Central Wins This Year's 'Battle in Seattle'
SEATTLE, Wash. -- Central Washington University sophomore Johnny Spevak caught one touchdown pass and threw for another, and teammate Johnny Lopez had 102 yards rushing as the Wildcats won their fifth straight game, 24-7, over archrival Western Washington University at the Fifth Annual Wells Fargo Battle in Seattle, presented by Comcast, at Qwest Field.
The Wildcats, ranked fourth in the NCAA Division II Northwest Region and 19th in this week's American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) Division II national poll, improved to 6-1 overall (4-1 NCC) with their fifth straight overall victory. The win was also Central's third straight at the Battle in Seattle, improving the Wildcats' all-time mark in the game to 4-1. Western Washington fell to 2-5 overall and 1-5 in NCC play.
Central started the game with an offensive flurry, scoring on its first three possessions. The Wildcats used a bit of trickery to cap their first scoring drive, as Spevak took a pitch from quarterback Mike Reilly rolled right, and then found sophomore tight end James Murphy for a 22-yard score. For Spevak, it was his first collegiate pass, and it also marked Murphy's first collegiate touchdown.
The Wildcats' next two scores came at the expense of a missed field goal and a fumble by Western. Lopez capped the drive following the missed three-pointer by Josh Lider, scoring from four yards out on a carry. Central then regained possession immediately after its second score, as kicker Garrett Rolsma recovered a fumble on his kickoff, and the Wildcats went 37 yards on five plays, with Spevak corralling a 14-yard pass from Reilly for a 21-0 CWU lead.
Neither team was successful on either of its next two possessions, with Central's next possession ending on a turnover -- the first of three uncharacteristic miscues on the night by the Wildcats. Western finally got on the scoreboard in the closing seconds of the first half, capitalizing on field position in Central territory as Travis McKee scored on a two-yard pass from Adam Perry with eight seconds left in the opening half.
The feverish offensive pace slowed down a bit in the second half, with Central scoring the only points after the intermission on its first drive. The Wildcats chewed up five minutes off the clock, trekking 51 yards on 10 plays before Rolsma booted a 27-yard field goal -- his eighth consecutive made field goal this season -- to give CWU a 24-7 lead.
Punts, interceptions, and missed field goal attempts resulted in each of the game's remaining drives. The Central Washington defense forced Western Washington into three punts and two field goal attempts in the second half, of which one field goal missed wide and the other was blocked. Western, meanwhile, held the Wildcats to a punt, a missed field goal, and two Reilly interceptions the rest of the way in the second half.
Central Washington finished with a 410-278 advantage in total offense for the game, led by the 102 rushing yards from Lopez on 21 carries. Reilly had 285 yards of total offense, throwing for 218 on 17 of 26, and rushing for a season-high 67. Spevak just narrowly missed his third straight 100-yard receiving game, finishing with 98 yards on eight receptions.
The Wildcat defense held Western to 133 yards rushing and 145 yards passing. Craig Garner, who singlehandedly totaled 180 rush yards against Central in last year's Battle in Seattle, was held to just 70 yards on 21 carries this season. Perry completed just 17 of 36 passes for the 145-yard total and was sacked twice -- both times by CWU junior Tim Martin.
In addition to Martin's pressure on the Viking backfield, which also resulted in a season-high-tying four tackles, sophomore Buddy Wood had another standout defensive performance with 11 tackles to lead all players. Defensive backs Brandon Kennedy and Jerome Williams added six tackles apiece, with Kennedy establishing a new career-high with five pass break-ups.
Central Washington will return home to Tomlinson Stadium next Saturday, Oct. 27, for its annual Homecoming game against Augustana College (3-6, 1-5 NCC).