Lutes hope for better luck second time around

More news about: Pacific Lutheran
Jordan Patterson led Pacific Lutheran with seven solo tackles in the Lutes' first meeting with Linfield.
PLU athletics photo by Tim Morgan

The Pacific Lutheran football team suffered a shutout loss to Linfield when the Northwest Conference rivals met way back in Week 4.

The Lutes have not lost since that game, and are hoping for better results when they square off with second-ranked Linfield in the first round the NCAA Division III playoffs Saturday.

“We’re very, very excited to be in the playoffs No. 1, and very, very excited to go down and play Linfield again,” said PLU head coach Scott Westering, who has led the No. 13 Lutes to an 8-1 overall record.

“It’s a great opportunity to challenge you to be the best that you can be,” he added. “We know they’re a great team and they’re playing very well and they’re going to be well coach.”

Senior linebacker Jordan Patterson and the Pacific Lutheran defense are looking to contain Josh Yoder and the Linfield offense for four quarters.

“We’re definitely excited to get another shot,” said Patterson, who leads the team with 72 total tackles, including 15.5 for a loss. “Each game we play, we have an opportunity to get better. And we’re going to be a better PLU team than the first time that we played them this year. So it should be a really great game.”

He said the Lutes have to focus on finishing the game strong. Last time the teams met, Linfield held a 7-0 lead after three quarters, but extended that to a 29-0 victory.

Pacific Lutheran will have to slow down Josh Yoder, who is dangerous passing the ball as well as running. The Lutes hope while they slow down Yoder, their own dual-threat quarterback Dalton Ritchey can make plays with the ball.

“When you have a quarterback that can do what Josh Yoder does or what Dalton Ritchey does with their legs, that changes the whole dynamic of how you play defense and how you have to play defense,” Westering said.

The senior linebacker, who has an interception and a fumble recovery to go with four quarterback sacks, will be a key component to slowing down the Wildcats.

“He’s kind of a smiling assassin kind of guy. On the sidelines, he’s a soft-spoken, smiling kind of guy. Then when he crosses the chalk, he goes and plays the game,” Westering said. “He loves to play the game of football. He’s a physical train wreck, and loves that aspect of football. And yet does a great job of leading and playing the style of football we play at PLU.”

The Lutes are coming off a bye in the final week of the regular season. Westering said the week off has given his players an opportunity to heal up and get ready for the second season.

“To have a bye as the season ended was great for us to take a breath and all,” Westering said.

“It’s been great,” Patterson added. “We’ve got some extra preparation. And most importantly, we got some time to rest our bodies, and just regroup and relax to get ready for this big game ahead of us.”

Pacific Lutheran turned the ball over five times in its regular season meeting at Linfield. That’s definitely an area of focus heading into the postseason.

“It’s pretty amazing that we sit at 8-1, and yet we’ve turned the ball over like we have. So obviously, as we head into the second season taking care of the football is a No. 1 priority for us on offense,” Westering said.

“Our offense is going to be a lot better this game. I believe in those guys,” Patterson said. “It should be a totally different game this time.”

Win or lose on Saturday, Patterson said he and his teammates are just happy to have another week to show what they can do on the gridiron.

“Once the offense and the defense starts clicking as a whole, I think we can do a lot of great things,” Patterson said. “Hopefully that happens this week versus Linfield.”

“I think it’s got the makings for a great college football game,” Westering said.

Playoff qualifiers

The West Region has eight teams competing in the NCAA Division III playoffs.

As mentioned in the feature above, No. 2 ranked Linfield will battle Northwest Conference rival Pacific Lutheran – ranked No. 13.

No. 5 UW-Whitewater completed a 10-0 season with a win over UW-River Falls, securing the WIAC title outright. The Warhawks will host St. Norbert in the first round.

No. 6 ranked Bethel capped off a perfect 10-0 regular season with a 28-7 win over St. John’s. The MIAC champion Royals will take on St. Scholastica – the UMAC champions.

No. 7 UW-Platteville is making its first ever appearance in the NCAA Division III playoffs after receiving an at-large bid. The Pioneers will host NACC champion Concordia (Wis.).

Coming off a 70-16 win over Whittier, SCIAC champion Redlands will take on host Mary Hardin-Baylor.

IIAC champion Wartburg travels to Illinois Wesleyan for a first round matchup.

Tully resigns

Head coach John Tully stepped down from his position at Whitworth after completing his 19th season with the program.

He leaves with a record of 100-83 after guiding the Pirates to a 61-28 win over Lewis and Clark. Tully exits as the winningest and longest-serving coach in Whitworth history, securing Northwest Conference championships in 2001, 2006 and 2007.

“It has been an honor being the head football coach of Whitworth University for the past 19 years,” Tully said in a press release. “I am proud of the accomplishments of our coaching staff during my tenure here and truly appreciate the relationships I built with the players and coaches over the years. I look forward to the professional opportunities this change will bring.”

Whitworth will begin its search for a new head coach immediately.

The rest of the West

Buena Vista scored 16 fourth quarter points, including a Tyler Stolen field goal in the final minute, to defeat Dubuque, 29-28. The Spartans suffered losses in three of their last four games of the season. … Jon Baune caught a 36-yard touchdown pass from Griffin Neal to lift Concordia-Moorhead to a 38-31 win over Gustavus Adolphus. The Cobbers finished the season 8-2 overall. … Linfield trailed Pacific 16-7 in the third quarter, but rallied for a 28-22 victory behind two touchdown runs from Josh Yoder in the fourth quarter. The quarterback finished with 82 yards rushing and three touchdowns. … Claremont-Mudd-Scripps held off a late rally from Pomona-Pitzer to win 29-23. Trey Reynolds threw for 180 yards and two touchdowns in the victory. In previous years, the rival teams would play for the “Peace Pipe” but the traveling trophy has been retired. A new rivalry trophy tradition will begin next season. … Greenville will compete in the NCCAA Victory Bowl after finishing the regular season 9-1 overall. The Panthers, who won the Victory Bowl a year ago, will square off with Azusa Pacific (8-2) on Nov. 23 in Rome, Georgia.

Number of the week

43 – as in the number of years since UW-Platteville appeared in a postseason game. The Pioneers are making their NCAA Division III playoff debut. However, Platteville lost to Texas A&I, 16-0, in Division I NAIA postseason play in 1970.

Rank ’em

Eight West Region teams were ranked in the Week 11 Top 25 poll.

Three WIAC teams were ranked, paced by No. 5 UW-Whitewater. UW-Platteville checks in at No. 7 after beating UW-Oshkosh, 17-16. Oshkosh finishes the regular season ranked No. 11.

Linfield received five first place votes to remain ranked No. 2 and idle Pacific Lutheran stayed ranked No. 13.

Bethel is ranked No. 6 after winning the MIAC while conference rivals St. Thomas and Concordia-Moorhead hold the No. 16 and No. 22 positions, respectively.

Redlands and Willamette received 37 votes each. Pacific (14), Wartburg (13), St. John’s (9) and Chapman (3) also received votes in the final regular season poll.

Be heard

Do you have a story idea for the Around the West column? Contact me about approaching milestones, broken records, break-out players or any other storylines in the West. Or just drop me a note and let me know what you like or don’t about the column. All ideas and feedback are welcome. Email me at josh.smith@d3sports.com or follow me on Twitter at @DU_Josh_Smith.

Josh Smith photo

Josh Smith has covered Division III sports for more than five years. He writes for multiple publications, including D3football.com beginning in 2012. He has won multiple awards for reporting and photography and lives in southern Wisconsin near UW-Whitewater, where he graduated with a degree in print journalism.

2011-12 columns: Jason Galleske
2010: Tim Walsh
2003-09: Adam Johnson
1999-2000: Don Stoner 

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