REDLANDS, Calif. –There’s nothing like a tough non-conference schedule – facing playoff teams in consecutive weeks, no less – to find out the makeup of a team.
A week after playing host to Cal Lutheran – three-time defending champion in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference – in a losing effort, Pacific Lutheran traveled to California to earn its first win of the season, 28-14, Saturday night over 2011 SCIAC runner-up University of Redlands.
The combination of a stifling defense and a coming-of-age performance by first-year quarterback Dalton Ritchey propelled the Lutes.
Ritchey, a sophomore who is the Lutes’ sixth different starting quarterback to open the season in six years, passed for 285 yards and two touchdowns.
“This was only his second game as our quarterback, and he made some great plays and grew significantly,” said Lutes coach Scott Westering. “It was great to see him take the leap tonight, kind of that classic leap of your first to your second game just in a season, much less just the second game for him ever playing quarterback for us.”
The Bulldogs’ best scoring opportunity of the first half came on the game’s opening series, but the Lutes’ bend-but-don’t-break defense ended the drive when defensive back Jonny Volland intercepted Brad Crisanty on the 2-yard line.
The Lutes then shut down the Bulldogs for the remainder of the half, allowing only three more first downs while scoring 21 unanswered points.
The first touchdown came with 29 seconds remaining in the first quarter on a Brandon James 18-yard burst. James finished with 119 yards on 16 carries.
On the next series, with the Bulldogs nearing midfield, Erik Hoium returned an interception 44 yards to give the Lutes a 14-0 lead.
After Ritchey connected on a 30-yard pass to sophomore Kyle Warner for his first touchdown of the season, PLU took a 21-0 lead into halftime.
A busted Lutes fake punt attempt inside their own territory on the first series of the second half led to Redlands’ first scoring opportunity. Redlands running back Brad Crisanty punched the ball in on a fourth-and-2 to shorten the deficit to 14.
Ritchey, who completed 21 of 31 passes, would connect with tight end Lucas Sontra with just over six minutes remaining to cap off the Lutes’ scoring. The Bulldogs scored a touchdown in the closing seconds.
PLU held Redlands to 288 total yards.
The Lutes have a bye next weekend, then play host to Linfield to open Northwest Conference play Sept. 29.
“Guys are starting to become – especially offensively – a little bit more of a seasoned team,” said Westering. “You look at the guys on offense, and we’ve got a lot of young guys playing. To start off playing some really good teams is awesome, but now we’ve got a couple weeks to prepare for Linfield.”