Perhaps it was fitting the Pacific Lutheran University football team won the way it did Saturday afternoon in a season aimed at paying tribute to legendary coach Frosty Westering.
It likely wasn’t the way Frosty would have done it.
After missing one field goal and having another blocked earlier in the fourth quarter, senior Nick Kaylor booted a 20-yard field goal with 2 seconds remaining to lift the 17th-ranked Lutes to a 17-16 win over Pacific (Ore.) at Sparks Stadium in Puyallup.
“Since my father came here in 1972, I don’t think we’ve attempted three field goals in the last five minutes of a game — ever,” PLU coach Scott Westering said. “I can’t say dad is turning over in his grave because he’s up in paradise, but I’m sure he’s sitting there shaking his head. Believe me, there have been interesting talks at the Westering house about kicking and special teams.”
The elder Westering was famous for not putting the team’s fate in the hands of the kicker.
“It was the right play to do — all three kicks,” Scott Westering said.
After almost two quarters of offensive struggles, a clutch Lutes drive set up Kaylor’s heroics.
The PLU defense shut the door on Pacific running out the clock with 2:39 to go, and the Lutes got the ball back on the Pacific 42 after Connor Cummings’ 36-yard punt return.
With no timeouts and 35 seconds remaining, quarterback Dalton Ritchey completed a 20-yard pass to Kyle Warner and, two plays later, hit a 16-yard strike to Cummings. Ritchey finished with 269 yards passing on 22-of-31 accuracy.
Two more short completions set the stage for Kaylor, who despite the earlier setbacks was ready to be the hero.
“That’s the one thing this program still focuses on is the idea of flushing (mistakes),” said Kaylor, a 5-foot-8 transfer from Washington State University. “(It’s about) getting rid of that last play, no matter what you did wrong or right, and working on getting back to that next play.”
The kick made up for a couple of blown scoring opportunities earlier in the quarter.
PLU (5-1 overall, 2-1 Northwest Conference) drove to the Pacific 1, but the Lutes were flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct when Ritchey’s run to the goal line came up short. One play later, Kaylor missed wide left from 33 yards out and the clock at 12:23.
On their next possession, the Lutes drove to the Boxers’ 10-yard line but couldn’t break through. Kaylor’s ensuing 29-yard field-goal attempt was blocked.
“We had some backup linemen in battling their brains out,” Westering said. “It makes such a difference when you have such a physical team up front.”
The Lutes jumped out to a 14-0 lead early in the second quarter behind touchdown runs from Niko Madison (3 yards) and Va’aselau Logotala (1 yard). But the Boxers (5-1, 2-1) scored 16 unanswered points, taking the lead on a 26-yard field goal by Moses Villareal-Gomez with 1:57 to go in the third quarter.