SPOKANE, Wash. – Whitworth University rolled to its first NCAA Division III football playoff victory in 12 years with a 48-6 win over visiting Claremont-Mudd-Scripps on Saturday in the Pine Bowl.
The Pirates improve to 10-0 and advance to face St. John's (Minn.) in next week's second round. The Stags, winners of the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletics Conference, finish the season 7-4 after claiming their first Division III playoff berth.
CMS post-game press conference (youtube).
Whitworth post-game press conference (youtube).
CMS used the element of surprise to grab an early lead. With SCIAC Offensive MVP Garrett Cheadle, a running back, unable to play because of injury, the Stags went to a pass-heavy attack. Back up QB Zach Fogel completed passes of 26 and 23 yards, then scrambled 13 yards for a touchdown to give the Stags a 6-0 lead after their first possession. Tyler Adamson blocked his sixth PAT or FG of the season for Whitworth.
The Pirates survived an interception in their own territory when Alessandro Maiuolo's 26-yard field goal went wide left.
Whitworth got on the board with back-to-back field goals by Cody McDonald, the first from 34 yards with 5:47 to play in the first. The second was a career-long 47-yard effort two minutes into the second quarter that tied the game.
Whitworth took its first lead at 13-6 when Leif Ericksen passed five yards to Nick McGill for a touchdown, capping a 10-play, 56-yard drive. The Pirates made it 20-6 right before halftime when Ericksen found running back Mason Elms open on a wheel route for a 58-yard touchdown pass with 12 seconds to play in the second.
Whitworth took advantage of a Stag turnover deep in its territory after BJ Mullin intercepted Fogel and returned the ball to the 22-yard line. On the next play Ericksen passed to Garrett McKay for a touchdown and a 27-6 lead.
Tariq Ellis ran 15 yards for a touchdown on the Pirates' next possession for a 34-6 lead, finishing off a drive that only had to go 40 yards.
Whitworth scored twice in the fourth quarter. Backup QB Connor Johnson threw a 36-yard touchdown pass to back up receiver Caleb Jones with 5:33 left. Two minutes later reserve running back Brayden Corona raced 27 yards for a touchdown following a CMS fumble.
Whitworth outgained CMS 513-288 and had a 23-16 advantage in first downs. The Pirates scored on all three of their redzone scores, while the Stags went 0-2.
Ericksen completed 27 of 42 passes for 285 yards with three touchdowns and one interception. McKay caught seven passes for 58 yards, while McGill and Brett Moser caught five each. Corona led Whitworth with 71 yards rushing on 10 carries. The Pirates finished with 192 yards rushing.
Iain Black and Kale Wong made eight tackles apiece to lead Whitworth's defense. Andrew McCoy had two of the team's six sacks. Whitworth came into the game leading NCAA Division III in tackles for loss and finished with nine for 36 yards.
Fogel completed 10 of 28 passes for 189 yards with one interception. He also ran for a net of 11 yards and his team's only score. Branden Brown came on in the fourth quarter and went 5-12 for 62 yards. Matthew Sill led CMS receivers with five catches for 98 yards. Christian Curcio ran for 30 yards on 14 carries as the Stags finished with 37 yards rushing.
Benjamin Cooney had a game-high ten tackles for CMS. Sevion DeCosta had three tackles for loss among his six stops.
Whitworth has advanced to the second round of the NCAA DIII playoffs for the second time in school history. And for the second time, the Pirates will face the Johnnies (11-0), who are the winners of the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletics Conference. The location of that game will be announced on Sunday.