The No. 19 Whitworth Pirates prepared all week to take on a Central (Iowa) team that found a winning pedigree by pounding the ball on the ground.
The Dutch invade the Pine Bowl Saturday to take on a Pirates team that wins by spreading the field, throwing the ball and then throwing some more.
“We are the exact opposite of their offense,” Pirates coach Rod Sandberg said. “They are pretty vanilla on defense, but they are physical across the board. It’s really going to be challenging.”
The Dutch, who have 20 postseason appearances, try to establish the run first and averaged 182.1 yards rushing a game last season. But Central also takes shots down field and actually had more yards in the air – 243.4 passing per game – than the ground.
“It’s not easy to win a college football game, especially against a good team,” Sandberg said. “We are just so excited. Let’s take a little look to see where this team is.”
While the Dutch have a size advantage in the offensive and defensive lines, offensive coordinator Alan Stanfield said the game plan is to get those big guys breathing hard early.
“We want to start fast … and we want to run those guys sideline to sideline,” Stanfield said.
The Pirates return nearly all the offensive skill-position starters from the team that went 9-2 and earned an at-large bid to the NCAA Division III tournament for the third time in team history.
Whitworth had more holes to fill on defense, but it also got starting linebacker Luke Peterson back from an injury that sidelined him for the 2015 campaign. The Pirates also have three defensive ends in Daniel Portillo, Mac Shaw and Aaron Powe who can cause havoc for opposing quarterbacks.
Starting quarterback Ian Kolste said the Dutch run a 3-4 defense and a basic cover-2 secondary.
“On film, they are pretty simple,” Kolste said. “But they are good at what they do. We want to get some quick first downs and neutralize their size. We are expecting our tempo to wear on them.”
On offense, the Dutch also have several designed running plays from the quarterback, defensive coordinator Adam Richbart said.
“Everything they do is to run the ball,” he said. “We’ve just got to get them out of their comfort zone.”
Subscribe to The Spokesman-Review's sports newsletter
Get the day's top sports headlines and breaking news delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.