It’s been a long season, and now that it’s finally over, it’s time to see how everyone did! For the first time ever, this blog is going to bring you a Northwest Conference review. Starting from the bottom and working our way to the top, we’ll see how each of the seven teams performed on the season.
7. Pudget Sound
Record: 0-9, 0-6 NWC
Thoughts: No real surprises here with the Loggers finishing last in the league; if anything, the biggest surprise was how noncompetitive they were over the course of the season. On the defensive side of the ball, the Loggers gave up 52.2 points and 557.7 yards of offense per game, both last in the conference by a country mile. The Loggers had the worst defense I have ever seen, as indicated by the fact that they gave up 55 points or more in six of their nine games. On the offensive side of the ball, the loggers averaged 17.9 points and 357 yards of offense per game, both last in the NWC. The Loggers one redeeming quality in 2012 was the play of All-American wide receiver Adam Kniffin, who finished the season with 77 receptions for 1002 yards and 11 touchdowns. There’s hope for the future for Pudget Sound, simply because they can’t get any lower than they were this season.
6. Lewis & Clark
Record: 4-5, 1-5 NWC
Thoughts: Coming off a 7-2 record in 2011, the Pioneers started out 4-0 in 2012, the magic from last season seemingly in place again. However, five straight losses by a combined score of 219-74 gave the Pios a final record of 4-5, and they barely avoided finishing as the worst team in the conference. On the offensive side of the ball, Lewis & Clark averaged 25.3 points and 387.2 yards per game, which ranked sixth and fifth in the conference respectively. Quarterback Keith Welch, the defending offensive player of the year, completed 57 percent of his passes for 2,334 yards with 18 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Welch added 358 yards and nine touchdowns on the year, averaging only 3.0 yards per carry (proof of how bad their offensive line was). Another bright spot for L&C was the balance in their wide receiver core. Jacob Constantino led the team with 50 receptions for 625 yards and five touchdowns. Evan Stanbro had 41 receptions for 651 yards and four touchdowns. Nico Ohland had 29 receptions for 434 yards and three touchdowns. Connor Immel had 32 receptions for 383 yards and four touchdowns. On the defensive side of the ball, the Pios were the top defensive team in the conference after the first four games before falling apart in the final five games, much like the offense. Lewis & Clark’s defense gave up 36.1 points and 443.6 yards per game, both ranking sixth in the NWC. With practically all their skill players returning in 2013, Lewis & Clark has hope in terms of getting a winning record, but I wouldn’t hold my breath if you’re waiting for them to challenge for the conference title.
5. Pacific (OR)
Record: 3-6, 2-4 NWC
Thoughts: After going 1-17 in the previous two seasons, I didn't have much confidence in Pacific’s ability to win games in 2012. Boy, were we all surprised. After blowing out Occidental 27-6 early in the season, Pacific was very competitive in conference play, losing to Whitworth and Willamette by a combined 7 points, blowing out Lewis & Clark and Pudget Sound, and losing to Pacific Lutheran 41-23 before getting blown out by Linfield 51-17 in the finale. A few plays here and there, and Pacific could have had a winning record. On the offensive side, the Boxers averaged 28.7 points and 395.7 yards of offense per game, ranking fifth and fourth in the conference respectively. Quarterback P.J Minaya was the gem of that unit, completing 64 percent of his passes for 2,258 yards and 21 touchdowns with 12 interceptions. On the defensive side of the ball, the Boxers showed some progress, giving up 33.8 points and 433.4 yards per game, both ranking fifth in the NWC. The boxers run defense, giving up 104.1 yards, ranked third in the conference, but the pass defense, giving up 329.3 yards, ranked last in the conference. With their whole team coming back next season, 2013 could be year that the Boxers get a winning record.
Record: 7-3, 3-3 NWC
Thoughts: Entering the season, many people, including me, thought that Whitworth could contend for the conference crown and dethrone Linfield. After starting out the season 5-0, the Pirates lost to Willamette 38-24 and Linfield 54-14 on consecutive weekends. After beating Pudget Sound 70-11, the Pirates were routed 35-14 by Pacific Lutheran before finishing the season with a 37-20 victory over Lewis & Clark. The offense, thought to have the best collection of skill players in the conference outside of Linfield, struggled at times, averaging 32.4 points and 378.8 yards of offense per game, ranking fourth and sixth in the NWC; the Pirates had the best rushing attack in the conference, but the worst passing attack. Running back Ronnie Thomas led the conference with 1,239 yards and 13 touchdowns, averaging 4.5 yards per carry. Quarterback Bryan Peterson completed 56.8 percent of his passes for 1,762 yards and 16 touchdowns with nine interceptions. Wide receiver Jake DeGooyer had 1,015 yards and eight touchdowns on 73 receptions. On the defensive side of the ball, the Pirates gave up 27.2 points and 421.1 yards of offense per game, both ranking fourth in the conference. While they lose Thomas and DeGooyer to graduation, Bryan Peterson will return to lead the Pirates in 2013.
Record: 8-2, 4-2 NWC
Thoughts: After going 4-6 in 2011, not a lot of people had high expectations for the Bearcats in 2012. All of a sudden, Willamette unleashed the most prolific passing attack, and one of the most explosive offenses in the country on their way to a 6-0 start, which got them ranked 22nd in the nation. However, a 41-27 loss to Pacific Lutheran and a 45-10 loss to Linfield ended their playoff hopes. The Bearcats rebounded by beating Pacific 35-31 and Pudget Sound 55-0 to end the season. On the offensive side of the ball, the Bearcats were as good as anybody in the nation, averaging 39.6 points and 498 yards of offense per game, ranking second and first in the NWC. Quarterback Josh Dean, a bench fixture in 2011, was the biggest surprise of the nation in 2012, completing 64.7 percent of his passes for 3,345 yards, a school-record 34 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions. Jake Knecht had 55 receptions for 773 yards and 11 touchdowns. Jake turner had 50 receptions for 763 yards and five touchdowns, while tight end Benny Weischedel had 47 receptions for 711 yards and six touchdowns. Running back Dylan Jones led the team with 716 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground, averaging 4.5 yards per carry. On the defensive side of the ball, the Bearcats give up 26 points and 376.5 yards of offense per game, both ranking third in the NWC. The Bearcats tied for second in the conference in quarterback sacks, and were third in turnovers forced with 27. With so much talent coming back next season, the Bearcats have another shot at contending for the conference crown.
2. Pacific Lutheran
Record: 7-3, 5-1 NWC
Thoughts: Entering the season, I had PLU very low on my list, not believing the NWC preseason coaches poll that listed them as second in the league. I was holding last season’s offensive futility against them, stating that unless they improved on that, they wouldn't finish in the top half of the league. After starting out the season 1-2, with the losses to Linfield and Cal Lutheran, the Lutes turned it on, winning six games in a row to end the regular season, finishing second in the conference. To everyone’s surprise, the Lutes were selected to play in the first round of the Playoffs, where they lost to Linfield 27-24 at Maxwell Field. On offense, the Lutes averaged 32.6 points and 404.7 yards of offense per game, both ranking third in the NWC. First-team all-conference quarterback Dalton Richey completed 60.5 percent of his passes for 2,723 yards and 19 touchdowns with 11 interceptions. The Lutes balanced running game was led by Brandon James, who had 497 yards and four touchdowns, averaging 4.9 yards per carry. Kyle Warner led the conference with 1,264 yards and eight touchdowns on 67 receptions. On the defensive side of the ball, the Lutes gave up 22.2 points and 328.4 yards per game, both ranking second in the conference. The PLU defense led the conference with 36 forced turnovers, and tied for second in the conference in sacks with Willamette.
Record: 11-1, 6-0 NWC
Thoughts: The Wildcats lived up to the expectations in 2012 by surviving a brutal slate of non-conference games before mostly rolling through a Northwest Conference that tougher than it’s been for many years. After their first four games, Linfield was showing a lot of problems: The offense struggled with turning the ball over and committing drive-killing penalties, while the defense struggled at times against some of the top offenses in the nation. Then, over the next five games, the Linfield offense cut down on those mistakes, becoming one of the most explosive, up-tempo teams in the nation. The defense took over the rest of the season, becoming one of the nation’s elite units. After surviving PLU 27-24 in the first round of the NCAA playoffs, the Wildcats capitalized on seven turnovers to defeat North Central (IL) 30-14. In the quarterfinals, Linfield found themselves up on UW-Oshkosh 24-9 entering the fourth quarter before the Titans came back to win in overtime 31-24, bringing the Wildcats season to a close. On the offensive side, the Wildcats averaged 40.3 points and 443.3 yards of offense per game, ranking first and second in the conference. Quarterback Mickey Inns had another incredible season, completing 60.8 percent of his passes for 3,288 yards and 30 touchdowns with 8 interceptions. Charlie Poppen led the receiving core with 57 receptions for 909 yards and nine touchdowns, averaging 15.9 yards per reception. Deidre Weirsma had 62 receptions for 710 yards and eight touchdowns. Lucas Jepson had 48 receptions for 643 yards and four touchdowns. On the defensive side of the ball, the Wildcats were a ball-hawking, heavy-hitting, play-making unit that ended up being better than last season’s dominant unit, something that not many thought could happen in the pre-season. The Wildcats gave up 17.9 points and 300.7 yards of offense per game, both tanking first in the NWC. The Wildcats led the nation in quarterback sacks, the conference in tackles for loss, and second in the NWC in turnovers forced with 30. With their entire defense and four starters on the offensive line, as well as Poppen, all the running backs, and all the back-up quarterbacks coming back next season, Linfield has a chance to win their fifth straight NWC title in 2013.
Final Thoughts: 2012 was a banner year for the Northwest Conference: you had Linfield proving themselves as a national power; Pacific Lutheran not only finished second in the league, but managed to become the second team from the conference to make the playoffs, which was incredible considering the bias against the NWC. Willamette went 8-2, and had one of the most explosive offenses in the nation, as well as one of the nation’s best stories in Josh Dean’s rise from bench to national prominence. Even Whitworth, who finished fourth in the conference, went 7-3 and had some nice non-conference wins against quality teams from other conferences, including Chapman (the third-place team from the SCIAC) and St. Scholastica (the conference champion from the UMAC). The NWC’s non-conference record was 19-7, and just about every week, there were two or more match-ups that had my eye, and there was so much quality football being played by everyone in the conference, except for UPS. The 2012 season was one that will be remembered for many years to come.
See you guys next fall,