Willamette University faced Occidental for their second game of the season on Sept. 21 at McCulloch Stadium, winning 34-31 and raising their overall season record to 1-1.
The first quarter of the game ended with Willamette in the lead, though Occidental scored first. WU’s running back, sophomore Dylan Sparks, rushed the ball on second down from the 25-yard line to the 28-yard line. The drive stalled, and junior Sam Adams punted the ball on fourth down to Occidental’s 49-yard line. On their first down, Occidental’s quarterback Joshua Greaves threw a 51-yard pass to WU’s end zone for a touchdown, and the subsequent extra point attempt went through the uprights to give the visitors an early 7-0 lead at 13:39.
On second down during the subsequent drive, Sparks rushed the ball 12 yards from WU’s 25-yard line to the 37. However, two consecutive false starts by WU pushed them back 10 yards. At 7:47, on WU’s fourth down, junior Sam Adams punted 32 yards to Occidental’s 40-yard line. Luckily for the Bearcats, a fumble occurred on Occidental’s 48-yard line, which was recovered by sophomore Christian Tovar, who ran it 48 yards into Occidental’s endzone for a touchdown. However, the extra point attempt was unsuccessful.
After his defense forced a punt, WU’s quarterback senior Matthew Castaneda threw a 34-yard touchdown pass to graduate student Jordan Jenkins. First-year Kyla Gordon’s kick attempt gave WU another point, bringing the score 7-13 and giving Willamette its first lead of the day.
The second quarter’s scoring began with an Occidental touchdown and kick attempt good for seven points and a 14-13 lead. WU’s possession at 9:48 on their own 42-yard line resulted in a 58-yard drive ending with a seven-yard pass from Castaneda to Jenkins for a touchdown. The subsequent extra point attempt was successful, giving WU a 14-20 lead.
WU’s only sack of the game, performed by sophomore Keaton Adams, pushed Occidental back to their 14-yard line and ended their second-to-last drive of the half. Occidental ended the second quarter with a successful field goal attempt to bring them within three points of the home team.
The third quarter saw excellent Bearcat defense, a touchdown and a successful subsequent kick attempt, expanding WU’s lead to 10 points. With possession of the ball at 12:12, WU faced a third down and long due to a false start penalty, which had pushed WU back five yards. However, a face mask penalty committed by Occidental gave WU a first down, keeping the drive alive. From WU’s 46-yard line, junior Ethan Koler rushed the ball nine yards to Occidental’s 45-yard line. Castaneda then threw a 22-yard pass to sophomore Kodiak Hussey. A subsequent 23-yard pass to Jenkins in Occidental’s endzone gave WU a touchdown at 8:43. Gordon’s kick attempt after the touchdown gave WU another point, bringing the score to 17-27.
The fourth quarter started shakily for WU, with two touchdowns and two successful extra-point attempts from Occidental at 14:51 and 10:03, giving the away team a 31-27 edge. However, WU’s possession of the ball at 2:22 and Occidental’s many penalties turned the game around.
Castaneda made two excellent passes down the field to junior Miles Bryant one from WU’s 33-yard line to Occidental’s 35-yard line and the other from the 35 to the 20-yard line. Occidental’s various penalties on the next couple plays resulted in a WU first down at the three-yard line. From Occidental’s three-yard line, Castaneda threw the game-winning touchdown to junior Max Anderson at 00:57. The six points from the touchdown plus the point from Gordon’s extra point attempt gave WU the 31-34 win.
The Willamette football team will be playing at McCulloch Stadium again on Saturday, Sept. 28 at 4:00 p.m. (PDT) against Lewis-Clark Valley College (Idaho).