By Steven McGrain, Guest Writer
Pacific Lutheran defeated the reigning offensive player of the year junior quarterback Keith Welch and the undefeated Lewis and Clark Pioneers in Portland last Saturday. The Pioneers owned the seventh-ranked offense in the country last year due largely to Welch and running back Curtis Shirey. The Lutes’ defense didn’t care.
The defense held Lewis and Clark to 14 points and 256 yards in a 31-14 rout of the Pioneers.
“Containing him [Welch] was a part of our strategy, but our main focus was to stay in our lanes, do our jobs and stop the run,” junior defensive tackle Mychael Tuisasosopo said. “After that everything else took care of itself.”
Tuiasosopo and four other Lute defenders recorded six tackles Saturday.
The running game for the Pioneers was nonexistent. They gained an abysmal 24 rushing yards on 32 attempts. The only offensive threat from Lewis & Clark’s offense was Welch’s arm, but Welch was picked off three times completing 26 of 45 passes for 232 yards and two touchdowns. Welch was sacked five times.
Junior cornerback Taylor Angevine recorded two interceptions and fellow junior cornerback Jonny Volland recorded the other. Volland’s takeaway was his fourth of the season and Angevine’s was his third.
The turnovers resulted from constant pressure from the Lutes defensive line. Junior defensive end Sam Lavis, senior linebacker Derrik Larson and sophomores Blake Peterson and Doug Sullivan all recorded sacks.
Sullivan had two of the five sacks and recovered a fumble that resulted in a Pacific Lutheran touchdown on the next play.
“Our team is one big family, so seeing any of our brothers make a play is great,” senior safety and team captain Erik Hoium said. “But when a guy that isn’t always out there, makes the most of an opportunity, steps up and makes a play, I don’t think there is anything that gets our entire team more fired up.”
Sullivan has played in all four games this season but has seen limited action as a sophomore.
Sophomore quarterback Dalton Ritchey once again shined for the Lutes. Ritchey completed 19 of 30 passes for 273 yards and three touchdowns to one interception. Ritchey connected with eight different receivers leaving the Pioneers’ secondary confused for the entire afternoon.
His main target was sophomore wide receiver Kyle Warner, who caught eight passes for 195 yards and a touchdown. Sophomore wide receiver Austin Hilliker caught a seven-yard touchdown after Sullivan’s forced fumble and fumble recovery.
Ritchey noticed Lewis & Clark was going to blitz everyone except one corner, so he audibled to a pass play that called for Hilliker to run a quick slant resulting in his first collegiate touchdown reception.
“It was a privilege to get the opportunity to make the play,” Hilliker said. “But it all started with the offensive line giving Dalton [Ritchey] enough time to hit me in stride and credit Doug [Sullivan] for coming up with the football, giving us this great field position.”
Ritchey’s three touchdown passes increased his season total to eight.
In the first quarter, senior running back Cody Pohren stretched a screen pass into a 48-yard reception. The play was called back due to a holding penalty. On the ensuing play, Warner added a 48-yard reception of his own, but that too was called back, for an ineligible downfield. The drive ended in a punt for the Lutes.
The Lutes cruised to a 17-0 lead late in the third quarter before Lewis and Clark got on the board with a 24-yard touchdown pass from Welch with 4:03 remaining in the quarter.
Senior running back Brandon James gained 81 yards on only 13 touches including a seven-yard scamper in the third quarter.
The victory gave PLU its second win of the season and more importantly their first of the Northwest Conference, after suffering last week’s loss to Linfield. The Lutes now sit at 2-2, 1-1.
Pacific Lutheran travels back to Portland tomorrow to play Pacific. The Boxers are 2-3, 1-1.
Kickoff is at 1 p.m.