PUYALLUP, Wash. – While Pacific did not leave Sparks Stadium with a win on Saturday, they proved that they should be considered one of the Northwest Conference's football top teams this season.
The Boxers were headed for the victory before Nick Kaylor's 20-yard field goal with two seconds left spelled heartbreak, allowing No. 17/20 ranked Pacific Lutheran to steal the 17-16 victory.
The game-winning kick topped an impressive last minute drive that saw the Lutes march 39 yards in 35 seconds after a 36-yard punt return by Connor Cummings. The field goal was PLU's only points in the second half as both defenses set the pace through the final 30 minutes. Kaylor got redemption at the end after he missed a 33-yarder and had a 29-yard attempt blocked earlier in the quarter.
Pacific (5-1, 2-1 NWC) provided the Lutes a very even matchup. PLU (5-1, 2-1 NWC) outgained Pacific offensively 345 to 335, with both squads relying on the passing game for most of their production.
Quarterback T.C. Campbell (Jr., Kaimuki, Hawaii) led the Boxers by completing 14 of 19 for 162 yards and the Boxers' only touchdown. P.J. Minaya (Sr., Wahiawa, Hawaii) completed 6 of 9 passes for 84 yards, but was intercepted twice. Jordan Fukumoto (Mililani, Hawaii) caught five passes for 113 yards. Deven McKinney (Jr., Spanaway, Wash.) led Pacific's ground game with 52 yards on six carries.
PLU quarterback Dalton Ritchey completed 22 of 31 passes for 269 yards, but was sacked four times by the stout Pacific defense and failed to throw a touchdown pass. Kellen Westering caught six passes for 86 yards while Kyle Warner caught six for 62 yards. Running back Niko Madison, who entered the game averaging 96.2 rushing yards per game, was limited to 42 yards on 11 carries.
At the outset, it looked as though the predictions of a PLU rout by some would come to fruition. Sean McFadden intercepted Minaya on the Boxers' initial drive, and the Lutes marched 60 yards in nine plays. Madison scored the touchdown on a three-yard run as the Lutes opened the 7-0 lead with 5:40 to go in the first quarter.
The Lutes made it a 14-0 game at the 12:08 mark of the second quarter, with Va'a Logotala scampering in from one-yard out to complete the 13-play, 67-yard drive.
PLU provided for the first of many goal lines stands by both teams on Pacific's ensuing possession, but Moses Villareal-Gomez (Jr., Stockton, Calif.) put Pacific on the board with a 28-yard field goal with 7:10 left in the half.
After forcing three-and-out on the Lutes next series, Pacific needed just three plays to draw within striking distance of the lead. McKinney opened the drive with a 50-yard run and Berry ended with his nine-yard reception from Campbell to bring the Boxers within 14-10 with 3:27 remaining.
Pacific got the ball back with 1:20 to go and marched into the red zone, but the Lutes provided another goal-line stand. Villareal-Gomez returned for another 28-yard field goal and sent the Boxers into halftime down 14-13.
Both defenses locked down in the second half, providing for an entertaining battle. PLU and Pacific both went three-and-out on their initial possessions and then traded turnovers before the Boxers pulled into the lead. The Boxers saw a clock-eating 14-play drive of nearly eight minutes stopped at the nine-yard line. Villareal-Gomez delivered with a 26-yard field goal that put Pacific up 16-14 with 1:57 left in the third quarter.
In the fourth quarter, it was Pacific's turn to deliver the goal-line stops. The Lutes knocked on the door early in the quarter as Ritchey ran to the near the goal line on third and goal, but an unsportsmanlike conduct flag marched the ball back to the Pacific 16-yard line. Kaylor came on and missed a 33-yard field goal.
After a Pacific punt, the Lutes saw a 66-yard, 8:33 drive come up short again at the foot of Kaylor. His 29-yard attempt with 2:39 was blocked by Devin Lagorio (Sr., Stockton, Calif.) and Pacific had a chance to close it out as they took over at their own 17-yard line.
Again, defense dictated the proceedings as the Boxers were again forced to punt. Aaron Koford (Sr., Wilsonville, Ore.) succeeded with a 47-yard boot, and the Boxers appeared to have a shot as Cummings muffed the catch. He recovered and proceeded to use great blocking to return the kick 36 yards and give PLU great field position with 35 seconds left.
Ritchey saw the field well, finding Warner for a 20-yard completion and Cummings for a 16-yard completion before the Boxers stopped the Lutes again at the three-yard line. This time, the third time was a charm for Kaylor as he connected from 20-yard out for the winner.
Brandon Harms (Jr., Canby, Ore.) led the Pacific defense with seven tackles, including a half-sack and half-tackle for loss. Craig Bailey (Sr., Fairfield, Calif.) and Jack Perez (So., Petaluma, Calif.) each had six tackles while Sean Bangs (Sr., Portland, Ore.) had five tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks. Cummings and Jordan Patterson each had six tackles to lead PLU.
Pacific returns to Lincoln Park Stadium for their next two games, beginning next Saturday with a non-conference meeting against the Univ. of Chicago. Kickoff is at 1 p.m. The game will be broadcast live in the Portland area on 1360 AM KUIK. Live audio and video webcasts will be available at GoBoxers.com.
Pacific Makes Statement In Heartbreaking Last Second Loss To PLU
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