SPOKANE – If Whitworth’s offense catches up to the guts of its football coach John Tully then the Pirates will have a unit that will be a nightmare to contend with as the season progresses.
The No. 15-ranked Division III Hardin-Simmons Cowboys (1-0) started the season the way they expected with a convincing 27-7 win at the Pine Bowl. But their win wasn’t against an opponent that always did things in conventional fashion.
Starting the second half trailing 14-0, Whitworth kicker Zack Clow executed and recovered an onside kick. On that same drive, facing fourth down and a yard just past midfield, Taylor Eglet had his pass attempt deflected at the last second and the drive ended.
On Whitworth’s (0-1) next possession after a Hardin-Simmons fumble, on fourth-and-2 at its own 29, the Pirates’ fake punt attempt – which had up-back Adam Anderson take a direct snap – was stymied and again the drive stalled. Three plays later Hardin-Simmons put the game away with a touchdown. The extra-point failed but the Cowboys 20-0 lead was not challenged.
Teams will go an entire season without executing an onside kick and then following up with consecutive fourth-down conversion attempts – one of which includes a fake punt.
But after the game Tully said he felt like that was the point where it was time to try to change the flow of the game.
“We needed to make some plays,” said Tully, who is in his 16th year as the Pirates head coach. “Unfortunately we didn’t make them. But you’ve got to give them credit. They’re one of the better teams; they’re very talented and very skilled.”
Tully added he was pleased with his team’s effort and understands that with a lot of young players that his squad will grow as the year progresses.
As for the game, Hardin- Simmons established control of the line of scrimmage in the first half with a no-huddle offense that initially produced short passing plays from quarterback Justin Feaster to wide receiver ZaVious Robbins. But the duo stretched out their pitch-and-catch routine late in the second half for two plays during the Cowboys’ last two drives of the half, one of which resulted in H-S taking a 14-0 lead.
On one play Robbins adjusted to a wobbly pass into a stiff wind, leaped, reached behind himself and made a difficult catch in double coverage. The two connected on Hardin-Simmons’ next drive for a 40-yard reception that saw a streaking Robbins make the catch about 15 yards downfield and then running the rest of it before needing to be tackled at Whitworth’s 29-yard line by three players.
Whitworth’s lone score of the game came with 2:21 remaining in the third quarter when senior running back Adam Anderson shot his way into the end zone on a 10-yard run to make the score 20-7.
The Pirates are on the road the next two weekends for games at Pomona-Pitzer and Redlands before returning to the Pine Bowl Sept. 25 against Lewis & Clark.