Whitworth didn’t start sharply, but an improved Pirates defense held Whittier in check long enough to allow the offense to roll over the Poets in an impressive 47-11 season-opening win Saturday.
After turning the ball over on downs in the first series, Whitworth sophomore quarterback Ian Kolste hit Nick Kiourkas on scoring strikes of 49 and 38 yards.
It would be all the points the Pirates’ defense would need.
“I think on paper it looks better than it was,” said Kolste, who was pulled early in the second half after completing 22 of 41 attempts for 305 yards and five touchdowns. “The coaches put us in a good position to be successful, but we’ve got to be better.”
Kolste missed on several throws, but he also had several balls dropped that would have made the score look worse for the visiting Poets (0-1).
“I didn’t know what to expect from our opponent,” coach Rod Sandberg said. “Last year, the game was a war at their place.”
The defense sacked Whittier quarterback Justin Moore six times and picked him off twice. The Pirates held the Poets to 85 yards rushing on 36 attempts.
“Our defense played hard, but we had some silly penalties early,” Sandberg said. “Our defense is a little more physical than last year. We did a really nice job stopping the run.”
The Pirates held the Poets to one first-half field goal. Moore hit Benton Bray on a 5-yard pass on fourth-and-goal to make it 47-11 with 3:52 left to play, but that score came against second- and third-team defenders.
Kiourkas, a sophomore from Shadle Park, led the team with five catches for 128 yards. Despite a couple of drops, three of senior Anthony Fullman’s four catches went for touchdowns.
Sophomore Kevin Thomas (Gonzaga Prep) caught three balls for 55 yards, including a 14-yard scoring strike from Kolste.
As a result of the score, Kiourkas got to be a spectator for much of the second half.
“That’s a great feeling,” Kiourkas said. “You can’t put it into words, to sit back and enjoy the moment.”
Cornerback Taylor Roelofs picked off a tipped pass to end the Poets’ first drive. But he had another ball hit him in the hands later in the game that fell harmlessly to the turf.
“The ball slipped right through,” Roelofs said. “We could have done some things better. But overall, I’m very pleased how we played.”
About a dozen freshmen raised their hands after the game when Sandberg asked who got to play in their first college game.
“College football games are hard to win. We don’t ever want to take that for granted,” Sandberg said.
“But to get out of here healthy and to play a lot of people, I’m very pleased.”
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