PUYALLUP, Wash. – Tariq Ellis ran 60 yards for the go-ahead touchdown in the third quarter and the Whitworth defense did not allow a point after halftime as the visiting Pirates came away with a 17-14 Northwest Conference football win on Saturday at Pacific Lutheran.
Whitworth overcame the absence of record-setting QB Ian Kolste with a total team effort to end a two-game losing streak. The Pirates improved to 4-2 overall and 1-2 in the NWC.
Leif Ericksen started at quarterback for Whitworth and finished with 154 yards of total offense. He completed 14 of 21 passes for 112 yards with two interceptions. He ran for 42 yards, including a third down conversion with under two minutes to play that clinched the win.
Freshman Connor Johnson also saw action at QB for the Bucs and it was his 19-yard run in the second quarter that gave Whitworth a 7-0 lead. That score capped a 56-yard drive.
The Lutes (1-3, 1-2 NWC) tied the game 7-7 on a 9-yard run by Cole Chandler. Rehn Reiley's 36-yard field goal gave the Pirates a 10-7 lead, but the Lutes took a 14-10 lead into halftime thanks to Chandler's 48-yard touchdown pass to DJ Winter.
But that was it for PLU. The Lutes were able to move the ball all game, but the Pirate defense held PLU off of the scoreboard during two 4th quarter drives that went deep into Whitworth territory. The first ended in a missed field goal and the second was stopped on fourth down.
The Lutes ended the game with a 345-314 advantage in total offense, but could not turn that advantage to points after halftime.
That allowed the touchdown run by Ellis midway through the third quarter to be the game-winning score. Thanks to good blocking at the line of scrimmage, Ellis was able to run straight up the middle and outpace the PLU secondary to the endzone.
Ellis finished the game with 100 yards on 13 carries to lead all ball carriers.
Whitworth was able to control field position in the second half thanks to the strong punting of Rehn Reiley, who finished with an average of 45.2 yards per kick on six punts. It was a 51-yard Reiley punt that pinned the Lutes inside their own ten yard line to start their final possession. The Whitworth defense then forced a three-and-out.
The Pirates took over at midfield with just over five minutes remaining in the game and PLU never got the ball back. Because the Lutes had to burn all of their timeouts earlier in the half, Whitworth was able to convert three first downs into a game-ending drive. The final first down came on 3rd and one at the PLU 26 with 2:06 to play. Ericksen faked a handoff and carried straight up the middle for 25 yards, ending just short of the endzone. Instead of trying to pound in a final score, Whitworth elected to kneel down three times to end the game.
The Pirates were able to win the game despite a 2-0 deficit in turnovers. Brian Lee and Chad Wilburg led the defensive effort with nine tackles each. Shai Pulawa and Patch Kulp both had eight stops. Kale Wong had an eight yard sack, while PJ Solomon had a seven yard sack that moved the Lutes out of field goal range in the fourth quarter.
Kolste, who sprained his ankle on October 7th against George Fox, will be week to week.
Whitworth returns to action next Saturday by hosting Puget Sound at 1:05 pm in the Pine Bowl. The game will be televised on SWX.