SPOKANE, Wash. – Bryan Peterson's pass to Dustin Martin as time expired fell incomplete and visiting La Verne held on for a 25-20 win over Whitworth in a non-conference football game on Saturday afternoon at the Pine Bowl.
The game was the season-opener for the Leopards and La Verne's first victory over Whitworth in eight all-time meetings. The Pirates fell to 2-1 despite nearly rallying from a 23-7 fourth-quarter deficit.
The Leopards dominated the first half, taking a 17-0 lead into the locker rooms and the score difference could have been larger. ULV outgained Whitworth 260-66 in the opening half and used five sacks to limit the Pirates to -20 rushing yards.
The opening half started badly from the Pirates' opening possession when Matt Canlas intercepted Whitworth QB Bryan Peterson at the Bucs' 27 and returned the ball to the Whitworth 11. On fourth down at the six, Brian Duboski hit Gus Viramontes for a touchdown and a 7-0 La Verne lead less than four minutes into the game.
After a Whitworth three-and-out, La Verne moved back into Pirate territory but had to settle for a 25-yard field goal and a 10-0 advantage.
The Pirates had a total of -1 yards in the first quarter.
Early in the second quarter running back Travis Sparks-Jackson finished off a 91-yard drive for the Leopards with a four-yard touchdown run. The possession took 17 plays and 4:47 off of the clock and extended La Verne's lead to 17-0 with 12:07 to play in the first half.
But then the Whitworth defense stiffened. Even as the Pirate offense continued to sputter in the first half, the defense held La Verne on downs deep inside Whitworth territory on the Leopards' final two possessions of the half.
The Pirates finally showed spark in the opening minutes of the second half. Casey Monahan's interception gave Whitworth the ball on La Verne's 37 yard line and DJ Tripoli finished off the possession with a six-yard touchdown run, his fifth TD of the season.
La Verne would finish with only 20 total yards in the third quarter, but the Pirates could not cut further into the lead.
It appeared the Leopards might have taken complete control when Dubroski completed a 56-yard scoring pass up the ULV sideline to John Lilly just over the outstretched hand of a Whitworth defender. The Leopards led 23-7 with 13:43 to play after the extra point was no good.
Whitworth responded with an 81-yard scoring drive that only took 1:02. Peterson snuck up the middle for a 20-yard scoring run. The Pirates went for two and luck went against Whitworth as Carvante Hill returned an interception all the way to score two points for the Leopards' defense.
The Pirates got the ball back again with 9:02 to go and drove 95 yards in 13 plays for another score. Peterson ran in from 18 yards for the touchdown this time, after converting a 4th and 11 pass to Wade Meyer near midfield.
Now trailing 25-20 with 4:15 to play, Whitworth elected to kick deep and it worked out perfectly for the Bucs. After a quick three and out that only required one timeout, Whitworth took over at La Verne's 43 with 2:17 to play. But one six-yard completion was followed by three straight incomplete passes and the Leopards appeared to have secured victory with 1:42 to go in the game.
But another defensive stand by Whitworth gave the Bucs one final shot from their own 20-yard line with 39 seconds to play after La Verne's punt went into the endzone.
Peterson completed a pass of 15 yards to Meyer and passes of 15 and 34 yards to Drew Clausen to move Whitworth into the Leopards' redzone. A Pirate holding penalty and another 13-yard conversion to Clausen gave the Bucs one final play from La Verne's 13 yardline. But the pass attempt from Peterson to Martin fell incomplete on the game's final play.
Despite its offensive struggles in the first half, Whitworth outgained La Verne 435-391 by game's end, outgaining the Leopards 369-125 in the second half.
Peterson completed 20 of 38 passes for a career-high 354 yards with two interceptions and two touchdown runs. But he was sacked seven times in the game for 63 yards in losses. Clausen caught eight passes for 172 yards, while Meyer had seven grabs for 100 yards. Tripoli finished with 74 yards and a touchdown on 22 attempts.
Duboski finished the game 15 of 30 for 204 yards with two touchdowns and one interception for La Verne. Lilly had three grabs for 85 yards and a score, while Matt Baugh caught three for 43 yards. Matt Biggers ran for 117 yards on 35 carries, while Sparks-Jackson totaled 52 yards on ten attempts.
Manny Macias had eight tackles and an interception for the Leopards while Anthony Arguello had three of La Verne's sacks for a total of 30 yards.
Whitworth will attempt to bounce back from the first loss of the season when the Pirates travel to play Chapman next Saturday in the Pirates' first road game of 2013.