With four unbeaten teams and a combined 15-6 record, Northwest Conference football appears to be on an upswing.
Whitworth (4-0) has already matched last year’s win total. Third-ranked Linfield, Willamette and Lewis & Clark are 3-0. Willamette and Pacific Lutheran (1-1) are receiving votes for the Top 25.
Whitworth opens its NWC schedule today against Pacific in Salem, Ore. The Boxers (1-2), in their third season since reinstating the program after a near 20-year absence, equaled last year’s win total by trouncing Occidental three weeks ago.
“Our league is always strong,” Whitworth coach John Tully said, “but I think this may be the strongest it’s been in several years.”
Pacific, much like Whitworth, has suffered several key injuries. The Boxers lost starting quarterback T.C. Campbell to a torn ACL in the season opener and first-team All-NWC receiver Jordan Fukumoto broke his leg against Occidental. Junior quarterback P.J. Minaya has 575 yards passing, but has been intercepted five times.
Whitworth, which lost Scott Carr (shoulder) and Tevin Tyus (broken ankle) in last week’s win over Chapman, will be without four of its top five linebackers. Freshman Danny Welstad moved from end to linebacker earlier this week.
“They run multiple sets, shifting all the time and a lot of motion, so the biggest thing is getting lined up correctly,” Tully said of Pacific. “We’d like to be able to attack more, but the reality is we have to be simpler.”
Pacific lost 51-17 to Willamette last week in a nonconference game. The teams will meet in an NWC matchup in November.
The Boxers are coached by Keith Buckley, who was a University of Idaho graduate assistant from 1999-2001.