-2 NWC
4. Pacific Lutheran, 27 points, 3-6, 3-3 NWC
5. Menlo College, 19 points, 3-7, 2-4 NWC
6. Puget Sound, 17 points, 3-6, 1-5 NWC
7. Lewis & Clark, 7 points, 1-8, 0-6 NWC

Deon Horne returns for his senior season after rushing for 988 yards and 12 TDs in 2008.

Deon Horne returns for his senior season after rushing for 988 yards and 12 TDs in 2008.