The Whitworth Pirates, who had already suffered through three close losses, endured their most painful defeat of the season Saturday.
Just when it appeared the Pirates had forced overtime with a late touchdown and defensive stop, they were flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct, setting up Nick Kaylor’s 36-yard field goal that gave Pacific Lutheran a 20-17 Northwest Conference football victory in front of 2,440 at the Pine Bowl.
Whitworth (1-4, 0-1 NWC) has dropped two games on field goals in the closing seconds and its four losses are by a combined 22 points. The Pirates have led or been tied in the fourth quarter of three of their setbacks.
The Pirates mounted their only sustained drive, a 67-yard march that culminated with quarterback Bryan Peterson hitting Aaron Blaska for a 19-yard touchdown, to tie the score with 55 seconds left.
Tayler Angevine’s 39-yard kick return and quarterback Zack Halverson’s 24-yard completion to Alex McDiarmid positioned PLU (3-1, 2-0) at the Pirates’ 28. On third-and-15 at Whitworth’s 33, Halverson’s pass was knocked down by defensive back Paul Miller, but officials called a taunting penalty on DB Kainoa Raguindin after the play. Instead of being forced to go for it on fourth down with 4 seconds left, the Lutes called on Kaylor, who connected on his second field goal of the day and fifth in five tries this season.
“It’s hard when guys can’t be excited about playing football,” Pirates coach John Tully said. “You know me, I never openly criticize officials. But that was a great game and you want it to be ended by the guys on the field.
“They just said taunting, he stood over (the receiver). Really? Really?”
PLU coach Scott Westering had a different viewpoint.
“It’s a rule, it’s been emphasized. I believe the kid’s actions violated the rules,” he said. “John was mad as a hornet out there – how can the officials call that and all that stuff – but it’s a rule.”
The Pirates battled back from an 11-point deficit in the second quarter that they helped create. The Lutes drove 87 yards, scoring on Brandon James’s 5-yard run, to take the lead and they were back in business when Ronnie Thomas fumbled on the ensuing kick return. Halverson hit Daniel Herr in the end zone and the Lutes had a 14-3 lead and their second touchdown in 67 seconds.
The Pirates scored 10 first-half points following Lutes turnovers. Whitworth went backward after facing second-and-goal inside the 1 and settled for Drew Goranson’s 21-yard field goal. After a bad pitch by Halverson, the Pirates drove 33 yards, with Thomas covering the final 11 yards, to trim PLU’s lead to 14-10.
PLU extended its lead to 17-10 on Kaylor’s 24-yard field goal, but Whitworth’s defense limited further damage. PLU came away empty after starting three drives inside Pirates’ territory.
The Pirates, who didn’t crack 100 total yards until the final seconds of the third quarter, struggled again with pass protection. After giving up 10 sacks a week ago, Peterson was sacked six times by the Lutes, a couple the result of quality secondary coverage.
“Obviously, as an offensive line, you don’t want to see your quarterback going down in the backfield,” senior center Emilio Sulpizio said. “Our guys are pretty resilient. We’re not going to let this get us down. We still have a lot of season left.”
Central Washington 41, Western Oregon 10: A week after gaining a career-high 153 yards, Central Washington’s Levi Taylor, a 2010 graduate of Lewis and Clark High School, led the Wildcats again in a win over the Wolves (3-3, 3-1) in a Great Northwest Athletic Conference showdown in Ellensburg.
Taylor ran for three first-half touchdowns and finished with 117 yards on the ground.
Central Washington (2-3, 2-2) hosts Humboldt State next Saturday in its homecoming game.
Linfield 73, Puget Sound 7: The Wildcats (4-0, 2-0) scored early and often in a whipping of the Loggers (0-5, 0-2) in a Northwest Conference game in McMinnville, Ore.
The 73-point outburst is the second most in school history. The 1927 team put up 83 points in a game against Oregon Normal.
The Wildcats play Pacific (0-5) in Forest Grove, Ore., on Saturday.
Carroll 35, Dickinson State 6: Dustin Rinker ran for 136 yards and a touchdown to lead the Saints (5-1) to a win over the Blue Hawks (2-4) in Dickinson, N.D.
The Saints host Rocky Mountain College on Saturday.