Saturday will reveal if a bye week provided enough time for Whitworth to resolve its issues on offense.
The Pirates begin Northwest Conference play on the road when they travel to Portland to face Lewis & Clark at 1 p.m.
Whitworth (2-1) scored 12 points in a five-point win over Claremont-Mudd-Scripps on Sept. 17, and the Pirates likely will need more output on the scoreboard to keep pace with a Pioneers team (2-0) that compiled 85 total points in wins over Puget Sound and Whittier to open the season. Lewis & Clark trounced Lewis-Clark Valley 79-8 in an exhibition game last week.
The Pirates have struggled to generate consistent production running the ball and are averaging just 1.6 yards per carry. Whitworth was held to minus-3 yards rushing as a team in a season-opening loss to Carnegie-Mellon, and the Pirates needed 40 carries to amass 99 rushing yards against Eastern Oregon. Whitworth had just 49 yards on 26 carries against CMS.
Pirates junior quarterback Ryan Blair has completed 60 of 81 passes (74%) with three touchdowns, but he’s also thrown three interceptions.
Conversely, Whitworth’s defense has been dominant the past two weeks, surrendering 222 yards against Eastern Oregon and just 148 yards against CMS.
Derrick Platt leads the Pirates with three sacks – he had two against CMS – and his 19 tackles are second on the team behind fellow senior linebacker Dylan Ventress’ 22. Dylan Owen, a junior defensive lineman, is second on the team with two sacks.
Senior defensive back Colten Chelin has a team-best four pass breakups and is fourth on the team with 16 tackles.
The Pirates’ secondary will be tested by Lewis & Clark quarterback Cruz Montana, a senior who has completed 42 of 60 passes (70%) for 501 yards with five touchdowns and two interceptions. His preferred target has been receiver Devon Guest, who has 18 catches for 233 yards and three TDs.
Dyontae Navarrete has powered the Pioneers’ ground attack. The junior running back is averaging 121 yards per game, and he’s found the end zone four times. He’s also averaging 7.1 yards per carry.
Lewis & Clark’s defense is led by senior linebackers Sam Meinhard and Jake Bushman.
Meinhard has a team-high 18 tackles, including 21/2 sacks. Bushman has contributed with 11 tackles and 11/2 sacks, and both marks rank second on the team.