A week after playing well but falling short against a quality opponent, the Whitworth Pirates get a second chance Saturday when Menlo visits the Pine Bowl.
Menlo, formerly a football-only member of the Northwest Conference now back at the NAIA level, sports a 3-0 record, including an impressive 41-17 victory over Occidental, typically an NCAA Division III power. Menlo, based in Atherton, Calif., also defeated NWC member Pacific 26-13.
The Pirates lost starting quarterback Bryan Peterson to an ankle injury late in the first half of a 30-20 setback to current No. 15 Redlands last Saturday. Peterson has practiced and will start today. Guard Travis Todd, who injured his knee on the same play Peterson went down, will be sidelined for at least one game.
“We want to get momentum back,” said head coach John Tully, whose Pirates (1-2) have a bye next week before opening NWC play against Pacific Lutheran on Oct. 8. “We do think we improved a lot last week and we played well against an extremely talented team, but you also need to get that victory and get it against a good team.”
Peterson has completed 27 of 32 passes with four touchdowns and no interceptions. Jake DeGooyer (15 yards per reception) and Austin Ehlo (four touchdown catches) are big-play threats. Ronnie Thomas is averaging 5.8 yards per carry and 92.3 yards per game.
“We’re starting to look fast on film on offense and we’re giving great effort,” Tully said. “Austin didn’t get a ball thrown to him in the first quarter, but he was still busting it every route and Jake is going 100 percent every play.”
Whitworth yielded season-highs of 428 yards and 30 points against Redlands’ diverse offense. The Pirates have produced six takeaways in three games, despite generating just one sack. Linebacker Ryan Loutsis remains sidelined with a lingering ankle injury.
“They have a new transfer (Matt Pelasasa) who has upgraded their quarterback position big time,” Tully said. “They’re just a good team.”
The Pirates picked off five passes in a 20-7 road win over Menlo last season.