Stevens Point Holds Off Bearcats, 8-6, as Penalty Nullifies 2-Point PAT in Final Minute

Abney Scores Willamette's TD, Rushes for 82 Yards on Nine Carries

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

SALEM, ORE. -- The University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point won a defensive battle with Willamette University, 8-6, at McCulloch Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 3. UW-Stevens Point, ranked #23 in the D3football.com Top 25 Preseason Poll, is 1-0 on the season. Willamette, which received votes in the poll but was not ranked in the Top 25, fell to 0-1.

Willamette scored the game's only touchdown with 27 seconds left in the fourth quarter on a 2-yard run by Jamiere Abney to pull within 8-6.

On the ensuing two-point PAT attempt, Jake Knecht (Jr., WR, Issaquah, WA/Skyline HS/Illinois State Univ.) made a diving catch near the right sideline in the end zone that appeared to tie the game.

The play, however, was erased by an illegal touching penalty. It was ruled that Knecht stepped out of bounds and back in-bounds prior to making the catch. WU quarterback Brian Widing (Jr., QB, Canby, OR/Canby HS), starting from the left hash mark on the conversion, rolled out to his right before sending a low pass to Knecht.

The defensive units for both teams were tremendous nearly all afternoon. Willamette gained just 242 total yards, while Stevens Point earned 204 yards.

Leading the way on defense for their respective teams were senior free safety Joe Mleziva of UWSP and senior outside linebacker Harmon Bruno (Danville, CA/San Ramon Valley HS) of WU. Mleziva topped the Pointers with 15 tackles and an interception. Bruno paced the Bearcats with 12 tackles.

Other top defenders were Cody Seibel with 11 tackles for UW-Stevens Point and Dominic David (Jr., S, Salem, OR/South Salem HS/Portland State Univ.) with eight tackles for Willamette.

Wisconsin-Stevens Point scored on a 30-yard field goal by Jered Fohrman with 12:54 left in the second quarter for a 3-0 lead. The field goal was all Willamette allowed the Pointers' on their first three possessions, which started at the 50, the UWSP 40-yard line and the UWSP 41-yard line.

WU nearly tied the score on the Bearcats' next possession, which began with a 39-yard kickoff return by Tyson Giza (So., CB, Salem, OR/Sprague HS) to the UWSP 49. Six plays later, Mitch Rowan (Sr., PK/P, Cotati, CA/Rancho Cotate HS) barely missed on a 48-yard field goal that went just wide of the upright while passing near the top quarter of the vertical bar.

The Bearcats also threatened late in the half on a drive that began inside the WU 1-yard line. Willamette received the horrible field position after a 50-yard punt by Brandon Matznick was downed by the Pointers at the last possible moment before it would have entered the end zone. WU drove 91 yards on the next eight plays and faced 4th-and-2 at the UWSP 8-yard line.

On fourth down, Widing's pass to Knecht was intercepted at the goal line by Kody Morgan, who returned the pickoff 16 yards. Stevens Point ran six plays to finish the half and retain its 3-0 lead.

The Pointers added a safety at the 11:57 mark of the third period, when Rowan mishandled a low punt snap, but fell on the ball less than yard into WU's end zone. UWSP added a 37-yard field goal by Fohrman with 9:34 left in the quarter. The field goal completed a 6-play, 37-yard drive that started at the Stevens Point 43.

Following the kickoff, Willamette started a drive at its own 13-yard line. The Bearcats were eventually forced to punt after Matt Williams (Jr., FL, Encinitas, CA/La Costa Canyon HS) was stopped two yards short on 3rd-and-6 from the WU 42-yard line.

It appeared that the Bearcats forced a fumble when Bennet Wenzel of UWSP was unable to hold onto the punt, but a WU player was penalized for contact with Wenzel a split-second before the ball arrived.

Willamette's touchdown drive began at the Bearcats' 32-yard line, and then lasted 13 plays and covered 67 yards.

Mason Brown (So., TB, Novato, CA/Marin Catholic HS) provided the first key play, a 12-yard run on 3rd-and-4 that gave WU a first down just past midfield. Three plays later, on 3rd-and-8, Abney rushed up the middle for 17 yards to the Pointers' 30.

A false start penalty moved the ball back five yards, but Taylor Wyman (Fr., TB, Bellevue, WA/Issaquah HS) ran for four yards and Williams scampered for 15 to gain another first down.

On 3rd-and-8 at the 14, Widing threw a pass toward Knecht near the goal line, but Knecht was hit well before the ball arrived. The pass interference penalty moved WU to the 2-yard line, and Abney scored two plays later.

The Bearcats gained their 242 yards on 58 offensive plays. Abney rushed for 82 yards on nine carries, including a 36-yard run in the first half. Brown gained 67 yards on nine carries.

Wyman earned 52 rushing yards on five attempts in the fourth period and did most of his damage on a 42-yard run early in the quarter. Wyman's long carry was part of a drive that stalled at the UWSP 36 with 10:06 remaining.

Willamette had terrible field position for almost the entire game, with 10 of 11 drives starting inside the WU 35. Eight possessions began inside the 25, including six at or inside the 20. Three of the drives began at the 1, the 7 and the 13.

UW-Stevens Point achieved its 204 yards on 51 plays. Cory Flisakowski led the Pointers with 71 rushing yards on 16 carries. Keith Ingram added 35 yard on 10 carries.

Both teams struggled in the air. Widing was 4 of 15 for 35 yards and two interceptions. Casey Barnes finished 4 of 8 for 36 yards for Stevens Point.

Willamette will play #16-ranked Hardin-Simmons University at McCulloch Stadium next Saturday (Sept. 10) at 1:30 p.m. (PDT).

BOX SCORE
Wisconsin-Stevens Point 8
Willamette University 6
Jamiere Abney rushed for 82 yards and one touchdown on nine carries.

Jamiere Abney rushed for 82 yards and one touchdown on nine carries.