The Whitworth Pirates earned coach Rod Sandberg’s first road victory last season with a 30-17 decision over Whittier.
Sandberg said he knows little about the team the Poets are bringing to the Pine Bowl today to open the season for both squads.
“They have a new defensive coordinator and new special teams coordinator,” Sandberg said. “They have a junior college transfer starting at quarterback and at running back.
“The tailback is pretty talented. All (first games) are unknown, but this year is even more so than the others.”
When the teams met last year, Whittier was led by quarterback Steven Rivera, who was a threat with his feet and his arm. The Whitworth coaches have been mining high school highlight tapes to try and scout the players they think they will see.
“We don’t know exactly how that offense is going to be changed,” Sandberg said of the Poets. “I think it forces us to keep things simple on offense and defense. Let them line up and play. It’s about us knowing our assignments.”
Expect more of the same from Alan Stanfield’s high-octane offense. The Pirates will look to run as many plays as they can. Whitworth tied for the NCAA Division III lead last year with 368.1 passing yards per game.
Sophomore Ian Kolste will start at quarterback, but the team must replace its top two pass-catchers from last year.
“I don’t know if you can get much faster than we did last year,” Sandberg said. “The motto of our offense is: We are going to wear you down and just keep coming and coming.”
The Pirates return eight starters on defense and will again run their attacking 3-4 scheme with two high safeties.
“Schematically, we will not be a whole lot different,” Sandberg said. “We are just hoping for a higher level of execution.”
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