THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. -- Willamette University trailed by as many as 10 points in the first half and trailed 24-21 at halftime, but the Bearcats rallied over the final 30 minutes to defeat California Lutheran, 42-24, on Saturday, Sept. 20. For the second week in a row, the Bearcats shut out their opponents in the second half.
Last week, Willamette held a slim 13-10 lead over Trinity before going on to down the Tigers, 34-10. On Saturday against the Kingsmen, the Bearcats scored the final 28 points of the game, including 21 points in the second half.
After completing their rally against California Lutheran, the Bearcats improved to 2-0 on the season. CLU, which lost to Pacific Lutheran, 35-28, last weekend, dropped to 0-2 overall.
Dylan Jones (Sr., RB) led Willamette by rushing 26 times for 177 yards and three touchdowns. He scored on a 32-yard run in the first quarter, added another 1-yard run before halftime, and closed out the scoring on a 1-yard run with 9:49 left in the game.
The Kingsmen struck first with 9:51 left in the first quarter when Nick Isham hit Andrew Worthley with a 16-yard touchdown pass to complete a 9-play, 80-yard drive. Eddie Flores picked off a pass on Willamette's second play following the kickoff and returned it 26 yards tot he WU 6-yard line.
Willamette's defense allowed just one net yard on the three plays and forced CLU to kick a field goal. Diego Marquez converted the 21-yard attempt to give the Kingsmen a 10-0 lead with 9:51 left in the first quarter.
On WU's next possession, Jones carried the ball three times and gained 42 yards, 5 yards and 32 yards to score a touchdown at the 6:50 mark, to cut the margin to 10-7. The Kingsmen responded by driving from their own 17-yard line to the WU 36. On 2nd-and-10, Isham completed a pass to Alix Moise, who almost scored, but fumbled at the 1-yard line.
Bryan Toles (So., DB) forced the fumble and recovered the ball for Willamette in the end zone. The Bearcats took over at their own 25. Neither team scored during the remainder of the first quarter.
Ricky Johnson scored for California Lutheran on a 2-yard run early in the second period to increase the lead to 17-7. His run ended an 11-play, 67-yard drive.
Willamette countered with a 79-yard touchdown drive that included a 53-yard pass from Trent Spallas (So., QB) to Austin Jones (So., WR). Dylan Jones completed the drive with his 1-yard touchdown run at the 11:52 mark.
The Bearcats trailed 24-14 after Jojo Curiel returned the ensuing kickoff 97-yards for a touchdown. WU cut the deficit to 24-21 at halftime after Beau Smith (Sr., WR) scored on a 45-yard run with 5:06 left before the break.
Both teams piled up yardage in the first half. Willamette gained 263 yards during the half, including 240 rushing yards on 31 carries. California Lutheran earned 318 yards in the first half, with 261 yards in the air, as Isham completed 15 of 30 passes.
Willamette surged past the Kingsmen by continuing to dominate the ground game in the second half. The Bearcats rushed for 240 yards in the first half and finished the contest with 455 rushing yards on 65 carries. WU gained 269 total yards of offense in the second half, while limiting CLU to 185 yards in the final two quarters.
Even so, the Kingsmen threatened to extend their lead during their second possession of the half. CLU moved the ball from its own 12 and eventually gained a 1st-and-10 at the WU 17 following a 56-yard pass from Isham to Worthley. Willamette gave up two yards on 3rd-and-2, before stopping Isham for no gain on 4th-and-1.
Willamette then drove 92 yards on 8 plays to take a 28-24 advantage. The touchdown was scored on a 54-yard run by Shawn Wong (Sr., WR). Conner Mertens (Fr., PK/P) kicked the extra point.
The Bearcats began another lengthy drive late in the third quarter. WU marched the ball 90 yards on 8 plays. Five of the plays gained more than 10 yards, including the touchdown on a 15-yard carry by Austin Jones with 13:44 left in the game.
A few minutes later, with 10:43 to go, Wendell Galvan (Sr., CB) of Willamette intercepted Isham at the CLU 35 and returned the ball 29 yards. Three plays later, Dylan Jones scored on a 1-yard run. Mertens completed the scoring with the extra point.
Dylan Jones has now gained 303 yards on 52 carries. He has scored five touchdowns this year. On Saturday, his efforts were backed up by solid running from several other runners.
Wong rushed for 79 yards on six carries, while Austin Jones gained 73 yards on three carries. Jimmy Sharpe (So., RB) finished with 66 yards on 12 carries. Smith achieved 45 yards on his only carry, while Ryan Foote (Jr., WR) earned 34 yards on seven carries.
Spallas was 9 of 17 passing for 76 yards with two interceptions. Derek Traeger (Sr., WR) hauled in four passes for 32 yards and Austin Jones caught two passes for 28 yards.
Isham was 24 of 53 for 402 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Worthley led the CLU receivers with seven catches for 170 yards and one score. Sean Bellotti caught three passes for 71 yards. Ricky Johnson was the top ground gainer for the Kingsmen with 14 carries for 54 yards and one touchdown. CLU rushed 29 times for 101 yards.
Curiel returned five kickoffs for a total of 151 yards. He finished the game with 185 yards of all-purpose yards, matching Dylan Jones of WU, who caught two passes for eight yards in addition to leading the Bearcats with 177 yards on the ground.
Jack Nelson (Sr., ILB) recorded nine total tackles (6 solo) to lead the Willamette defense. Thre of his tackles were behind the line of scrimmage. Donny Torres (Jr., DB) earned eight tackles. Daley Smith (Sr., CB) contributed six tackles and five pass break-ups.
The leading tackler for CLU was Robert Foy with 12 total stops, including 8 unassisted tackles. Xavier Fuery added nine tackles and Chris Johnson supplied eight.
Willamette kept possession for 34:31, while the Kingsmen had the ball for 25:29. The Bearcats converted 9 of 15 third downs and went 1 for 1 on fourth down. California Lutheran was 8 of 18 on third down and 1 of 4 on fourth down.
The Bearcats do not play next weekend. They will return to action on Friday, Oct. 3 against George Fox University. Game time at McCulloch Stadium is set for 7 p.m. (PDT).