SPOKANE, Wash. – Senior quarterback Ian Kolste made a successful return from an ankle injury to lead Whitworth to a 38-23 win over visiting Puget Sound and set his team's career record for total offense along the way.
Kolste, who was injured on October 7th against George Fox and missed all of the following week's win at Pacific Lutheran, completed 20 of 32 passes for 224 yards with three touchdowns and one interception in two quarters of play, leading the Pirates to a 31-7 halftime lead.
Kolste's 224 yards of offense in the first half give him 9,678 for his career, surpassing the old Whitworth record of 9,656 set by Joel Clark from 2003-06.
Whitworth (5-2 overall, 2-2 NWC) led 38-7 on its way to a second straight conference win. Puget Sound (2-4, 1-3) scored two late touchdowns to trim the final margin.
Mason Elms set up the Pirates' first score with a 52-yard run up the middle on his team's first play from scrimmage. Three plays later Kolste hit Garrett McKay with a five-yard touchdown pass for a quick 7-0 Whitworth lead.
Rehn Reiley's 39-yard field goal on the first play of the second quarter increased the margin to 10-0.
Puget Sound cut the margin to 10-7 when Paul Thomas broke a tackle and ran six yards for a touchdown. That run came two plays after Tanner Diebold completed a 49-yard pass to Jewell Day.
The Loggers intercepted Kolste on their own 22 yard line and hoped to build momentum. But Whitworth forced a quick three-and-out. It took the Pirates only two plays to increase the lead as Tariq Ellis broke free for a 50-yard touchdown run to give the Bucs a 17-7 lead with just under 10 minutes to play in the half. It was the second long TD run in as many weeks for Ellis.
Patch Kulp set up the next Whitworth score when he intercepted Diebold's pass, which was deflected by Taylor Roelofs, while he was lying on his back at the Puget Sound 42 yard line. Six plays later Kolste passed to Elms coming out of the backfield and Elms ran the 13 yards into the endzone for a 24-7 lead.
Roelofs got his own interception on the Whitworth 35 yard line with 52 seconds left in the first half, giving the Pirates another shot at more points before halftime. Kolste directed an eight-play drive, despite heavy pressure from the Loggers' constant blitzing. Kolste found Michael McKeown for a two-yard TD pass with five seconds to play in the half for a 31-7 lead at the break.
Whitworth outgained Puget Sound 338-241 in the first half, despite the fact that the Loggers had a 19:36 – 10:24 edge in time of possession.
Pirate coaches elected to keep Kolste out of the game in the second half. Whitworth moved the ball effectively on the ground and managed to control the clock better after halftime. Freshman Connor Johnson ran nine yards for a score for the Pirates' only touchdown of the second half, giving his squad a 38-7 lead in the third quarter.
Andrew Dunn scored the second Puget Sound touchdown on his second rushing attempt from the one yard line later in the third. A two-point conversion cut the margin to 38-15.
The Loggers' final score came with 3:03 to play in the 4th quarter. Diebold threw a seven-yard touchdown pass to Dustin Harrison, then hit Harrison with a two-point conversion pass for the last points of the game.
Whitworth threw only five passes after halftime as the running game took center stage. Elms finished with a career-best day, gaining 144 rushing yards on 18 carries. He also caught the 13-yard TD pass. Ellis ran for 54 yards on six attempts, while Griffin Hare gained 39 yards rushing.
Kevin Thomas led Whitworth's receivers with six catches for 93 yards. McKeown also caught six passes for 51 yards, while McKay finished with five for 57 yards. Nick Kiourkas caught a pass in the first half that stretched his run of games with at least one reception to 38 in a row.
Roelofs had his best game of the season for the Pirate defense. He had nine solo tackles, forced a fumble, intercepted one pass and broke up two others. Kulp finished with eight tackles and added two pass deflections to his interception.
Diebold completed 30 of 51 passes for 347 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions for Puget Sound. He also led the team with 50 rushing yards on 14 carries. Harrison caught 13 of Diebold's passes for 115 yards and a score. Max Washam led the Loggers' defense with 13 tackles and a forced fumble.
Whitworth will be back in action next Saturday with the first of two straight trips to Oregon with a game at Pacific University in Forest Grove.