Whitworth will close the 2011 football season on Saturday at Puget Sound. It is the season finale for both teams and senior day for the Loggers. The game will kick off at 1:00 p.m. and will be heard live in Spokane on KSBN 1230am and on the internet on KSBN.net. (For all live coverage see the links below.).
Whitworth (3-6 overall, 2-3 NWC) pushed fifth-ranked Linfield to the edge before falling 42-38 last Saturday in the Pine Bowl. The Loggers (0-8 overall, 0-5 NWC) had last Saturday off and will have had two weeks to prepare for the Pirates.
A win would give Whitworth plenty of momentum heading into next season. After struggling through a 1-5 start, the Bucs have a chance to finish with three wins in their last four games in addition to a close loss against Linfield.
The Pirates: Heading into Saturday's game, Linfield had not allowed more than 14 points in any game all season and had given up a total of 19 points in the first half all year. But by halftime on Saturday Whitworth led 25-14 and seemed on the way to a monumental upset. However the Wildcats took control with 28 straight points and appeared on the verge of running away with the game in the fourth quarter. But the Pirates responded with two straight touchdowns of their own. If not for a clutch pass completion for a first down on third and 11 with just under two minutes to play, Whitworth would have gotten the ball back once more with a chance to win the game.
Bryan Peterson (Fr., QB, Spokane, Wash.) had a big day, completing 23 of 42 passes for 274 yards with five touchdowns and one interception. Austin Ehlo (Fr., WR, Spokane, Wash.) caught three first half touchdown passes and finished with seven receptions for 88 yards. Jake DeGooyer (Jr., WR, Yakima, Wash.) added seven catches for 76 yards. Both Kasey Lambert (Sr., TE, Longview, Wash.) and Kekoa Turbeville (So., WR, Pukalani, Hawaii) caught touchdown passes.
Ronnie Thomas (Jr., RB, Granite Bay, Ore.) was a study in patience. After struggling to gain yards against the tough Linfield defense for three quarters, he broke loose for 129 of his 156 yards in the fourth quarter, including a 78-yard run for a touchdown, the longest play from scrimmage the Wildcats have allowed this season.
In what has become a theme for the first year defensive back this season, Paul Miller (Fr., CB, Spokane, Wash.) had another big game for the Pirates. He led Whitworth with nine tackles (six solo) and intercepted a pass deep in Whitworth territory. Drew Powell (So., DE, Kennewick, Wash.) started a game for the first time and came up with six tackles and a fumble recovery. Jonathan Allen (Fr., DE, Kennewick, Wash.), playing on the other end, had seven solo tackles and forced a fumble. Cailen Thomason (Sr., DB, Vancouver, Wash.) broke up three passes.
Austin Ehlo averaged 39.1 yards on 10 punts.
A Mature Freshman: Bryan Peterson has emerged as Whitworth's starting QB this season. He is not the typical first-year starting quarterback. Bryan is already in his fourth year out of high school after playing three years of minor league baseball. He was drafted by the Boston Red Sox and reached the AA level before he decided to give up the sport professionally and return to school. During his high school playing days at West Valley he broke many of Mark Rypien's Spokane-area high school records. This season he has completed 64% of his passes for 1,247 yards with 13 touchdowns and five interceptions. His passing efficiency rating is 147.1, which ranks second in the NWC and 34th in the nation.
Prime Secondary: Whitworth's defensive secondary has been outstanding this season. Cailen Thomason leads the Northwest Conference with five interceptions and he is now tied for the league lead in passes defended with 11. Paul Miller is third in the NWC in passes broken up with 9, while Fernando Noriega (Jr., DB, El Monte, Calif.) is fifth in the conference with seven passes broken up.
Running Workhorse: Ronnie Thomas leads the Northwest Conference in rushing yards per game, averaging almost 99 yards per contest. He has already surpassed 100 yards rushing in a game four times - at Chapman and at home against Menlo, Pacific and now Linfield. He has scored eight rushing touchdowns this season, which is second in the NWC.
Playmakers: Jake DeGooyer leads the Pirates in receptions (49), which ranks fifth in the NWC, and receiving yards (662) and yards per game (73.6), which is fourth in the NWC. Austin Ehlo leads the team and is second in the league in touchdown receptions (9).
Team Captains: The Pirate team captains in 2011 are center Emilio Sulpizio, defensive end Ian Schneidmiller and linebacker Scott Carr. All are first time captains.
Sixty Minutes Not Enough: For the fourth time in the last ten meetings, Whitworth and Willamette went to overtime to decide the outcome of their game on October 29th. Whitworth defeated Willamette 44-31 in 2002 at the Pine Bowl (the Pirates scored, then returned an interception for a touchdown). The Bearcats won 40-34 at the Pine Bowl in 2005, a game that ended Whitworth's playoff hopes that season. The Pirates won 20-17 at Willamette in 2007. Saturday's game was the first time the outcome was decided in more than one overtime period. Since 1999 Whitworth is 6-3 in games that went to overtime.
Unhappy Streak: Whitworth's four-game losing streak earlier this season was its first in many years. The last time Whitworth lost four consecutive games was in 1999 when the team finished with a record of 5-5.
Tough Schedule: Whitworth's six losses have come against teams with a combined overall record of 32-13. None of those losses have been by more than ten points and the average margin of defeat has been 5.6 points in those games.
Looking Back at 2010: Whitworth finished 5-5 overall and 3-3 in the NWC (fourth place). The Pirates avoided their first losing season since 1997 with a 63-35 win over Puget Sound in the season finale. Adam Anderson (TB) and Zack Clow (P) were named First Team All-NWC and selected to the D3football.com All-Region team.
NWC Poll: Whitworth finished fourth in the NWC preseason coaches poll with 20 points, six points behind Pacific Lutheran. Defending champion Linfield finished first, while Willamette was second. Link to NWC Football Coaches Poll.
Home-Friendly Schedule: After playing only four home contests in 2010, Whitworth gets six games in the friendly confines of the Pine Bowl in 2011. Whitworth enjoyed four straight home games over a five week period from September 10th until October 8th. Whitworth last had a similar home stretch in 1999.
The Opponents: Puget Sound is another team looking to make a statement by closing the 2011 season on a positive note with a win in the season finale. The Loggers are 0-8 this season (0-5 in the NWC) and hope very much to avoid their second winless season since 2009. Puget Sound leads the league in passing yards per game, averaging 319.8 yards through the air per contest. And the Loggers have not played since Oct. 29, getting an extra week to prepare for the Pirates.
Freshman Braden Foley has taken over as the starting QB. He has completed just over 55% of his passes for 1,024 yards with seven touchdowns and six interceptions. The favorite target is junior WR Adam Kniffen, who in only his third season has already broken Logger career records for touchdowns and receptions. He has caught 82 passes with ten touchdowns this year. Fellow WR Thiesen Chang is also a favorite target of Logger quarterbacks. Senior LB Tyler Vlasek leads UPS, and the NWC, with 83 total tackles this season. Freshman DB Connor Savage has three interceptions.
Puget Sound fell 44-25 at Pacific (Ore.) on October 29th. Foley completed 29 of 50 passes for 327 yards with three touchdowns and one interception. Chang caught 10 of those passes for 142 yards. Defensive back Cody Petro-Sakuma led his team with 13 tackles, including a 13-yard sack.
Last Season: Whitworth rolled to season highs in points scored, total offense (596) and rushing offense (310) during the season-ending victory over the Loggers. It was the Pirates' 15th consecutive win in the series, which dates back to 1904. Former Pirate record-setting RB Adam Anderson closed out his outstanding career in remarkable fashion, despite playing on a heavily-taped sprained ankle. He ran for 224 yards on 20 carries (11.2 yards per rush) and scored six rushing touchdowns to tie his own single-game school record. Anderson also connected with WR Jake DeGooyer on a 74-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter. Midway through the fourth quarter, Anderson broke free on a 29-yard run. In doing so he surpassed the Whitworth career rushing record of 3,318 yards set by Mark Linden from 1988-90. Anderson ended the game with 3,338 career rushing yards. DeGooyer caught five passes for 119 yards and two scores. Scott Carr (Jr., LB, Rathdrum, Idaho) had one of three Whitworth interceptions, returning his 95 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter. His touchdown return was the second longest in school history, only behind Tom Shanholtzer's 97 yard return against Pacific Lutheran in 1986. Sam Wright (So., DT, Spokane, Wash.) had two sacks for 19 yards in his best game of last year.
The Series: Puget Sound is Whitworth's oldest and longest running rival. Whitworth's first official collegiate game was a 6-0 victory over the College of Puget Sound in 1904 (when Whitworth was located in Lacey, Washington). The teams have played each other 61 times since then. The Pirates hold a 36-25-1 edge in the series with the Loggers and Whitworth has won the last 15 meetings. The biggest Pirate win in the series was 45-0 in 1908. The biggest Logger win (41-0) came in 1967. Puget Sound last defeated Whitworth in 1995, John Tully's first year as head coach, by a score of 48-35 in Tacoma. The last time the teams played in Tacoma Whitworth came away with a 24-15 win in 2009.
The Coaches: John Tully is in his 17th season as head coach of the Pirates and has an 88-74 record at Whitworth. He has led the Pirates to a 75-40 record over the past 11+ years and has been named the NWC Coach of the Year three times (2001, 2006 and 2007). Tully is the winningest coach in school history, as well as the longest serving Pirate football coach. Prior to his arrival, Whitworth had suffered through 11 losing seasons in 12 years. Overall he is 119-95 in his 21 seasons as a head coach.
Jeff Thomas is in his second season as head coach at Puget Sound. He previously was an assistant at Redlands (Calif.) where he served separate terms as both the offensive and defensive coordinator. He was the 2009 AFCA Division III Assistant Coach of the Year.
Coach Tully's Quotes:
On the game with Linfield: "That was just a tremendous college football game. Both teams made big plays throughout the game. Of course we are disappointed we didn't win, but I thought our guys played very well on offense and defense. At times the defense had seven freshmen and three sophomores out there and hung in very well. The offense played at a high level and they continue to improve every week."
On what to expect from Puget Sound: "They continue to compete hard every week. They will spread it out on offense and challenge our secondary. We want to continue our process of getting better as a football team as we finish out the season."