SEWANEE, Tenn. -- Willamette University rallied from a 24-14 deficit in the third quarter to defeat Sewanee: University of the South, 28-24, on Saturday, Sept. 29.
Willamette remained undefeated at 4-0 on the season. Mike Hernandez (Jr., RB) scored the go-ahead touchdown with 6:03 left on a 4-yard pass from quarterback Josh Dean (Jr.).
WU secured the win two Sewanee possessions later by stopping the Tigers on downs at the Willamette 20 with less than 30 seconds left. Sewanee fell to 2-3.
The game featured two of the top offensive teams in NCAA Division III. Willamette entered the game ranked #1 in the nation in passing yards (407.0 avg.), while Sewanee was fifth in rushing yards (334.2 avg.).
Both teams fell a bit short of their season averages but still amassed impressive totals, as Willamette passed for 356 yards and Sewanee rushed for 297 yards.
Willamette had a chance to score first when the Bearcats drove 66-yards on 13 plays to begin the game, but Kyle Derby (Jr., PK/P) missed on an 18-yard field goal with 10:12 left in the opening quarter.
Later in the first quarter, Sewanee took a 7-0 lead. The Tigers started at the WU 43 following a short punt. Four plays later, Curtis Johnson crossed the goal line on a 22-yard run. Garrett Schlosser kicked the extra point with 3:56 on the clock.
The Bearcats responded with a 12-play, 81-yard drive that ended with Dean hitting Jake Knecht (Sr., WR) on a 14-yard touchdown pass with six seconds left in the quarter. Derby kicked the PAT to tie the game.
On Sewanee's second possession of the second quarter, the Tigers went 41 yards on six plays. Cody Daniel rushed 1 yard for the touchdown, giving Sewanee a 14-7 lead.
Willamette tied the game for the second time when Knecht caught a 38-yard touchdown pass from Dean with 1:22 left in the first half. Derby kicked the extra point.
Sewanee took over at its own 34 following the kickoff return. The Tigers advanced the ball to the WU 29 over the next six plays to set up a 46-yard field goal by Schlosser with two seconds remaining in the second quarter, giving Sewanee a 17-14 halftime advantage.
The Tigers received the ball to start the second half and responded with a time-consuming drive of 17 plays and 78 yards. The drive featured just one play of more than 10 yards -- a 14-yard run by Sergio Acosta. The Tigers completed the drive with a 1-yard touchdown run by Daniel after keeping the ball for 8:33.
Trailing 24-14, the Bearcats countered with a much quicker -- but equally effective -- offensive drive. Willamette covered 68 yards in just four plays. Even so, the Bearcats faced 3rd-and-16 at the WU 25 after Dean was sacked for a 9-yard loss. On third down, Dean threw a 16-yard pass to Jake Turner (Sr., WR).
Willamette kept its offense on the field for 4th-and-1 at its own 41. Dean faked a handoff before throwing a pass down the middle to Benny Weischedel (Sr., TE). Weischedel caught the ball about 25 yards upfield, and then fended off a couple of possible tacklers on his way to the end zone.
Sewanee reached the WU 39 on the next drive, but fumbled and recovered for no gain on 3rd-and-1. On 4th-and-1, Daniel was stopped for a two-yard loss.
Neither team scored on their next four tries. Two of the drives ended in interceptions as De'Nard Ford of Sewanee intercepted a pass by Dean and Cody Pastorino (Sr., S) picked off a pass by Daniel.
The Bearcats gained control for the go-ahead touchdown drive with 9:29 left. Ten plays and 73 yards later, Willamette had its first lead of the game at 28-24. A key play came on 3rd-and-9 at the Sewanee 19, when Dean threw a 15-yard pass to Derek Traeger (So., WR).
Dean's completion to Traeger put the ball at the 4-yard line. On the next snap, Dean threw a pass to Hernandez who fell on the goal line after hauling in the catch. Derby kicked the PAT with 6:03 remaining.
Sewanee countered by driving from its own 17 to the WU 38. The Tigers, however, fumbled on 3rd-and-1. Pierce McGrady recovered the ball for Sewanee, but the result left the Tigers with 4th-and-13. Boudreaux punted 48 yards to the WU 2.
After gaining seven yards on two running plays, Dean was sacked just in front of the goal line on third down. Derby contributed a 46-yard punt, but Quentin Jones returned the ball 24 yards, giving Sewanee possession at the Willamette 23 with 1:12 left.
On the first two plays, Daniel threw an incomplete pass and Jase Brooks was stopped for no gain by Pastorino. On third down, Devante Jones ran for three yards.
Sewanee faced 4th-and-7. On the play, Daniel's arm was hit as he released the ball by Ben Lyons (Sr., DE). The pass sailed over Brooks, who was the intended receiver several yards upfield in the right flat. WU took over on downs with seven seconds left.
Dean completed 28 of 38 passes for all 356 of Willamette's passing yards and four touchdowns. He has tossed 18 touchdown passes in WU's first four games. Turner caught six of the passes for 87 yards, while Knecht grabbed 5 passes for 81 yards and Weischedel caught 4 for 81.
Acosta topped the Sewanee rushing attack with 14 carries for 69 yards. Johnson gained 54 yards on 11 carries and Daniel earned 49 yards on 19 carries. Daniel was 2 of 5 passing for 14 yards and Johnson completed 1 of 2 passes for 33 yards.
Senior inside linebacker Wes Wenzel of Willamette led the Bearcat defense with 10 total tackles, including seven solo stops. J.D. Crabtree (Sr., DB) of Sewanee finished the game with 10 total tackles.
The Bearcats will open Northwest Conference play next Saturday (Oct. 6) when they take on Whitworth University in Spokane, Wash. Kickoff at the Pine Bowl is set for 1 p.m. (PDT).