After 35 years, the Pacific Boxers finally scored a knockout against Whitworth.
The rebuilding program, which didn’t field a team between 1992 and 2009, went 4-0 for the first time since 1950 after it rallied Saturday then controlled the Pirates in front of 2,250 at the Pine Bowl for a 31-21 Northwest Conference victory.
Smarting from two straight slow starts that ended in losses, the Pirates (2-3, 0-1) and coach John Tully began the game strong and sprinted to a 14-0 first-half lead before the Boxers, from Forest Grove, Ore., hit back with 24 straight points.
“They did great in the first half,” Pacific coach Keith Buckley said of Whitworth. “We did nothing. But for our players to rebound like they did is a testament to this team.”
The Boxers’ last win in Spokane came in 1978. Two years ago, the Boxers were crushed 48-6 in the Pine Bowl.
“Two years ago, undoubtedly was the lowest point in our rebuilding effort,” Buckley said. “Tully beat us in every facet of the game. This win feels good.”
The Boxers employed a two-headed quarterback attack with the most damage coming from P.J. Minaya, who completed 10-of-15 passing for 174 yards and two touchdowns. Teammate T.C. Campbell was 6-of-10 for 105 yards and one interception.
The Pirates held their NWC rival to 23 total yards in the first quarter. But the Boxers came to life in the second quarter with a 27-yard touchdown pass from Minaya to Jordan Fukumoto to cut Whitworth’s lead to 14-7 before the half.
The Boxers carried that momentum into the third quarter and marched down the field in a drive that ended with another touchdown throw from Minaya, this time a 22-yard strike to Caleb Roher to tie the game.
Whitworth’s D.J. Tripoli, who finished with 99 yards rushing, fumbled the ball on the first play of the ensuing possession and the Boxers recovered on the Pirates’ 24-yard line. Five plays later, Pacific’s Deven McKinney ran 11 yards for a score to take the lead for good.
“We played well early,” Tully said. “Then we gave up a big play at the end of the half. They scored three touchdowns in a stretch of about three minutes. Other than that, we played pretty even.”
Early in the fourth quarter, Pirates quaterback Bryan Peterson threw a 9-yard touchdown pass to Alfonso Miranda to pull within 24-21. Pacific responed with the final score on a 1-yard touchdown run.