TACOMA - If you have followed Pacific Lutheran football in recent years, you would have to call it was the most unlikely and unbelievable of endings. Richard Isett kicked a 49-yard field goal on the game's final play as the Lutes held off the Puget Sound Loggers, 31-28, in the Northwest Conference football opener for both teams played Saturday at Baker Stadium.
For the Lutes, it meant a 3-0 start to the season, an early jump in the NWC standings, and their 22nd win in the last 23 games in the series. For the Loggers, the loss meant a 1-3 start to the season and a 0-1 beginning to their conference slate.
Pacific Lutheran once played 36 consecutive games from the 1998 season until the 2001 season without attempting a field goal. Last year, PLU attempted five field goals and made two. In the first quarter of this game, Isett missed wide right from 37 yards out. So when Saturday's conference opener came down to the end, Lutes head coach Scott Westering called on Isett, a junior from Juneau, Alaska, who also is one of the team's starting linebackers. Isett nailed the kick, providing the winning points.
The back-and-forth game was close throughout, and statistics reflected that as PLU accumulated 412 total yards compared to Puget Sound's 403.
PLU's first play of the game turned into Cory Dunn's fourth interception in the past two games, and the Loggers turned that into a 7-0 lead by driving 40 yards and scoring on Duncan White's 3-yard pass to Adam Kniffin.
The Lutes tied the game at 7-7 when Rasmussen hooked up with wide receiver Isaac Moog on a 33-yard scoring connection in the second quarter, that coming one play after PLU safety Sean McFadden intercepted White's pass.
Puget Sound responded with an 11-play, 67-yard drive, culminated by White's 2-yard pass to Kniffin, to make it 14-7 in favor of the hosts. PLU came right back down the field, however, Rasmussen hitting Drew Griffin with a 9-yard scoring aerial with 35 seconds left. Holder Tyler Bowen took a bad snap and ran in the two-point conversion to put the Lutes on top at the half, 15-14.
Once again, the Loggers regained the lead at 21-15 when White hooked up with Lucas Diesing on a 43-yard score, only to see the Lutes regain a 22-21 advantage when Alec Simmons broke free on a 49-yard touchdown gallop.
PLU put an end to the alternating touchdowns when Rasmussen hooked up with Greg Ford on a 73-yard scoring play to cap a three-play, 93-yard drive. Puget Sound's Damarkus Milner blocked the point-after kick, however, making it 28-21 when the Loggers took the ball at their own 27-yard line with 4:34 left. Moving the ball early with the run and late in the drive with the pass, UPS went 73 yards in 11 plays and scored on White's 9-yard pass to John Duncan with 21 seconds remaining. The extra point tied the game at 28-28, and an overtime battle seemingly loomed.
Starting at their own 33-yard line, the Lutes caught a break when the Loggers committed a 15-yard personal foul after a 20-yard pass to Ford, moving the ball on the UPS 32-yard line. After a hail mary pass was batted down in the end zone with one second left, and after Puget Sound tried to ice him with a timeout, Isett kicked one of the most memorable and unbelievable field goals in PLU football history.
For the Lutes, Simmons had another strong game with 108 rushing yards on 14 carries, while Rasmussen was 13-for-28 for 226 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions. Ford caught four passes for 114 yards. Linebackers Isett and Adam Schwander both finished with eight tackles, including a 12-yard quarterback sack by Isett.
Casey Larson netted 115 rushing yards, White was 21-for-34 for 235 yards with four touchdowns and one interception, and Diesing caught five balls for 102 yards for UPS.
PLU returns to Northwest Conference action at 12:30 p.m. next Saturday when it hosts the Whitworth Pirates (3-2 overall) in the annual Homecoming Game starting at Sparks Stadium in Puyallup.
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