It is Homecoming weekend, figuratively and literally for the Whitworth football team. The 5-0 Pirates will host Willamette in a battle of unbeaten teams on Saturday in only the second home game of the 2012 season. And Whitworth will be celebrating its annual Homecoming and Hall of Fame festivities this weekend as well. The game will kick off at 1:00 p.m. and be televised live in Eastern Washington and North Idaho on SWX, and heard live in Spokane on KSBN 1230am and on the internet on KSBN.net.
At 5-0 the Pirates have already surpassed their entire win total from last season. The unbeaten start is Whitworth's best since 2006 when the Bucs went 10-0 during the regular season. Willamette is 4-0 and the Bearcats are just outside of this week's D3football.com top-25 poll. This game is Willamette's NWC opener.
Live Links for Saturday's game:
Whitworth (5-0, 1-0 NWC)
Willamette (4-0, 0-0 NWC)
Saturday - Oct. 6
The Pirates: Whitworth controlled the clock, controlled the field position and dominated the statistics, but had trouble putting away Pacific University in a 28-25 victory over the Boxers last Saturday at Lincoln Park Stadium in Forest Grove, Ore.
The Pirates finished with a 453-300 advantage in total yards and a 35:35 – 24:25 edge in time of possession. The Bucs' average starting field position in the second half was their own 42-yard line. Yet Whitworth had to survive an on-sides kick attempt with two minutes to play.
Bryan Peterson had his biggest day yet as a Pirate quarterback. He completed 17 of 25 passes for a career-high 354 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. Jake DeGooyer caught eight of those passes for 144 yards and one touchdown. Wade Meyer finished with four catches for a career-high 134 yards. Austin Ehlo caught his first touchdown pass of the season and Connor Williams caught his second TD of the year. Ronnie Thomas had another solid game with 134 yards on 35 carries with a touchdown – his eighth of the season.
The Whitworth defensive effort can be seen in the following numbers: Pacific had 11 offensive possessions on Saturday (not including a kneel-down at the end of the first half). The Boxers scored on four of those possessions. On the other seven possessions they did not even get a single first down. Nic Brockhoff led the team with eight tackles, while Paul Miller had seven stops – three of which went for loss. Drew Powell had six tackles and Kainoa Raguindin intercepted his second pass of the season.
Robert Thullen made all four of his PAT tries while Paul Miller averaged 21 yards per kickoff return.
Hall of Fame: Whitworth is inducting two individuals and one team as the class of 2012 in the Heritage Gallery Hall of Fame. James "Pat" Evans ('52) was a student athletic trainer who went on to renown in the field of sports medicine with the Dallas Cowboys and the Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association. Jan Okada ('97) was a 12-time NAIA All-American in swimming and part of the first-ever NAIA-champion Whitworth relay. The 2005 men's soccer team advanced to the NCAA Division III final four. They will be introduced at halftime of Saturday's game, following the official induction ceremony that morning.
Prime Time Ronnie: Ronnie Thomas is having another outstanding season running the ball for the Pirates. He leads the NWC, and ranks among NCAA Division III leaders, in total yards rushing (673), yards rushing per game (134.6), and rushing touchdowns (8). He currently ranks 15th in Division III in rushing yards per game and is tied for 34th in scoring. He currently has a streak of seven consecutive games with more than 100 yards rushing, dating back to the final two games of 2011.
Perhaps his most impressive statistic is this one – in five games and over the course of 147 carries, Thomas has not fumbled.
Last season Thomas led the NWC in rushing and rushing touchdowns, earning First Team All-Northwest Conference honors.
Great Start: Whitworth's 5-0 start is the team's first since 2006. But a closer look reveals an even more impressive fact. Only three times in school history had Whitworth begun a season with three consecutive road games. The Pirates have now won all three of those games twice, this year and in 1955 when Whitworth went 9-0 in the midst of a 20-game winning streak.
Great Start – Part 2: Whitworth has been especially strong out of the gate this season, both on offense and defense. The Pirates have outscored opponents by a combined 41-7 in the first quarter of the five contests.
Seriously?: Whitworth's schedule-maker didn't do the Pirates any favors in 2012. The Pirates will have to face a well-rested opponent seven times this fall. All three of the Pirates' first opponents were playing their first game of the season. The rest of the way Whitworth faces an opponent coming off of a bye four times: Sept. 22 against Chapman, Oct. 13 at Linfield, Oct. 20 against Puget Sound and Nov. 10 against Lewis & Clark.
Out for the season: The list of players lost to season-ending injuries continues to lengthen. On defense the Pirates have lost FS Fernando Noriega (broken ankle), LB Ryan Loutsis (knee), LB Tevin Tyus (broken ankle) and safety Sean McNealey (knee). On offense the Pirates saw OL Greg Vibbert (broken ankle) go out in the game at La Verne.
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 almost 20 years. Bob Castle, whose voice has become synonymous with Whitworth athletics on the radio, is back as the voice of the Pirates in 2012-13. Bob has called Whitworth games for the past 12 seasons, as well as in 1997-98. Bob has 20 years in radio and his experience as a sports broadcaster includes stints as the voice of Spokane Indians Baseball, Gonzaga University baseball and Washington State women's basketball.
Four SWX Broadcasts: Local cable station SWX will carry all of Whitworth's games this season: The home opener vs. Chapman (Sept. 22), the Hall of Fame/Homecoming game vs. Willamette (Oct. 6), and the regular season finale against Lewis & Clark (Nov. 10) will both be shown live, while the Oct. 20th game against Puget Sound will be shown on a delayed basis following an Eastern Washington game. 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 115 in Spokane and Time Warner channel 306 in North Idaho. Click here for a complete list of station numbers throughout the Eastern Washington/North Idaho region.
Team Captains: The Pirate team captains in 2012 are offensive lineman Liam Brown, running back Ronnie Thomas and linebacker Scott Carr. Brown and Thomas are first time captains, while Carr served in that role last season.
Looking Back at 2011: Whitworth finished 4-6 after starting the season 1-5. Of the five losses in the first six games, two came on field goals on the last play of the game. Two were by a single touchdown. Then the young team found itself and won three of its final four contests – including a double-overtime victory at Willamette. The lone loss in that final stretch was 42-38 against highly-ranked Linfield. Ronnie Thomas (running back) and Austin Ehlo (punter) were named First Team All-NWC.
NWC Poll: Whitworth finished third in the NWC preseason coaches poll with 26 points, three points behind second place Pacific Lutheran. Whitworth got one first place vote, while defending champion Linfield finished first in the poll with the other six first place votes. Link to NWC Football Coaches Poll.
Racking Up the Miles: Whitworth opened the season with three long road trips in 2012. The Pirates flew more than 6,250 miles over the course of the first three weeks of the season following trips to Minnesota and California (twice) .
Vs. California: The Pirates have won 27 of the last 36 against schools from the Golden State and are 30-17-1 all-time against Californian colleges. The Bucs are 14-5-1 at home against California schools and 16-12 on the road. Whitworth played three this season and earned victories over Whittier (away), La Verne (away) and Chapman (home).
The Head Coach: John Tully is in his 18th season as head coach of the Pirates with a 94-74 record at Whitworth. He has led the Pirates to an 81-40 record over the past 12+ 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 124-95 in his 22nd season as a head coach. He previously was head coach at Eureka College in Illinois.
|Last Week's Game:||Whitworth 28, at Pacific (Ore.) 25||Box Score||Wrap up|
|This Week's Game:||Oct. 6 vs. Willamette||1:00 pm||Whitworth Pine Bowl|
|Next Week's Game:||Oct. 13 at Linfield||1:30 pm||McMinnville, Ore.|
The Bearcats: Willamette is 4-0 for the first time since 2008, when the Bearcats went 10-0 during the regular season. The Bearcats are coming off of a 28-24 win at Sewanee (Tenn.) in which they rallied from a 24-14 second-half deficit. Willamette is also in its first year under new head coach Glen Fowles, who moved up from Offensive Coordinator after former longtime coach Mark Speckman moved to Menlo College in California.
In the win at Sewanee Josh Dean passed to Mike Hernandez four yards for a touchdown with just over six minutes to play for the winning score. Dean completed 28 of 38 passes for 356 yards with four touchdowns and one interception. Jake Turner caught six of the passes for 87 yards, while Jake Knecht had five receptions for 81 yards, including two touchdowns. Dylan Jones ran for 69 yards on 14 attempts. Wes Wenzel led the Bearcats' defense with 10 tackles, while safety Cody Pastorino had eight stops and an interception.
As a team Willamette leads the NWC in scoring average (43.8 ppg), yards per game (528.2) and passing yards per game (394.2). Dean, a junior, has completed 69% of his passes for 1,483 yards with 18 touchdowns and three interceptions. Turner has 28 catches for 471 yards and four scores, while Knecht has 26 receptions for 303 yards and four touchdowns. Jones has run for 304 yards and three touchdowns. Wenzel is tied with Cullen Carroll for the team lead in tackles with 23. Pastorino leads the Bearcats with four interceptions this season.
Last Meeting: The Pirates went to overtime in a game against Willamette for the fourth time in the last ten years , pulling out a dramatic 25-24 double overtime contest last season in Salem, Oregon. Bryan Peterson threw a 25-yard touchdown pass to Austin Ehlo on the Bucs' final play from scrimmage - then Peterson hit Ehlo again for the winning two-point conversion.
Regulation was dominated by defense. The teams were tied 10-10 heading to the overtime periods. The Whitworth defense forced five consecutive Willamette punts in the second half before the Bearcats kicked a 29-yard field goal on the final play of regulation to force overtime.
Ryan Loutsis led all players with 13 tackles, including two for loss. Nic Brockhoff made five tackles, including a sack on Willamette's last possession to force the field goal, and also recovered a fumble on the Bearcats' first play from scrimmage. Austin Ehlo's punting also made a huge impact, especially in the second half. He averaged 41.4 yards on seven punts, but his final thee went for 68, 39 and 56 yards, changing the field position in favor of the Pirates. Ronnie Thomas ran for 77 yards on 24 carries. He scored Whitworth's first touchdown in overtime. Peterson completed 8 of 15 passes for 95 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. He also was credited with 46 yards on 18 rushes with a touchdown and a fumble. But his running had a bigger impact when the three sacks for 33 yards are taken out. Ehlo finished with four receptions for 83 yards and a score.
The Series: Willamette is Whitworth's second-oldest continuing rival. The teams first met on the field in 1908 and Whitworth won 18-0. The biggest Pirate win in the series was 46-0 in 1983. The biggest Bearcat victory was 67-0 in 1912. Willamette holds a 31-18 edge in the all-time series. Whitworth and Willamette have gone to overtime four times in the last ten meetings and six of the games since 1998 have been decided by less than ten points. Whitworth's win in 2011 ended a three-game losing streak to the Bearcats.