Article by Steven McGrain, guest writer
It was another victorious “business trip” for the Pacific Lutheran Lutes, who beat Wisconsin-Eau Claire, 21-19.
The offensive line shined in the win with the ground game working to perfection. The running backs rushed for a combined 184 yards due in part to the five linemen and tight ends paving the way.
Running back Kelly Morgan, a senior, scored to give Pacific Lutheran the lead in the middle of the first quarter. An additional touchdown occurred toward the end of the first quarter after running back Niko Madison, a junior, scored on a seven-yard run. He concluded the game with 11 carries for 93 yards.
“It starts with having five guys up front who worked hard all summer, pushing up the extra reps and getting better,” offensive lineman Zach Phelps, a junior, said. “Put that together with great systems from the coaches, hard downhill runners in the backfield and a lethal passing game that keeps the defense spread out — the result is a good PLU run game.”
Quarterback Dalton Ritchey, a junior, showed how dynamic of a quarterback he is by using his feet and throwing arm. Ritchey completed 20 of his 31 attempts and threw for a touchdown. Six different receivers recorded a reception. The quarterback also rushed for 59 yards, displaying his athletic ability.
Ritchey found his favorite target, junior Kyle Warner, for a seven-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter, which ultimately was enough to hold off the BluGolds.
A resilient defense kept Wisconsin Eau-Claire out of the end zone until midway through the second quarter. Linebacker Dalton Darmody, a senior, intercepted a pass from Eau-Claire’s quarterback, Mike Munger, and returned the ball 12 yards. Darmody finished the game with five tackles.
Down 19-21 in the fourth quarter with 41 seconds left, the BluGolds took a timeout. BluGolds went for the 2-point conversion but failed to tie up the game after defensive end Conor Gabbert, a senior, stopped BluGold running back Joel Sweeney.
The special teams did not leave the playmaking to the offense and defense. After PLU scored their first touchdown in the first quarter, the Lutes kicked off to Eau-Claire. Junior Travis McCarthy was the first Lute to make contact.
McCarthy ripped the ball out of the returner’s hands, and junior Derek Kaufman was able to recover the ball. The Lutes were able to capitalize on the turnover four plays later.
“I was happy to capitalize on the turnover after Travis [McCarthy] forced it,” Kaufman said. “Our offense was put in excellent field position.”
Next week, the Lutes face Northwest Conference rival Linfield in McMinnville, Ore. The Wildcats lost their quarterback, Mickey Inns, to graduation, but the second-ranked Wildcats are still coming into the contest undefeated.
“It’s always great to get a win, but going into next week, we aren’t looking at Linfield any different than we would look at any other team,” linebacker Jordan Patterson, a senior, said. “It’s another opportunity for us to play football and keep improving as a team.” 🅼