TACOMA, Wash. -- Ronnie Thomas ran for two touchdowns in the final six minutes to lead visiting Whitworth to a late 40-34 win at Puget Sound in the Northwest Conference football finale for both schools on Saturday afternoon at Baker Stadium.
Thomas ran for 153 yards on 27 carries and scored three touchdowns to lift the Pirates (4-6 overall, 3-3 NWC) to victory.
Whitworth won three of its last four games following a 1-5 start, and the only loss was by four points last Saturday to fifth-ranked Linfield.
The teams traded leads throughout the game. Puget Sound (0-9, 0-6) drove the length of the field on the opening possession to take a 7-0 lead following a four-yard pass from Braden Foley to Adam Kniffen.
Whitworth tied the game on DJ Tripoli's nine-yard run late in the first quarter.
Following a one-yard run by Puget Sound's Kapuno Park, Thomas scored from a yard out to tie the game at 14-14.
Whitworth took its first lead when Bryan Peterson threw a six-yard scoring pass to tight end Kasey Lambert. It was Lambert's second touchdown catch in as many games.
But the Loggers pulled within 21-20 just before halftime when Foley found wide receiver Adam Kniffen in the endzone from 17 yards away.
The game took a dramatic turn against Whitworth in the opening minutes of the third quarter. Peterson was picked off on the Pirates' first play of the half. Then Foley threw a 35-yard touchdown to Myles McDonald on the Loggers' first play and suddenly UPS had taken a 27-21 lead less than 30 seconds into the second half.
Tripoli set up Whitworth's next score with a 37-yard kick-off return and Sean Scott finished off a 51-yard drive with a four yard touchdown run to put the Pirates back ahead 28-27.
But Puget Sound came right back to take its last lead of the game when Foley connected on a 14-yard scoring strike to Ryan Rogers to complete a 57-yard drive. UPS led 34-28 with five minutes left in the third quarter.
That's when the Whitworth defense finally took control of the game. After giving up almost 300 yards and five touchdowns in less than three quarters of play, the Pirate defense held the Loggers without any points on their final four possessions and UPS had only 69 yards total in those four drives.
Whitworth appeared to be driving for a score early in the fourth quarter, but Thomas was stopped on fourth and one at the Loggers' 34 yard line. But Thomas was undaunted and he broke free for a 17-yard touchdown run on the Bucs' next drive to tie the game at 34-34. The extra point was blocked and the game remained tied with 5:57 to play.
Puget Sound did not threaten on its next possession and Whitworth took over at its 25 yard line with 4:51 to play. Seven plays later Thomas broke free for a 37-yard touchdown to give Whitworth back the lead. But for the second time the PAT was no good and Whitworth led 40-34 with 1:49 to play, giving Puget Sound a chance to win the game on its final drive.
But the Whitworth defense was up to the task one final time, allowing only one first down before holding the Loggers on downs just inside Pirate territory. Fernando Noriega knocked away Foley's pass attempt for Lukas Diesing on fourth down.
Whitworth outgained UPS 376-348 and had a 24-18 edge in first downs. The Pirates ran for 203 yards, and five touchdowns with Thomas doing most of the damage on the ground.
Peterson completed 17 of 28 passes for 173 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Jake DeGooyer caught nine passes for 95 yards, while Lambert finished with two catches for 35 yards.
Foley completed 25 of 38 passes for 244 yards with four touchdowns and one interception for UPS. Kniffen caught 13 passes for 120 yards and two scores. The Logger running game had struggled all season, but Park ran for 70 yards on 17 attempts.
Cailen Thomason had six tackles for Whitworth, while freshman linebacker Grant Livingston made five stops, including one for loss, and picked off a pass in the second half to help keep the Pirates within one touchdown. Scott Carr had four solo tackles and a fumble recovery, while Paul Miller made four solo stops and broke up three passes.