Sports & Outdoors

Football’s streak reaches seven games vs. PLU

It is not exactly a secret these days that Puget Sound’s football team is in an extended funk.  Heading into their matchup against cross-town rival Pacific Lutheran, they had lost their first six games of the season. And that six-game losing streak is just a small part of a much larger 15-game losing streak.
But for one day, the Loggers had a chance to salvage something from another lost season.  It was Homecoming and Family Weekend at Puget Sound and the football team tried its hardest to put its best foot forward.
The end zones were freshly painted, the stands were packed with students and their families, and Pacific Lutheran was  looking to keep their conference title hopes alive on Saturday, Oct. 27. It was a perfect setup for a tense, exciting game.
For the first half, it was all that and more. The Lutes got the ball to start the game off, and promptly drove down the field, taking the ball 56 yards to the Loggers’ 14-yard line. Given the struggles of the Loggers’ defense this year, both the team and their fans had seen this song and dance before.
However, this time the Loggers came up big, as Lutes’ running back Brandon James was hit in the backfield and had the ball punched out.
The fumble was eventually recovered by senior Ryan Rogers (Tacoma, Wash.), a converted wide receiver making his first start on defense. It was the first sign that this game might yield a different result from the ones that have come before it.
This fumble set off a flurry of turnovers that set the tone for the rest of the half. After an exchange of punts, Logger sophomore quarterback Braden Foley (Bothell, Wash.) threw the first interception of the game. However, Foley was avenged on the very next series, as Matt Gilbert (Bellevue, Wash.) hauled in a bad pass to get the ball back for the Loggers.
After another Foley interception, the Loggers finally got their offense on track, as the Loggers marched down the field, going 74 yards in nine plays including an 18-yard bullet of a touchdown pass to freshman Kevin Miller (Seattle, Wash.). The score gave the Loggers a 7-0 lead that would not last long, as PLU needed just three plays to tie the game at seven points apiece.
But the Loggers showed some resilience and retook the lead on the very next drive. Capitalizing on great field position, the Loggers scored a touchdown on another pass by Foley, this one to his favorite target, senior Adam Kniffin (Salem, Ore.).
However, poor kickoff coverage allowed the Lutes to begin their next drive on the Loggers’ 37-yard line, and they travelled the rest of the field with ease, scoring a touchdown that retied the game at 14 apiece. Thanks in part to a missed field goal by Loggers’ sophomore Everett West (Anaheim, Calif.), that was where the score stood at halftime.
The Loggers were not leading as they entered the second half, but, for the first time since October of 2011, they were not losing either. The large crowd on hand could be forgiven for getting excited at the possibility of an upset, but it was not meant to be.
Just five minutes into the third quarter, Foley threw his third interception of the day, as a Lutes defender dove to corral the errant pass. Deep in Logger territory already, the Lutes had little trouble pushing the ball into the end zone for a go-ahead touchdown.
On their next drive, the Loggers started at their own 35-yard line and promptly went backward. Two penalties set them back to their own 15, and facing third down and 25, Foley was sacked and had the ball punched out. The Lutes recovered the fumble at the Loggers’ 10, and scored three plays later to take a quick 28-14 lead.
To their credit though, the Loggers did not stop trying. The much-maligned defense came up big one more time, as sophomore Max Mirande (Lake Oswego, Ore.) gave the crowd something to cheer about by picking off another pass on the very first play of the final quarter. Down by two touchdowns with less than 15 minutes left, it had become do-or-die time for the Loggers’ offense.
The Loggers moved the ball well to begin the drive, as a Foley pass to sophomore Tieler Souza (Camarillo, Calif.) set the Loggers up on the Lutes’ 28-yard line. However, Foley was sacked on the next play and the drive stalled, eventually setting up a fourth and five.  Foley’s pass fell incomplete at Kniffin’s feet, and the Lutes took over.
With a quick stop, the Loggers might have gotten the ball back with time to spare, but quick stops have not really been the modus operandi for the Loggers’ defense this year. The Lutes went 69 yards in just four plays, all runs, and took a commanding 34-14 lead.
On the ensuing Logger possession, the misty weather once again played a factor, as Foley was sacked and fumbled. Lutes defender Doug Sullivan pounced the ball and ran it 35 yards into the end zone. Though there were still over six minutes left, the game was effectively over: Lutes 41, Loggers 14.
“Our defense played well for four quarters.  I know the scoreboard isn’t going to show it, but for those that saw it, our defense played well,” head coach Jeff Thomas said in an interivew with Logger Athletics.
The statistics bear that out, as the defense gave up its lowest point total since week one, and often suffered from being in poor field position due to the offense’s issues.
From a macro perspective, however, it doesn’t really matter. The Loggers are two games away from their second straight winless season, and only once this year has the final score been within 20 points. The Loggers can point to improvement at various facets of the game, but it might not be enough to stop the losing streak anytime soon.
The Loggers will play their final home game of the season next week, against NWC-leading Linfield.