Intermisson started, and immediately Kellen Westering grabbed a startled special guest from the audience.
Loquacious and thirsting for controversy, Westering asked fellow Pacific Lutheran University football receiver Kyle Warner to join him on a campus broadcast of Lutes’ basketball to liven up the show.
Westering did not hold back on asking probing questions. Right off the bat, he pressed Warner to rate his romantic relationship — on a scale of 1-to-10.
Visibly caught off-guard, the low-key Warner recovered to answer quickly and quietly, “Seven.”
Why that number?
“I said that,” Warner said this week, “because (No. 7) was his jersey number.”
Unlike their personalities, Warner and Westering are as united as they come in the role of receiver on the football field. They wear down defensive backs in the same relentless, physical manner.
As 11th-ranked PLU travels to No. 2 Linfield on Saturday to try and snap a 12-game skid to its Northwest Conference rival, having those two outside receivers greatly increase the Lutes’ chances of coming home with a victory.
“Kyle Warner is a very good, dangerous football player. I am really impressed with what he can do with the football after the catch,” Linfield coach Joseph Smith said. “Kellen Westering is one fine competitor. There is no doubt he will catch the ball if thrown anywhere near him.”
Last season, Warner — a Tumwater High School product — set the PLU single-season receiving mark with 1,264 yards as the strong-side receiver, breaking Al Bessette’s 26-year-old record of 1,245.
And in the Lutes’ 27-24 loss to Linfield in the first round of the NCAA Division III playoffs, Warner shredded any defender who got in his way. He caught 12 passes for 205 yards.
In their earlier 2012 regular-season matchup in Puyallup — a 31-24 Linfield triumph — it was Westering, a Rogers High graduate, who did most of the damage at weakside receiver.
Westering had five receptions for 146 yards, including a pair of first-half touchdowns in which he outmuscled defensive backs for the football.
“Receiving-wise, they are very similar in stature, with Kyle being a little bit bigger (6-foot-3 to 6-2). But they are different football players,” said former Puyallup High and University of Washington star Dane Looker, PLU’s second-year receivers coach who played in the NFL for 10 seasons (2000-09).
“Kyle is a little more of a dynamic playmaker, gets down the field and can really rack up a lot of yards after the catch. Kellen does a great job of attacking the football. He has very strong hands, and when it is in the air, he can go over the top of defenders and catch it at its highest point.”
As long as he’s called the shots on offense, PLU coach Scott Westering has always had one standout wide receiver to deploy in his innovative, aggressive passing attack. Rarely has he had two of them.
Kyle Brown and Todd McDevitt were key big-play contributors at receiver for the 1999 NCAA championship squad. And Greg Ford and Isaac Moog teamed up in 2010 to be a handful for opponents.
The Warner-Kellen Westering duo could very well end up being the best of all.
“For defenses, who do you double team?” Kellen Westering said. “Probably whoever is hotter in the game. But you have to be aware of both of us — and we are moved around a lot. It gives defenses a really tough situation.”
Simply put, if measured by talent alone, Warner, a junior, and Westering, a redshirt sophomore, should be playing college football at a higher level.
In fact, Westering was offered a scholarship by Eastern Washington, and was an invited walk-on by Oregon State. Yet in their first two seasons together, they played a total of five games with both in the lineup.
That is because Westering has battled injuries. The son of Scott Westering — and grandson of the late Frosty Westering, the patriarch of PLU football — redshirted in 2011 because of hamstring issues, then suffered a serious knee injury in the fifth game last season.
With Westering’s status in limbo, Warner emerged in the second half of last season as the team’s clear-cut, go-to weapon.
All Warner could do was wait and see if Westering would return.
“There was nothing I really could say except, ‘Can’t wait to get you back,’” Warner said. “At the same time, we were winning. And I knew that is all Kellen cared about.”
Westering decided to suit up and play with a knee brace in the playoff loss, mainly serving as a decoy. A few weeks later, he had surgery to repair ligament damage.
In April, four months after the surgery, Westering was back to running. For games now, he wears a compression sleeve over the knee. Slowly he is rounding back into form.
“We saw glimpses (of our potential) last year — the first game of the season we were both over 100 yards receiving,” Warner said. “It is now just about coming together and becoming complete players.
“We will get our touches, but our (downfield) blocking will make us a better team.”
No. 11 PACIFIC LUTHERAN (3-0) at No. 2 LINFIELD (3-0)
1:30 p.m., Maxwell Field, McMinnville, Ore.
The series: Linfield leads overall series, 38-21-4. The Wildcats have won the past 12 meetings dating back to 2002, including two close victories last season — 31-24 in Puyallup and 27-24 in the first round of the NCAA Division III playoffs in McMinnville. The Lutes’ last win came in 2001, a 31-20 road victory.
What to watch: Folks might look at Linfield’s 578.3 yards per game, ranking fifth in the country, and think this is a juggernaut Wildcats’ offense PLU is facing. Make no mistake, everything is set up by a Linfield defense a few Northwest Conference coaches consider the best in the Joseph Smith era. Ten starters return, eight are seniors. The man the Lutes don’t want to let take over the game is linebacker Dominique Forrest, the West Region’s defensive player of the year. PLU has two key elements in its offense that can disrupt this aggressive defense. One, the Lutes can stretch the field with big, athletic receivers Kyle Warner (18 catches, 324 yards, four TDs) and Kellen Westering (12 catches, 122 yards). Second, because Linfield is so disciplined in reading its defensive keys, Lutes coach Scott Westering is a mastermind at throwing in schematic wrinkles to throw the Wildcats off, creating big plays. To have a chance to win, PLU cannot turn the ball over like it did in the 2012 season-ending defeat in McMinnville.
What’s at stake: Potentially — everything. The Lutes have a tough remaining road schedule at Willamette and Whitworth, but if they upend Linfield, they will be in the driver’s seat for their first NWC title since 2001.
TNT pick: Linfield, 31-30. LOGGERS GAMEDAY
PUGET SOUND (1-1) at LEWIS & CLARK (0-3)
1 p.m., Griswold Stadium, Portland
The series: UPS leads series, 22-13. Pioneers have won the past four meeting, including a 55-42 shootout last season in Tacoma.
What to watch: The Loggers snapped a 20-game losing streak with a 42-33 victory at Whittier College on Sept. 21 before a bye. Coach Jeff Thomas said the team has readjusted its goals, adding the mission isn’t to win one game, but to be competitive in every game. Loggers quarterback Braden Foley (44-71, 430 yards, five TDs, no interceptions) is not only managing the offense, he isn’t turning the ball over like he did a season ago. Now with 30 career touchdown passes, he is 10 shy of the school record, set by Ivy Iverson in 1979. UPS will have its hands full with Pioneers quarterback Keith Welch (68-116, 837 yards, 10 TDs; 152 rushing yards), who can break a big play at any time. Lewis & Clark doesn’t have the supporting cast for Welch it has had the past few seasons.
What’s at stake: How about a winning streak? Thomas and company would like nothing more than to extend theirs on Saturday.
TNT pick: UPS, 48-42.Todd Milles: 253-597-8442 email@example.com @ManyHatsMilles firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com