Coming home after back-to-back losses, the Whitworth Pirates looked to Saturday’s Parents Weekend game at the Pine Bowl against long-time rival Puget Sound as a chance to get back to their winning ways.
Did they ever.
The Pirates scored seven touchdowns on nine first-half possessions en route to a 70-11 win over the visiting Loggers that lifted Whitworth’s record to 6-2 going into a much-needed bye week.
“We lost our last two games to two very good football teams,” said John Tully, who won his 95th game as head coach of the Pirates. “This was a big win for us. We didn’t have anyone get hurt for a change, and now with a bye week some of our guys can heal up from eight games worth of bumps and bruises.”
The 70-point effort was the most the Pirates have scored since the 2006 season, when they beat Lewis & Clark 70-3 in the homecoming game at the Pine Bowl.
The Whitworth defense, which already has suffered seven season-ending injuries going into the game, clearly was the star of this effort, keeping the Loggers’ passing game in check and reigning in senior wide receiver Adam Kniffen, who entered the contest averaging almost 150 receiving yards per game.
“We really wanted to stop him since he’s one of the best receivers in the conference,” sophomore cornerback De’ Hall said. “We wanted to get in his face and take him out of the game. Our coaches did a great job preparing us and we knew what routes they were going to try to run and what they were going to try to do.”
Kniffen was held to just three catches for 17 yards in the first half while Whitworth rolled up a 49-0 lead, and finished with six catches for 50.
The defense picked off five Puget Sound passes and returned two for touchdowns. Scott Carr jumped in front of short, Braden Foley pass and raced 29 yards for the Pirates’ second score of the game, and backup linebacker Sam Schoesler picked off a James Korn throw over the middle and raced 86 yards for the team’s final touchdown.
“I looked into (the quarterback’s) eyes and he threw it right to me,” Schoesler said. “Even with our backup guys in the game, we were still prepared and knew what they were going to try to do. This was a very good game for our defense.”
“I think our defense had a great game and our secondary was exceptional,” Tully said. “Our coaches did a great job breaking down the game plan and preparing them, but their execution was incredible.
“We got a lot of guys in the game and that’s always good.”
The Whitworth offense may not have shared top billing in this game, but it was stellar in its own right.
Quarterback Bryan Peterson completed 11 of 13 first-half passes, four of them going for touchdowns to four receivers: Connor Williams, Jake DeGooyer, Wade Meyer and Austin Ehlo.
But it was a single throw from receiver Kekoa Turbeville that set the Whitworth tone for this game.
After Peterson found Connor Williams for the team’s first touchdown midway through the first quarter, Turbeville knelt down to hold for Robert Thullen’s point-after attempt, but the snap squirted through his hands. Turbeville scooped up the loose ball and rolled to his right, lobbed a high throw toward the end zone that Danny Welstad pulled in to give the Pirates an 8-0 lead.
“Sometimes you just get plays like that,” Tully said.
Running back Ronnie Thomas carried 23 times for 122 yards and a pair of touchdowns, leaving after carrying three times for 9 yards in the first series of the second half, setting up a 48-yard Michael McCune-to-Connor Williams touchdown pass.
McCune dropped back and saw all 11 Loggers bunched at the line of scrimmage to stop Thomas on fourth-and-1, then found Williams 15 yards behind the deepest Puget Sound defensive back and the junior tight end trotted untouched into the end zone to give Whitworth a 56-0 lead.
The Loggers put together a 13-play, 66-yard drive after the ensuing kickoff, and added 29-yard field goal with 2:28 left.