The Whitworth Pirates got a scare from an improving Lewis & Clark football team. They got a bigger scare when standout running back Adam Anderson limped off the field in the second half, triggering memories of an ankle injury that sidelined him most of the 2009 season.
In the end, the Pirates knocked off the Pioneers 38-20 with Anderson sealing the Northwest Conference victory with the last of his three touchdown runs in front of 2,850 fans on a sun-kissed Saturday at the Pine Bowl. Since this has been the only NWC game played to date, Whitworth (2-2, 1-0) sits alone in first in the conference standings. The Pioneers dropped to 1-2 overall, but they could give opponents fits the rest of the way behind slippery quarterback Keith Welch.
“He’s a special player,” Whitworth coach John Tully said of Welch, who ran for 98 yards and passed for 113. “It was a real challenge for our defense and I think we did a good job of holding them to field goals a couple of times.”
Whitworth has a special player of its own in Anderson, who was granted a medical redshirt last season. The 231-pound senior twice cut back across the field, turning plays destined for short yardage into long gains. He finished with 85 yards rushing and 55 yards receiving.
“He just ‘Adam-ed’ out there, as everyone saw,” Tully said. “That’s not exactly how the play is designed, but just go ahead and go.”
Anderson left the game after a 5-yard run midway through the third quarter. Surrounded by trainers, he was in obvious discomfort on the bench.
“It was a little tweak of my left knee that happened last week,” said Anderson, who had offseason surgery on his right ankle. “It doesn’t feel as good doing it the second time (because) the tendons are already irritated. It’s one of those things that it hurts and then the pain goes away after a while.”
Anderson returned on Whitworth’s next possession and later made a couple of defenders miss during a 17-yard run on the game-clinching drive. His 1-yard plunge pushed Whitworth’s lead to 38-20 with 2:55 left.
Lewis & Clark kept it interesting throughout as Welch’s designed runs and scrambles often left Pirates grasping at air. The Pioneers finished with nearly 300 yards total offense, but Whitworth came up with two key stops to swing the momentum.
Whitworth broke from a 10-10 tie with a swift four-play, 67-yard drive. Anderson powered for 22 yards and quarterback Taylor Eglet hit Dale Entel on a double-move route for 32 yards. Anderson raced 8 yards for the touchdown, giving Whitworth a 17-10 lead with 6:15 left in the second quarter.
Lewis & Clark tried to counter, electing to go for it on fourth-and-2 at its 30. Welch fled the pocket to his right, but was stuffed by Paul Werhane for a 1-yard loss. The Pirates capitalized as Eglet hit Connor Haley for 15 yards, setting up Anderson’s 1-yard TD run.
Whitworth led 31-13 late in the third quarter when the Pioneers drove inside the Pirates’ 15. Welch tried to hit a receiver in the corner of the end zone, but he found Pirates cornerback Derek Stottlemyer instead.
“I kind of figured with the distance between the receivers something was up,” Stottlemyer said. “My guy ran a dummy route in front of me, so I kind of sat in front and saw the whole play.”
For the fourth straight game Whitworth used two quarterbacks. Andrew DeFelice, who started and handled most of the snaps, passed for 91 yards and ran for one TD. Eglet completed 7 of 9 for 144 yards. Five players had receptions of at least 23 yards.
“We needed to get vertical (in the passing game) and we did,” Tully said. “Our receivers made some plays.”
The Pirates face three straight road games, beginning with a nonconference tilt against Menlo on Saturday.