Willamette Keeps Wagon Wheel with 56-30 Victory over Lewis & Clark

Bearcats Gain 354 Yards Through the Air, Dean Tosses School Record Seven TDs

By Timothy Walsh, Assistant Athletics Communications Director

PORTLAND, ORE. -- Willamette University, ranked #22 nationally by D3football.com and #24 by the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA), gained 354 yards passing and 292 yards rushing in a comprehensive 56-30 victory over Lewis & Clark College in the annual Wagon Wheel Game on Saturday, Oct. 19 at Griswold Stadium.

The Bearcats won for the 19th time in their last 20 matchups against L&C, earning the right to keep the historic Conestoga wagon wheel at McCulloch Stadium for yet another year. The traveling trophy, created by the Blue Key men’s honor society in 1948, documents each year’s score on a square plaque in the middle of the wheel.

Willamette remained unbeaten on the year, improving to 5-0 overall, 2-0 in the Northwest Conference. L&C dropped to 1-5 overall, 1-2 in NWC play.

Starting quarterback Josh Dean (Sr., Dana Point, CA/Dana Hills HS) completed 29 of 37 passes for 333 yards and a school record seven touchdowns. The previous school record of six touchdowns in a single game was shared between Dean and current Willamette assistant coach John Horner ('94).

Wide receiver Derek Traeger (Jr., Mount Angel, OR/John F. Kennedy HS) led the Bearcats in receiving for the second week in a row, catching 12 passes for 146 yards and three touchdowns.

Quarterback Keith Welch led the Pioneers' offense, completing 38 of 73 passes for 481 yards and four touchdowns. But Welch was also intercepted three times by Willamette's defense.

WU jumped out to a big lead early in the first quarter.

After forcing L&C to punt on the Pioneers' first possession of the game, Willamette took over on its own 20-yard line. The Bearcats turned in a methodical 10 play, 80 yard drive, with 52 of those yards coming on the ground. Traeger capped the drive, taking a shovel pass from Dean 18 yards for a touchdown.

On Lewis & Clark's second possession of the game, the Bearcats held the Pioneers to just eight yards. Facing fourth and two on their own 34 yard line, the Pioneers elected to go for it, but Welch's pass fell incomplete.

With their backs to the wall, L&C's defense got a big play to keep Willamette from extending its lead. With the Bearcats on the Pioneer 15-yard line, Lucas Rodgers cut in front of Dean's pass in the end zone, making an interception.

Willamette's defense forced another Lewis & Clark punt, however, and this time, the Bearcats capitalized.

After a pair of punishing runs up the middle by Terrell Malley (Sr., RB/WR, Portland, OR/Roosevelt HS) to open the drive, Dean tossed a 38-yard touchdown pass to a wide-open Erik Baker (So., WR, Moraga, CA/Campolindo HS/Whitworth Univ.) for a 14-0 Willamette lead with 5:58 remaining in the first quarter.

On L&C's next drive, the Pioneers gained just nine yards before Tyler Ropp (Fr., DL, Corvallis, OR/Santiam Christian HS) and Kyle Davey (Sr., DL, Atwater, CA/Buhach Colony HS) combined to stuff Welch on third and one.

A kick catch interference call on the ensuing punt gave Willamette another short field, and Dean once again took advantage, firing a short two-yard touchdown pass to De'Zhon Grace (Fr., WR, Castro Valley, CA/Bishop O'Dowd HS) with 2:41 left in the first period.

Despite trailing 21-0, the Pioneers were far from done.

Curtis Shirey exploited a hole in Willamette's kickoff coverage, and only a last-ditch tackle from Daley Smith (Jr., CB, St. Paul, OR/St. Paul HS) at the 49 yard line saved the touchdown.

A few plays later, Welch found Shirey down the sideline to the Bearcats' two-yard line, but Corey Walsh (Jr., OLB, San Pedro, CA/San Pedro HS/Western New Mexico Univ.) forced the Pioneers back to the six yard line with a tackle in the backfield.

Willamette's secondary then forced Welch into a pair of incomplete passes, and L&C settled for a field goal by Julian Strachan.

The Pioneers drew closer at the 13:38 mark of the second quarter, after L&C's Lincoln Boyd picked off a deep ball thrown into double coverage by Dean. Welch marched the Pioneers right down the field, capping the drive with an 18-yard touchdown toss to Shirey.

Strachan's extra point attempt sailed wide, however, and the score remained 21-9 in favor of Willamette.

After a short kickoff, the Bearcats rode the powerful rushing of Dylan Jones (Jr., RB, Santa Maria, CA/Ernest Righetti HS), but Dean took to the air again in search of the end zone. This time, the senior quarterback found Traeger from 13 yards away with 11:13 remaining in the first half, and the Bearcats led 28-9.

But the plucky Pioneers refused to go away, and after the teams traded possessions without scoring, Jacob Costantino turned a simple flare pass from Welch into a 62-yard touchdown reception, outrunning a pair of Bearcats down the sideline and trimming the lead to 28-16 with 4:38 left before halftime.

L&C had a chance to pull even closer just before the halftime whistle, driving all the way inside the Willamette 10 yard line, but WU's defense came up with a huge stand.

On second and goal, Jack Nelson (Jr., ILB, Portland, OR/Jesuit HS) flattened Welch in the backfield, and on third down, Ryan Foote (So., DB, Sherwood, OR/Valley Catholic HS/Allan Hancock JC) broke up a pass in the end zone. With just seconds remaining before halftime, Strachan missed the short field goal.

Willamette, who had deferred to start the game, received the first kickoff of the second half. Malley opened the drive with a long first down run, putting WU inside L&C territory almost immediately. A few plays later, on fourth down and three at the Pioneer 29, Dean found Traeger right at the sticks to keep the drive alive.

Two plays later, Dean went right back to Traeger in the flat. After making one would-be tackler miss, Traeger dove into the end zone, just nicking the left pylon to give Willamette a 35-16 advantage.

Remarkably, that touchdown would be the only score of a third quarter, though Nelson provided WU with a significant defensive highlight. With 5:13 left in the period and the Pioneers driving, Nelson made a tremendous leaping interception of a Welch pass over the middle.

Just seconds into the fourth quarter, Grace made a spectacular catch of his own to all but seal a Willamette win.

After taking over on downs at midfield, the Bearcats drove quickly down the field, reaching the L&C eight yard line. On first and goal, Dean tossed the ball toward Grace near the left side of the end zone. The pass was batted into the air by an L&C cornerback, but with a defender draped over his back, Grace managed to get one hand onto the ball and haul in his second touchdown reception of the day.

L&C reached midfield on their next possession, but Giza picked off an errant pass from Welch at the 11 yard line, and Taylor Wyman (Jr., RB/P, Bellevue, WA/Issaquah HS) reached the end zone six plays later on a 24 yard scamper to push the margin to 49-16 with 12:06 left in the game.

With Willamette substituting liberally on defense, Welch tossed two more touchdowns, sandwiched around a touchdown pass from Dean to Joe Mendoza (Jr., WR, Ventura, CA/Ventura HS) for the final margin.

Dean, in addition to his passing exploits, rushed 15 times for 72 yards in the game. Malley and Jones each surpassed 80 yards rushing for Willamette, with Malley achieving 83 yards on 14 carries (5.9 avg.), and Jones reaching 82 yards on nine carries (9.1 avg.)

Kyle Derby (Sr., PK/P, Oakdale, CA/Oakdale HS) extended his Willamette record for extra points with an 8-for-8 effort today. Derby is now 132 of 138 on PATs in his career.

Three receivers surpassed 100 yards on the day for Lewis & Clark, led by Costantino, who had eight catches for 113 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Shirey achieved 109 yards and a touchdown on seven catches, while Darrell Nelson made seven receptions for 107 yards and a touchdown.

Costantino was the Pioneers' leading rusher on the day, gaining 39 yards on 12 carries (2.9 avg.) WU held Lewis & Clark to just 107 yards on the ground.

Defensively, the Bearcats were led by Nelson's 14 tackles (9 solo). Wyatt Briggs (Sr., DL, Scio, OR/Scio HS) achieved nine tackles on the day. Nelson, Giza, and Smith each earned interceptions for Willamette. Stein Retzlaff notched a game-high 23 tackles to lead the Pioneers.

The Bearcats return home to McCulloch Stadium for a game with playoff implications against Pacific Lutheran on Saturday, Oct. 26. Willamette squares off against the Lutes, ranked #17 by D3football.com and #20 by the AFCA, at 1:30 p.m. (PDT).

BOX SCORE

Willamette University 56
Lewis & Clark College 30

Derek Traeger led Willamette's receivers for the second week in a row, catching 12 passes for 146 yards and three touchdowns.

Derek Traeger led Willamette's receivers for the second week in a row, catching 12 passes for 146 yards and three touchdowns.