Quarterback Austin Ewing continues to show why Whitworth’s football team has full faith in him.
The Hawaiian graduate transfer from Southern Utah had a game’s worth of statistics in the first half Saturday afternoon, delighting the Pine Bowl crowd as he led the Pirates to a 42-20 win over the Pacific Boxers in a Northwest Conference game.
Ewing completed 17 of 21 attempts for 311 yards and four touchdowns, all in the first half, staking Whitworth (6-0 overall, 4-0 NWC) to a 35-7 halftime lead.
“A big thing is in practice, we’re starting faster,” Ewing said. “We’re enjoying coming out to practice. We just want to have high energy and start fast.”
Ewing got two series in the third quarter before he gave way to backup Ryan Blair on fourth-and-goal at the Pacific 1-yard line at the 2-minute, 11-second mark. Moments later, Blair scored on a sneak over right guard, extending the Pirates’ lead to 42-7.
“We’re not trying to peak yet and play our best football,” Ewing said. “We know we’ve got to get in the film room and study everything that went wrong and make corrections, and every week keep getting better. That’s our goal right now.”
Whitworth went extensively into its depth chart the final 15 minutes. Pirates coach Rod Sandberg would have preferred more intensity even from the reserves in the final quarter, but the game was firmly in hand.
The Pirates had 420 yards total offense through halftime, 502 going into the fourth quarter.
Ewing finished with 327 yards on 23-of-29 passing and had another 42 yards on six rushes.
His favorite target was senior wide receiver Evan Liggett of Kirkland, Washington. He had seven receptions for 120 yards and two touchdowns.
Whitworth’s early slow offensive starts are a thing of the past. Sandberg played the glass-is-half-empty card describing the Pirates’ first half, though.
“The frustrating thing is we’re down inside the 10 in the red zone and we fumble (second possession) and right there before the half we get down there and can’t convert a third-and-short,” Sandberg said. “We tried to kick a field goal and missed that. I feel like we left some stuff back there, but that just tells you how good our offense can be.”
It’s why Sandberg and his staff haven’t encountered any problems in keeping their undefeated team focused on the end-of-season goal.
“This team can be as good as it wants to be,” Sandberg said. “It’s fun to be around them, it’s fun to coach them and I know they’re not satisfied.”
Liggett said he knows the Pirates can improve.
“I can’t talk enough about the guys around me,” Liggett said. “It’s a special group. It’s different this year because everybody wants it so bad, everybody wants that (conference) championship.”
“We’re going to keep pushing to get better,” Sandberg said. “They want to be coached, they want to be challenged. It’s hard to win in college football, you see it every week. You see Colorado up by 29-0 and momentum can change and flip. Eastern Washington had 28 unanswered points scored against them by a bad team. It’s hard to win, and we’re going to keep pushing to get better.”
The Pirates play two of their final three games on the road, beginning Saturday in Portland against Lewis & Clark (3-4, 2-2). Whitworth’s final home game is Nov. 4 against George Fox before finishing at conference powerhouse Linfield.