Bearcats Rally Past Pacific Lutheran, 35-17

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

SALEM, ORE. -- Sophomore tailback Jamiere Abney (Bremerton, WA/Bremerton HS) carried the ball 10 times for 77 yards and scored three touchdowns in the second half, as Willamette University rallied from a 14-7 halftime deficit to defeat Pacific Lutheran University, 35-17, on Saturday, Oct. 17 at McCulloch Stadium. Willamette, ranked #17 in the Top 25, won its sixth consecutive game to improve to 6-1 overall, 3-0 in the Northwest Conference. PLU fell to 1-4 overall, 1-1 in the NWC.

Abney's heroics off the bench played a key role in Willamette's comeback. Starting tailback Deon Horne (Sr., Issaquah, WA/Liberty HS) had just three carries for 12 yards before being forced to the sideline with an injury late in the second quarter.

The Willamette defense forced a total of five turnovers during the game, while the Bearcats lost the ball just once. Senior inside linebacker Andrew Ross (Petaluma, CA/Petaluma HS) of Willamette achieved a game-high 19 tackles and had one of the Bearcat's four interceptions.

Also picking off the ball were Arlin Taylor (Jr., SS, Spring Valley, CA/Steele Canyon HS), Jeff Kahler (Jr., CB, Honolulu, HI/Saint Lewis School/Whitworth Univ.) and Blaze Rogers (So., CB, Lahaina, HI/Lahainaluna HS). Kahler also recovered a fumble.

PLU took a quick 7-0 lead after driving 70-yards on 13 plays following the opening kickoff. Running back Drew Griffin scored on a 2-yard run with 8:50 left in the first quarter. Richard Isett kicked the PAT.

The Lutes increased the lead to 14-0 in the second quarter. The drive lasted 15 plays and covered 80 yards. Griffin scored on a 12-yard pass from Palazzolo with 3:37 remaining in the half.

Willamette took over at its own 37-yard line and drove for a touchdown. The key play was a 27-yard pass from Kevin Ramay (Fr., QB, Simi Valley, CA/Grace Brethren HS) to Scott Schoettgen (Jr., WR, Columbia, CA/Sonora HS) to the PLU 19. WU reached the end zone three plays later on a 6-yard jaunt by Terrell Malley (Fr., FL, Portland, OR/Roosevelt HS) with 1:17 on the clock.

The Lutes drove from the PLU 26 to the Willamette 5-yard line in the third quarter. A false start penalty prior to 3rd-and-goal moved the ball back to the 10. Jordan Rasmussen found Griffin for a five-yard catch on the next play, but the Lutes had to settle for a 22-yard field goal by Isett. PLU owned a 17-7 lead just under four minutes into the second half.

Abney's first touchdown came with 4:36 left in the third quarter to pull Willamette within 17-14. The 2-yard carry ended a 10-play, 74-yard drive that started with a 19-yard run by Abney and also included a 20-yard pass from Ramay to Chad Pollard (So., FL, Bakersfield, CA/Liberty HS/Bakersfield College).

PLU moved the ball from its own 26 to the WU 19 on its next drive, but couldn't add to its lead. On 4th-and-4, Rasmussen threw an incomplete pass and the Bearcats took over on downs.

The next four possessions -- two for each team -- lasted just three plays each. At the end of WU's second possession, Mitchell Rowan (So., PK/P, Cotati, CA/Rancho Cotate HS) boomed a 53-yard punt to the PLU 23. An illegal blocking penalty moved the Lutes back an additional 10 yards.

When T.J. Suek punted four plays later, Willamette's Jose Green (Jr., TB, Downey, Ca/Warren HS) caught the ball at the 50-yard line and returned it 29 yards to the PLU 21. Malley rushed for 12 yards on the first play and Abney followed with a 6-yard run that put the ball at the Lutes' 3-yard line.

Two plays later, on 3rd-and-goal, Schoettgen caught a 3-yard touchdown pass from Ramay with 6:48 remaining in the game to give WU a 21-17 lead. Schoettgen jumped high to bring down the ball in double coverage.

After the kickoff, Ralph Pineda (Jr., ILB, Los Angeles, CA/Cathedral HS/San Jose State Univ.) of Willamette forced a fumble on PLU's first play. Kahler recovered the ball and returned it one yard to the PLU 33.

Abney ran 20 yards to the 13-yard line. On the next play, Malley rushed for seven yards, but fumbled at the end of the run and Bryan Neumiller gained possession for the Lutes.

Rasmussen completed a 10-yard pass to Nick Caraballo and a 33-yard pass to Griffin to advance the ball to the Pacific Lutheran 49-yard line. The ensuing pass by Rasmussen was intercepted by Kahler, who returned it 23 yards to the PLU 22.

This time Willamette cashed in on the turnover. Abney ran for 14 yards and a first down at the eight. Malley added two yards on the ground and Mikey Lemon (Jr., FL, McMinnville, OR/McMinnville HS/Linfield College) tacked on five yards. On 3rd-and-goal from the one, Abney ran into the end zone for his second touchdown with 3:17 left. WU led, 28-17.

A 21-yard pass from Rasmussen to Griffin moved the Lutes to their own 48 two plays after the kickoff. Three plays later, Rasmussen was sacked by Ryan Bourke (So., DE, Bothell, WA/Archbishop Murphy HS) for a six-yard loss. On 4th-and-15, Rasmussen was sacked again, this time by Harmon Bruno (So., OLB, Danville, CA/San Ramon Valley HS).

WU gained possession at the PLU 35. Abney scored his third touchdown of the half on a 4-yard run with 1:12 to go.

Rogers hauled in Willamette's fourth interception on the final play of the game. The Bearcats finished with five takeaways, five sacks and eight tackles for losses.

Ross' 19 tackles led all players. Pineda added 10 tackles for Willamette. Free safety Andy Sturza topped Pacific Lutheran's defensive chart with 10 tackles.

Willamette rushed for 237 yards on 41 carries. Abney's 77 yards led the team, while Pollard added 76 yards on just six carries. Malley ran for 43 yards on nine carries.

Ramay and Brian Widing (Fr., QB, Oregon City, OR/Canby Union HS) each went 3 for 7 passing for the Bearcats. Schoettgen caught four of the passes for 55 yards. Willamette gained 88 yards through the air.

The Lutes ran for 101 yards on 36 carries. Sean Snead rushed seven times for 31 yards. Griffin had seven carries for 23 yards.

Rasmussen was 20 of 31 passing for 248 yards and two interceptions. Palazzolo went 11 of 16 for 80 yards. He threw one touchdown pass and had two interceptions. Griffin hauled in 11 catches for 135 yards.

Willamette will play at home again on Saturday, Oct. 24, when the Bearcats host rival Linfield College, ranked #7 in the Top 25. Kickoff for the Northwest Conference game between the two nationally-ranked teams is set for 1:30 p.m. (PDT).

Willamette University 35
Pacific Lutheran University 17
Jamiere Abney scored on touchdown runs of 2, 1 and 4 yards to key Willamette's comeback in the second half.

Jamiere Abney scored on touchdown runs of 2, 1 and 4 yards to key Willamette's comeback in the second half.

Jeff Kahler intercepted a pass and recovered a fumble against PLU.

Jeff Kahler intercepted a pass and recovered a fumble against PLU.

Mitchell Rowan kicked a 53-yard punt that helped set up the go-ahead score in the fourth quarter

Mitchell Rowan kicked a 53-yard punt that helped set up the go-ahead score in the fourth quarter

Ross recorded 19 tackles against PLU and now has 65 tackles on the season.

Ross recorded 19 tackles against PLU and now has 65 tackles on the season.