Whitworth University returns to action this week after an early-season bye. The Pirates will host defending Southern California Intercollegiate Athletics Conference champion Chapman University at 1:00 pm in the Pine Bowl. It is the second game of the year for both teams and the first meeting between the schools since 2015. The game will be heard live in Spokane on KSBN 1230am and on the internet at KSBN.net. The radio broadcast will begin at 12:45 am (PDT).
Whitworth is coming off a 38-2 win over La Verne in the season opener on September 1st. The visiting Panthers rolled to a season-opening win in similar fashion, 36-6, over Pacific (Ore.) at home.
Live Links for Saturday's game:
Whitworth (1-0, 0-0 NWC)
Chapman (1-0, 0-0 SCIAC)
Saturday - Sept. 15
The Pirates: Whitworth earned a season-opening victory by keeping La Verne's offense off the scoreboard for a second straight year. The Pirates outgained the Leopards 459-255 and averaged 7.2 yards per play to only 3.1 yards per play for ULV. Whitworth has now won 12 of the 13 games between the schools.
Leif Ericksen completed 16 of 25 passes (64%) for 239 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. In the first quarter, he threw a 37-yard dart to Garrett McKay for a touchdown. Later, Ericksen scrambled out of trouble a hit Nick McGill for a 13-yard score in the second period. McKay caught six passes for 74 yards, while McGill had three grabs for 52 yards. Back up QB Connor Johnson was the Pirates' leading rusher with 86 yards on four carries. He broke free for a 76-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. Mason Elms ran for 63 yards on ten carries and scored twice, including the Pirates' first touchdown of the season.
The Whitworth defense harassed the La Verne offense all day, finishing with 16 tackles for loss and three sacks. Jaylen Gonzales and Kale Wong led the Whitworth defense with ten tackles apiece. Seven of Wong's stops were solo tackles, while Gonzales was in on three tackles for loss. Chad Wilburg made eight tackles and recovered a fumble. Gunnar Swannack made seven stops, including a seven-yard sack, and broke up a pass. Shai Pulawa and Colten Chelin each picked off a pass.
The biggest special teams play of the game occurred in the second quarter when offensive tackle Tyler Adamson broke through the line to block a 31-yard field goal attempt by La Verne's Diego Garcia. Meanwhile, Kevin Ramsey made his only field goal attempt in the third quarter. Ramsey also made all five extra points and averaged 37.4 yards per punt. Brett Moser returned the opening kickoff 37 yards.
La Verne's only points of the game came when Austin Brown sacked Johnson for a safety in the second quarter, making the score 21-2. However, that play was not a spark for the Leopards toward a comeback as the Whitworth defense held ULV to only 100 yards of offense and four first downs after halftime.
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 will be selected on a week-by-week basis. The 2018 special teams captains have been:
Sept. 1 – Andrew Knox
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.
Looking Back at 2017: Back-to-back subpar performances in the middle of the season were bookended by strong play to open and close the schedule. The Pirates finished 8-2 overall and 5-2 (tie for second) in the NWC. Whitworth won the first three games by a combined score of 148-23. The Bucs suffered a letdown in losses at Linfield (38-9) and at home to George Fox (43-23) the next two weeks. Whitworth responded with five straight victories to end the season, including a key victory at Pacific Lutheran without starting quarterback Ian Kolste.
Two Long Records: A pair of Pirate returnees set school records in 2017 with long touchdown runs. 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.
Great Hands Garrett: Garrett McKay comes into the season as one of the most prolific pass-catchers in Whitworth history. The two-time first team All-Northwest Conference honoree has caught 188 passes for 2,171 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 had caught at least one pass in 32 straight games until the 2017 season finale.
National rankings: Whitworth is listed among "others receiving votes" with four points in the current (Sept. 9) D3football.com poll.
NWC Poll: Whitworth finished third in the NWC coaches poll with 39 points behind Linfield (49) and George Fox (40). Linfield, aiming for a tenth straight title, picked up seven of eight first place votes. Whitworth received the only other first place vote.
On the Air Again: Whitworth's games will 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.
Two SWX Broadcasts: Local cable station SWX will carry two of Whitworth's games this season: the Homecoming game against Pacific Lutheran (Oct. 13), and the October 27 game against Pacific (Ore.). Sam Adams and Mike Peterson will provide play by play and color analysis. SWX stands for Sports & Weather Right Now and is owned by local NBC affiliate KHQ channel 6. SWX can be seen both over-the-air and through some cable services in the Spokane-Coeur d'Alene, Kennewick-Pasco-Richland, and Yakima viewership areas. In the Spokane-Coeur d'Alene area, SWX is found on digital channel 6.2, on Comcast channel 112 in Spokane and Time Warner channel 306 in North Idaho.
The Head Coach: Rod Sandberg has had a huge impact on the Pirate program in his first four years as head coach, posting a 31-10 record and leading the Bucs to the NCAA playoffs in year number two. He had 39 players earn All-Northwest Conference recognition since 2015. Whitworth's three-year record (25-6) from 2015-17 is the second-best three-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 Panthers: Chapman University rolled to the 2017 SCIAC championship with six straight league victories. It almost certainly would have been seven wins had winless Occidental College not cancelled it season after only three games. The Panthers finished 6-3 after falling to eventual Stagg Bowl participant Mary Hardin-Baylor in the opening round of the NCAA Division III playoffs. Head coach Bob Owens is 64-45 in his 13th season at Chapman. He has guided the Panthers to SCIAC titles in 2014 and 2017.
Chapman opened its season with a dominating 36-6 win over Northwest Conference-member Pacific University on September 1st. The Panthers sacked Pacific QBs eight times for 40 yards in losses and held the Boxers to a net of five rushing yards. Matt Layton had two of the sacks (-12 yards), while David Aarhus made 3.5 tackles for loss (-12 yards). On offense, QB Ian Fieber shredded the Pacific defense by completing 21 of 29 passes for 351 yards and five touchdowns without an interception. Fieber is a transfer from NCAA DII University of Sioux Falls, where he was the starting QB in 2017. WR Trevor Vill caught eight of the passes for 174 yards and two touchdowns.
The Series: Whitworth holds a 6-3 advantage in the all-time series and won the first meeting 49-22 in Spokane in 2000. The following year Whitworth began a march toward a Northwest Conference title with a season-opening 21-10 win over the Panthers in California. In 2008 the Pirates pulled out a close 41-35 decision on the road and in 2009 Whitworth defeated Chapman 23-8 in Spokane. Two of Chapman's wins have come in California – 16-14 in 2011 and 2013's 38-17 victory. The Panthers also won the last contest played at the Pine Bowl – 49-34 in 2014. Whitworth's largest margin of victory was a 37-7 victory in Orange in 2015. The Panthers' 21-point win in 2013 is their largest margin of victory.
Last Meeting: Whitworth controlled both sides of the line in a 37-7 win at Chapman on September 26, 2015 that ended a two-game losing streak to the Panthers.
The Pirates outgained the Panthers 486 – 340, nearly evenly split between rushing (224) and passing (262). It was the best rushing game for the Pirates since 241 yards on October 11, 2013 at Willamette. But the big difference came in the turnover department as Whitworth finished with a 5-0 edge.
The Pirate offensive line had its best game in its first two seasons under offensive coordinator Alan Stanfield. In addition to averaging 5.5 yards per carry, Whitworth did not have a single negative yardage play in the game. The offensive line did not give up a single sack and the Bucs did not go backwards on any of their 41 running plays. D3football.com named the Pirate offensive line to its Team of the Week.
Though Whitworth did not throw a touchdown pass for the first time in two seasons, the Bucs used the passing game to effectively control possession and gain first downs. The Pirates finished with a 29-17 edge in first downs, 16 of which came through the air. Ian Kolste completed 33 of 50 passes for 262 yards without an interception.
The Whitworth defense held Chapman without an offensive touchdown while scoring one of its own. Dalin McDonnell picked off two passes, the second of which he returned 43 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter. Panther returner Ethan Weinstein took back an 87-yard touchdown in the third quarter after Whitworth built a 37-0 lead.
Coming up next: Whitworth will host Linfield College on Saturday, Sept. 29th. It will be the Northwest Conference opener for both schools. The game will begin at 1:00 pm.