With what appears to be the easiest stretch of Northwest Conference play behind them, the Whitworth Pirates return home Saturday to host George Fox.
The Pirates (3-1 overall, 2-0 NWC) are coming off wins over Willamette and Lewis & Clark, teams they beat by a combined score of 150-37. Those 150 points are the most the Pirates have scored in back-to-back games.
Yet Whitworth continued to fall in the d3football.com Top 25, so much so that it has fallen out of the rankings entirely, if only to the head of the line under “others receiving votes.”
But a win over the Bruins would likely look a bit more impressive than the Pirates’ last two victories.
George Fox (2-3, 1-1) opened conference play with an overtime loss at Puget Sound, then rebounded to hand Pacific Lutheran a 37-14 defeat last week.
“They’re a good football team, and I think they’re getting better,” Whitworth coach Rod Sandberg said of the Bruins.
Bruins sophomore quarterback Jaden Sheffey has the NWC’s second-best pass efficiency rating (184.0, which is 40.7 points better than that of the Pirates’ Leif Ericksen) and has thrown seven touchdowns to just one interception. He also has four rushing scores.
George Fox’s defense is led by senior Caleb Dalzell – “a man-child,” Sandberg called him – a 6-foot-6, 279-pound defensive end. In 35 career games, Dalzell has 21 sacks, two interceptions and 12 pass breakups.
Dalzell didn’t play against the Pirates last year, when Whitworth went on the road and beat George Fox 38-14. But two years ago he had one sack in the Bruins’ 43-23 victory over the Pirates at the Pine Bowl, the last time Whitworth lost a home game.
Sandberg said he expects the Pirates to be a bit healthier this week. Sophomore safety BJ Mullin, who had a fourth-quarter interception last week against Lewis & Clark, is listed on the two-deep behind roving safety Zach Hillman, suggesting he may see the field more than he has all season.
After making two catches a week ago, senior captain Taylor Hall is again atop the depth chart at “Y” receiver.
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