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Bearcat Football Team Falls to Lutes in Defensive Duel

Updated: Nov 4, 2021

Adam Doyle

Contributing Writer

Willamette University plays Pacific Lutheran University in Salem, Oregon on Oct. 30, 2021. Pictured: Joseph Castillo '25, Matthew Fick '22. Photo by Kendrick Arakaki/Willamette University

The Willamette football squad fell to the Pacific Lutheran University Lutes 24-0 on Saturday, Oct. 30. After a 7-yard return on the kickoff, the Bearcat offense took the field, captained by sophomore quarterback Dante Chaney. The play of this drive was a false start. For the readers out there unfamiliar with this rule, a false start is a very serious penalty that can have a disastrous effect on a given offensive unit, resulting in a punitive loss of five yards. To start a play, the center must snap the ball. However, it is actually illegal for an offensive player to move towards the line of scrimmage or otherwise react in an abrupt way, as this may fool the defense into thinking that play is beginning. This chicanery is then punished by the ref. For more information on this controversial subject, please consider this primer to better understand the term and its connotations.

Following this, senior punter/wide receiver Sam Adams caught a short pass to advance 3 yard. Two more pass attempts were made during the drive, the latter of which was accurate but slipped through the hands of the intended receiver.

A 30-yard punt began the Lute’s first drive. Running back Malik White rushed twice for consecutive gains of 4 and 6 yards. Quarterback Erik Bainter found less success, accounting for a net total of 2 yards lost on the drive. Returning to the run game, running backs Michael Martinez and White successfully put the team into field goal range before being halted by the defense. Placekicker Peiyton Hilliard made the field goal from 31 yards to put the first 3 points of the game on the board.

Willamette’s second offensive possession saw the run game struggle to make an impact. Firstyear halfback Joseph Castillo was pushed back for a two yard loss on the first rush of the drive. Chaney kept the ball for a 4-yard rush, but threw a pick 6 to cornerback Tam Switzer. Upon getting the ball back, Chaney hit receiver Noah Nibblet in stride for a gain of 5 yards. However, failed attempts to establish the run game and a crucial sack by the Lute defensive line resulted in the punting squad coming onto the field.

A 46-yard punt by Adams put the Lutes into an unfavorable field position. However, a 25-yard pass down field by Bainter quickly pushed the offense upfield. White continued his dominant performance, rushing thrice consecutively for 19 yards. White hurdled Willamette defenders to put the drive into field goal range; a couple of erroneous passes by Bainter kept the team from advancing further. Hilliard’s kick attempt bounced off of the left upright.

The next Bearcat drive saw significantly more success. Nibblet caught a 12-yard pass for the first down. The team continued to compile yards as Castillo ran for two first downs. Adams caught a 20-yard pass; this momentum continued as a dump off screen pass by Chaney to Nibblet resulted in an improbable gain of 7 yards, with the receiver shaking off a tackle behind the line of scrimmage. However, a series of wide passes sailed above the intended targets, pushing the Bearcats to attempt a 32-yard field goal. First year kicker Camdin Dirnberger’s attempt was no good.

The rest of the half was largely a defensive battle, with few successful offensive plays on either side. The two-headed threat of White and Martinez continued to prove effective in picking up yards, but Bearcat junior defensive back Luke Lowe successfully picked off a pass from Bainter, forestalling any attempt by the Lutes to score. Upon getting the ball back, the Bearcat offensive line immediately drew a false start call. Chaney left the game following an injury immediately afterwards, at which point senior Aiden Kuykendall assumed the starting position. His cautious throws failed to gain a down. Following a shanked punt for only 7 yards, the Lutes handed off to Martinez for a 2-yard touchdown rush.

The second half followed the pattern established in the second quarter. An increasingly pass-heavy Lutes offense was frustrated by a Bearcat defense that continuously placed pressure on the quarterback, leading to several key sacks. Through the rest of the game, the Pacific Luthern offense would not find the end zone.

Willamette’s offense struggled even more, failing to put points on the board. The Bearcat pass game resulted in two more interceptions. The latter of these was taken to the house for a defensive touchdown by defensive back Colby Rhinelander in the fourth quarter; this play sealed the game at 24-0.

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