FOREST GROVE, Ore. – A ten-point swing over a 30-second span at the end of the third quarter proved to be the difference for visiting Whitworth in a 30-20 win at Pacific University in a Northwest Conference football contest on Saturday afternoon.
Trailing 23-13, the host Boxers lined up for a field goal that would cut the margin to a single touchdown. But the snap was mishandled and the Pirates stopped the deperation pass for an eight-yard loss. Two plays later Mason Elms burst through the line for an 87-yard touchdown run to give Whitworth a 30-13 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
Thanks to Elms and 209 team rushing yards, the Pirates improved to 6-2 overall and 3-2 in the NWC with their third straight win. Elms finished with 152 yards on 16 carries and two touchdowns. Tariq Ellis ran for 56 yards on six attempts.
Garrett McKay provided the other big play for the Bucs with an 82-yard punt return for a touchdown in the second quarter. Rehn Reiley made three of his four field goal attempts and converted a fake field goal near the end of the game that allowed Whitworth to run out the clock.
Ian Kolste played the entire game at quarterback with an injured ankle. He completed 28 of 42 passes for 240 yards. He did not throw a touchdown or an interception. Michael McKeown caught seven passes for 49 yards, while McKay had six grabs for 71 yards and Kevin Thomas caught six balls for 60 yards. Nick Kiourkas had four receptions for 42 yards and extended his career streak of games with at least one catch to 39 in a row.
Whitworth was able to move to the Pacific two-yard line on its first possession, but stalled and Reiley nailed an 18-yard field goal to give the Pirates a quick 3-0 lead. Pacific answered with a 75-yard TD drive, including a 57-yard run by Brandon Boyd. Kash Taylor scored from seven yards out to give the hosts the lead, despite the fact that Whitworth blocked the extra point.
Later in the first quarter Elms broke free on his first long touchdown run of the day from 45 yards out, allowing the Pirates to retake a lead they would never relinquish.
With six minutes left in the first half McKay fielded a punt at his 18 yard line, broke through the initial line of defense and outraced the Boxers to the endzone for a 17-6 Whitworth lead.
Pacific (3-3 overall, 3-2 NWC) answered quickly. All-NWC wide receiver Kobe Williams, who would finish the game with only one catch for four yards, got into the action with a 30-yard end around for a touchdown with 4:08 to go in the half.
Kolste then directed a 72-yard drive that took 13 plays over the final four minutes of the second quarter. He completed a 29-yard pass to McKeown on third and 22 that took the Pirates into Pacific territory. Reiley kicked a 38 yard field goal on the final play of the half to give Whitworth a 20-13 lead at halftime.
Zach Hillman returned an interception 25 yards to the Pacific five-yard line midway through the third quarter giving the Pirates a huge opportunity to build a two-touchdown lead. But the Boxers' defense held and forced a 20-yard field goal from Reiley.
Pacific used most of the rest of the quarter to move to the Whitworth two yard line. On fourth and one at the Pirates' two yard line, the Boxers elected to kick the field goal. The snap was mishandled and a completed pass lost eight yards, giving Whitworth the ball at the 10. Elms ran for three yards, then used the entire width of the field to complete his 87-yard run.
Instead of getting within 23-16, Pacific was now behind 30-13 heading to the fourth quarter.
The Boxers added one more touchdown with 11:21 to play on a five-yard pass from JT Greenough to Griffin Christenson on fourth down. But Pacific got the ball back only one more time as the Whitworth offense used 9:49 of the final 11:21 in the game.
Boyd finished with 157 yards on 21 carries for Pacific, while Greenough completed 14 of 28 passes for 170 yards with one touchdown and one interception. The Boxers finished with a slight edge in total offense (453-449).
Whitworth will return to Oregon next Saturday for a game at Lewis & Clark College in Portland.