The Whitworth Pirates have secured a winning season, but bigger goals are still within reach.
Whitworth (6-2, 2-2 Northwest Conference) returns from a bye week to face Pacific Lutheran (5-2, 4-1) today in Puyallup, Wash. A victory could put Whitworth into the discussion for an NCAA Division III at-large playoff berth.
Third-ranked Linfield (7-0, 4-0) leads the NWC and has handled its closest pursuers. Whitworth needs a victory to create a second-place log-jam. Willamette (6-2, 2-2) visits Pacific (3-4, 2-2) today.
“This is huge within the conference and to get that seventh win would be really big,” Pirates coach John Tully said. “Our conference is so strong and our out-of-league record through the first six teams is really outstanding. I would hope nationally people would recognize that.”
The Pirates are coming off a bye week, a welcome break for dozens of players beat up during the eight-game stretch to open the season. The team practiced three days last week and Tully was able to watch his son, Bo, play for Montana last Saturday in Missoula.
The week off gave Whitworth additional time to prepare for PLU, which averages nearly 400 yards and has scored 41 points in each of its last three games. The Lutes have won four straight after a 31-24 loss to Linfield.
“The thing that’s challenging is they have so many multiple sets, changing around all the time,” Tully said. “Defensively, they fly around and they’re bringing people all the time. That’ll be a challenge for our offensive line. It’s the kind of team you go right at, whether you’re throwing it or running it.”