Willamette's Rally Falls Short as Hardin-Simmons Wins, 30-24

Abney Rushes for Career-High 146 Yards, Scores one Touchdown

By Robert McKinney, Athletics Communications Director, (503) 370-6110

SALEM, ORE. -- Hardin-Simmons University, ranked #9 in the D3football.com Top 25, surged out to a 17-0 lead, but Willamette University battled back, forcing the Cowboys to hold onto a 30-24 victory over the Bearcats at McCulloch Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 10.

HSU improved to 2-0 on the season. Willamette dropped to 0-2.

For Willamette, Jamiere Abney (Sr., TB, Bremerton, WA/Bremerton HS) rushed for a career-high 146 yards and tallied WU's first touchdown of the game with 12:19 left in the second quarter. It was Abney's first 100-yard game as a Bearcat, surpassing his previous best of 90 yards against Linfield College on Oct. 24, 2009. He also set a career high with 26 carries.

The Cowboys claimed their early lead by scoring on each of their first three possessions.

Hardin-Simmons quickly stopped Willamette to start the game, then used just three plays to score the game's first touchdown. Wide receiver Travis Tatsch hauled in a 55-yard pass from quarterback Taylor Byrd for the score. Willamette had to punt seven plays later and the Cowboys responded with a 9-play, 58-yard drive that ended with a 37-yard field goal by Scott Newberry.

The lead reached 17-0 when Derrick Grant ran for a 3-yard touchdown and Newberry kicked the extra point with 22 seconds left in the first quarter. Grant finished the game with 22 carries for 101 yards.

Willamette outscored Hardin-Simmons 24-13 the rest of the way, but the Bearcats were never able to tie the score or take the lead. Even so, WU turned the game into a battle by cutting the Cowboys' lead to 17-14 at halftime.

Abney scored on a 2-yard run with 12:19 left in the second quarter to complete a 7-play, 59-yard drive. Kyle Derby (So., PK, Oakdale, CA/Oakdale HS) tacked on the extra point.

WU's second touchdown occurred late in the half, three plays after Hardin-Simmons lost 26-yards on a fourth-down play in punt formation. Brandon Abbott was waiting for the punt snap, but the ball sailed way over his head, forcing Abbott to retreat from his own 45 toward the HSU goal line. He grabbed the ball at about the 14 and returned it five yards before losing the ball out of bounds at the 19.

Jake Turner (Jr., FL, Ontario, OR/Ontario HS) gained eight yards on the first play following the change of possession. Abney advanced nine yards on the second play and quarterback Brian Widing (Jr., Canby, OR/Canby HS) crossed the goal line on a 2-yard run with 1:04 on the clock.

Hardin-Simmons scored the first touchdown of the third quarter. The Cowboys started with solid field position after Devin Carver returned the second half kickoff 36 yards to the HSU 45. Eight plays later, Steven Rockwell crossed the goal line on a 7-yard run. Newberry's kick gave HSU a 24-14 edge.

The Bearcats countered with a 14-play, 61-yard drive. Derby, who is Willamette's short-range field goal specialist, kicked a career-long 36-yard field goal to get WU back within seven points at 24-17. The drive featured two third-down conversions, including a 9-yard reverse by Jake Knecht (Jr., WR, Issaquah, WA/Skyline HS/Illinois State Univ.) to pick up 3rd-and-7 from the Hardin-Simmons 33.

HSU extended its lead when Rockwell scored on a 3-yard touchdown scamper early in the fourth quarter. After the Bearcats blocked the extra point, Hardin-Simmons owned a 30-17 lead with 13:30 remaining.

The Bearcats had three chances to cut into the lead. The first ended on downs at the HSU 21 after Widing hit Conor Dunn (Fr., FL, Santa Clara, CA/Wilcox HS) with a 6-yard pass that came up one yard short on fourth down. The second chance was stopped 22 yards from the end zone with 3:35 left, when Widing narrowly missed on a fourth-down pass to Knecht in the far corner of the end zone.

WU's third opportunity appeared one play later, when Jaden Roselli (So., ILB, Santa Rosa, CA/Santa Rosa HS) forced Rockwell to fumble the ball and WU's Cody Pastorino (Jr., S, Glenn, CA/Willows HS) recovered at the HSU 22.

This time Willamette reached the end zone despite starting at the HSU 37 due to a penalty.

Josh Dean (So., QB/WR, Dana Point, CA/Dana Hills HS) took all five snaps on the drive. Matt Williams (Jr., FL, Encinitas, CA/La Costa Canyon HS) provided back-to-back 10-yard runs on the second and third plays.

Dean gained one yard on the following play, but the Cowboys committed a personal foul, giving WU a 1st-and-goal. Dean then scored on an 8-yard run with 1:48 left. Derby kicked the extra point to pull Willamette within 30-24.

The Bearcats attempted an on-side kick following the score, but the ball went out of bounds and HSU took over. The on-side kick was executed well by Pete Kline (Fr./Grad, PK, Cheyenne, WY/Cheyenne Central HS), with the ball reaching the required 10-yards as it bounded toward the sideline. Each team had a couple of players in the area, but no one was able to catch the ball.

HSU took over, but the Bearcats held the Cowboys and got the ball back at the WU 15-yard line with 44 seconds left. The Bearcats completed one short pass on three attempts. On fourth down, Lee Grounds of HSU intercepted a lengthy desperation pass at the HSU 36 with four seconds left.

Caleb Christian of HSU topped all players with 14 total tackles, including 10 assists. He was one of four Cowboys with double-digit tackles. Hardin-Simmons finished with 9.0 tackles for losses, including 3.0 sacks.

Willamette had three players with nine tackles each. They were Wes Wenzel (Jr., ILB, Portland, OR/Sunset HS), Reed Warner (Jr., OLB, Salem, OR/South Salem HS) and Harmon Bruno (Sr., OLB, Danville, CA/San Ramon Valley HS). Dominic David (Jr., S, Salem, OR/South Salem HS/Portland State Univ.) earned eight tackles.

Tyson Giza (So., CB, Salem, OR/Sprague HS) of WU provided quality play on defense and special teams. On defense, he achieved two tackles and intercepted a pass at the WU 2-yard line in the third quarter with HSU leading 24-17. On special teams, Giza returned two kickoffs a total of 71 yards (long of 36). He has averaged 32.3 yards on four kickoff returns this season.

HSU ended the game with 326 total yards on 59 offensive plays. Willamette gained 309 yards on 75 plays and kept the ball for 38:55. WU rushed for 284 yards on 63 carries, while holding the Cowboys to 144 rushing yards on 43 carries (3.3 avg.).

Willamette will play at home again next weekend, when the Bearcats will take on Southern Oregon University. Kickoff at McCulloch Stadium is set for 1:30 p.m. (PDT).

Hardin-Simmons University 30
Willamette University 24
Jamiere Abney rushed for a career-high 146 yards and scored one touchdown.

Jamiere Abney rushed for a career-high 146 yards and scored one touchdown.