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Whitworth has sizable task

In a football season filled with challenges, Whitworth faces another big one today.

The Pirates must find a way to deal with Willamette’s sizable offensive and defensive fronts when the Northwest Conference rivals collide at 1:30 at McCulloch Stadium in Salem, Ore.

“They’re big up front, very big, and they try to wall you off,” Pirates coach John Tully said. “Defensively, we have to be true to our reads.”

Whitworth (2-5, 1-2 NWC) lost the battle last season as Willamette (3-4, 2-1) had 310 yards rushing and held a 19-minute edge in time of possession. The Bearcats’ offensive linemen average nearly 285 pounds and 340-pound nose guard Juan Alvarado anchors a defense that gives up just 133.4 rushing yards per game.

Willamette, picked second in the NWC preseason poll behind Linfield, lost to the Wildcats 20-10 earlier this month. The Bearcats managed to rush for 149 yards in last week’s 36-10 loss to Portland State of the Big Sky.

“They matched up physically pretty good,” Tully said. “Portland State just had a couple of guys that were special.”

Tully said he won’t announce his starting quarterback – Zac Hill or Bryan Peterson – until today. Hill tossed two touchdown passes in last week’s win over Pacific. Peterson, bothered by a hip flexor injury, didn’t play but he returned to practice this week.