EO GIVES LUTES EVERYTHING THEY CAN HANDLE
By Pierre LaBossire
Observer Staff Writer
There are more than 140 plays in a typical college football game, so it's hard to say that a game really turns on one or two of those plays.
But, Saturday, you could point to two plays that killed a tenacious Eastern Oregon effort to knock off Pacific Lutheran for the first time in the Mountaineers' history.
Those two plays cost Eastern 14 points and that was the difference in a 27-17 PLU win on a blustery day at Community Stadium.
Eastern's hopes were dashed by a holding call in the fourth quarter that nullified a 58-yard touchdown pass from Scott Jensen to Matt Hamlin, and by a muffed punt in the final three minutes that PLU recovered in the end zone.
Coach Jim Fenwick said it was a very frustrating loss because Eastern (2-3) played the Lutes so tough. This game was all about lost opportunities, he felt.
"It's been uncharacteristic for us this year" to make mistakes late, Fenwick said. "Penalties are unfortunately part of the game."
Fenwick said Eastern's defense played great again. The Mountaineers held the Lutes to 324 yards of offense and came up with three turnovers.
Afterward, Fenwick said he told his players games like this are part of building a program.
"It's basically part of the whole learning experience we're developing here at Eastern. This is one we chalk up to experience learn from it, grow from it," he said.
Eastern Oregon had never beaten Pacific Lutheran in 11 tries.
Nick Hannah had a huge game. He had nine tackles and two interceptions, including a pick and a 92-yard return for a TD early in the first quarter to give Eastern a 6-0 lead.
Hannah's play set the tone for the day, as Lady Momentum swung back and forth all game long, with each team finding a way to come up with monumental, tide-turning plays.
After that big EOU play in the opening minutes, PLU came right back and scored less than two minutes later on a 35-yard touchdown pass from Dusty Macauley to Dave Weller, to take a 7-6 lead.
PLU sent notice with that drive that the battle was on, with the action on the gridiron more wild and wooly than the weather.
After PLU's TD, Eastern responded by coming back with a drive, highlighted by a 46-yard run by Justin Alsterlund. Nick Martin kicked a 28-yard field goal into the teeth of a 35-mph wind and was barely able to coax the ball over the crossbar for a 9-7 Eastern lead.
PLU responded with two touchdowns in the second quarter to take a 20-9 lead into the half.
The third quarter was essentially a stalemate, with neither team able to mount much offense.
Then, came the wild fourth quarter.
Scott Jensen came in to play quarterback and with 12 minutes left in the game, he hit Andre McIntosh for a 36-yard pass, but the play was nullified by a penalty for an illegal formation.
Just two minutes later, Jensen's TD pass to Hamlin was called back for holding. Eastern lost nearly 100 yards of offense because of the two calls, and it was the second straight game that Eastern lost a touchdown due to a holding call.
Eastern punted, and the ball was muffed by PLU. Cam Christensen recovered the ball and put the Mountaineers right back in business.
However, on a fourth and 10 from the 22-yard line with eight minutes left, Jensen hit an open McIntosh at the goal line. As McIntosh leaped to catch the ball, however, he was leveled by PLU's Kurt Van Selus, and the ball was jarred loose.
At this point, one wouldn't have blamed Eastern for caving, but the Mountaineers kept battling back. Eastern's defense forced a three-and-out and Alsterlund came up with a timely and spectacular 37-yard punt return to set up the Mountaineers inside PLU's 40-yard line.
From the 24-yard line, Jensen hit McIntosh with a pass inside the 10 and McIntosh weaved his way through traffic into the end zone. After an extra point, it was 20-17 with just under minutes left.
Eastern's revved-up defense forced another PLU three-and-out, but a 59-yard PLU punt with a lot of help from the wind was touched by Eastern's Stephen Stokes and PLU recovered in the end zone with 3:30 left.
That might have been the end for Eastern, except the Mountaineers just kept coming. On Eastern's next drive, Jensen hit Hamlin, TaShawn Dickerson and McIntosh with 12-, 17- and 18-yard passes and Alsterlund had a 21-yard run as Eastern ended up on the 6-yard line with just over a minute left.
Eastern had visions at this point of a quick score and making things very interesting with an onsides kick into a wicked, swirling wind that would have made it that much more difficult for PLU to recover the ball.
But, it wasn't meant to happen this day. Jensen hit Hamlin with a pass, but Hamlin got tackled just short of the goal line. More importantly, though Hamlin ended up well out-of-bounds, the ref ruled that he came down inbounds and the clock kept running.
Then, Jensen was crushed on a quarterback sack and the ball came loose. PLU came up with the ball and had earned a hard-fought victory.
Alsterlund ended up having another monster day. He ran for 157 yards on 29 carries and had 38 total return yards. McIntosh caught five balls for 103 yards.
PLU head coach Frosty Westering, who is retiring this year after winning 301 games in 39 years of coaching, complimented Eastern's tenacity and thought Fenwick was building a solid program.
"They're getting better and better each year," said Westering.
Things certainly don't get any easier for Eastern next week, as the Mountaineers travel to McMinnville to take on Linfield, which was ranked as high as No. 3 this season in the national NCAA Div. III rankings. Eastern also still has to play No. 1-ranked (NAIA) Carroll College.
"We've got our hands full each week," said Fenwick.
Pacific Lutheran 27, Eastern Oregon 17
Pacific Lutheran 7 13 0 7 27
Eastern Oregon 9 0 0 8 17
EOU Nick Hannah 92 interception return (Nick Martin kick
PLU Dave Weller 35 pass from Dusty Macauley (Weller kick), 9:46
05:06 EOU Martin 28 field goal, 5:06
PLU Macauley 1 run (Aaron Binger rush failed), 14:28
PLU Mark McCall 16 pass from Macauley (Weller kick), 0:49
EOU Andre McIntosh 24 pass from Scott Jensen (Matt Hamlin
pass from Jensen), 4:56
PLU Andy Hamilton fumble recovery in end zone (Weller kick), 3:31
First Downs 17 20
Rushing 37-173 42-176
Passing yards 151 197
Comp-att-int 12-23-2 18-35-0
Net yards 324 373
Fumbles-lost 3-1 4-2
Penalties 5-32 5-40
Punts-Yards 5-40.6 4-38.0
Punt Returns 1-0 3-33
Kickoff Returns 1-19 3-15
Possession Time 26:21 33:39
Third-Down Conversions 7 of 14 4 of 16
Fourth-Down Conversions 0 of 0 2 of 6
Sacks-yds lost 3-20 1-7
RUSHING PLU, Binger 15-87, Ryan Simpson 10-44, Mark McCall 2-23, Chris Pitzer 1-9, Macauley 7-9, Mike Ramirez 1-2, Team 1-(1-). EOU, Justin Alsterlund 29-157, Aaron Hazel 1-3, Damien Johnson 2-1, Scott Jensen 10-15.
PASSING PLU, Macauley 12-23-2-151. EOU, Jensen 15-28-0-155, Hazel 3-7-0-42.
RECIEVING PLU, Weller 4-60, McCall 4-49, Brian Stevens 3-37, Binger 1-5. EOU, McIntosh 5-103, Matt Hamlin 5-32, Kenny Davis 3-20, TaShawn Dickerson 2-33, Jacoby Fox 1-10.
LEADING TACKLERS PLU, Casey Carlson 12, Chris Linderman 11, Mark Gunderson 10, Nick Wiess 10. EOU, Jason Flowers 9, Nick Hannah 9, Cam Christensen 6, Park Birkby 6, Tom Neill 6.