PUYALLUP, Wash. – Quarterback P.J. Minaya (So., Wahiawa, Hawaii) led Pacific in a spirited comeback attempt that fell jut short Saturday afternoon as the Boxers closed the 2011 season with a 35-24 loss to Pacific Lutheran in Northwest Conference football action at Sparks Stadium.
After struggling to find their offensive stride in the first half, gaining just 67 yards in the first 30 minutes, the Boxers (1-8, 1-5 NWC) flourished behind Minaya, who completed 23 of 34 passes for 223 yards and three touchdowns to three different receivers, all in the fourth quarter.
Pacific finished the day with 369 yards of total offense, including 326 yards passing, and once again dominated time of possession, holding onto the ball of 33:29.
The Boxers trailed 35-0 at the 9:07 mark of the third quarter when the Boxers saw their fortunes turn. Moses Villareal-Gomez (Fr., Stockton, Calif.) put the Boxers on the board with a 28-yard field goal with 5:12 to go. The Pacific did their part to keep the Lutes scoreless, holding PLU to 56 yards of total offense in the quarter.
It was in the fourth that things really got going. Minaya paced Pacific through a 10-play, 65-yard drive on their first series of the period, finding Matt Nyberg (Fr., Valencia, Calif.) for the three-yard touchdown pass to make it a 35-10 game with 7:19 to go. The Boxers tried and failed on the onside kick following the score, only to watch the Lutes go three-and-out.
Minaya marched the Boxers right back down the field, closing an 85-yard drive with another shot two-yard scoring pass to Bryce Kershner (So., Jordan Valley, Ore.) that brought the Boxers within 35-17 with 2:40 left. Pacific tried the onside kick again, and this time came up with the ball. Minaya then needed just over two minutes to lead the Boxers 55 yards, finding Brian Taylor (So., Lewiston, Idaho) for a seven-yard touchdown pass with 40 seconds left.
Once again the Boxers attempted the onside kick, and once again they were successful. But time proved too short as Minaya had just one look at the end zone again before time expired.
Pacific Lutheran (5-3, 3-2 NWC) had their way with the Boxers in the first half, breaking off big plays for their five touchdowns. PLU quarterback Zack Halvorson opened things by capping a short four-play drive with a 41-yard touchdown pass to Alex McDiarmid on the game's opening possession. Two drives later, Halvorson struck paydirt again by finding Lucas Sontra for a 19-yard scoring pass that gave the Lutes a 14-0 lead after one quarter.
After the Boxers went three and out on their next series, the Lutes needed just two minutes to go 79 yards. Halvorson capped the drive with a short two-yard reception to make it 21-0. The game went scoreless from there until the Lutes converted Pacific's only turnover of the game, converting an interception of T.C. Campbell (So., Kaimuki, Hawaii) into a 69-yard touchdown pass from Halvorson to Tyler Bowen with 1:29 to go, giving PLU a 28-0 halftime lead.
PLU scored their fifth and final touchdown on their first possession of the second half, with Halvorson connecting with Kyle Warner for a 32-yard reception.
Kelson Kawai (So., North Kohala, Hawaii), playing in his first game after separating his shoulder earlier in October, led 11 Pacific players who earned credit for receptions with 89 yards on six catches. Jordan Fukumoto (So., Mililani, Hawaii) finished with 83 yards on eight catches. Minaya was Pacific's leading rusher, gaining 35 net yards on five carries.
Punter Aaron Koford (So., Wilsonville, Ore.) provided some distance for the Boxers, kicking six time for an average of 38.3 yards per punt, including a long kick of 52 yards.
Halvorson led PLU's passing attack with 336 yards and five touchdowns, completing 18 of 26 passes. Bowen was his top target, making two catches for 88 yards and a touchdown. Tim Orr and McDiarmid finished with 53 yards each. Zack Baldwin led the Lutes in rushing with 38 yards on four carries.
Defensively, Josh Brinkworth (Fr., Elk Grove, Calif.) and Chris Santiago (Fr., Waipahu, Hawaii) each finished with seven tackles, with Brinkworth earning credit for a tackle for loss and a forced fumble. Michael Warsaw had nine tackles and two tackles for loss to lead Pacific Lutheran.