Central Routs Western Oregon, 49-14
MONMOUTH, Ore. - The Central Washington University defense had five interceptions as the 21st-ranked Wildcats defeated host Western Oregon, 49-14, in their final non-conference football game of the 2007 season on Saturday afternoon at McArthur Field.
With the win, Central has now won four straight games and is 5-1 overall. Western Oregon fell to 4-2 on the year.
"Both our offense and defense played sound football," CWU head coach Beau Baldwin said. "The defense did well with its back against the wall on several occasions, and they made key plays. As a collective group, we have done a good job taking the ball away, and we did so again today."
The Wildcats, who came into Saturday's game tied for the NCAA Division II national lead in turnover margin, picked off five passes from two different Western Oregon quarterbacks.
In addition to its thievery of Wolves signal-callers, Central's quick-strike offense capitalized on its takeaways. The Wildcats needed more than four minutes on just one of its seven scoring drives of the afternoon, and had two scoring possessions of less than one minute.
Neither team scored on its first possession, but after a Central fumble on a punt return that Western Oregon recovered, the Wolves scored on their first (and only) play of the drive -- a 45-yard pass from Mark Thorson to Chris Malcolm. However, the Wildcats stormed right back, employing a seven-play, 70-yard drive that was capped by a 22-yard pass from junior quarterback Mike Reilly (Kalispell, Mont./Flathead HS) to sophomore Brandon Stout (Tacoma, Wash./Bellarmine Prep). The Wildcats then scored on their next possession as well, totaling 10 plays and 54 yards with senior running back Johnny Lopez (Federal Way, Wash./John F. Kennedy HS) scoring on a four-yard run with just under two minutes to go in the opening quarter.
Central's offensive work -- that included a total of 35 unanswered points between the first and third quarters - continued in the second quarter. Reilly and sophomore Johnny Spevak (Edgewood, Wash./Puyallup HS) connected on a 29-yard pass play -- the first of three touchdown hook-ups between the two -- to culminate a 59-second scoring drive. Lopez then capped an even quicker 46-second drive the next time the Wildcats had the ball, scoring on a 34-yard carry, as Central built a 27-7 halftime lead.
The Wildcats picked up where they left off after halftime, as Reilly hit Spevak with a 20-yard strike. Lopez then caught a two-point conversion pass from Reilly to give Central a 35-7 lead at the 10:36 mark of the third quarter.
Western Oregon finally broke the Wildcats' scoring run two possessions later, capitalizing on Central's second turnover of the game. Sophomore quarterback Kyle Miller (Vancouver, Wash./Evergreen HS) was picked off on his first pass play -- and Central's first offensive play after its third-quarter touchdown -- and Western Oregon converted with a six-yard pass from Thorson to Isaiah Smith. Both of the Wolves' touchdowns on Saturday came off Central Washington turnovers -- marking the first time this season the Central miscues resulted in opposing points.
The Wildcat defense then stepped up its game once again, holding the Wolves off the scoreboard the rest of the way. Interceptions on Western Oregon's next two possessions resulted, followed by consecutive turnovers on downs forced by Central. The Wildcats' defensive efforts were then sealed with freshman Chase Hessler's (Walla Walla, Wash.) first career interception on Western Oregon's final drive of the afternoon.
In between Wildcat interceptions was Spevak's third touchdown catch of the afternoon, a 10-yard grab. CWU freshman Micah Lape (Vancouver, Wash./Skyview HS) also scored his first career touchdown in the fourth quarter, an 11-yard carry with 7:54 remaining.
Reilly had another strong day passing, completing 20 of 29 passes for 268 yards and four touchdowns. He also had 25 yards rushing on five carries, and was not sacked for the third time this season. Lopez anchored Central's efforts on the ground with 125 yards on 23 carries for his third 100-yard outing in his last four games. Lape added 49 rushing yards on 10 carries.
In the receiving department, Spevak had another breakout game with 112 receiving yards on nine catches. Stout added 74 yards on four catches, and five other Wildcats had at least one reception. Central finished with a 476-370 advantage in total offense, and won for the second straight week despite having a disadvantage in time of possession (28:34 to Western Oregon's 31:26). CWU had the ball for just 23:28 in its Oct. 6 win over South Dakota.
On defense, sophomore Jerome Williams (Seattle, Wash./Ballard HS) had his first two career interceptions, netting 41 yards in returns off those picks. Hessler, Jon Rogers (North Pole, Alaska/Ben Eielson HS), and Buddy Wood (Chattaroy, Wash./Riverside HS) also had interceptions. Freshman Adam Bighill (Montesano, Wash.) had a team-high eight tackles, including a sack and two tackles for loss, while four others had seven tackles apiece.
Western Oregon was led by Thorson with 183 yards passing on 14 of 27. Ben Kuenzi had 107 rushing yards on 22 carries for the Wolves, who defensively were led by J.T. Gilmore (14 tackles) and Zach Christopherson (10 tackles).
Central Washington, which improved to 11-3 all-time when ranked among the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) Division II top 25, will return to North Central Conference action for its final four games. The Wildcats will face archrival Western Washington (2-4, 1-4 NCC) in the fifth annual Wells Fargo Battle in Seattle, presented by Comcast, at Qwest Field next Saturday (Oct. 20).