Nov. 28, 2009

Sidebar: Offense Still The Word

 

By Amy S. Hughes
Special to NCAA.com

WEST LIBERTY, W.Va. – There was plenty of offense at Russek Field on Saturday afternoon, but the majority of the scoring did not come from the nation’s top-ranked offense as No. 3 Cal (PA) upset No. 1-seeded West Liberty, 57-35.

The Vulcans (11-3) advance to a third consecutive NCAA Division II semifinal game, where they will play the Central Washington-Northwest Missouri State winner.

“We’re happy at this point to be going back to the semis,” said Cal U coach John Luckhardt. “We’ll see if we can figure it out a little better than we have the last couple of times. We’re proud and pleased and very respectful of the West Liberty team we just played.”

Cal U quarterback Josh Portis threw for 318 yards, going 18-for-33 while connecting on five touchdown passes. That brought his single-season totals to 3,054 yards and 33 touchdown passes. That touchdown total sets a new Vulcan record, topping the 32 TD passes thrown by Kevin McCabe last season.

Terrance Moore was the top target for Portis, catching five passes for 158 yards with a pair of touchdowns. Moore’s longest catch of the day was for 55 yards and a touchdown, as Cal U extended its lead to 43-7 in the opening drive of the second half.

Cal U set the tone early in the game, running just 19 plays for 29 points over its first four drives. Portis connected with junior receiver Moore for 48 yards on Cal U’s second play from scrimmage. The pair connected again for a 17-yard touchdown pass three plays later to cap the five-play drive by taking an early 7-0 lead.

West Liberty (11-2) answered with a 14-play, 81-yard drive that was highlighted by a 16-yard pass from Zach Amedro to Willie Walker and capped by a two-yard rush from Kevon Calhoun to tie the score at 7-7.

Three more quick scoring drives by Cal U and the Vulcans held a 36-7 halftime lead. Although the time of possession was nearly even in the first half (Cal U held the ball for 15:02), the Vulcans defense was able to keep West Liberty’s offense, which entered the game leading NCAA Division II in both scoring offense and total offense, below their first-half season average of 27.4 first-half points.

“[Cal U] made some nice adjustments after our scoring drive,” said West Liberty coach Roger Waialae. “They were hitting Ryan Travis quickly coming off the ball. They took that away and that’s been our bread and butter all year. They were able to get pressure from four guys and they did some nice things defensively. They are the first team [we’ve played this year] that lined up in what they lined up in all year on the tapes that we broke down. Everybody else was trying to change things up.”

West Liberty’s Harlon Hill Trophy finalist Amedro was intercepted twice in the first half. West Liberty put up just 152 yards of offense on 33 plays in the first half and trailed 36-7 at the break. Cal U was able to score just three points off of those picks.

The teams traded touchdowns coming out of the locker room with Cal U and West Liberty both scoring touchdowns on their opening drives after the half, but West Liberty was never able to get close. Cal U led by 29 points with a minute to play before Amedro hit Willie Walker with a 40-yard touchdown pass with 39 seconds remaining to account for the final score of 57-35.

Amedro finished the day with 365 yards on 45 attempts and 29 completions to become the first player in NCAA history (all divisions) to pass for 300 or more yards in every game of his season. He completes his junior season with 4,945 passing yards and 49 touchdown passes.