SALEM, Ore. -- Senior quarterback Josh Dean led Willamette University on a fourth quarter rally from a 10-point deficit, as the Bearcats defeated Pacific University, 21-17, on Saturday, Nov. 9 at McCulloch Stadium.
The Bearcats trailed 17-7 entering the fourth quarter, but outscored the Boxers 14-0 in the final period.
Dean completed 8 of 9 passes for 155 yards in the fourth quarter. His completions included a 58-yard touchdown pass to Beau Smith (Jr., WR) with 9:28 remaining and a 20-yard scoring strike to Taylor Wyman (Jr., RB/P) for the go-ahead touchdown with 5:58 left.
Willamette improved to 6-2 on the season, 3-2 in the Northwest Conference. Pacific, ranked #25 in the AFCA Coaches Poll, fell to 7-2 overall, 3-2 in the NWC.
After taking the lead on Dean's shovel pass to Wyman, the Bearcats stopped Pacific on its next drive at the WU 46. Following a punt by the Boxers, the Bearcats took over at their own 9-yard line with 2:16 left.
Willamette picked up two first downs on 3rd-and-8 from the WU 11 and 3rd-and-19 at the WU 12 to run out the clock.
On the first third down conversion, De'Zhon Grace (Fr., WR) caught a short pass in the right flat and managed to get around a defender to gain 10 yards. Dean's 22-yard run on the 3rd-and-19 play with about 1:15 remaining was on a quick draw up the middle. It clinched the win and allowed Willamette to run out the clock.
The defenses ruled the first half, as Willamette gained just 136 total yards and Pacific achieved 120 yards. Willamette was 1 for 9 on third down conversions in the first half, while Pacific was 3 for 11.
Even so, each team managed one touchdown before the halftime break.
The Boxers struck first with a 7-play, 58-yard drive that ended with Deven McKinney scoring on a 33-yard run toward the left side. The touchdown was earned just one play after McKinney caught a screen pass for 12 yards on 3rd-and-11 at the WU 45. Moses Villareal-Gomez kicked the extra point with 5:39 to go in the second quarter, giving Pacific a 7-0 lead.
Later in the second quarter a 17-yard sack of Pacific quarterback T.C. Campbell by Aric Burks (Fr., DL) led to a 4th-and 24 punt by the Boxers from their own 13-yard line. Tyson Giza (Sr., CB) hauled in the punt at the WU 47 and returned it 18 yards.
The Bearcats, who started their first seven drives inside the WU 26 -- including six drives that started inside the 21 -- responded well to taking over at the Pacific 35.
Dean rushed for six yards and Wyman followed with carries of 14 yards and 11 yards, as Willamette earned 1st-and-goal at the 4-yard line. On the next play, Wyman ran to the left for a touchdown with 1:34 on the clock. Kyle Derby (Sr., PK/P) kicked the PAT, as WU tied the score 7-7.
Pacific moved in front by scoring 10 points in the third quarter on a 32-yard pass from PJ Minaya to Blake Anthony at the 8:05 mark and a 45-yard field goal by Moses Villareal-Gomez with 1:56 on the clock.
Each score followed one of the game's two turnovers. The touchdown by Anthony came seven plays after Brandon Harms forced Grace to fumble at the PU 44 following a 16-yard catch. Landon Aano recovered the ball for Pacific. On WU's next possession, Dean fumbled as he was sacked by Harms and Aano at the WU 38. Devin Lagorio fell on the ball for the Boxers.
Willamette allowed the Pacific a net of nine yards on the next six plays, including a 9-yard sack by Jimmy Roberts (So., ILB) on 3rd-and-4 at the WU 19. Villareal-Gomez, who missed field goals from 43 yards and 31 yards in the first half, split the uprights with a 45-yard kick to give Pacific a 17-7 lead.
Dean and the Willamette offense took charge in the fourth quarter, while the Bearcat defense stopped the Boxers on third down three times to force punts.
The Bearcats put together a swift 90-yard drive to pull within 17-14. On the first play, Dean threw a pass to Smith near the right sideline. Smith maneuvered past a defender and gained 32 yards on the play. On the next snap, Dean threw toward Smith again, this time deep down the sideline. Smith hauled in the catch in stride and scored from 58 yards out.
Pacific had the ball for just three plays on its next possession. On 3rd-and-2 at the Pacific 43, Campbell's pass toward Jakob Lawrence was broken up by Daley Smith (Jr., CB).
Following a punt and a fair catch, WU took over at its own 25. The Bearcats drove to the end zone on seven plays. Dean threw a 12-yard pass to Smith and a 10-yard pass to Derek Traeger (Jr., WR) on the third and fourth plays, advancing WU to the Boxers' 44. After completing an 8-yard pass to Smith, Dean ran on the next play and gained 16 yards.
On 1st-and-10 at the 20-yard line, Dean was put under quick pressure by the Boxers. He responded with a shovel pass to Wyman several yards upfield. Wyman eluded defenders on his way toward the left sideline and then scored near the front corner of the end zone. Derby's extra point resulted in a 21-17 lead for Willamette.
The Willamette defense held Pacific to just 266 total yards. The Boxers rushed for 104 yards on 42 carries (2.5 avg.) and threw for 162 yards. Minaya was 12 of 17 passing for 113 yards and Campbell finished 5 of 12 for 49 yards. McKinney rushed for 59 yards on nine carries.
Jack Nelson (Jr., ILB) topped the WU tackle chart with 12 total stops. Tait Stephens (Sr., S) added 10 tackles, including seven unassisted tackles. Ten Bearcats combined on nine tackles for losses and six Bearcats contributed to six sacks. Giza recorded five tackles and broke up four passes.
Willamette gained 374 yards, with 142 yards on the ground. Wyman led all rushers with 73 yards on 24 carries. Dean completed 17 of 31 passes for 232 yards and two touchdowns. He was 11 of 12 for 184 yards in the second half. Smith caught five passes for 120 yards.
Leading tacklers for Pacific were Harms, who finished with eight tackles, and Tim Hastie, who earned eight tackles. The Boxers finished with six tackles for losses and four quarterback sacks.
Willamette will conclude its season on Saturday, Nov. 16 against the University of Puget Sound in an NWC game in Tacoma, Wash. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. (PST).