PORTLAND, Ore. – A fourth quarter comeback fell just shy as the Puget Sound football team fell to the host Lewis & Clark 31-28 on Saturday. Preseason All-American Adam Kniffin hauled in 13 catches to become the Loggers all-time leader in receptions with 166 career receptions.
Kniffin's 13 grabs included two touchdown receptions and totaled 90 yards, one of which came late in the fourth quarter.
The game started as a mostly defensive struggle with both defenses limiting chances for the opposing offense. The Pioneers (6-0, 3-0 NWC) opened the scoring just over three minutes into the contest. A Logger fumble was swooped up by the Pios on the Loggers' nine-yard line and Keith Welch promptly ran into the end zone on the first play for a 7-0 Pio lead.
"I was really impressed with the progress that the defense has made," said head coach Jeff Thomas. "We need them to keep improving week-to-week."
The Loggers (0-6, 0-3 NWC) knotted things up at 7-7 when Braden Foley found Kniffin for their first TD connection just 30 seconds into the second quarter. With two minutes left before the half, Welch scored his second of four touchdowns on a seven yard run and gave the Pios a 14-7 lead.
However, the Loggers weren't finished in the half as they march 62 yards in 1:27 to knot things back up at 14-14. This time Braden Foley scored his first career TD on the ground as he scampered 10 yards for the score.
"Braden definitely took a step forward today. He wasn't trying to force the ball like he did a few times last week," added Thomas. "I am pleased with his progress but he has long way to go still before he is playing at the level that we know he can play at."
Both defenses came out of the half determined yet again. The teams traded punts before the Loggers found themselves with a 4th-and-1 on their own 32. The Loggers elected to go for it but the Pio defense forced a turnover on downs and took over with a short field.
"That was a play that we needed to make and I thought we needed to give our defense a little more rest. We needed to be able to sustain a drive," commented Thomas. "It was a play we needed to make and we didn't get it done."
Five plays later, Welch scored again on a five yard run to give the Pios a lead they would not relinquish. Welch scored for one yard out on the Pios next drive for a 28-14 lead.
In the fourth quarter, the Logger offense found a groove as they marched down the field in a 17-play, seven-minute drive capped by another rushing TD from Foley to pull within seven points. The Pios took the ball back and marched to the Loggers 24 where the Logger defense tightened up and forced a 4th-and-8. Simon Monley came in and nailed a 41-yard field goal, which proved to be the difference in the game.
Down 31-21 with 6:32 remaining, the Loggers went 67 yards in a minute and a half to narrow the gap to 31-28. Foley hit three different receivers on the drive and capped it with a 13-yard TD pass to Kniffin.
The Pios took the ball down to the Loggers seven on the next drive but the Logger defense again stiffened up and forced a turnover on downs, giving the Loggers 56 seconds to tie or win the game. Twice the Loggers converted on fourth down, but couldn't get into field goal range as the clock ran out.
Welch ended up with 142 yards rushing and 322 yards passing with one interception. Foley passed for 256 yards and two TDs but threw no interceptions. Thiesen Chang hauled in nine passes for 100 yards receiving.
Cody Petro-Sakuma snagged the interception for the Loggers and had four tackles. Tyler Vlasak, the NWC's leading tackler, record 12 tackles and had a key pass breakup in the fourth quarter. Kyle Rodriguez added 11 tackles, including 1.5 tackles for loss.
Dan Curtis led the Pios with 12 tackles.
The Loggers will head back to Oregon next week to visit Pacific University in Forest Grove, Ore.