PORTLAND – In a season that has been punctuated by statement games and big road wins, this may be the biggest statement yet for Pacific football.
P.J. Minaya (Jr., Wahiawa, Hawaii) broke school records with 442 passing yards and 454 yards of total offense Saturday, throwing for four touchdowns and rushing for a fifth as he led a record offensive day for the Boxers in a 42-20 rout of Lewis & Clark in the Pioneers' homecoming Northwest Conference football game at Griswold Stadium.
Minaya picked up the 442 passing yards while completing 21 of 32 passes, averaging just over 21 yards per completion. Kelson Kawai (Jr., North Kohala, Hawaii) proved his favorite target, catching five balls for 161 yards and scoring bombs of 42 yards, 49 yards and 59 yards in the second half.
The effort allowed Minaya to break the passing record of 405 yards set by teammate T.C. Campbell (Jr., Kaimuki, Hawaii) against Menlo in the last game of the 2010 season. Minaya's 454 yards of total offense smashed the previous record of 411 yards set by Pacific hall of fame Ralph Nickerson against Whitman in 1975.
As a team, the Boxers (3-4, 2-2 NWC) amassed an incredible 607 yards of total offense, eclipsing the record of 587 yards set against Whitman in 1972. The Boxers' 442 passing yards broke the record of 405 set during the Menlo game in 2010.
"Anytime you are able to drop back and have that kind of success throwing the ball down the field, it comes down to the protection. P.J. had all day to get set and find his receivers," said Pacific Head Coach Keith Buckley. "We have always said that P.J. has been very capable of being a starting quarterback and he showed it again today."
Buckley said while he was happy with the record offensive effort, he was even more impressed with how the team surged in the second half. "The best thing that came from today was that we wanted a game that was close at halftime and that we had to finish and win," he said. "We opened the second half, they scored on the first play and we had ourselves a ball game. The guys absolutely responded well to that challenge. It was something we had not done before and it was a tremendous step forward for our program."
Caleb Roher (So., Gresham, Ore.) finished with 207 all-purpose yards, catching seven passes for 150 and running for 48 yards on a pair of kick returns. In addition, the Boxers finished with 165 yards of rushing, led by 61 yards by Gunther Schultze (Jr., Bellflower, Calif.).
Lewis & Clark (4-4, 1-4 NWC) dropped their fourth straight game and suffered their first loss to the Boxers since 1985. Dynamic quarterback Keith Welch completed 28 of 50 passes for 391 yards and a touchdown, but was intercepted three times. Evan Stanbro caught 11 passes for 231 yards and a touchdown.
While the Pioneers amassed 442 yards of total offense, their vaunted running game continued to suffer. L&C finished with just 42 yards on the ground and the Boxers limited Welch to just 17 yards and one touchdown on four carries. The Pacific defense stopped the Pioneers five times in Boxers' territory, forced three turnovers when L&C was in the red zone and forced a total of five turnovers.
Pacific also benefited from the defensive kicking game. Aaron Koford (Jr., Wilsonville, Ore.) averaged 40.5 yards per punt on six punts, landed four inside the L&C 20-yard line and had a long kick of 46 yards.
"When you are going against a team that can put up a lot of points, to make those kind of stops, especially late in the game, is a big step," Buckley said. "We are getting ourselves off the field when we need to. And when you force five turnovers, that sets you up to have a good chance to win the game."
Pacific opened the game with a clock-milking 62-yard drive that lasted nearly six minutes. Moses Villareal-Gomez (So., Stockton, Calif.) capped the drive with a 16-yard field goal at the 9:12 mark of the first quarter. The Boxers' defense made their first big stop with 3:02 left in the quarter as they forced Welch into an intentional grounding call in his own end zone. By the rule, Pacific earned the safety and went ahead 5-0.
A 24-yard return on the ensuing free kick gave the Boxers the ball near midfield, and two plays later he found Heron Azevedo (Jr., Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) for a 42-yard touchdown pass that gave Pacific an 11-0 lead at the end of the first quarter.
The Pioneers got on the board early in the second quarter when Welch ran the ball in himself from a yard out to complete a 70-yard drive to make it 11-7. Pacific responded with 5:26 to go in the half when Minaya scored on his own one-yard keeper that put the Boxers up 18-7. The Boxers were forced to punt on their next series, but Chase Rogers (So., Lahiana, Hawaii) record Josh Cena's fumbled return at the L&C 12-yard line. Villareal-Gomez finished it off with a 20-yard field goal to make it 21-7 with 36 seconds left.
Lewis & Clark did not lay down, scoring on the following kickoff when Logan Kotzian ran back 99 yards for the touchdown and the Pioneers went into halftime trailing 21-14.
The Pioneers scored again on the first drive of the second half as Welch found Stanbro for a 69-yard scoring pass. Simon Monley missed the extra point, though, and L&C still trailed 21-20. As it happened, it would be the last time L&C scored as the wheels quickly came off the Pioneers' wagon.
Minaya responded by finding Kawai for a 59-yard touchdown strike on the third play of the next drive to put the Boxers back up 28-20. The Pioneers fumbled and were forced to punt on their next two possessions before Minaya hooked up with Kawai again for a 42-yard scoring pass. With just six minutes gone in the third, the Boxers had gone from up just one point to a commanding 35-20 lead.
Pacific closed scoring early in the fourth quarter as Minaya found Kawai for a 49-yard scoring pass with 13:14 left. The Pioneers had the ball twice in inside the Pacific 20-yard line in the fourth, but both possessions ended with interceptions by Bryan Mills (Jr., Imbler, Ore.) and Brandon Harms (So., Canby, Ore.).
Tim Hastie (Jr., Auberry, Calif.) led the Pacific defense with nine tackles, including one for loss, while Jaquari People (Fr., Merced, Calif.) and Josh Brinkworth (So., Elk Grove, Calif.) each had five tackles. Mills had two of the Boxers' three interceptions and forced a fumble. Jon Bielawicz led Lewis & Clark with 11 tackles. Joe Kopp and Andrew Traver each had 10 tackles.
Pacific returns home next weekend to wrap up the 2012 home portion of their schedule, hosting Willamette on Saturday. Kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m. Live audio and video webcasts of the game can be accessed as www.goboxers.com/webcasts. Lewis & Clark will have a bye next weekend before ending the season on Nov. 10 at Whitworth.