Although Willamette only led by a field goal against Whitworth at the end of the first quarter Saturday, the lead felt so much bigger.
And that feeling was because of the Bearcats’ ownership of the line of scrimmage.
“Willamette controlled the ball – that’s pretty much all you can say,” Whitworth head coach John Tully said.
Willamette used its grinding run game to defeat Whitworth 28-12 at the Pine Bowl in the Pirates’ first game at home in five weeks.
Each team’s first possession served as a glimpse into the future of the day’s contest. The Pirates’ six-play drive ended after a dropped pass on a fourth-and-1. The Bearcats concluded a 17-play drive with a field goal that included two third-down conversions and another on fourth down.
The Bearcats held the ball for nearly 11 of the 15 minutes of the first quarter.
No sooner did the second quarter start that Willamette was in the end zone for the game’s first touchdown. Willamette didn’t use punter Mitchell Rowan until 3:16 before the half.
With 10 minutes to go until halftime, Tully removed starting quarterback Andrew DeFelice and replaced him with Taylor Eglet. Whitworth’s offense responded.
Eglet led Whitworth to an 11-play, 67-yard drive that resulted in the Pirates’ first score. On the drive, Eglet completed a 27-yard pass to wide receiver Dale Entel, who leaped, stretched and hauled in the ball for a spectacular catch.
Whitworth’s defense also seemed to respond to the change and stopped the Bearcats on downs, forcing their first punt.
Trailing 16-6, Whitworth marched downfield again with Eglet. The rejuvenated offense moved to the Bearcats’ 2-yard line.
On third down and goal, Eglet again tried to connect with Entel. With Entel’s 3-inch height advantage on Willamette defensive back David Dominic, Eglet lobbed the ball to his receiver. Entel initially made the catch, but the pesky Dominic stayed with it and dislodged the ball, which fell into his hands while he laid on his back for the interception to end the half.
With the defeat Whitworth fell to 4-4 overall and 2-2 in the Northwest Conference. The Bearcats moved a game ahead of Whitworth in the conference standings at 3-1.
Next week Whitworth is on the road to play NWC-leading Linfield. A win against Willamette would have kept the Pirates in the conference hunt.
The Pirates will wrap up the year on Nov. 13 with only their fourth home game of the season.