Thomas Runs for Three TDs as Whitworth Wins Opener

Ronnie Thomas celebrates his second of three touchdowns.
Ronnie Thomas celebrates his second of three touchdowns.

DULUTH, Minn. – Ronnie Thomas ran for 161 yards and three touchdowns to lead visiting Whitworth to a season-opening 28-13 win at College of St. Scholastica in a non-conference football game on Saturday afternoon at Public Schools stadium.

The win is the Pirates' first season-opening victory since a 22-13 win over La Verne in 2008.  The Saints saw their 14-game regular season winning streak come to an end.  CSS finished 10-0 during the regular season in 2011.

Thomas capped a 51-yard drive on Whitworth's first possession with a four-yard touchdown run.  He added a three-yard score in the second quarter for a 14-0 Pirate lead. 

Meanwhile the Pirate defense was shutting down the Saints' offense in the first half.  Whitworth held CSS to a total of 30 first half yards, including one rushing yard on ten carries.  Rob Geissler came up with a fumble recovery in the first quarter for the Bucs.

Thomas was a workhorse in the first half, rushing for 98 of his yards on 21 carries. 

Whitworth put the game away in the third quarter with touchdowns on its first two possessions after halftime.  Paul Miller set up the first score with a long kickoff return into Saints territory.  Thomas then finished off the drive with his third score of the game, from four yards out. 

St. Scholastica finally got some offensive push and drove inside the Whitworth five yard line midway through the third quarter.  But on fourth down Aaron Cochran got through for a sack that killed the drive.  The Pirates then drove 96 yards for a 28-0 lead.  Michael McCune, on in relief of starter Bryan Peterson at QB, found Jake DeGooyer open over the middle for a 33-yard touchdown pass.

St. Scholastica finally got on the board midway through the fourth quarter when Tyler Harber hit a pair of touchdown passes.  The first was a six-yarder to Spencer Specht with 6:43 to play.  The final one was a 20-yard pass to Nick Thiry with 1:27 to go.

A big fourth quarter against Whitworth's back ups on defense allowed the Saints to close the total offense gap to 359-249 by game's end.  The Pirates finished with a 223-93 edge on the ground as DJ Tripoli added 62 yards for the Bucs.

Whitworth will continue its three-game road swing to open the 2012 season with a game at Whittier College next Saturday afternoon.