Whitworth University is scheduled to play its first home football game of 2017 on Saturday in the Pine Bowl against Whittier College of California. Kickoff is 11:00 am to accommodate the visitors' travel arrangements. Saturday's game will be heard live in Spokane on KSBN 1230am and on the internet at KSBN.net. The radio broadcast will begin at 10:45 am (PDT).
The 24th-ranked Pirates are coming off of a season-opening 56-13 win at Central College (Iowa), while the Poets have not yet played a game this season. Whittier went 0-9 overall and 0-7 in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletics Conference in 2016.
Live Links for Saturday's game:
Whitworth (1-0, 0-0 NWC)
Whittier (0-0, 0-0 SCIAC)
Saturday - Sept. 10
The Pirates: Once Whitworth got rolling on Saturday in Pella, Idaho, the Pirates could not be stopped. Whitworth scored touchdowns on seven straight possessions, building a 49-0 lead early in the third quarter of a 56-13 win at tradition-rich Central College.
Ian Kolste, Kevin Thomas and Garrett McKay all had big games for the offense. Kolste completed 38 of 46 passes (82.6%) for 471 yards with a career-high six touchdowns. He did not throw an interception and only played five minutes into the third quarter. Leif Erickson played the final 25 minutes and completed 11 of 16 passes for 88 yards and his first career touchdown. Thomas caught ten passes for career-highs of 142 yards and three touchdowns, while McKay grabbed eight balls for 117 yards and a score. Luke Divis and Nick McGill had breakthrough games with five catches apiece and their first career TD receptions. Casey Bond and Tariq Ellis led the Whitworth running game with 38 and 33 yards, respectively. Ellis ran for his first career touchdown. The Pirates rolled up 630 yards of total offense and handed the Dutch the second-largest margin of defeat in school history.
And yet, the showing of the Whitworth defense might have been even more impressive. The Pirates held the Dutch to 13 points and 321 yards of offense. Central returned nine offensive starters from a team that scored 50 points and put up 602 yards of offense against Whitworth one season ago. And it was truly a team effort as every traveling player on defense saw action in the game. Patch Kulp led the Bucs with seven tackles and a pass break up. LJ Benson added six stops (five solo) and intercepted a pass in the Pirate endzone, squelching a rare Central scoring opportunity. Shai Pulawa also had six tackles.
It was also a defensive player who turned the tide in Whitworth's favor on special teams. Defensive end Chad Wilburg ran 26 yards with a fake punt deep into Central territory, setting up the Pirates' first touchdown midway through the first quarter. Rehn Reiley also had a big game kicking the ball. He made all seven of his PATs and booted seven kickoffs for touchbacks. He also averaged 33.3 yards per punt.
Click here for a gallery of images from Saturday's win at Central, provided by Dick Thomas.
Where there's smoke there's …: Football? Smoke from forest fires around the region are inundating all of Eastern Washington and North Idaho in a thick blanket of ash. The Pirates forced indoors for practice this week, both in the Whitworth Fieldhouse and in the tennis bubble. Contingency plans for potentially moving the Whitworth-Whittier game to a facility not as impacted by the smoke are in the works.
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
Gunslinger: QB Ian Kolste is poised to break several career records at Whitworth. In fact, he already holds the Pirates' career record for completions (748) and total passes (1,122). Barring any unforeseen injuries, he will break several more records this season. Kolste has thrown for 8,112 yards, only 401 yards shy of Joel Clark's record of 8,513 (2003-06). Kolste is also within range of Clark's career records for touchdown passes (71) and total offense (9,656). Kolste has 65 TD passes and 8,407 total yards through the first game of the 2017 season.
Kolste earned first team All-NWC and second team All-West Region (D3football.com) following the 2016 season. He was tabbed as a second team preseason All-American by Hero Sports heading into 2017.
I am Ironman: Taylor Roelofs has started all 32 games of his Pirate career to this point. The senior corner back has been a stalwart for the Whitworth defense. He has 132 tackles, seven interceptions and 34 passes defended over his three-plus seasons. Roelofs has been named second team All-Northwest Conference twice, as a sophomore and junior.
Looking Back at 2016: Whitworth bounced back from a season-opening 50-49 loss in overtime 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.
D3football.com rankings: Whitworth moved from third among "others receiving votes" to 24th in the current D3football.com twop-25 poll. It marks the first time the Pirates have been ranked in the poll since they were 19th in the preseason poll prior to the 2016 season.
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 will once again be 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: the Homecoming game against Central College (Oct. 7), and the October 21 game against Puget Sound. Sam Adams and Mike Peterson will 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 Poets: Whittier College, members of the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletics Conference, will open the 2017 football season this Saturday against Whitworth. The Poets, under second-year head coach Mike Neale, are looking to break a 22-game losing streak that dates back to mid-way through the 2014 season. Neale has the team pointed in the right direction, with nearly 90 players on the roster heading into 2017.
Whittier finished 0-9 overall and 0-7 in the SCIAC in 2016. The Poets struggled on offense, averaging only 15.3 points and 292.7 yards per game. The defense allowed 45.0 points and 466.4 yards per contest. Whittier returns six starters on offense and five on defense in 2017.
Junior Matthew Valencia and sophomore Michael Campbell split time at QB last season, combining for 1,428 yards with seven touchdowns and six interceptions. Senior WR Byson Sanders caught 39 passes for 414 yards and a touchdown last year. Senior Drew Lewis is the leading returning running back. He had 347 yards and three touchdowns in 2016.
Junior linebacker Nicholas Markarian is the top returning tackler on defense. He had 62 stops in 2016 and is the lone returning starter among the front seven. All four starters are back in the secondary, led by senior Michael Pimik, who made 50 stops.
Senior kicker Eric Voss can be a weapon for Whittier. He made all of his extra points and was 7-11 on field goal attempts last season. He also averaged 39.0 yards per punt.
The Series: Whitworth leads the series 5-0 following last season's 60-0 victory in California. The Pirates won the last meeting in Spokane 47-11 in 2014.
Last Year: Whitworth dominated last season's 60-0 win at Whittier from start to finish, rolling up 605 yards of total offense – including 442 yards in the first half while building a 43-0 lead at halftime. The margin of victory was the Pirates' largest ever in the five-game series. The win was Whitworth's largest margin since a 70-3 win over Lewis & Clark in 2006.
The Whitworth defense held firm throughout the game, limiting the Poets to 239 total yards and only 4.2 yards per play. The Poets' best chance to score came midway through the second quarter on Whittier's only extended drive of the game. The Poets moved from their own 25-yard line to first-and-goal at Whitworth's six, but the Pirate defense stopped Whittier with a goal-line stand and Whitworth earned its first shutout since a 49-0 win over Menlo in 2007. Connor Tangeman led the team with nine tackles at outside linebacker, earning NWC Defensive Player of the Week recognition. Ben Stockdale made a diving interception in the first quarter to set up a touchdown and snag Whitworth's first turnover of 2016.
The offense was explosive. Ian Kolste completed 18 of 27 passes for 329 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions in just over one half of work. Nick Kiourkas and Michael McKeown caught Kolste's TD passes. Kevin Thomas hauled in a 44-yard reception to set up a first quarter touchdown, while Chase Takaki caught a 92-yard bomb to set up a TD in the second quarter. The Pirate bench made solid contributions in the second half. Mason Elms led Whitworth with five receptions for 67 yards and caught both of the Bucs' second half touchdowns. Jonathan Jun led the Pirates with 13 carries and finished with 54 rushing yards. In all, 12 difference Pirates caught at least one pass and eight different players ran the ball at least one time.
The special teams were excellent. Kale Wong blocked a pair of punts, setting up Whitworth touchdowns both times. He also finished with five tackles, most of which came on kick coverage. Rehn Reiley only had to punt once in the game, but he made all six of his PATs. Reiley just barely missed a 51-yard field goal attempt in the third quarter. Vernon Parker, in his first action as a backup kicker, made his first career PAT and his first career field goal (44 yards) in the fourth quarter. Parker also averaged 59 yards per kickoff and had two touchbacks. Whitworth averaged over 20 yards per punt return.
Coming up next: Whitworth will host the University of LaVerne (Calif.) in the Pine Bowl next Saturday, Sept. 16th. It is the final non-conference game on the schedule. The game will begin at 11:00 am to accommodate LaVerne's travel plans back to California.