TACOMA, Wash. -- Willamette University built a 42-14 lead midway through the third quarter, and then held off the University of Puget Sound for a 49-31 victory over the Loggers on Saturday, Oct. 14 at Baker Stadium. The Bearcats improved to 3-3 on the season, 2-1 in the Northwest Conference. Puget Sound remained winless at 0-6, including 0-3 in the NWC.
Willamette intercepted a total of five passes. The last interception was hauled in by Alex Holland (Sr., CB) at the UPS 40 and returned all the way to the end zone for the final touchdown of the game with 1:44 left.
Bearcat quarterback Brian Widing (Jr.) completed his first 11 passes and finished 14 of 20 for 182 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Jake Knecht (Jr., WR) caught 7 passes for 124 yards and a touchdown.
Highly-regarded wide receiver Adam Kniffin of Puget Sound caught 11 passes for 164 yards and one touchdown. UPS quarterback Braden Foley was 26 of 50 for 324 yards, one touchdown and five interceptions. Overall, UPS was 28 of 52 in the air.
Willamette running backs Dylan Jones (Fr., TB) and Jake Turner (Jr., FL) each scored two touchdowns in the first half as the Bearcats surged out to a 35-7 lead.
Jones crossed the goal line on a 2-yard run with 7:34 left in the first quarter for the game's opening touchdown.
The drive began after Mark Meek (Jr., DT) recovered a UPS fumble at the WU 45. A 2-yard run by Knecht plus a personal foul by Puget Sound gave WU a first down at the UPS 38. Three plays later, Turner ran 18 yards to the UPS 8. Jones scored on 3rd-and-goal.
Turner scampered for the second touchdown with 3:37 remaining in the first period on a 9-yard run. The touchdown completed a 5-play, 46-yard drive, including passes by Widing for 18-yard to Knecht and for 15 yards to Matt Williams (Jr., FL).
A 74-yard drive by the Bearcats led to the third touchdown. Widing completed two more passes during the eight-play drive, which also included a 21-yard run by Turner and a 13-yard run by Derek Traeger (Fr., FL). Turner carried the ball on the final play, a 19-yard dash to the end zone with 13:56 remaining in the second quarter.
Each of the next two UPS possessions ended in interceptions. The first, which was picked off by Dominic David (Jr., S) gave WU the ball at the Puget Sound 41. The Bearcats advanced the ball to the UPS 4 in three plays, but a fumble on the fourth play was recovered by the Loggers.
On the next play, Foley was intercepted again, this time by Tyson Giza (So., CB). WU needed the ball for just one play, as Widing threw a 34-yard touchdown pass to Knecht.
Kyle Derby (So., PK) kicked the extra point for a 28-0 lead with 11:20 left in the half. Derby was 7 for 7 on PATs during the game.
Puget Sound got on the scoreboard when Kupuno Park recorded a 1-yard touchdown run with 7:49 to go in the half. The key play of the drive for UPS was a 40-yard pas to Kniffin.
WU reached the end zone on its next possession. Jones registered his second touchdown of the day with a 5-yard run with 3:03 on the clock. Jones also had a 16-yard carry during the drive, while Widing picked up 3rd-and-7 at the UPS 19 two plays before the touchdown with an 11-yard pass to Taylor Wyman (Fr. TB).
The Bearcats held UPS and forced a punt, but Casey Coberly knocked the ball away from WU returner Eric Knowles (Jr., FL) and Isaiah Adams recovered the ball for the Loggers at the Willamette 33. Six plays later, with 1:01 left in the half, Park scored on a 1-yard carry.
WU extended the lead to 42-14 when Wyman reached the end zone on a 1-yard run to complete an 11-play, 82-yard drive with 6:43 to go in the third quarter.
The Loggers scored less than four minutes later, as Kniffin caught a 3-yard touchdown pass from Foley. Everett West kicked the extra point.
Puget Sound recorded a safety with 9:13 left in the fourth quarter. The safety occurred after Michael Del Real (Sr., S) of Willamette intercepted a pass in the WU end zone. Del Real made an illegal forward pass in the end zone while tossing the ball to a teammate. The penalty resulted in the safety.
UPS earned its final touchdown with 7:32 left in the game when Park scored his third 1-yard touchdown run of the game. After Park's second touchdown, Foley hit Lukas Diesing with a two-point conversion pass, pulling the Loggers within, 42-31.
Holland's interception return for a touchdown extended Willamette's lead to the final margin.
Willamette gained 368 yards on 65 plays. The Bearcats rushed 45 times for 186 yards. Widing threw for an additional 182 yards. The top rusher for WU was Turner, who contributed 81 yards on 10 carries.
Mitch Rowan (Sr., P/PK), who has provided excellent punting throughout the season, had a stellar game against the Loggers.
Rowan punted three times for 140 yards, an average of 46.7 yards per punt. His first punt covered 60 yards and pinned UPS at its own 5-yard line just over two minutes into the game. In the third quarter Rowan added a 38-yard punt to the UPS 21-yard line. In the fourth quarter, he kicked a 42-yard punt that was downed at the UPS 1.
Puget Sound earned 476 yards on 80 plays, with 340 yards through the air. The Loggers achieved 136 rushing yards on 28 carries. Park ran for 52 yards on 13 carries.
Cody Pastorino (Jr., S) led the Willamette defense with six total tackles (5 solo). Ben Lyons (Jr., DE) registered five tackles -- all solo stops. Tyler Vlasak topped the UPS tackle chart with 14 tackles (10 solo), while Nassar Kyobe added 10 tackles for the Logger.
The Bearcats will play NCAA Division I opponent Portland State University (Football Championship Subdivision) next Saturday, Oct. 22 at Jeld-Wen Field in Portland, Ore. Game time is set for 5:05 p.m. (PDT). It will be one of the few games in the past decade between an NCAA Division III team and a fully-funded NCAA Division I FCS opponent.