Willamette Football 2012 Season Review

Bearcats Finish 8-2 and Set Offensive Records; Dean Establishes New Passing Marks

By John Lind, Assistant Athletics Communications Director

SALEM, ORE -- The Willamette University Bearcats completed their 2012 schedule with an 8-2 overall record while breaking numerous school records and concluding the year as one of the most prolific offensive teams in NCAA Division III. WU finished the year with a 4-2 record in the Northwest Conference.

Overall, the Bearcats improved by four wins from a 4-6 record in 2011. The team got off to a hot start in 2012 and remained in the national rankings for much of the season while accumulating great offensive statistics.

It was the first season in charge for Head Coach for Glen Fowles, who was an assistant coach for the Bearcats during the previous 16 seasons, including 14 years as the offensive coordinator. Fowles hired Brian Sheppard as the team's offensive coordinator. The new-look Bearcats became a pass-oriented team that also possessed a strong running threat.

The Bearcats featured an experienced offensive line and a deep group of skill position players. Josh Dean (Jr., QB, Dana Point, CA/Dana Hills HS), in his first season as the starting quarterback, emerged as a talented leader. 

Willamette faced a challenging schedule that included only four home games to go along with six road games. Willamette started the season on a roll, winning its first six games.

Dean Sets Passing Records

Dean wasted little time becoming an offensive leader, as he tied the school record with six touchdowns to go along with 468 passing yards in the season opener, sending the Bearcats to a 58-34 victory over Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene, Texas.

During the year, Dean set numerous Willamette records including new single season marks with 273 completions, 422 attempts, 34 touchdown passes and 3,345 passing yards. He led the Northwest Conference in passing efficiency rating (152.18).

Dean placed fourth in NCAA Division III in passing yards per game (334.50) and was sixth in completions per game (27.30). He also ranked sixth in the nation in total offense with 351.6 yards per game.

As a team, the Bearcats were ranked fourth in the nation with 355.0 passing yards per game. Willamette averaged 39.6 points per game, while allowing only 26.0 points per game. The Bearcats' offense achieved 3,550 passing yards and 1,431 rushing yards to finish just shy of 5,000 total yards (4,981).

Offense Earns Impressive Statistics

Willamette led the Northwest Conference in passing offense (355.0 avg.), total offense (498.1 avg.), and passing efficiency (152.7). The Bearcats also broke many of Willamette's passing records.

Single game records for pass completions (40) and attempts (57) were set during the Sept. 22 game against Pacific University in a 51-17 win. Overall, the team's 37 passing touchdowns eclipsed the previous mark of 28 set in 1989. The 3,550 passing yards also bested the previous record of 2,754 yards set in 1990.

Additional single season offensive records set by the Bearcats were 287 pass completions and 445 pass attempts.

Willamette's prolific offense owed its success not only to Dean, but also to a bevy of talented playmakers surrounding him. Jake Knecht (Sr., WR, Issaquah, WA/Skyline HS/Illinois State Univ.), Jake Turner (Sr., WR, Ontario, OR/Ontario HS), and Benny Weischedel (Sr., TE, San Pedro, CA/San Pedro HS) were the top three receiving targets for Dean.

Knecht led the Bearcats with 55 catches for 773 yards and a team high 11 touchdowns. Turner was on Knecht's heels, catching 50 passes for 763 yards and five touchdowns. Weischedel turned in one of the best seasons for a Bearcat tight end in recent memory, catching 47 passes for 711 yards and six touchdowns.

Weischedel was chosen First Team All-Northwest Conference, while Dean and Knecht received Second Team recognition.

Despite its commitment to the passing game, Willamette's offense established a substantial running game. Dylan Jones (So., RB, Santa Maria, CA/Ernest Righetti HS) led the team in rushing with 716 yards and seven touchdowns on 158 attempts (4.5 avg.). Jones also caught 21 passes for 223 yards and two additional scores.

Junior halfback Terrell Malley (Portland, OR/Roosevelt HS) provided versatility for the Bearcat offense as well, accumulating a team high 968 all-purpose yards (428 receiving, 278 rushing, 262 kick return) and seven total touchdowns. Malley finished seventh in the NWC in all-purpose yards. Jones and Malley each earned Second Team All-NWC honors.

Willamette's offense benefited from the efforts of several powerful offensive linemen. Taylor Reeder (Sr., OT, Prunedale, CA/Palma HS) was chosen First Team All-Northwest Conference and Second Team All-West Region, while Keenan-Celtic Faatea (So., C/OG, Honolulu, HI/Punahou School) received Second Team All-NWC status.

Defense Plays Strong

On defense, the Bearcats played a solid, bend-but-don't-break style of football that resulted in 12 All-NWC selections. It was no surprise that the Bearcats' top three tacklers, Jack Nelson (Jr., ILB, Portland, OR/Jesuit HS), Cody Pastorino (Sr., S, Glenn, CA/Willows HS) and Ben Lyons (Sr., DE, Anchorage, AK/South Anchorage HS) were all named First Team All-NWC.

Pastorino also received First Team All-West Region and Second Team All-America honors from D3football.com. Lyons was chosen Third Team All-West Region.

Nelson led the team with 72 tackles, including 5.5 tackles for loss, 3.0 sacks, and an interception. In his first two seasons at WU, he has accumulated 99 total tackles (61 unassisted).

Pastorino made his presence felt on both defense and special teams. He accumulated 62 tackles and a team-high five interceptions, while also blocking three kicks on special teams. He concluded his four years with an impressive seven blocked kicks during his Willamette career. He also achieved 169 total tackles, 11 interceptions and 14 pass break-ups as a Bearcat.

Lyons notched 58 tackles and led the team with 9.0 sacks. He also recorded 10.0 tackles for losses, forced two fumbles and recovered one fumble. During his career, he earned 112 total tackles, 18.5 quarterback sacks, and 21.5 tackles for losses.

Four Bearcat defensive players received Second Team All-NWC recognition. They were Kyle Bettencourt (Sr., NG, Danville, CA/San Ramon Valley HS), Cullen Carroll (Sr., OLB, Petaluma, CA/St. Vincent de Paul HS), Dominic David (Sr., S, Salem, OR/South Salem HS/Portland State Univ.) and Tyson Giza (Jr., CB, Salem, OR/Sprague HS).

Bettencourt registered 18 total tackles (11 solo) and helped Willamette limit opponents to just 3.1 yards per rush. Carroll ranked fourth on the team with 57 tackles, led the Bearcats with 11.0 tackles for losses, contributed 3.5 quarterback sacks, forced three fumbles and recovered two fumbles.

David achieved 48 tackles (31 solo), while intercepting four passes, causing two fumbles and falling on a fumble. Giza made 25 tackles (18 solo) in the secondary, and also provided Willamette with four interceptions and a team-high seven pass break-ups. Giza averaged 21.0 yards on 22 kickoff returns to rank third in the NWC.

Tremendous Season for the Bearcats

Overall, it was an exciting year for the Bearcats, who scored 396 points, including 35 or more points in seven of the 10 games. On defense, Willamette shut out the University of Puget Sound and held five other teams to 24 points or less. The Bearcats piled up 4,981 total yards while averaging 6.3 yards per offensive play.

Willamette completed 37 touchdown passes and added another 18 touchdowns on the ground. The defense intercepted 18 passes and limited opponents in the red zone to just 67% scoring (26 of 39) and 54% touchdowns (21 of 39). By comparison, WU scored on 86% of its possessions in the red zone (43 of 50), including 76% touchdowns (38 of 50).

Josh Dean set numerous passing records as he completed 273 of 422 passes for 3,345 yards and 34 touchdowns.

Josh Dean set numerous passing records as he completed 273 of 422 passes for 3,345 yards and 34 touchdowns.

Jack Nelson was named First Team All-NWC after leading the Bearcats with 72 total tackles.

Jack Nelson was named First Team All-NWC after leading the Bearcats with 72 total tackles.