The Whitworth Pirates made defensive stops and forced turnovers, but their offense stalled in the third quarter allowing Pacific Lutheran to pull away for a 28-21 Northwest Conference football win Saturday at the Pine Bowl.
The Pirates played inspired football as 16 seniors played their last home game. But the Lutes, ranked 15th by D3football.com, made just enough plays to win in its regular-season finale.
“We needed to make some plays in the third quarter,” Whitworth coach John Tully said. “We just came up a little short.”
“I credit John Tully and Kirk Westre,” Lutes coach Scott Westering said, alluding to the Pirates’ head coach and defensive coordinator. “They played hard throughout to the end.”
“Our defense caused some turnovers and kept us in the game,” Tully said. “But you don’t want to get close. You want to get beyond close.”
PLU (8-1, 5-1 NWC) came out looking like a top-25 team as it threw a heavy dose of quarterback Dalton Ritchey at the Pirates’ defense. In fact, Ritchey’s 75 yards on the ground and 136 passing accounted for 92 percent of the Lutes’ first-half yards.
“That’s the unique additional threat he gives to our offense,” Westering said. “A running quarterback gives nightmares to defensive coordinators.”
To open the game, Ritchey directed an eight-play drive and finished it off with a 21-yard touchdown run less than four minutes into the game.
After PLU shut down Pirates’ quarterback Bryan Peterson and company, Ritchey took over on his own 16 and drove down the field before running around the left end for another score.
With 3:30 left in the first quarter, PLU was up 14-0 and it didn’t look good for the Bucs (3-6, 1-4).
But Peterson took over and led Whitworth on a 17-play drive before he hit Drew Clausen on a 10-yard TD pass with 8 minutes left in the second quarter.
Ritchey then threw a pick to Whitworth’s Kyle Davidson, but the Pirates had to punt.
The first play after the punt, PLU’s Kelly Morgan fumbled, giving Whitworth the ball at the 17. Four plays later, Peterson hit Dustin Martin from five yards out to tie the game at 14.
By the end of the first half, Peterson had completed 14 of 15 throws for 115 yards and two TDs.
The teams traded punts in the third quarter before PLU ripped off an 18-play drive that ended with an 11-yard touchdown pass from Ritchey to Morgan.
After the Lutes forced a Whitworth punt, Ritchey directed a drive inside the Whitworth 10. PLU running back Niko Madison, who finished the day with 81 yards on 16 carries, ran it in from the 4-yard-line to go up 28-14.
After several failed drives, Whitworth got the ball with 3:09 left. Peterson hit Wade Meyer on a 20-yard TD pass with 1:26 left.
An onside kick failed and time ran out.
Western Oregon 32, Central Washington 26: Ryan Bergman threw for 405 yards and four TDs as the host Wolves (6-4, 6-3) topped the Wildcats (6-4, 6-3) in a GNAC contest.
Linfield 79, Puget Sound 3: The Wildcats (8-0, 5-0) scored eight rushing TDs and blasted the visiting Loggers (1-7, 0-5) in a NWC game.
Carroll 37, Rocky Mountain 35: Conor Smith made a 28-yard field goal as time expired to give the Saints (9-1, 8-1) a Frontier Conference victory over the Bears (7-3, 6-3) in Helena.