ATHERTON, Calif. - For the first time since 1997, Pacific Lutheran has opened a football season with five consecutive victories after a 28-10 non-conference win Saturday over the Menlo College Oaks at Connor Field.
The victory sets up a key contest next Saturday afternoon at Puyallup's Sparks Stadium as Northwest Conference unbeatens Pacific Lutheran and Linfield - both nationally ranked -battle for the top spot in the NWC standings. With its third straight loss, meanwhile, Menlo falls to 3-4 this season.
Pacific Lutheran took a 7-0 lead on the final play of the first quarter when Kyle Whitford took an end around to the left pylon from four yards out to cap a 12-play, 80-yard drive.
Menlo tied the game with 1:53 left in the first half when Robert Gehre scored on a 31-yard pass from Tyler Congdon, finishing off a nine-play, 72-yard drive.
Using the sidelines and all three of its timeouts to stop the clock, Pacific Lutheran moved the ball to the Menlo 35 with 14 seconds. The Lutes converted a fourth down on a pass from Jordan Rasmussen to Greg Ford, setting up a 35-yard scoring strike from Rasmussen to Ford. Rasmussen's pinpoint pass hit Ford in stride behind two Oaks defenders, giving the Lutes a 14-7 advantage with five seconds left in the half.
The Lutes scored again on their opening drive of the second half. It took nine plays for them to cover 57 yards with running back Alec Simmons tight-roping the sidelines on a 19-yard touchdown run that made it 21-7 with just less than five minutes gone in the third quarter.
Menlo moved down the field but a bad snap on a field goal attempt forced holder Cruz Castillo to throw a pass that was batted down. Early in the fourth quarter, Kevin Kurtz punched home a 41-yard field goal to pull the Oaks within 11 points at 21-10, but the Lutes finished the game with another touchdown on the ensuing drive.
Rasmussen completed back-to-back third-and-long passes to Ford on underneath patterns to keep the ball in the Lutes' hands. First, it was a 14-yard hook-up when 13 was needed, and then an 11-yard completion when 10 was necessary.
With the clock ticking under 10 minutes, Rasmussen hit Isaac Moog on essentially the same crossing pattern that worked for Ford. This time Moog caught the ball moving toward the Oaks sideline, cut up field, and zigzagged his way back toward the sideline before diving across the pylon for an emphatic 38-yard touchdown catch-and-run to put his team ahead, 28-10.
Menlo moved the ball well into Pacific Lutheran territory one more time in the game, reaching the Lutes 10 before turning it over on downs.
Menlo held a 310-294 advantage in total yards, with 127 yards coming on the ground and 183 more in the air. Pacific Lutheran's potent passing attack proved to be too much for the Oaks as Rasmussen completed 25-of-31 attempts for 265 yards and two scores. Ford caught 10 passes for 103 yards and Moog added six receptions for 87 yards.
Menlo's defense was up to task against the Lutes' running game, limiting them to 29 yards on 31 attempts and a 0.9 avg. The Oaks finished the game with four sacks and 13 tackles for loss. Senior linebacker R.J. Rivera had eight tackles, two sacks, and one tackle for a loss to lead the way. Steven Lopes added a team-high eight tackles, Beau Bussani and Chris Tosello each had a sack.
Congdon's first college start was a solid one. The freshman completed 19-of-34 passes for 183 yards and a touchdown. Payton Bell carried 17 times for 85 yards and Kenny Cavness caught six passes for 58 yards.
(Special thanks to Menlo Sports Information Office.)