The 2018 Whitworth football team has a chance to join an exclusive club. Only four Pirate teams have completed a regular season with an unbeaten record. This year's teams can make it five if the Bucs win at Willamette on Saturday at 1:30 pm. The game can be heard live in Spokane on KSBN 1230am and on the internet at KSBN.net. The radio broadcast will begin at 1:15 pm (PDT) and Bob Castle, long-time voice of the Pirates, returns to call play by play.
Whitworth (8-0, 6-0 NWC) clinched at least a share of the Northwest Conference title and earned the league's automatic bid to the NCAA Division III playoffs with a 38-28 win over Lewis & Clark last Saturday. Willamette (1-7, 0-6 NWC) is coming off a 44-13 loss at Pacific (Ore.) and looking to send its seniors out on a winning note.
Live Links for Saturday's game:
Whitworth (8-0, 6-0 NWC)
Willamette (1-7, 0-6 NWC)
Saturday - Nov. 10
The Pirates: Whitworth faced its largest deficit of the season in the second quarter of Saturday's 38-28 win over Lewis & Clark. The Pioneers took a 14-3 lead before the Pirates scored two touchdowns late in the second quarter to grab a 17-14 lead at the half. L&C took its final lead (21-17) early in the third quarter when an interception set the Pioneers up at Whitworth's five-yard line. The Pirates scored touchdowns on their next three possessions to take control. Whitworth outgained L&C 411-320 and finished with a 23-11 advantage in first downs.
Leif Ericksen completed 28 of 47 passes with three touchdowns, but also threw a season-high three interceptions. Garrett McKay had another big game catching the ball with 12 receptions for 160 yards and a score. Isain Wong-Lonzanida caught five passes for 42 yards. Taylor Hall and Bryce Powers had the other two touchdown receptions. Tariq Ellis scored on a 23-yard touchdown run. He and Mason Elms combined to rush for 106 yards on 30 carries.
The NWC picked Kale Wong as the Defensive Player of the Week after he led the Pirates with 11 tackles, including one for loss, and picked off a pass in the second half. Fellow linebackers Iain Black and Jaylen Gonzales added 10 stops apiece. After L&C running back Michael Abraham ran for 118 yards in the first half, the Pirate defense limited the Pioneers' big back to 18 yards on 13 carries after halftime.
Cody McDonald continues his strong kicking. The Pirate freshman made all five of his extra points and his only field goal attempt (from 35 yards) for eight points. He also booted one touchback on seven kickoffs. And he averaged 40.2 yards on five punts, his second week in a row with an average above 40 yards since becoming Whitworth's full-time punter. Brayden Corona averaged 30 yards per kickoff return.
Going Streaking: Whitworth is 8-0 for the first time since the team went 10-0 during the 2006 regular season. Counting the final five games from 2017, Whitworth has won 13 games in a row, tied for the second-longest winning streak in Pirate history. The school record for consecutive victories is 20, from the last game of the 1952 season until the third game of 1955. The Pirates finished undefeated in 1954 (8-0) and 1955 (9-0). Whitworth also won 13 games in a row from the end of the 1959 season until falling in the NAIA semifinals in 1960.
Unblemished Bucs: Only four previous teams in Whitworth history have finished a regular season unbeaten. The first time came in 1954 when Jim Lounsberry's Pirates went 8-0, outscoring opponents 269-40. The 1955 team kept the streak going with a 9-0 record, giving up only 34 points all season. The 1960 Pirates finished 9-0 during the regular season under Sam Adams before losing 13-7 at Humboldt State in the NAIA semifinals. Forty-six years later Whitworth went 10-0 during the regular season under John Tully, finishing 11-1 after falling to St. John's (Minn.) in the second round of the NCAA Division III playoffs.
National rankings: Whitworth stayed the same in one poll but moved up in another this week. The Pirates remained 12th in the D3football.com top-25 poll this week. They moved up one spot, from 16th to 15th, in the AFCA Division III Coaches Poll.
Four Straight NWC Defensive Awards: Kale Wong became the fourth straight Pirate to earn NWC Defensive Player of the Week. Colten Chelin began the streak with his selection on October 15th. Chad Wilburg followed on October 22nd and Chelin picked up his second award on October 29th.
Swarming Defense: Whitworth leads the NWC and ranks second in all of NCAA Division III in team tackles for loss this season. The Pirates are averaging 11.0 tackles for loss per game. They had eight tackles for losses in the win over Lewis & Clark. Whitworth also leads the NWC and ranks third in Division III in sacks (4.25 per game). Chad Wilburg leads the NWC in sacks, with 11.5 for 69 yards. He is also second in the NWC with 16 tackles for loss (-78 yards). Colten Chelin is tied for second in the NWC with four interceptions.
Red Zone Excellence: Whitworth leads the Northwest Conference in the red zone this season, both offensively and defensively. The Pirates have scored 34 of the 41 times they have entered the red zone this season (83%). They have scored touchdowns 25 of those times (61%). On two occasions into the Red Zone, Whitworth was running out the clock and voluntarily downed the ball. Opponents have scored against Whitworth only 14 of the 27 times they have entered the red zone (51.9%), which is second in the conference and ranks 12th in Division III.
Winning on Third Down: The Pirates lead the Northwest Conference in third down conversion percentage, both offensively and defensively. Whitworth has converted 42.7% of its offensive third downs this season. Pirate opponents have converted only 27.6% of their third downs into first downs, which ranks as the 17th-best percentage in Division III.
Finding Balance: When Mr. Miyagi told Daniel to find balance in all things, the Pirates were listening. Of 628 total offensive plays in 2018, Whitworth has run the ball 312 times (49.7%) and passed it 316 times (50.3%). Of 34 offensive touchdowns, the Bucs have run for 19 and passed for 20.
Spreading the Wealth: Whitworth has a deep and capable receiving corps once again in 2018. Seventeen different Pirates have caught at least one pass this season, and 12 players have four catches or more. Nine different Pirates have caught a touchdown this season. Garrett McKay has the team lead with 65 receptions, 836 receiving yards and six touchdowns.
Mr. McKay: Garrett McKay is concluding his Pirate career in a big way. He leads the NWC in punt return average (9.4) and in all-purpose yards per game (135.8). He is third in receptions per game (8.1) and first in receiving yards per game (104.5) this season.
McKay is one of the most prolific pass-catchers in Whitworth history. The two-time first team All-Northwest Conference honoree has caught 247 passes for 2,933 yards in his career. He is within reach of Whitworth's career records for receptions (248, Wayne Ralph, 1983-86) and receiving yards (3,042, Dwayne Tawney, 2000-03). McKay has at least one reception in 40 of the 41 games he has played as a Pirate.
NWC Sweep: September 15th featured an eight-game slate of matchups between the Northwest Conference and the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletics Conference (SCIAC). The NWC swept to victory in all eight contests. Four were played in California and four were in the Northwest. Whitworth defeated defending SCIAC champion Chapman 31-28 at home. Willamette won 25-6 at Occidental for its only victory to-date in 2018.
Team Captains: The Pirate team captains in 2018 are Garrett McKay and Tyler Adamson from the offense and Chad Wilburg and Kale Wong from the defense. A special teams captain is selected on a week-by-week basis. The 2018 special teams captains have been:
Sept. 1 – Andrew Knox
Sept. 15 – Taylor Hall
Sept. 29 – Kyle Ditter
Oct. 6 – Cade Foisset
Oct. 13 – Shai Pulawa
Oct. 20 – TJ Jensen
Oct. 27 – Jay Zier
Nov. 3 – Weston Kroes
Puryear Field: Whitworth dedicated its new Fieldturf facility in honor of Ron and Georgia Lee Puryear at halftime of the season opener. Whitworth alumnus Jim Puryear ('91) and his wife Bobbie were the primary donors for the new football field and it was named in honor of his parents. Now the Pirate football teams play at Puryear Field in the Whitworth Pine Bowl.
Full Home Slate: Whitworth will play six home games in 2018. It is the first time the Pirates have six home football games since 2013. Whitworth is also only playing a nine-game schedule for the first time since 2005.
Two Long Records: A pair of Pirate returnees set school records in 2017 with long touchdown plays. Mason Elms ran 96 yards for a touchdown in a 48-7 win at Lewis & Clark on November 4th, breaking the old record of 92 yards set by Vern Tucker in 1948. Garrett McKay broke the school record for longest punt return when he raced 82 yards for a score in Whitworth's 30-20 victory at Pacific (Ore.) on October 28th. Darryl Russell set the old record of 64 yards in 1959.
On the Air Again: Whitworth's games are once again be carried live this season on KSBN 1230am in Spokane. The relationship between Pirate athletics and KSBN goes back to 1994, a span of 24 years. Bud Nameck, familiar to listeners in Spokane as the host of the KXLY 920am Morning News, is in his third season as the voice of the Pirates in 2018. He was the voice of Washington State University men's basketball for 22 years, and spent that same amount of time on the Cougar football broadcasts – the final three on play by play. He is a longtime resident of the Inland Northwest who began his career as the Sports Information Director and radio voice of Gonzaga University basketball and baseball in the 1980s.
The Head Coach: Rod Sandberg has had a huge impact on the Pirate program in his five years as head coach, posting a 39-10 record and leading the Bucs to the NCAA playoffs in year number two, and now again in his fifth season. He has had 39 players earn All-Northwest Conference recognition since 2015. Whitworth's four-year record (33-6) from 2015-present is the best four-year stretch in school history. Sandberg spent 19 seasons on the defensive staff at Wheaton College (Ill.), including the last 11 as defensive coordinator. Wheaton made the NCAA Division III playoffs five times during Sandberg's tenure as defensive coordinator. The team never lost a first round playoff game and reached the Division III semifinals in 2008 and quarterfinals in 2003. Sandberg's 2007 and 2013 squads led the Collegiate Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin, regarded as one of the strongest football leagues at the Division III level, in scoring defense. The Thunder were second in the league in scoring defense five other times.
The Bearcats: Willamette University (1-7 overall, 0-6 NWC) comes into Saturday's game looking to end a 15-game Northwest Conference losing streak. The Bearcats' last conference victory was Oct. 29, 2016 at Lewis & Clark (35-21). The nine seniors on Willamette's roster would like nothing better than to end their careers with a win to stop the skid, and break Whitworth's winning streak as well. The Bearcats come into Saturday averaging 15.0 points and 291.5 yards per game. They allow 38.1 points and 395 yards per contest. Glen Fowles (26-38 record) is in his seventh season as head coach of the Bearcats and his 23rd year on the coaching staff.
Junior QB Matthew Castaneda has completed 51.7% of his passes for 1,618 yards with 10 touchdowns and ten interceptions. He is also Willamette's leading rusher with 223 yards (3.3 ypc) and two touchdowns. Jeremiah James is the leading receiver with 41 catches for 546 yards and five touchdowns. Junior LB Alec Stevenson tops the defense with 64 tackles (8.0 per game) and he shares the team lead with 3.5 sacks (-21 yards). Junior DB Andrew Rodriguez has three interceptions.
Willamette scored the game's first touchdown and its last touchdown last Saturday at Pacific (Ore.). Unfortunately for the Bearcats, the Boxers scored 44 straight points in between in a 44-13 loss. Pacific outgained Willamette 442-277, despite a solid game from Castaneda. He completed 21 of 42 passes for 153 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions and he ran for 50 yards on 11 carries. James caught five passes for 39 yards, including the game's first touchdown. Stevenson finished with ten solo tackles and forced a fumble.
The Series: Willamette University is Whitworth's second-oldest continuing rival. The teams first met on the field in 1908 and Whitworth won 18-0. The biggest Pirate win in the series was 46-0 in 1983. The biggest Bearcat victory was 67-0 in 1912. Willamette holds a 33-22 edge all-time, but the Pirates have won the last four matchups, the Bucs' longest winning streak in the series. Willamette's last win over Whitworth came in 2013 in Salem by a score of 50-21.
Last Meeting: Whitworth took a 43-6 halftime lead in a 57-24 victory over the Bearcats in the season finale for both teams in 2017. Whitworth finished the season 8-2 while Willamette suffered its first winless campaign (0-9) in school history.
Senior QB Ian Kolste completed 20 of 29 passes for 264 yards with five touchdowns and no interceptions. He concluded his Whitworth career with more than 10,000 passing yards and 85 touchdown passes. All five touchdown passes came in the first half.
Whitworth outgained Willamette 320-194 in the first two quarters and had a 3-2 edge in turnovers. The Bearcats scored their only touchdown of the first half when Mathew Castaneda completed a six-yard scoring pass to Jeremiah James, briefly cutting the lead to 8-6.
Ironically for Whitworth all-star receiver Garrett McKay, last season's contest marked the only time in his 41-game career that he didn't catch a pass.
Jarin Manuel led the Whitworth defense with 10 tackles, a fumble recovery and a pass deflection. Jack McLeod came up with his first career interception. Alex Stevenson led the Willamette defense with 13 tackles.
Coming up next: Whitworth will find out when and where it will open the NCAA Division III playoffs when the selections are announced on Sunday afternoon. Pirate fans can join the team when they gather at the Robinson Teaching Theater in Weyerhaeuser Hall at 2:00 pm.