TACOMA – AJ Johnson caught three touchdowns, and Puget Sound took advantage of four Whitworth turnovers to beat the Pirates 34-23 Saturday at Baker Stadium.
The Loggers (5-2, 3-1 Northwest Conference) snapped a 23-game losing streak to Whitworth (4-2, 3-1) which dated back to 1995. Whitworth also saw its 15-game conference winning streak end.
The Pirates got off to an inauspicious start with two first-quarter fumbles. The first set up Puget Sound’s first score, a 21-yard pass from Murdo Rutledge to Jewell Day.
The Loggers doubled their lead midway through the second quarter when Sil Washington ran in another score from 1 yard out.
Whitworth got back in the game with a scoring flurry to end the half. Connor Johnson, starting at quarterback in place of the injured Leif Ericksen, scampered into the end zone from 4 yards out with 2:40 remaining in the half.
After a quick three-and-out by UPS, Johnson found Taylor Kolste on a 17-yard strike to tie the game with 48 seconds remaining.
Puget Sound responded with a quick drive, and backup QB Nik Bernhardt found Johnson on a 3-yard pass with 6 seconds left. Whitworth blocked the ensuing extra point, and Bryce Hornbeck returned it to make the score 20-16 at the half.
The Loggers put the game away with two long drives in the second half, totaling 21 plays and nearly 11 minutes. Both drives were capped with Johnson touchdown receptions.
Whitworth’s Johnson bolted in for his second score from 28 yards out with 4:18 left in the game to make it 34-23, but Puget Sound ran out the clock to seal the win.
The Loggers rushed for a season-high 198 yards.
The loss deals a blow to Whitworth’s playoff aspirations, as the Pirates’ only realistic path to the postseason requires winning the NWC’s automatic bid. Whitworth is tied for second place with UPS at 3-1, behind Linfield at 4-0. Linfield visits the Pine Bowl on Nov. 9.
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