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Oct-03-2006 21:01

Western Oregon Weekly Football Digest

Unbeaten Wolves await 3-1 Lumberjacks.

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MONMOUTH - In an independent showdown, Western Oregon (4-0) hosts Humboldt State (3-1) in a battle of independent teams looking to make their mark on the NCAA Division II landscape. Start time is 2:00 PM at McArthur Field. It is WOU Family Weekend, with lots of events wrapped around the football game.

Southern shutdown: Western Oregon’s defense pocketed its second shutout of the year as the Wolves rolled to a 38-0 win over Southern Oregon on Sept. 23 in Ashland. WOU is now 4-0 on the season, the best beginning for the program since the 1997 season, when that CFA championship squad also began the year at 4-0 under Blaine Bennett.

And on the fifth week, they rested: Coach Arne Ferguson’s squad had its lone bye week of the 2006 season, and is fully rested heading into the battle with the Lumberjacks.

Tickets, please: Reserved tickets at McArthur Field are $10, and general admission tickets are $6. WOU students are free, and other students with ID are $4.

Series snapshot: The Wolves and Lumberjacks split a pair of games a year ago, and the Lumberjacks hold a slight 11-10 all-time series lead. The two schools, both NCAA Division II independents, will meet twice this season, also on Nov. 11 in Arcata, Calif.

Lumberjack ledger: Humboldt State moved to 3-1 on the season with a 30-13 win over Southern Oregon on Saturday night, in front of 4,367 fans at the Redwood Bowl. The Lumberjacks racked up 502 yards of total offense, including 353 through the air. Quarterback Blake Moorman hit on 24 of 34 passes for three scoring strikes, finding receiver Joey Stein 11 times for 179 yards.

On the year, HSU is averaging 380 yards of total offense per contest, with Moorman completing 60 percent of his passes for 1,030 yards and eight scores. Stein has 20 catches in four games. On defense, senior linebacker Josh Costa has 38 tackles and cornerback Tyson Hampton has a pair of interceptions.

The Lumberjacks opened the year with a stunning 28-23 upset of Western Washington, then lost to Central Washington (20-0), and have since got the offense untracked in wins over Dixie State (45-28) and Southern Oregon (30-13).

Ferguson on Lumberjacks: “They are much improved, and might be the best team that we have played against so far. They are very aggressive on defense and will come hard after us. They are very good at safety and cornerback, and they could have the best defensive line that we have faced.

On offense, they have an experienced quarterback that is a threat to run and he obviously throws the ball well. Their offensive line is the best that they have had in a long time, and they have tall, rangy, good receivers. I am glad that we get them at home the first time, and it will be great to have our students here for a home game.”

Polling: Western Oregon lists 18th again in this week’s Football Gazette national poll. The Wolves are also No. 18 in the listing. WOU is among “Others Receiving Votes” in the AFCA poll with six, which puts them tied for 33rd, and is not yet listed in the Top 25 of

Broken record: So far in WOU’s four games this season, the post-game story line has been similar -- standout defensive effort, Eliot Vinzant rushes for a lot of yards and the Wolves win big.

Western at SOU was no different, with the defense posting its second shutout of the season while intercepting three passes, Vinzant rushing for over 100 yards for the 11th consecutive time and the Wolves posting the 38-0 win over the Raiders, their largest margin of victory over their rivals since a 48-6 beatdown in 1951.

Coach on Southern win: “Whenever you have a running back rush for over 200 yards, you are probably controlling the game. Eliot and the offensive line had a great game, and Kevin Boss had some clutch catches.

We weren’t as sharp as we would like to be on offense, with a number of dropped passes, but you can’t kick about a game with no turnovers and 38 points scored. The defense was very good, and we traveled extra people to give them more experience and that worked out well as they played all of the fourth quarter.”

Streaking: Western Oregon now has a seven-game win streak, which includes three wins at the end of the 2005 season. The last time that the Wolves won seven consecutive contests was during the 1985 season under Duke Iverson. The last time that a WOU program won eight straight contests was during the combined 1979 and 1980 seasons under coach Bill McArthur.

Shutouts: Western Oregon’s defense has given up just two touchdowns in four games, and has pitched a shutout twice -- vs. Willamette (42-0) and Southern Oregon (38-0). The last time a Wolves defense had two blankings in the same season was in 1986 (Duke Iverson was the coach).

No rush: WOU allowed just 25 yards rushing against the Raiders and only 134 yards of total offense. The Wolves had three interceptions (Nick Smith, Jay Darden, JJ La’a) and tallied four quarterback sacks -- three of them by Matt Jirges. Jirges, a senior defensive end from Gervais, also had a pass break-up and a fumble recovery. Wolves DB’s also had a season-best 11 pass deflections, including three each by Darden, Smith and Andrew Jackson.

Still Defensive: More defensive notes...The Wolves are allowing just 64 yards rushing a game, 156 through the air, and a paltry 220 of total offense...Opponents third down percentage conversion rate is only 19% and fourth down is 10%....The turnover ratio is +11 in WOU’s favor...The Wolves defense has 14 quarterback sacks in four games and 37 tackles for losses...WOU is giving up an average of just six points per game...Jay Darden now has three interceptions on the season.

This just in: After a recalculation of the statistics of the WOU-SOU game, running back Eliot Vinzant not only rushed for over 100 yards, he passed the 200 mark for the first time in his collegiate career. The final tally had him at 204 on 24 carries.

Eliot’s excellency: Senior running back Eliot Vinzant (Scappoose) has now rushed for over 100 yards in 11 consecutive games, a school record. With 738 yards on the season, he is inching closer to becoming the first WOU running back to ever rush for over 1,000 yards in back-to-back campaigns. His 2,345 career yards in just a little over a season of work already ranks seventh on the school’s all-time rushing list.

He rambled for 204 yards against Southern Oregon and 195 yards against Linfield, the ninth and 11th highest single-game totals in WOU history. In 2006, the 6-2, 220 pounder is averaging 7.5 yards a carry and has rushed for eight touchdowns. He has also caught 11 passes for 80 yards and a TD, and threw a six-pointer to quarterback Mark Thorson against SOU. In 10 games last season, the Portland State transfer rushed for 1,073 yards, the fourth-highest single-season total in the WOU record book.

The former 3A player of the year at Scappoose was named the independent player of the week for his efforts at Linfield. He was named the Great Northwest Athletic Conference Newcomer of the Year in 2005.

National news: Eliot Vinzant ranks third in NCAA Division II statistics in rushing, averaging 184.5.0 per game. Chadron State’s Danny Woodhead is the leader with 224.0. As a team, the Wolves rank ninth in rushing offense (238.5), are ninth in total offense (432.5), seventh in scoring offense (36.0) and are second in kick-off return yardage (31.2). The Wolves are tenth in total defense (220.0) are sixth in rushing defense (64.0), and sixth in pass efficiency defense (84.0).

They are second in scoring defense (6.0) and second in turnover margin (2.8). In team net punting, the Wolves are second nationally (38.5). Vinzant is also fifth in all-purpose yards (204.5). Tyler Knudsen is 11th in kick-off returns (31.2) and Josh Vanlue is sixth in punting (42.4). Jay Darden ranks fifth in passes defended (2.0) and is 11th in interceptions (0.8). Anthony Marin is tenth in quarterback sacks (1.3).

Boss man: WOU senior tight end Kevin Boss (6-7, 255) added two more scoring catches to his season totals at Southern Oregon, giving him five touchdowns on the season. He has 21 catches for 287 yards. He had his best game of the young season against Texas A&M-Kingsville, catching seven passes for a career-best 139 yards.

Two of those grabs went for touchdowns, including a 69-yard scamper on a tight end screen, where Boss outran the Javelina secondary for the score. Boss was a Lindy’s first team pre-season All-American and was a second team choice by the Football Gazette.

The Philomath native caught 53 passes last year for 621 yards and eight touchdowns last fall, and has also caught the attention of NFL scouts, who made arrangements all summer to watch him in practice or in games this fall. Boss, who has been clocked under 4.6 in the 40, will also line-up at wide receiver from time to time.

Making his Mark: Junior signal caller Mark Thorson (6-6, 230) continues to be an efficient leader for the high flying Wolves offense. On the season, he has completed 55 percent of his tosses (63-115) for 764 yards, nine touchdowns and no interceptions. Thorson started last season and completed a school-record 186 passes.

The Sandy native tossed 16 scoring strikes and totaled 1,916 yards through the air in 2005. Thorson has very capable back-ups waiting in the wings in Josh Vanlue (6-5, 240), a redshirt freshman who began his career at Kentucky, and brother Ryan Thorson (6-6, 230), a senior who was WOU’s starting quarterback in 2003.

Knudsen news: WOU’s smallest offensive starter is one of its biggest threats. Senior receiver Tyler Knudsen (5-10, 180) led the Wolves with 62 catches last season for 600 yards. His 115 career receptions ranks seventh all-time at WOU. He has 19 grabs thus far for 175 yards in 2006. Knudsen, out of Centennial High School in Portland, is also a kick-off and punt return threat, averaging 8.6 per punt and 31.2 per kick-off return.

The big secret: The key to WOU’s big offensive production thus far is due in large part to its largest members—the offensive line. Senior Ryan Belcher (6-4, 330) is a four-year starter at guard, while juniors Paul Wright (6-4, 290) and Brett Rhodes (6-2, 255) are starting for the third season in a row. Allan Mikolas (6-4, 315) has seen starting time in each of the last three seasons, while Cory Perkins (So., 6-0, 265) and Brandon O’Neil (Jr., 6-2, 310) have also started in 2006. Redshirt freshman Brian Buckmier (6-4, 250) has also seen action in WOU’s big front.

Buy local: The Wolves have 19 Salem-area athletes on their roster, including nine listed on the first or second team depth chart. All but one of WOU’s starters on offense, defense or special teams are from the state of Oregon.

Ferguson factor: Head coach Arne Ferguson begins just his second season as the Wolves leader, but he bleeds WOU blood after half a lifetime on the campus. The Vale, Oregon native was a three-time All-CFA defensive back for the Wolves from 1986-88, and began his coaching career for the Wolves in 1989. He has been WOU’s defensive coordinator since 1997. In Ferguson’s first season at the helm in 2005, the Wolves went 5-6 and finished the season on a three-game win streak. He now has a career mark of 9-6.

WOU Players of the Week vs. Southern Oregon

Offensive MVP: Eliot Vinzant (Sr., RB, Scappoose)

Offensive Captain: Kevin Boss (Sr., TE, Philomath)

Defensive MVP: Matt Jirges (Sr., DE, Gervais)

Defensive Captain: Jeff Cloud (Sr., LB, Culver)

Special Teams MVP: Josh Vanlue (Fr., P, Salem/South Salem HS)

Special Teams Captain: Bryan Huber (Fr., Salem/West Salem HS)

Scout Team Offense: Justin Ore (Fr., WR, Anchorage, Alaska/Dimond HS)

Scout Team Defense: Alex Sfetku (Fr., DB, Vancouver, Wash./Fort Vancouver HS)

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