Frustration, Part III.
Whitworth added to its growing list of losing winnable football games, coming up short in the trenches and falling to Menlo 24-17 in front of 1,405 Saturday at the Pine Bowl.
The setback comes on the heels of last week’s 30-20 loss to Redlands that was up for grabs deep into the second half and a 16-14 season-opening loss to Chapman that Whitworth led until the closing seconds.
Menlo (4-0), an NAIA independent located in Atherton, Calif., scored 10 points in the final 8 minutes, 43 seconds to overtake the Pirates (1-3).
“This is extremely disappointing,” senior cornerback Cailen Thomason said. “We came off last week ready to get our season back on track and obviously we didn’t do that.”
Whitworth had the better of it in terms of first downs, total yards and time of possession for most of the first half, but Menlo still enjoyed favorable field position, mainly because of five sacks by its defense and two Michael Alexander punts that pinned Whitworth at its 10- and 11-yard lines in the second quarter. Menlo finally took advantage with a short drive leading to Kevin Kurtz’s 27-yard field goal and a 3-0 halftime lead.
The Pirates pulled ahead when Menlo quarterback Matt Pelasasa, pressured out of the pocket, had his softly thrown pass picked off by Thomason, who raced 35 yards for a touchdown.
Whitworth’s lead was 7-6 after Kurtz’s second field goal, but Ronnie Thomas broke loose for a 65-yard run and quarterback Bryan Peterson threw a 23-yard strike to Jake DeGooyer, who caught the ball in the end zone with three defenders close by for a 14-6 lead.
Menlo pulled even late in the third quarter when Robert Adan hauled in a 33-yard TD pass and then made a diving catch on the two-point conversion.
The Pirates’ next two possessions went nowhere – one actually backtracked 19 yards because of a costly penalty and one of the Oaks’ 10 sacks. Menlo used stunts and twists up front to harass Peterson in the pocket.
“Their front was good. They physically handled us,” Pirates coach John Tully said. “They were big dudes on the offensive line, too.”
Peterson and DeGooyer connected for 28 yards and a 15-yard Peterson scramble set up Drew Goranson’s 29-yard field goal, giving Whitworth a 17-14 edge with 12:14 left. To that point, three plays – Thomas’s 65-yard run and DeGooyer receptions for 37 and 28 yards – accounted for 130 yards and 43 other plays resulted in just 67 yards.
Menlo evened the score on Kurtz’s 40-yard field goal and the Pirates went three-and-out on two straight series. Menlo took over at Whitworth’s 38 and three Kyle Campas runs against a tiring Pirates defense moved the ball to the 23. Pelasasa hit Adan in stride in the end zone and the Oaks led 24-17 with 1:43 remaining.
Whitworth drove to Menlo’s 30, but Peterson was sacked and then threw his first interception of the season with 28 seconds left.