SALEM, ORE. -- Junior wide receiver Jake Knecht caught four passes for 130 yards, including a 67-yard touchdown, and ran 80 yards for another score, as Willamette University defeated in-state rival Southern Oregon University, 31-9, on Saturday, Sept. 17 at McCulloch Stadium. WU forced the Raiders into four turnovers and also blocked a punt.
The all-around effort helped Willamette improve to 1-2 on the season. Southern Oregon dropped to 0-3.
WU quarterback Brian Widing completed 13 of 19 passes for 227 yards and two touchdowns. He also scored on a 1-yard run.
Neither team scored on its opening possession, but the Bearcats reached the SOU 38-yard line to start the game and punter Mitch Rowan pinned the Raiders at the 6-yard line. Ryan Bourke forced a fumble on third down, and although SOU recovered the ball at the 5-yard line, the Raiders had to punt.
Tyler Crowley's punt went 33 yards, allowing the Bearcats to gain control once again at the SOU 38. Matt Williams ran for 10 yards on the second play and Jamiere Abney gained eight yards two plays later for a 1st-and-10 at the SOU 14.
Another two plays resulted in 1st-and-goal at the 3-yard line, but the Raiders kept WU out of the end zone on three consecutive plays. On fourth down, Kyle Derby kicked a 19-yard field goal, giving WU a 3-0 lead with 5:16 left in the first quarter.
On the final play of the opening period, Rowan sent a 43-yard punt from the end zone to the WU 46.
The Raiders switched to a hurry-up offense and Brandon Baldwin ran for 21 yards to start the quarter. Later, on 3rd-and-3 at the WU 19, Marshawn Friloux rushed for four yards. Friloux also carried the ball on the next two plays, gaining seven yards before scoring on an 8-yard scamper with 13:19 left in the half. Crowley kicked the extra point and SOU held a 7-3 lead.
The Raiders' advantage didn't last for long. Tyson Giza returned the kickoff 28 yards to the Willamette 33-yard line. On the first play from scrimmage, Widing hit Knecht with a 67-yard bomb that put WU back on top. Derby tacked on the PAT for a 10-7 margin.
Crowley provided a big play for Southern Oregon with 4:25 left in the half, when he sent a punt 66 yards to within inches of the WU goal line. After an incomplete pass on first down, Widing was called for intentional grounding while under pressure in the back of the end zone on second down. SOU was awarded a safety, cutting the Bearcats' advantage to 10-9.
With 1:34 remaining in the second quarter, the Willamette special teams gave WU quality field position when Rowan's punt was mishandled by Mike Olson. Wes Wenzel recovered the ball for WU at the Raiders' 45-yard line.
On first down, Widing threw a 44-yard pass to Knecht, who was tackled just outside the goal line. Widing scampered around the right side for a 1-yard touchdown run on the next play. Willamette led 17-9 at halftime.
Neither team added points to the scoreboard in the third quarter.
Even so, SOU lined up for a 37-yard field goal with just over 8:20 left in the quarter. The snap went directly to the kicker, Crowley, who was tackled at the WU 20 by Jaden Roselli and Dominic David.
The next time SOU had the ball, freshman quarterback Austin Dodge fumbled a the Raiders' 39 and Jacob Meza recovered for Willamette. The Bearcats didn't score on the possession, but Rowan sent a punt out of bounds at the SOU 9.
Seven plays later, with 2:22 left in the third period, Crowley's punt was blocked by Cody Pastorino. Pastorino also picked up the ball at the SOU 20 and returned it eight yards.
On third down, Widing was sacked at the 15-yard line and it looked like the Raiders had forced WU to kick a field goal. A dead-ball personal foul against SOU gave the Bearcats a first down at the 7-yard line. Three plays later, on the first snap of the fourth quarter, Widing threw a pass to Turner for a 4-yard touchdown. Derby kicked the extra point, as WU extended its lead to 24-9.
Two passes from Dodge following the kickoff -- a 25-yarder to Patrick Donahue and an 18-yarder to Olson -- moved Southern Oregon to the WU 20-yard line. On second down, Dodge was intercepted in the end zone by David.
Knecht scored on the next play on an 80-yard reverse with 13:27 on the clock. The key block was provided by Widing, who created a lane for Knecht near the numbers. With the extra point, WU led, 31-9.
The Bearcats finished with 421 yards, including 192 rushing yards on 48 carries, plus Widing's 227 yards through the air. Knecht amassed 213 all-purpose yards. Benney Weischedel caught two passes for 56 yards.
Southern Oregon gained 344 yards, with 249 yards in the air, as the Raiders completed 25 of 47 passes. Willamette gave up just 95 rushing yards on 34 carries (2.8 avg.). Baldwin was SOU's top rusher with 13 carries for 69 yards. Olson caught five passes for 87 yards.
Wenzel paced the WU defense with eight tackles, including one of the team's five sacks. Wenzel, Meza and Reed Warner each recovered a fumble for the Bearcats. Harmon Bruno, Cullen Carroll and Roselli each achieved seven tackles.
Three SOU players led the Raiders with 13 tackles apiece. They were Drew Nobles, Michael Springer and RaSjeon Hines. Springer topped all players with 3.0 tackles for losses.
Willamette has an open date next weekend. The Bearcats will return to action on Saturday, Oct. 1 in the team's Northwest Conference opener against Linfield College. Kickoff at McCulloch Stadium is set for 4 p.m. (PDT).