Whitworth University will host the University of La Verne in the Pine Bowl on Saturday afternoon in the final non-conference football game of the 2017 season. 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 20th-ranked Pirates (2-0) are coming off of a 49-10 win over Whittier University in their home opener last Saturday. La Verne is 1-0 after defeating Northwest Conference-member Puget Sound 33-25 at home on September 2nd. Saturday will mark the 12th all-time meeting between the two schools.
Live Links for Saturday's game:
Whitworth (2-0, 0-0 NWC)
Saturday - Sept. 16
The Pirates: The Pirates built a 39-3 lead midway through the third quarter and went on to defeat Whittier 49-10 in the home opener on Saturday. The Pirates improved to 6-0 all-time against the Poets and Whitworth has outscored Whittier 156-21 over the last three contests.
The Bucs gained 445 yards of total offense, 299 through the air and 159 on the ground. Whitworth finished with a 24-19 edge in first downs and did not commit a turnover for the second straight week.
Ian Kolste completed 23 of 34 passes for 255 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. He also ran for the first Whitworth touchdown of the game, turning a broken play into a seven-yard scoring run. Michael McKeown was his favorite target on Saturday with seven catches for 106 yards and one touchdown, the first TD pass of the game in the second quarter. Nick Kiourkas added four catches for 52 yards and a score. Griffin Hare caught a touchdown pass and ran for a touchdown and Luke Divis caught his second TD in as many weeks. Leif Erickson played well for the second straight Saturday in relief of Kolste, completing three of six passes for 44 yards and a TD.
Whitworth's #1 defense still has not allowed a touchdown this season. The Pirates held the Poets to 322 yards of offense and finished with two takeaways. Zach Hillman led the effort with seven tackles (four solo stops), a fumble recovery and a pass deflection. LJ Benson intercepted his second pass in as many weeks, setting up a Whitworth touchdown with a 25-yard return to the Whittier 6 yard line. Chad Wilburg had two sacks and three total tackles for loss.
Whitworth averaged 10 yards per punt return behind Garrett McKay, who had 54 yards on five returns. His 60-yard TD return was nullified by a block-in-the-back penalty. Divis averaged 28.5 yards on two kickoff returns. Rehn Reiley made both of his field goal attempts, from 23 and 32 yards away. He also made four PATs and had six more touchbacks. And the Pirates converted their first two-point PAT try this season when Kevin Thomas passed to Taylor Hall after their first TD of the game.
Click here for a photo album of the Whittier game provided by Richard Thomas.
Where there's smoke there's …: Football? Smoke from forest fires around the region inundated all of Eastern Washington and North Idaho in a thick blanket of ash last week. The Pirates were forced indoors for practice, both in the Whitworth Fieldhouse and in the tennis bubble, and went into the Whittier game without having practiced outside once last week.
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
Gunslinger: QB Ian Kolste is poised to break several career records at Whitworth. In fact, he already holds the Pirates' career record for completions (771) and total passes (1,156). Barring any unforeseen injuries, he will break several more records this season. Kolste has thrown for 8,367 yards, only 146 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 68 TD passes and 8,672 total yards through the second 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 33 games of his Pirate career to this point. The senior corner back has been a stalwart for the Whitworth defense. He has 134 tackles, seven interceptions and 36 passes defended over his three-plus seasons. Roelofs has been named second team All-Northwest Conference twice, as a sophomore and junior.
Redzone Efficiency: The Pirates have converted 93% of their 14 trips to the redzone in 2017. Eleven of those 12 trips (83%) inside the opponents' 20 yard line have ended up in Whitworth touchdowns. Those numbers have helped the Pirates average 52.5 points per game in 2017, which currently leads the NWC and ranks ninth in NCAA Division III.
Staying on the Field, and getting off of it: In two games Whitworth has converted 62.5% of its third downs into first downs, keeping the offense on the field. The percentage ranks first in the NWC and 4th in NCAA Division III. Meanwhile the Pirate defense has allowed opponents to convert only 19.4% of their third downs, which currently ranks 15th in Division III.
Spreading the Wealth: Whitworth has a deep and capable receiving corps once again in 2017. Fourteen different Pirates have caught at least one pass so far this season, and 11 players have three catches or more. Kevin Thomas currently has the team lead with 12 receptions, 164 yards and three TD catches. Eight different Pirates already have caught a touchdown this season.
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 second half 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 up from 24th to 20th in this week's D3football.com top-25 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 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 George Fox University (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 Leopards: After winning the SCIAC title in 2015, the Leopards' first football championship in 20 seasons, the University of La Verne fell back to 2-7 overall and 2-5 in the league in 2016. But head coach Chris Krich, now in his seventh season, looks to have the Leopards ready for another successful season in 2017 with 125 players in camp.
The offense averaged 27.3 points and 441.2 yards per game in 2016, while the defense allowed 36.4 points and 433.1 yards per contest. A big reason for the drop-off in the record may have been the loss of starting QB Josh Evans to injury midway through the schedule.
Evans was the starting QB over the first half of the season and he threw for 755 yards with four touchdowns and two interceptions. A dual-threat QB, he also ran for 318 yards and four scores. While all-conference honorees Alex Arellano (WR) and Dallas Parent (RB) have graduated, the Leopards have Daejohn Logan back at receiver and Robert Fernandez at running back. Junior Austin Brown led the team in tackles in 2016 with 57, including 12.5 tackles for losses of 35 yards.
LaVerne jumped to a 20-0 lead in the second quarter then held on to defeat Puget Sound 33-25 in its season-opener on September 2nd in California. Evans completed 9 of 14 passes for 148 yards with one touchdown and one interception. He also ran for a score. Backup QB Sam Taylor was 3-4 for 31 yards. Fernandez rushed for 104 yards and one touchdown on 22 carries while Logan caught four passes for 96 yards, including a 56-yard scoring strike from Evans. Josh Padilla led the defense with 10 tackles and Brown finished with five stops, including two for losses of five yards.
The Series: Whitworth leads the series, which began in 2004, 10-1 and has won the last three meetings. The 2013 game (25-20 Leopard win) was the first win in the series for La Verne and it came in the Pine Bowl. The Pirates won the very first meeting 43-23 in 2004 at La Verne and Whitworth is 6-0 overall at Ortmayer Stadium. The largest margin of victory in the series was the Bucs' 34-0 win at La Verne in 2007. The last game in Spokane was a 39-20 Pirate win in 2015.
Last Year: Whitworth outscored La Verne 16-0 over the final 17 minutes of the game to rally from a ten-point, second half deficit for a 48-42 win on the road. Ian Kolste completed 40 of 59 passes for 500 yards while throwing three TDs and his first two interceptions of the season. Kolste also ran for 48 yards to establish a new career high for total offense in one game with 548 yards. He was named Northwest Conference Offensive Player of the Week for his efforts. Garrett McKay caught seven passes for 139 yards, including touchdowns of 31 and 44 yards – the latter of which tied the game with six minutes to play. A 35-yard completion between Kolste and McKay on 3rd and 6 in the final minute of the game set up Whitworth's game-winning touchdown by Duke DeGaetano.
For three quarters it was a really rough day for the Whitworth defense. By the end of the game the Pirates had given up 43 points, 646 yards of total offense and 490 yards rushing – including a pair of 200-yard games by QB Josh Evans and running back Dallas Parent. Yet the defense pitched a shutout in the fourth quarter to allow the offense to complete the comeback. The Pirates held the Leopards to three punts, a fumble and the expiration of the clock on La Verne's final five possessions of the game.
Rehn Reiley was named the NWC Special Teams Player of the Week. He made both of his field goal attempts (from 29 and 38 yards) and went 4-5 on PATs. He averaged 63.8 yards on nine kickoffs, including seven touchbacks. And he also averaged 34.3 yards per punt.
Coming up next: Whitworth will get a bye on September 23rd before opening Northwest Conference play on September 30th at defending champion Linfield College in McMinnville, Oregon.