SALEM, Ore. – After seeing a number of critical first quarter half opportunities go unrealized, Pacific watched Willamette mount a fourth quarter comeback Saturday, erasing a 10-point Pacific lead for a 21-17 victory over the Boxers in Northwest Conference football action at McCullough Stadium.
The two teams came through a defensive-minded first half tied 7-7 before the Boxers scored a touchdown and a 45-yard Moses VIllareal-Gomez (Jr., Stockton, Calif.) field goal to take a 17-7 lead going into the fourth quarter. Willamette quarterback Josh Dean led the comeback, finding Beau Smith for a 58-yard scoring pass with 9:58 to go before connecting with Taylor Wyman for the winning score with 5:58 left.
Pacific, ranked 25th in the latest American Football Coaches Association Division III Coaches Poll, dropped to 7-2, 3-2. Willamette snapped a two-game losing streak as they improved to 6-2, 3-2 NWC. The Bearcats limited Pacific to just 266 yards of total offense, the Boxers' lowest total of the season.
Quarterback P.J. Minaya (Sr., Wahiawa, Hawaii) led the passing game as he completed 12 of 17 passes for 113 yards and a touchdown. Blake Anthony (Jr., Valencia, Calif.) caught three passes for 45 yards and a touchdown while Deven McKinney (Jr., Stanaway, Wash.) carried nine times for 59 yards and a touchdown.
Brandon Harms (Jr., Canby, Ore.) had another big day on both defense and special teams. He finished with 10 tackles, seven solo, with a half-sack, a half-tackle for loss and a forced fumble. He also returned four punts for 71 yards, including a 49-yard return in the first quarter.
Dean completed 17 of 31 passes for 232 yards and two touchdowns and also rushed for 71 yards as the Bearcats finished with 374 yards of total offense. Wyman rushed 24 times for 73 yards and a touchdown while Beau Smith caught five passes for 120 yards and a touchdown.
Pacific was unable to cash in on a number of scoring opportunities in the first half, which negated some excellent play by the defense. The Boxers forced Willamette to go three-and-out on their first three possessions. After being stopped short of the red zone on their first drive into Willamette territory, Pacific watched Villareal-Gomez miss a 43-yarder wide left with 1:45 to go in the first quarter.
Special teams set Pacific up well on their next possession as Harms returned Wyman's punt 49 yards to the Willamette 12-yard line. The Boxers failed to advance the ball and came up empty as Villareal-Gomez missed again, this time a 31-yarder that also went wide left.
Pacific finally broke the scoreless deadlock with 5:39 to go in the first half, with McKinney finding a big hole to run 33 yards for the touchdown. Willamette struck back four minutes late, with Wyman rushing four yards into the end zone to cap a short four-play, 35-yard drive and send the teams into halftime tied at 7-7.
After being stopped short on their first possession of the second half, the Boxers turned another big defensive stop into a score as Harms forced a fumble, which was recovered by Landon Aano (Sr., Ewa Beach, Hawaii) at the Willamette 40-yard line. Seven plays later, Minaya found Anthony for a 32-yard touchdown pass as the Boxers went up 14-7 with 8:05 left in the third quarter.
Pacific scored again on their next possession. This time, Villareal-Gomez got redemption as he nailed a 45-yard field goal with 1:56 left to make it a 17-7 game. The field goal is the third longest in Pacific history and the longest since the Boxers' return to the field in 2010.
From that point on, though, it was the Bearcats that got all the breaks. Dean used two big pass plays to Beau Smith to bring his team within three, competing one pass for 32 yards and his next pass for 58 yards and a touchdown with 9:28 to go. Willamette took the lead on their next possession, with Dean leading the way as he found Wyman for a 20-yard touchdown pass with 5:58 to go.
Pacific saw what would be their last possession stunted at midfield. Willamette was backed well into their own territory on their final drive, but a pair of big third down runs allowed the Bearcats to run out the clock.
In addition to Harm's 10 tackles, Tim Hastie (Sr., Auberry, Calif.) finished with eight tackles. Aano finished with 1.5 sacks, 1.5 tackles for loss, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. Jack Nelson led the Willamette defense with 12 tackles while Tait Stephens finished with 10.
Pacific will wrap up their 2013 season at home on Saturday, celebrating the 38 seniors who rebuilt the Boxer football program with a 1 p.m. kickoff against Linfield at Lincoln Park Stadium. The game will air live in the Portland area on 1360 AM KUIK and is available via live audio and video webcasts at GoBoxers.com.
Pacific Unable To Stunt Willamett'e Fourth Quarter Comeback