Quarterback Braden Foley threw his 40th career touchdown pass for the University of Puget Sound on Saturday, tying a school record that has stood for more than three decades.
Not that he was celebrating the feat.
Foley certainly has marvelous passing skills to lead the Loggers on offense. He also has shown a penchant for making head-scratching mistakes at inopportune times — like the ones that happened Saturday.
On a day when the Loggers arguably had their most complete effort from the defense under coach Jeff Thomas, and despite a pair of big special-teams plays, UPS saw it go to waste in a 33-14 loss to Whitworth at Baker Stadium in Tacoma.
Dating to the 1996 season, the Pirates have won 18 games in a row against UPS.
The defeat was the Loggers’ fourth loss in a row as they enter the meaty part of their Northwest Conference schedule. They face Pacific Lutheran University next week in Puyallup, then have games against Linfield and Willamette.
Oh, the mistakes — they can drive a coach mad. UPS committed six turnovers Saturday, including four interceptions thrown by Foley.
After two turnover-free games to start the season, Foley has thrown 11 interceptions in four outings.
“I am not worried about him,” Thomas said, “but we are making way too many inconsistent reads.”
It is a tough situation to monitor. On one hand, Foley stands out as the courageous leader willing to do what it takes to make a play and extend a drive. On the other hand, going for broke sometimes means making a huge blunder.
Foley wasn’t alone Saturday. The Loggers fumbled the opening kickoff. That led to Whitworth quarterback Bryan Peterson’s 11-yard touchdown run and a 7-0 lead for the Pirates in 2 minutes, 55 seconds.
The Pirates extended it to 14-0 on their next drive, marching 78 yards in four plays. The big play was Peterson’s 72-yard strike to tight end Wade Meyer, setting up Griffin Hare’s 3-yard scoring plunge.
But after that, the UPS defense settled in for the most part. The Loggers brought more pressure against Peterson and sacked him five times.
“We thought we had the better athletes,” UPS linebacker Brent McCoy said, “to win the one-on-one battles.”
Two second-half sequences doomed the Loggers’ comeback bid:
UPS (1-5 overall, 0-3 NWC), behind Foley’s crisp short passing after halftime, was marching until it stalled at the Pirates’ 37 and the punt team came on.
The Loggers executed a fake punt beautifully. Punter Jeff Walton completed a pass in the right flat to backup quarterback Max McGuinn, who rumbled 20 yards for the first down.
But the Loggers were dropped for a loss on a second-down pass. Foley was sacked on third down – and Sawyer Petre’s 44-yard field goal was wide right, keeping Whitworth’s lead at 17-7 with 8:48 to go in the third quarter.
Even after UPS snapped over Walton’s head for a safety with 12:14 remaining, the Loggers took possession on the ensuing punt when Joe Cerne stripped returner Drew Clausen and Jeremy Perkovich recovered at the Pirates’ 43.
But on the next play, Foley pump-faked short and decided to air it out to Peter Bell along the left sideline. Safety Casey Monahan read it perfectly and picked off the pass for Whitworth.
“The guy (Monahan) who intercepted the ball was our read player, and we have a (receiver) inside who had a chance to be open,” Thomas said. “Braden just didn’t see the read.”
Monahan returned to the UPS 43. Five plays later, Peterson passed to Dustin Martin down the left seam for a 29-yard touchdown, and the Pirates were in control at 26-7 with 9:16 to play.
Foley threw a 13-yard scoring pass to Brennan Schon later to tie Ivy Iverson’s UPS record of 40 career touchdown passes, completed in 1979.
Foley, who ran 17 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter, finished 24-for-39 for 213 yards.
“As we develop as an offense, we go as our quarterback goes,” Thomas said. “We didn’t execute with the game on the line.”
Pacific Lutheran 35, at Willamette 24: The 17th-ranked Lutes put themselves in the driver’s seat for an at-large berth to the NCAA Division III playoffs by knocking off the undefeated and 21st-ranked Bearcats at McCulloch Stadium in Salem, Ore.
QB Dalton Ritchey passed for one scored and ran for three. One was a 1-yard plunge on the final play of the first half to cap a 52-yard drive in 2:06 that gave the Lutes (6-1, 3-1 in NWC) a 28-7 lead.
“This was his day,” PLU coach Scott Westering said. “He played so well. I was so proud of him, as well (as) the guys around him.”
Willamette QB Josh Dean was picked off five times – three in the first half.
After Dean’s 3-yard TD pass to Austin Jones cut PLU’s lead to 28-17 with 12:31 remaining, the Lutes marched 76 yards — highlighted by Ritchey’s 50-yard scamper — to a 6-yard scoring run by Niko Madison.Todd Milles: 253-597-8442 firstname.lastname@example.org @ManyHatsMilles