With the team’s playoff chances nonexistent, PLU used Saturday afternoon’s game against George Fox at Sparks Stadium in Puyallup to put an exclamation point on the season.
In the final game of the year, the Lutes took down the George Fox Bruins by a score of 49-7.
Securing a final record of 7-2 and 5-2 in Northwest Conference play, the Lutes dominated George Fox’s first-year football program from the opening kickoff. PLU set the tone early by going 71 yards in 11 plays on the first drive of the game, culminating in a 4-yard TD plunge by running back Niko Madison.
It was the start of a trend, and the Lutes never looked back. By the time halftime rolled around, PLU held a commanding 35-0 lead, and a staggering 281 to 33 yardage advantage. The Lutes forced three George Fox turnovers in the first half alone, and finished the game with six takeaways.
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For much of the game the biggest question was whether Madison would crack the 1,000-yard mark for the season. The senior from Maple Valley did just that on a 25-yard run in the third quarter, finishing with 162 yards on 23 carries and two touchdowns. He became only the fourth PLU running back to break the 1,000-yard mark, and the first since Anthony Hicks rushed for 1,633 yards in 1999.
“It felt great to get the 1,000 yards, but we all did it,” Madison said of his accomplishment. “It wasn’t just about me getting [1,000 yards]. It was about us doing it together.”
Senior quarterback Dalton Ritchey also wrapped up his collegiate career in style, throwing for 143 yards and one touchdown on a 14-for-21 passing performance. He added 55 yards and three touchdowns on the ground, including an impressive 24-yard jaunt for a touchdown at the end of the first quarter.
True to form, PLU coach Scott Westering said the takeaway from the 2014 season was about far more than what showed up on the scoreboard or the record books.
“It doesn’t matter what you do in life, at the end of the day, when the smoke clears, and they turn the fans off and all that, if you really look around the room, what do you have? You have each other,” said Westering of his message to players after the game. “We’ve had a great year. We ended up 7-2, we’ll be nationally ranked. Barring some missile from somewhere we’re all done playing. But, like we said in the beginning, that was never our goal in the first place. … Our goal was what it is every year, for this team to realize its potential, and for this team to rise up and develop through this idea of being successful together, playing the greatest game on earth.”
Puget Sound 27, at Willamette 14: It was a watershed moment for the Loggers and coach Jeff Thomas, defeating the perennially conference-contending Bearcats to close out the season in Salem, Oregon.
The biggest difference was quarterback play: Loggers’ senior Braden Foley threw for 247 yards and two touchdowns, and had no interceptions while Bearcats counterpart Trent Spallas was picked off four times.
UPS went up 14-0 on Foley’s 55-yard scoring strike to Kevin Miller with 6:42 to go in the first quarter.
“Our seniors made plays with the game on the line,” Thomas said.
The Loggers added another Foley touchdown pass, this time a 16-yarder to Brenna Schon, to make it 21-0 with 3:15 remaining before halftime.
UPS (4-5, 3-4 Northwest Conference) tied the Bearcats for fifth place in the conference. It was the Loggers’ most victories in a season since 2006.
“This should be a springboard for all our returning (players), and prospective ones,” Thomas said. “But at the same time, this is also a culmination of the work this senior class put in. Now it is going out with a great victory.”