The Linfield Wildcats looked every bit a national powerhouse when they used a quick start to crush a struggling Whitworth team 51-17 at the Pine Bowl on Saturday.
The Pirates (2-5, 0-3) started freshman quarterback Ian Kolste after starting quarterback Bryan Peterson couldn’t go because of a shoulder injury. But many have struggled with No. 2 Linfield’s swarming defense, which had been holding opponents to less than nine points a game.
“They are a very talented football team that is well coached,” Whitworth coach John Tully said. “Against a very good team you have to make a lot of big plays. We made a few.”
Kolste and the Pirates offense started cold, failing to sustain any drive as Linfield’s Josh Yoder directed scoring drives that ended with a Josh Hill touchdown run, a Yoder 1-yard run, a 43-yard field goal and 6-yard touchdown pass from Yoder to Jacob Priester.
Less than 17 minutes into the game, Whitworth was down 24-0.
Then, on the first play after receiving the ball, the snap got past Kolste and Linfield’s KeAlii Poomaihealani recovered the fumbled snap in the end zone to make it 31-0.
Kolste, a freshman from Oak Harbor, Wash., then came alive and completed a 43-yard pass to Drew Clausen. Kolste ended the drive throwing a 28-yard touchdown to Devon Lind to get the Pirates on the board at 31-7.
“It was exciting,” Kolste said of his first start. He finished 17 of 30 for 190 yards passing with one interception and two touchdown passes. He also led the team with 16 yards rushing on 18 carries. “We fought with them a little bit, but obviously, they are a good team.”
Before the half, the teams traded field goals to make it 34-10.
At the break, Whitworth’s rushing total was minus-3 yards. For the game, leading rusher D.J. Tripoli finished with nine yards on seven carries and the team ran for a total of 36 yards.
In the third quarter Kolste directed another drive that ended with an 8-yard pass to Dustin Martin, which narrowed Linfield’s lead to 31-17.
But Linfield (5-0, 2-0) scored two more touchdowns and another field goal to pull away in the fourth quarter.
“Anytime you can beat a team at their place, we feel good about that,” Linfield coach Joe Smith said. “I like how (Whitworth) battled. They got down a lot fast but they battled back.”