SPOKANE, Wash. – Whitworth University turned four Pacific Lutheran turnovers into 24 points to run away with a 31-6 win over the visiting Lutes in a Northwest Conference football game on Saturday afternoon at the Pine Bowl.
The Pirates (5-2 overall, 4-1 NWC) bounced back from their first NWC loss in two seasons with a comfortable victory over PLU (1-6, 0-5). Whitworth has now won five straight against the Lutes.
After a scoreless first quarter, PLU was attempting to get on the scoreboard first. On first down at the Whitworth 42, Bryce Hornbeck made a diving interception of Bryce Missey's deep pass at the one yard line. That sparked the Pirate offense, which marched 99 yards for the game's first touchdown. Isaiah Cole scored from three yards away to cap a 12-play drive that was extended when Leif Ericksen passed 12 yards to Ethan Peloquin on third and 10 at the PLU 43.
Late in the second quarter Andrew McCoy sacked Missey inside the PLU ten, forcing a fumble that Iain Black recovered and returned to the Lutes' two yard line. Connor Johnson ran in from there for a 14-0 lead.
Hornbeck picked off his second pass of the game with only 1:15 to play in the half. He had a clear route to the endzone for a 78-yard interception return, but it was called back to the Whitworth 28 for holding. Nine plays later Noah Alejado kicked a career-best 43-yard field goal with four seconds to play for a 17-0 halftime lead.
Whitworth took a 24-0 lead midway through the third quarter when Ericksen hit Nick McGill for a 44-yard touchdown pass, capping an 83-yard drive that took only five plays.
Gunnar Swannack picked off Missey for Whitworth's third interception of the game and he returned the ball 56 yards for a defensive touchdown with 4:51 to play in the third quarter. There were no flags this time.
PLU avoided a shutout when back up QB Liam Nabors threw a one-yard touchdown pass to Jacob Revell with 3:58 to play in the game.
Whitworth outgained PLU only 400 – 381. The Lutes had a 21-19 edge in first downs and a nearly 14-minute advantage in time of possession. But the turnovers proved fatal to PLU's hopes.
Ericksen completed 26 of 43 passes for 328 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions in his return to the starting lineup. McGill caught six passes for 93 yards and the 44-yard touchdown. Taylor Kolste added five grabs for 51 yards. All told, 11 different Pirates caught a pass in the game.
Cole led Whitworth's running game with 40 yards on five carries. But the Pirates finished with only 72 net rushing yards.
Missey completed 19 of 33 passes for 162 yards with three interceptions and no touchdowns. He also lost a fumble on a sack. Wesley Nixon caught five passes for 64 yards.
Cody Brown carried 17 times for 86 yards for PLU. Marcus Wiley added 69 yards on 10 attempts.
Hornbeck led Whitworth's defense with eight solo tackles, in addition to his two interceptions. He also broke up another pass.
Whitworth will host NWC-leading Linfield College next Saturday in the Pine Bowl with an NCAA Division III bid on the line.