PACIFIC LUTHERAN (4-2) AT PUGET SOUND (0-6)
1 p.m. (PDT), Baker Stadium, Tacoma
Tickets: $10 for adults/$7 for children and seniors.
The coaches: Scott Westering is in his ninth season at PLU (43-34 record). Jeff Thomas is in his third season at UPS (2-22 record).
The series: UPS leads, 44-37-5, but its only victory against the Lutes in the past 24 meetings came in 2005 (23-13). The two games between these coaches have been close – PLU won in 2010 (31-28 in Tacoma) and last season (21-7 in Puyallup).
What to watch: Folks might signal last week’s PLU 41-27 victory over No. 22 Willamette as the coming-out party for QB Dalton Ritchey (120 of 196, 1,650 yards, 10 TDs). And it was not so much the statistics Ritchey put up – it was his command in all phases of the Lutes’ offense. Now with WR Kellen Westering (knee) out for the season, Ritchey has become even more of the focal point for the attack – passing, running and play-adjusting. The way he marched the Lutes 99 yards to a clinching score in the fourth quarter of that game earned Ritchey a longer leash – and could be the needed boost to get a very good career going. UPS quarterback Braden Foley is good – but he has struggled at crucial times this season. Foley (114-210, 1,470 yards, 12 TDs, 12 INTs) is the future at the position, and he still has record-setting WR Adam Kniffin (50 catches, 781 yards, 10 TDs) for a few more games. But expect the Loggers to follow a similar blueprint as in their past two meetings with PLU – running the ball to shorten the game (62 rushing attempts combined in both losses) and hoping to win the turnover battle (six forced turnovers combined in the two losses) – if they want to upset the Lutes. Thing is, PLU is plus-12 in turnover margin this season (tied for fifth in the country) and allows just 96.8 rushing yards per outing.
What’s at stake: Suddenly after beating Willamette, PLU is back in the NWC title hunt – well, sort of. If the Lutes win and the Bearcats upset No. 3 Linfield today in McMinnville, Ore., all three schools will be tied atop the conference standings. The NWC gets one automatic bid to the NCAA Division III championships.
TNT pick: PLU, 40-21