Whitworth University returns home to take on its oldest football rival on Saturday when the Pirates host the University of Puget Sound in the Pine Bowl at 1:05 pm. The game televised regionally on SWX and will be heard live in Spokane on KSBN 1230am and on the world wide web at KSBN.net. The radio broadcast will begin at 12:45 pm.
The Pirates (4-2, 0-2 NWC) used a total team effort to win at Pacific Lutheran last Saturday. The Loggers (2-3, 1-2 NWC) are coming off of a 35-27 loss at Pacific (Ore.).
Live Links for Saturday's game:
Whitworth (4-2, 1-2 NWC)
Puget Sound (2-3, 1-2 NWC)
Saturday - Oct. 21
The Pirates: Whitworth pick up a tough road win at PLU, spoiling the Lutes' Homecoming with a 17-14 victory without record-setting QB Ian Kolste last Saturday. The Pirates won despite the fact that PLU finished with a 345-301 edge in total offense, a 35:08 – 24:52 advantage in time of possession and a 2-0 turnover margin. The defense shut out the Lutes after halftime and the offense creatively took advantage of scoring opportunities.
Leif Ericksen made the most of his first start at QB. He completed 14 of 21 passes for 116 yards. But it was his run on third and one with just over two minutes to play that gained a first down and allowed the Bucs to run out the clock that clinched the win. He finished with 42 rushing yards on five carries. Connor Johnson also saw action at QB and ran 19 yards for Whitworth's first score on his first career carry in the second quarter. Tailback Tariq Ellis had his best game as a Pirate as Whitworth went to a run-first offensive attack. He ran 13 times for 105 yards and it was his 60-yard burst for a TD in the third quarter that proved to be the game-winning score. Michael McKeown caught four passes for 44 yards and Nick Kiourkas extended his streak of games with at least one reception to 37 in a row. Kiourkas finished with three catches for 21 yards.
Brian Lee finished with a career-high nine tackles, while Chad Wilburg also had nine tackles and a pass break up to lead the defensive effort. Patch Kulp and Shai Pulawa had eight stops apiece. Kale Wong led the team with five solo tackles among his seven stops. One of Wong's tackles was an eight-yard sack and another was a three-yard tackle for loss. Ten different Pirates had at least five tackles in the game, demonstrating the complete team effort. One of the biggest plays of the game was a sack by P-Jay Solomon in the fourth quarter that moved the Lutes out of range to try a potential game-tying field goal.
A strong case can be made that Whitworth's Player of the Game was Rehn Reiley. His second quarter field goal of 36 yards provided the winning margin. But it was his punting that truly made the difference. He punted six times for an average of 45.2 yards to help the Pirates win the battle of field position. The Lutes had to begin drives inside their own redzone on four of his six punts.
Homecoming, Again: Whitworth played in its third straight Homecoming Game last Saturday at PLU. The Pirates were the Homecoming opponent at Linfield on September 30th. Whitworth hosted George Fox for its own Homecoming celebration on October 7th.
The Last Time…: Whitworth last lost back-to-back games was in 2014 when the Bucs fell 49-34 at home to Chapman on September 27th and 29-15 on the road at Pacific on October 4th in Rod Sandberg's first season as head coach. The Pirates went on to finish 6-4 that year, 4-3 in the NWC. Sandberg's Whitworth teams have never had a losing streak longer than two games.
Panama '18: The Whitworth football team will go to Panama in May of 2018. The trip will include a game against the Panama national football team, a service project in the rainforest, and several sightseeing opportunities including the Panama Canal. The NCAA allows teams to make an international trip in the off-season once every four years. Click here for more information.
Team Captains: The Pirate team captains in 2017 are Ian Kolste and Garrett McKay from the offense and Patch Kulp and Taylor Roelofs from the defense. A special teams captain will be selected on a week-by-week basis. The 2017 Special Teams captains have been:
Sept. 2 – John-Robert Woolley
Sept. 9 – Casey Bond
Sept. 16 – Kevin Thomas
Sept. 30 – Casey Bond
Oct. 7 – Chase Takaki
Oct. 14 – Rehn Reiley
Gunslinger: QB Ian Kolste has broken several career records at Whitworth. In the first half against La Verne on September 16th he surpassed Joel Clark's career records for passing yards (8,513) and touchdown passes (71). Kolste has passed for 9,098 yards and 73 touchdowns as a Pirate. Kolste also holds the Pirates' career record for completions (853) and total passes (1,283). Kolste is also within range of Clark's career record for total offense (9,656). Kolste has 9,454 total yards through five games of the 2017 season.
Kolste earned first team All-NWC and second team All-West Region (D3football.com) following the 2016 season. He set single-season school records for plays (552), total offense (3,831), pass attempts (488), pass completions (351) and passing yards (3,790). He tied the school record with 29 touchdown passes (with Joel Clark). Kolste set an NCAA DIII record for pass completions per game (35.1).
His availability for Saturday's game with Puget Sound will be determined late in the week.
I am Ironman: Taylor Roelofs has started all 37 games of his Pirate career to this point. The senior corner back has been a stalwart for the Whitworth defense. He has 146 tackles, seven interceptions and 38 passes defended over his three-plus seasons. Roelofs has been named second team All-Northwest Conference twice, as a sophomore and junior.
Going Streaking: Senior Nick Kiourkas has caught a pass in 37 straight games. He has caught at least one pass in every game of his Pirate career dating back to 2014, a remarkable streak of ability and consistency. Similarly, redshirt junior Garrett McKay has at least one catch in every game of his Whitworth career, which is 29 straight games and also dates back to the first game of 2014. McKay was injured in the second game of the 2014 season and was granted a medical hardship waiver by the NCAA.
Spreading the Wealth: Whitworth has a deep and capable receiving corps once again in 2017. Seventeen different Pirates have caught at least one pass so far this season, and 12 players have four catches or more. Nine different Pirates have caught a touchdown this season. Garrett McKay currently has the team lead with 36 receptions and 365 receiving yards. Kevin Thomas has caught four touchdowns.
Looking Back at 2016: Whitworth bounced back from a season-opening 50-49 overtime loss to Central to finish 8-2 overall and 6-1 in the NWC. The victory total included comeback wins at La Verne and Pacific Lutheran when the Bucs trailed by double digits in the fourth quarters of both games. Whitworth surpassed 50 points four times last season and set a school record for scoring average (45.9 points per game). The Pirates also set school records for passing yards (3,944) and total yards (5,262) in one year. Whitworth's only other loss came to nationally-ranked Linfield by a score of 45-31.
National rankings: Whitworth is listed among "Others receiving votes" in this week's D3football.com poll.
NWC Poll: Whitworth finished second in the NWC coaches poll with 42 points and one first place vote (coaches are not allowed to vote for their own school). Eight-time defending champion Linfield finished first in the poll with seven first place votes and 56 points. George Fox was third with 37 points. Link to NWC Football Coaches Poll.
On the Air Again: Whitworth's games are once again carried live this season on KSBN 1230am in Spokane. The relationship between Pirate athletics and KSBN goes back to 1994, a span of 23 years. Bud Nameck, familiar to listeners in Spokane as the host of the KXLY 920am Morning News, is in his second season as the voice of the Pirates in 2017. He was the voice of Washington State University men's basketball for 22 years, and spent that same amount of time on the Cougar football broadcasts – the final three on play by play. He is a longtime resident of the Inland Northwest who began his career as the Sports Information Director and radio voice of Gonzaga University basketball and baseball in the 1980s.
Two SWX Broadcasts: Local cable station SWX will carry two of Whitworth's games this season: this week's game against Puget Sound and previously the Homecoming game against George Fox (Oct. 7). Sam Adams and Mike Peterson 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 112 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.
The Head Coach: Rod Sandberg has had a huge impact on the Pirate program in his first three years as head coach, posting a 23-8 record and leading the Bucs to the NCAA playoffs in year number two. He had 28 players earn All-Northwest Conference recognition in 2015 and 2016. Sandberg spent 19 seasons on the defensive staff at Wheaton College (Ill.), including the last 11 as defensive coordinator. Wheaton made the NCAA Division III playoffs five times during Sandberg's tenure as defensive coordinator. The team never lost a first round playoff game and reached the Division III semifinals in 2008 and quarterfinals in 2003. Sandberg's 2007 and 2013 squads led the Collegiate Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin, regarded as one of the strongest football leagues at the Division III level, in scoring defense. The Thunder were second in the league in scoring defense five other times.
The Loggers: The University of Puget Sound comes into Saturday 2-3 overall and 1-2 in the NWC. The Loggers looked very good in dominating wins over Occidental and Lewis & Clark this season. Their two NWC losses have come at PLU (23-13) and last weekend at Pacific (35-28).
Jeff Thomas is in his eighth season as head coach at Puget Sound. His overall record is 18-50, but the Loggers are 15-17 under Thomas since the beginning of 2014. Thomas previously served several roles on the staff at Redlands, his alma mater, from 2003-09.
Puget Sound has scored 32.2 points per game this season and averaged 404.8 yards of offense. Much of that offense has come through the air (287.6 yards per game). The Loggers have allowed 22.0 points and 302.2 yards per game.
Senior quarterback Tanner Diebold has taken over as the starter this season after serving the last two years as the primary backup. He has completed 53.5% of his throws for 1,356 yards with 10 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Senior WR Dustin Harrison has caught 30 of those passes for 358 yards and a score. Junior WR Collin Heimbach leads the squad with three TD receptions. Sophomores Vance Wood and Paul Thomas split time at running back. They have combined for 297 yards and eight touchdowns on the ground. On defense, sophomore defensive end Bradon Ash leads the NWC with five sacks (totaling 22 yards) this season. Sophomore corner back Jason Clayton has 20 solo tackles among his 24 stops.
Last week the Loggers dropped a back-and-forth contest at Pacific (Ore.) by a score of 35-27. Puget Sound took a 21-14 lead at halftime, but fell behind 35-21 in the fourth quarter. The Loggers got within 35-27 and recovered a fumble inside the Pacific 20 yard line with 7:14 to play. But a throw to the endzone on the very next play was intercepted by the Boxers and Puget Sound was unable to threaten a tying touchdown the rest of the way. Diebold finished the game 12 of 37 for 173 yards with one TD and two interceptions. Harrison caught six passes for 129 yards and Heimbach had the lone TD reception (19 yards). Wood ran for 67 yards and two touchdowns. Clayton led the defense with eight solo tackles, while back up DB Matt Ahnin added seven tackles and recovered a fumble.
The Series: Puget Sound is Whitworth's oldest and longest running football rival. Whitworth's first official collegiate game was a 6-0 victory over the College of Puget Sound in 1904 (when Whitworth was located near Tacoma, Washington). The teams have played each other 68 times since then. The Pirates hold a 42-25-1 edge in the series with the Loggers and Whitworth has won the last 21 meetings. The biggest Pirate win in the series was 70-11 in 2012. The biggest Logger win (41-0) came in 1967. Puget Sound last defeated Whitworth in 1995 by a score of 48-35 in Tacoma. The Loggers' last win in Spokane was in 1994 (18-7).
Last Year: Puget Sound held an almost-100-yard advantage in total offense (606-508) and a six-minute edge in time of possession (33:08 – 26:52), but it was Whitworth that came away with a 24-point margin of victory in last season's 56-32 win over the Loggers during Homecoming and Hall of Fame Day at the Pine Bowl. The Pirates earned their 21st consecutive victory over Puget Sound.
Duke DeGaetano ran for 109 yards and three touchdowns on 17 carries (6.4 yards per carry). Garrett McKay had an explosive day catching the ball, finishing with ten receptions for 169 yards. He caught an 84-yard touchdown pass on Whitworth's second possession, then broke free for a 19-yard scoring pass to post the game-clinching TD in the fourth quarter. Nick Kiourkas also caught a touchdown for the Bucs, while Kevin Thomas caught a two-point conversion and four other passes for 64 yards. Ian Kolste completed 31 of 40 passes (78%) for 355 yards with three TDs and no interceptions.
The Whitworth defense stiffened in the second half and allowed only one touchdown. That final TD came only after the Pirates had extended their lead to 56-24 midway through the fourth quarter. Patch Kulp was in on ten stops, while Taylor Roelofs had seven tackles and intercepted a pass at midfield that also led to a Whitworth touchdown. Roelofs also broke up three other passes.
The play of the game came in the first quarter when Jordan Pride broke free on a 97-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. That was the Bucs' first kickoff return for a touchdown since Brett Moser returned a kick 94 yards for a score against Willamette on October 11, 2014. Pride's touchdown was Whitworth's longest kickoff return since Joel Robnett returned one 100 yards for a score against Chapman on Sept. 16, 2000. Rehn Reiley averaged 45.7 yards per punt, but his best effort came when he snagged a high snap with one hand while avoiding the UPS rush to get a punt away.
Coming up next: Whitworth will make the first of two consecutive trips to Oregon for a game at Pacific University next Saturday at 1:00 pm in Forest Grove.