PUYALLUP, Wash. – The Puget Sound football team put up a strong defensive effort, but fell 21-7 at Pacific Lutheran on Saturday. The Loggers (0-4, 0-1 NWC) forced four turnovers but could not convert those turnovers into points.
The Logger defense ended the Lutes (2-1, 1-0 NWC) first two drives with forced turnovers. On the Lutes second play, the Loggers pounced on a Daniel Herr fumble. However, the Loggers went 3-and-out on the next possession. The Lutes picked up a first down on their next drive before Tyler Vlasak stepped in front of a Zack Halverson pass and returned it 10 yards to PLU's 35.
"I was so proud of how hard our defense played today," said head coach Jeff Thomas. "They had 11 people to the ball often. We caused four turnovers and another two fumbles they were able to recover. Our guys were flying to the ball."
The Loggers were unable to punch the ball into the end zone and turned the ball over on downs. The two teams battled defensively throughout a scoreless first quarter as the team's traded punts.
Connor Savage then forced the Lutes third turnover of the quarter with another Logger interception deep in Lutes territory. The offense came up empty on the drive
The Lutes starting driving as the first quarter drew to a close and Halverson found Tyler Bowen in the end zone with 12:00 minutes left in the first half for a 7-0 Lute lead.
As the Lute defense continued to keep the Loggers off the scoreboard, the Logger defense again came up big as Damarkus Milner forced a Lute fumble on the one-yard line that Justin Erickson recovered to keep the game within one score.
However, the Lutes came out in the third quarter and drove 64 yards for a 14-0 lead. They would score again on their first drive of the fourth for a 21-0 lead.
The Logger offense drove the ball into the red zone three times in the game but came away empty each time as the Lutes forced two Logger turnovers in the red zone.
"We did not do well running the ball (20 rushes for 7 yards)," added Thomas. "We were also 0-for-3 in the red zone and 3-for-16 on third down. Those three categories were catastrophic to our chances to win."
With less than a minute on the fourth, the Loggers avoided the shutout with a late TD. On 4th-and -27 George Ka'ai found preseason All-American Adam Kniffin for a 30-yard gain. The big conversion set up a 23-yard TD pass from Ka'ai to Ryan Rogers on the next play and the game's final tally of 21-7.
Ka'ai finished with 326 yards, a TD and an interception on 26-of-48 throwing in the game.
The Loggers threw for 326 yards to the Lutes 211. However, the Lutes rushed for 184 yards and held the Loggers to just seven yards rushing.
Kniffin finished with 10 catches for 128 yards and Thiesen Chang hauled in nine grabs for 96 yards.
Brandon James had 14 rushes for a game-high 83 yards to lead the Lutes, who also had 10 different receivers catch a pass in the game.
In addition to his interception, Vlasak had a game-high 13 tackles. Freshman Cody Petro-Sakuma recorded his second game with double-digit tackles with 12 tackles, including one for a loss.
The Loggers hit the final stop on their three-game road swing next week when they travel to nationally-ranked Linfield.