TACOMA - Trailing 14-7 late in the second quarter, Pacific Lutheran scored 35 unanswered points to defeat the host Puget Sound Loggers, 41-14, in a Northwest Conference football game played in the rain on Saturday afternoon at Baker Stadium.
The win improves PLU's 2012 season record to 5-2 and its conference mark to 4-1, while for Puget Sound it was the seventh consecutive defeat this season, five of them coming against NWC foes.
Puget Sound came into the game giving up more averages than 560 yards and 54 points per game, but it played opportunistic defense against a Pacific Lutheran offense that would end the game with five turnovers, including four interceptions. Those giveaways certainly kept the game closer than most expected through the first 2 1/2 quarters, but that was when the Lutes finally found their offensive stride.
After a scoreless first quarter, the Loggers made the initial touchdown on an 18-yard pass from Braden Foley to Kevin Miller, capping a nine-play, 74-yard drive. The Lutes came right back down the field in less than 90 seconds, Dalton Ritchey hitting Kyle Warner with a 42-yard touchdown aerial.
A PLU penalty on the ensuing kickoff gave the Loggers great field position at the Lutes' 45-yard line, and six plays later Foley found wide receiver and All-America candidate Adam Kniffin in the end zone for an 18-yard score.
Kelly Morgan made a big play on the kickoff return for PLU, taking the ball 43 yards to the Puget Sound 37-yard line. That set up a seven-play drive that Ritchey capped with a 4-yard toss to Brandon James, making the score 14-14 at the half.
Ben Kaestner and Connor Cummings ended two Puget Sound drives with interceptions in the first half, and a diving interception by Sean McFadden set up the Lutes at the UPS 29-yard line about five minutes into the third quarter. PLU took six plays - five of the running variety - to take its first lead of the game, that coming on a 4-yard run by Niko Madison.
Yet another PLU takeaway - the Lutes defense finished with three interceptions and two fumble recoveries - led to the next score. This time, Sam Lavis sacked Foley, causing a fumble that Derrik Larsen recovered at the UPS 10-yard line. Overcoming a holding penalty, the Lutes got into the end zone on Cody Pohren's 2-yard push up the middle, making it 28-14 PLU with 3:57 left in the third quarter.
Pacific Lutheran added two more touchdowns in the final period, the first coming on a shake-and-bake 24-yard touchdown run by Niko Madison to cap a 69-yard drive, and the final one coming on Doug Sullivan's 35-yard fumble return after Mychael Tuiasosopo sacked Foley and knocked the ball loose.
The victory was the 24th for Pacific Lutheran in the last 25 games against Puget Sound.
Pohren led a PLU running attack that ground up 251 net yards on 44 carries. Pohren, the senior back who came into the game with just 27 total carries, toted the ball 13 times for 100 yards. Madison added 61 yards on seven carries, and Ritchey had 47 yards on 10 attempts.
Ritchey had his struggles in the passing game, completing 12 of his 20 attempts for 136 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions. Warner finished with seven receptions for 115 yards.
Defensively, McFadden had nine tackles, Kaestner seven and Jordan Patterson six. The Lutes finished the game with five quarterback sacks, seven tackles for loss and the five takeaways.
PLU plays its final home game and also its last conference game of the season next Saturday, hosting the Whitworth Pirates at 12:30 p.m. at Sparks Stadium in Puyallup.
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