Turnovers don't shake Lutes' faith
It was a rough day Saturday for Pacific Lutheran sophomore quarterback Dalton Ritchey. His team lost 27-24 to Linfield in the first round of the NCAA Division III playoffs, and he was responsible for four of the Lutes’ five turnovers.
Ritchey fumbled the ball twice, leading to 10 points, and he also threw two interceptions which both led to touchdowns for the Wildcats. In the postgame press conference, Ritchey sat sandwiched between linebacker Jordan Patterson and receiver Kyle Warner. While his teammates made eye contact with the media, Ritchey sat staring at a fixed point on the table in front of him.
Both his teammates and Pacific Lutheran coach Scott Westering didn’t hold anything against Ritchey.
“There’s no less love for (Ritchey) now,” Westering said. “It’s hard as a competitive athlete not to focus on what you didn’t do and focus on your bad plays. I just kept reminding him, ‘but you made so many tremendous plays.’”
It was Ritchey that hit Warner for 36 yards to the Linfield 2 that set up a field goal that got the Lutes within three points late in the third quarter. It was also Ritchey who scored the crucial touchdown on fourth-and-inches from the Linfield 13 with 5:25 left that got the Lutes within 27-24.
Ritchey did throw a pick six to Tyler Robitaille early in the fourth quarter. Don’t blame that one on him, though, said the intended target, Warner.
“That was totally my fault,” said Warner, who finished with 205 yards receiving. “I also apologized to the team. I did not get the check, and I just wanted to let you know that it was my fault and don’t get down on him for another turnover that wasn’t his fault.”
Ritchey said Linfield was big and good at stripping the ball.
“Those turnovers are huge,” he said. “It digs at my heart. Especially for everybody. It just digs at my heart. I would never want to wish that upon us.”
Ritchey’s teammates looked at him while he spoke. You could tell they didn’t blame him at all.
“Those guys were around me and picked me up,” Ritchey said. “They didn’t lose one inch of belief in me.”
The Lutes’ true character was revealed at the end of the 13-minute conference. All the questions had been answered, but each player offered up one final thought. Words like “proud,” “love,” and “belief” were used.
“We didn’t play some of our best football today,” Peterson said, “But we hung with one of the best football teams in the nation. That’s something to be proud of.”
Westering listened with pride.
“How could you not love coaching guys like this?” he said.