Pacific Lutheran University quarterback Dalton Ritchey threw four second-half interceptions, and a tight game through three quarters turned into a 29-0 rout for second-ranked Linfield on Saturday in an NCAA Division III Northwest Conference game in McMinnville, Ore.
The 11th-ranked Lutes (3-1 overall, 0-1 NWC) simply made too many mistakes to take down Linfield (4-0, 1-0) on the road.
“Many times, it’s about four or five plays in a game, tipping points as you watch them, emotionally, from a confidence standpoint and a momentum standpoint,” PLU coach Scott Westering said.
Every time one of those tipping-point plays arrived, it was Linfield’s defense that rose to the occasion.
PLU started two of its first-half possessions in Linfield territory and couldn’t piece together a scoring drive.
In the third quarter, the Lutes drove 56 yards to the Linfield 8. But on a fourth-and-3 play, Ritchey was sacked by Linfield’s Jeremy Girod.
Linfield quarterback Josh Yoder threw for 200 yards and a touchdown, and ran for 67 yards. Running back Josh Hill ran for 66 yards and scored three touchdowns.
“They’re a great team,” Westering said of Linfield, which beat PLU for the 13th consecutive time. “Gee whiz, offensively and defensively, they deserve to be ranked No. 2 in the country, if not higher.”
Hill took a direct snap and ran 6 yards for the first score of the game with 24 seconds to go in the first quarter. It remained a 7-0 game until the first play of the fourth quarter, when Hill went in from 1 yard out. PLU blocked the point-after attempt, but Linfield pushed the lead to 13-0.
PLU’s offense responded with a three-and-out possession.
Linfield scored a touchdown on the next drive, and again, PLU was kept off the board. Ritchey was picked off by Linfield’s Brandon Funk, who returned it 31 yards to the PLU 4. One play later, Hill went into the end zone, and it was 26-0.
After the game, Westering attempted to squash any “low-grade fever” that might turn the team’s disappointment into dissent.
“How we respond to this (is important),” the Lutes coach said.
PLU managed 40 yards rushing and 216 yards of total offense. By taking away most of the Lutes’ running lanes, Ritchey was forced to go to the air. He passed for 176 yards on 14-for-33 accuracy. PLU’s final three possessions ended with interceptions.
The Lutes’ defense did enough good things — through most of three quarters — to give Linfield its best test of the season.
“That’s a good solid team,” Yoder said of PLU. “They’re going to keep pushing no matter what.”
At Lewis & Clark 60, Puget Sound 30: Loggers coach Jeff Thomas echoed a sentiment sure to be shared by the entire league after this season.
Goodbye, graduated Keith Welch. And don’t come back.
Welch is about the only thing worth watching in the Pioneers’ program, and for the final time he did a number — or put up big numbers — in a big victory over the Loggers.
Welch, a senior from Vallejo, Calif., passed for 352 yards and four touchdowns, and ran for 165 yards and another four scores at Griswold Stadium in Portland to give Lewis & Clark its first victory this season.
In the four games he has started against UPS, Welch has collected 1,749 yards of total offense — or 437.3 yards per game.
“He is an all-time great Northwest Conference quarterback,” Thomas said. “He literally is their whole offense.”
Welch broke two tackles and outraced another UPS defender to the end zone for a 47-yard touchdown scamper 51 seconds into the game to give Lewis & Clark a 7-0 lead.
Trailing 25-7 at halftime, UPS had its big moment when Connor Savage returned the opening kickoff of the second half 83 yards for a score to cut the Pioneers’ lead to 25-14.
“We scored on that play, get a touchdown and feel pretty good at where we are at,” Thomas said. “And then they go on an 80-play drive in (two) minutes, and we don’t make them run a third down.”
Tailback Josh Bocker had 42 of his 86 yards on that Lewis & Clark drive, which was capped by Welch’s 5-yard touchdown strike to Curtis Shirey to put the Pioneers up, 32-14.
UPS quarterback Braden Foley threw for 308 yards and three touchdowns. But he suffered his first turnovers of the season – three interceptions and a fumble.
The Loggers (1-2, 0-1 NWC) gave up 637 total yards.
“The frustrating part, usually there is one thing you can hang your hat on that you did well,” Thomas said. “We just did not do any facet of the game at a high level.”Staff writer Todd Milles contributed to this report.