Nobody associated with Pacific Lutheran University football is ready to declare any sort of star-is-born moment yet — but freshman quarterback Cole Chandler sure impressed many Saturday.
And he helped the Lutes get their first victory this season.
It wasn’t easy. With the defense struggling to get stops much of the day, PLU put it together at the right time in the second half to rally for a 28-27 victory over George Fox at Sparks Stadium.
Losing a 10-point lead in the second half, the Bruins had one final chance to drive for a game-winning score with 61 seconds remaining.
But PLU’s Parker Smith sacked Grant Schroeder on the final series — and Schroeder’s fourth-down pass just past midfield with 21 seconds to go fell incomplete.
The Lutes never figured they would give up the football in the final minute after tailback Marc Gallant galloped to the right sideline. Thinking he made it past the first-down sticks, he slowed down going out of bounds.
But the side judge ruled Gallant went out of bounds short of the first down, forcing PLU (1-5, 1-3 Northwest Conference) to have to solidify the win on defense.
“With where we are … and with the growth that needs to happen with this team, it could not have been a better win,” Lutes coach Scott Westering said.
Westering knows one thing for certain: He has something special in Chandler the 6-foot-2, 190-pounder out of Silverton High School in Oregon.
With news that starting quarterback Jon Schaub (left knee ligament) was lost for the season Friday, the job became Chandler’s for the rest of the season.
“That is just bad luck,” Chandler said. “Everybody respects (Schaub).”
Chandler wasted no time introducing himself to the Northwest Conference — albeit it was Gallant who did most of the work. The running back took Chandler’s first pass — a screen pass — 65 yards for a touchdown.
Schroeder was just as impressive, guiding the Bruins to three touchdown-scoring drives in the first half as they took a 24-14 halftime lead.
PLU cut it to 24-21 on Chandler’s 28-yard pass over three defenders to Garrett Hittner in the back of the end zone with 5:57 to go in the third quarter.
And the Lutes took the lead, 28-24, on the final play of the quarter on Austen Kindle’s 1-yard left-sweep run on fourth-and-goal.
“The coaches put in some plays that were easy for me to run,” Chandler said. “All the guys knew what they were doing, so it made my job easy.”
Chandler completed his first 11 passes. His only incompletion came with 7:11 remaining in the game.
But perhaps his final pass was his most impressive one — one that converted a key third down.
Facing third-and-4, Chandler hit Juston Lind on a slant pattern for an 8-yard gain — a pass that was delivered just in front of safety Jake Heverly’s flailing hands with three minutes remaining.
“When we had to have a couple of key plays,” Westering said, “he put it there on the money.”
The Bruins outgained PLU in offensive yardage, 482-280. They finished 27 first downs. They converted nine of 15 third-down plays.
But they were held out of the end zone in the second half.
As far as Chandler, he finished 12 of 13 for 164 yards and two touchdowns. He also added 39 rushing yards.
“As far as from here on out, we have a chance to put something together,” Chandler said. “Our team will work with me, and I will work with them to get better every day.”
PASS-HAPPY LOGGERS RUN CIRCLES AROUND LEWIS & CLARK
Not a misprint — the pass-happy Loggers (4-2, 3-1 NWC) rushed for 267 yards in a 38-7 win over the Pioneers.
Quarterback-turned-tailback Max McGuinn tallied a career-high 141 yards on 10 carries, including two long touchdown runs of 53 and 62 yards in the first quarter.
The totals made UPS coach Jeff Thomas smile just a tad.
“We need to take the run when it is given to us,” Thomas said.
It is just the third time under Thomas that a Loggers tailback has rushed for 100 or more yards. Austin Wagner went for 105 yards against PLU in 2012, and Kupuno Park went for 115 yards against Whittier in that same season.
UPS rolled up 600 yards of offense as quarterback Hans Fortune complete 25 of 39 passes for 299 yards and three touchdowns.
But the Loggers lost one of their key contributors on offense. Receiver Kevin Miller (knee) left the game after a punt return in the first quarter, and never returned. Thomas said his status will be updated later in the week.
Todd Milles: 253-597-8442