Sep 26, 2017

Game Preview: Bruins Open NWC Play Against Boxers

A Winning Tradition

  • One post-season appearance (1960 Crusader Bowl)
  • One AFCA Division III Coaches' All-American (Nolan Schuler, 2017)
  • One CoSIDA Academic All-American (Caleb Dalzell, 2017)
  • Two CoSIDA Academic All-District (Caleb Dalzell, 2017; Grant Schroeder, 2017)
  • Three All-Americans
  • Four All-Region Honorees
  • 37 All-NWC Athletes 
  • Five Team of the Week
  • Nine NWC Student-Athlete of the Week Awards 
  • One Cliff Harris Award Finalist (Charles Riga, 2017)
  • Two NSCA All-American (Justin Kruse, 2015; Dane Jensen, 2017)
  • Two NFL Draft Picks 

Photos Taken By: Ben Ludeman

By: Alex Plusquellec

NEWBERG, Ore. -- After a dominating performance last week, the Bruins (2-1, 0-0) have matched their best start in program history and will look to build on that momentum into this week's matchup against the Pacific University Boxers.

Heading into the 2016 matchup between the Bruins and the Boxers, both were prepared for an offensive showdown.  Instead, the game was dominated by defense with the Bruins clinching the victory through a fourth quarter defensive stand. The 15-12 win also secured the Bruins a winning conference record.

This year's meeting looks a bit different. The Bruins are coming off two strong back-to-back showings, outscoring their opponents 57-13 after a 44-0 shutout of Wisconsin-Eau Claire last week. Meanwhile, the Boxers (0-1, 0-0) haven't seen the field in nearly three weeks.

The Boxers opened the season on the road at the University of Dubuque and were outgained 458 to 279, ultimately falling 37-13 to the Spartans. Senior Brandon Boyd was the lone bright spot for the Boxers, carrying the ball nine times for 100 yards and two touchdowns.

Then, it was announced that the game between the Boxers and Occidental College on September 16 would be cancelled due to the state of the Tigers' depth chart—just two days before the game was scheduled to take place. The Boxers were left with a two-week gap in their schedule. Saturday's game marks the first time they will take the field since September 9.

While the Boxers have played fewer games than most teams in the conference, their game film reveals a new field general for the team: Junior JT Greenough, who completed 50 percent of his passes for 130 yards and three interceptions. On the other side of the ball, the Boxers were led in week one by sophomore defensive tackle Tui Tuitele, who recorded a team-high 10 tackles. Junior linebacker Wyatt Ma'a added seven tackles, and sophomore safety Kolby Nikolaisen picked up a sack.

Meanwhile, the Bruins have yet to win a conference opener since reinstating the program four years ago but appear to have found their groove on both sides of the ball. Charles Riga has been on a tear at linebacker, averaging nearly 12 tackles a game to go with a team-high 2.5 sacks. Austin Taylor leads the secondary with 27 total tackles to date, and sophomore Daniel Campos has forced two turnovers during the first three games.

Quarterback Grant Schroeder elevated his play against Wisconsin-Eau Claire, throwing for 231 yards and four touchdowns. Brad Lander, Lane Hadley and Kenny May each have double-digit catches through three games, and five different receivers have caught touchdown passes.

To take down Pacific, the Bruins can also turn to their running game. The Boxers gave up 273 yards to Dubuque on an average of 7.3 yards per rush. This may be the week in which the backfield combination of Wesley Riddell, Anthony Garcia and Jacob Swilley breaks out for a big performance.