Coming off a dominant Week 1 performance, Whitworth’s opponent on Saturday figures to provide a bigger challenge.
The Pirates wrap up their brief two-game nonconference slate when they host the Chapman Panthers, reigning champion of their southern California conference, the SCIAC.
The Pirates, who beat La Verne 38-2 in their season opener two weeks ago, are eager to get back on the field.
“We expect to find out a lot about ourselves,” head coach Rod Sandberg said. “We get to play one of the best teams in the country, and we’re excited about that.”
Chapman (1-0), which had a bye last week as well, opened the year with a 36-6 victory over Pacific, Whitworth’s fellow Northwest Conference member. The Panthers start quarterback Ian Fieber, a senior transfer who has gradually worked his way down the levels of college football, at D-II University of Sioux Falls last year and FBS San Jose State the season before that.
Fieber completed 21 of 29 passes for 351 yards and five touchdowns against Pacific. He’ll provide a stiff challenge to a Pirates defense that snatched two interceptions and held La Verne to 124 passing yards.
On offense, the Pirates figure to employ quarterbacks Leif Ericksen and Connor Johnson again. Ericksen handled most of the passing (16 of 25 for 239 yards and two scores) while Johnson ran four times for 86 yards and a touchdown.
But they’ll be going against a Panthers defense that relentlessly attacked Pacific’s offense, earning eight sacks and ceding just 5 net rushing yards.
“They do some things that are a little unconventional,” Ericksen said. “They just defend you in ways you don’t expect. They trust their dudes to make plays, and they’ve got dudes who can fly around.”
It’s been a couple of years since the programs met, but they have met somewhat regularly. This is their 10th matchup since 2000 and first since a home-and-home in 2014 and 2015. Sandberg called the Pirates’ 2015 win in California “one of the best games since I’ve been here” but admitted there isn’t a ton of carryover considering roster turnover.
Pirates senior receiver Garrett McKay was one of the handful who played in that 37-7 victory. He had six catches for 51 yards.
“We played extremely well in that game,” he said.
After today, the Pirates have another bye before opening conference play Sept. 29 at home against Linfield.
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