Whitworth University will host George Fox University in a Northwest Conference football contest on Saturday at 1:00 pm. The school will celebrate Homecoming 2017 and the induction of the newest class into the Heritage Gallery Hall of Fame. The game will be televised locally on SWX and heard in Spokane on KSBN 1230am and on the world wide web at KSBN.net. The radio broadcast will begin at 12:45 pm.
The 22nd-ranked Pirates (3-1, 0-1 NWC) must bounce back from their first loss of the season. The Bruins (3-1, 1-0 NWC), who are receiving votes in the latest D3football.com poll, opened their conference schedule with a win over Pacific (Ore.).
Live Links for Saturday's game:
Whitworth (3-1, 0-1 NWC)
George Fox (3-1, 1-0 NWC)
Saturday - Oct. 7
The Pirates: Whitworth could not overcome its own mistakes in a 38-9 loss at now 7th-ranked Linfield on Saturday. The Pirate offense committed five turnovers and had two interceptions returned for touchdowns. The defense gave up several big plays, including TD passes of 63 and 37 yards, and a 55-yard run.
The Whitworth offense was able to move the ball effectively between the 20s, finishing with 365 yards of total offense and 25 first downs. But the Bucs turned the ball over five times and were sacked three times. The Wildcats returned an interception 56 yards for a touchdown less than two minutes into the game, giving Linfield a quick lead. Another interception deep in Pirate territory was taken back six yards for a score. Two other Whitworth turnovers occurred deep in the Wildcats' half of the field, preventing TD opportunities. QB Ian Kolste completed 32 of 63 passes for 267 yards with three interceptions and no touchdowns. It was his first game without a touchdown pass since Oct. 24, 2015 at Linfield. Garrett McKay caught seven passes for 65 yards, while Michael McKeown had six catches for 79 yards. Mason Elms and Tariq Ellis combined for 69 rushing yards on 11 carries.
Linfield gained 379 yards of offense against the Whitworth defense. Over half of those yards came on just four plays, which the Wildcats took advantage of to score two touchdowns and kick two field goals. Chad Wilburg had seven solo tackles for the Pirates, including three for losses of 17 yards. One of those was a sack. Shai Pulawa added six tackles and picked off a pass. Kale Wong also had six tackles. Brian Lee recovered a fumble at the Whitworth two yard line to briefly end a Linfield scoring opportunity.
Rehn Reiley had another really good day kicking the ball. He scored all of Whitworth's points by making all three of his field goal attempts. He averaged 43.2 yards per punt and two of his four kickoffs went for touchbacks. Luke Divis averaged 25.2 yards per kickoff return.
Click here for a photo album of the Linfield game provided by Richard Thomas.
Heritage Gallery Induction: Whitworth will induct the 28th class to the Heritage Gallery Hall of Fame in a breakfast ceremony on Saturday morning. Matt Stueckle (football, men's soccer), Leslie (Nelson) Morrison (cross country, track & field), Natalie Danielson (volleyball) and Cody Stelzer (track & field) will become the members of the Whitworth Heritage Gallery Hall of Fame. The induction will take place at 9:00 am in the HUB Multi-purpose room. The ceremony includes a breakfast and reservations can still be made by calling 509-777-3224. The cost is $15 per individual.
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
Sept. 16 – Kevin Thomas
Sept. 30 – Casey Bond
Gunslinger: QB Ian Kolste has broken several career records at Whitworth. In the first half against La Verne on September 16th he surpassed Joel Clark's career records for passing yards (8,513) and touchdown passes (71). Kolste has passed for 8,936 yards and 72 touchdowns as a Pirate. Kolste also holds the Pirates' career record for completions (832) and total passes (1,255). Kolste is also within range of Clark's career record for total offense (9,656). Kolste has 9,286 total yards through four games of the 2017 season.
Kolste earned first team All-NWC and second team All-West Region (D3football.com) following the 2016 season. He set single-season school records for plays (552), total offense (3,831), pass attempts (488), pass completions (351) and passing yards (3,790). He tied the school record with 29 touchdown passes (with Joel Clark). Kolste set an NCAA DIII record for pass completions per game (35.1).
He was tabbed as a second team preseason All-American by Hero Sports heading into 2017.
I am Ironman: Taylor Roelofs has started all 35 games of his Pirate career to this point. The senior corner back has been a stalwart for the Whitworth defense. He has 138 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.
Going Streaking: Senior Nick Kiourkas has caught a pass in 35 straight games. He has caught at least one pass in every game of his Pirate career dating back to 2014, a remarkable streak of ability and consistency. Similarly, redshirt junior Garrett McKay has at least one catch in every game of his Whitworth career, which is 27 straight games and also dates back to the first game of 2014. McKay was injured in the second game of the 2014 season and was granted a medical hardship waiver by the NCAA.
Staying on the Field: In three games Whitworth has converted 51.6% (32-62) of its third downs into first downs, keeping the offense on the field. The percentage ranks first in the NWC and 17th in NCAA Division III. Meanwhile the Pirate defense has allowed opponents to convert only 24.2% (15/62) 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. Sixteen different Pirates have caught at least one pass so far this season, and 12 players have three catches or more. Nine different Pirates have caught a touchdown this season. Garrett McKay currently has the team lead with 24 receptions, while Kevin Thomas leads in receiving yards (278). Both McKay and Thomas have caught three touchdowns apiece.
Looking Back at 2016: Whitworth bounced back from a season-opening 50-49 overtime loss 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.
National rankings: Whitworth fell from 14th to 22nd in the latest (Oct. 2) D3football.com top-25 poll. The American Football Coaches Association Division III poll hasn't been released yet this week.
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.
On the Air Again: Whitworth's games are once again 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 (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 Bruins: George Fox University has made great strides in four seasons under head coach Chris Casey. The Bruins restarted the football program in 2014 and finished 1-8. They improved to 4-6 in 2015 and went 5-4 in 2016. More impressive is the fact that GFU bounced back from an 0-3 start to win five of its last six games and take third place in the conference with a 5-2 record last season. Now 3-1 in 2017, the Bruins are receiving votes in the Division III football top-25 polls for the first time ever.
George Fox has been balanced offensively and defensively, outscoring their opponents by an average of 28.0 – 11.8 per contest. After last weekend the Bruins now lead the NWC in scoring defense. GFU also leads the conference in interceptions (5) and in sacks (12). They have allowed an average of 344.8 yards per game, but stiffened when it counted most, leading the league in redzone defense (46.2%).
Senior QB Grant Schroeder is in his fourth season as a starter. He has completed 56.6% of his passes for 787 yards with 10 touchdowns and six interceptions. He also leads his squad in rushing with 164 yards and two rushing TDs. Senior wide receivers Lane Hadley and Brad Lander have combined for 28 receptions for 379 yards and seven touchdowns. Redshirt junior LB Charles Riga is an NWC Defensive Player of the Year candidate this season. He leads the conference in tackles per game (11.8) and has three sacks. Junior DE Caleb Dalzell has four tackles for losses of 21 yards. Sophomore Jason Santoni leads the NWC in punting average (43.0) and is 3 of 4 in field goal attempts.
Last week GFU defeated Pacific (Ore.) 27-7 in its NWC opener, thanks in part to a 21-0 second quarter. Riga had the play of the game when he returned a blocked punt 94 yards for a touchdown. He finished with 12 tackles and the Bruins racked up four sacks for 21 yards. Schroeder completed 6 of 16 passes for 105 yards with one TD and one interception. He also ran for 60 yards and two scores. Lander hauled in a 43-yard touchdown pass.
The Series: Saturday's game is only the fourth meeting between the two schools. Due to a fluke in the NWC schedule, this is the third contest between the two schools that will take place at the Whitworth Pine Bowl. The Pirates have won the three previous games.
Last Year: The first half of last season's game at George Fox included wide swings of momentum. The Pirates opened a 15-0 lead through one quarter before the Bruins went on a 23-0 run in the second period and led 23-15 at halftime. Whitworth settled down in the second half and used two 80-yard touchdown drives to rally for a 28-23 win.
Ian Kolste had a big day throwing the ball. He completed 45 of 53 passes (84.9%) without throwing an interception. He passed for 327 yards with three touchdowns and his completion percentage was a career-high. Chase Naccarato caught ten of Kolste's passes and two of the touchdowns to lead the Pirates in both categories. Garrett McKay had six grabs and Michael McKeown caught five passes, but Kolste effectively spread the ball around to nine different receivers who all had at least two receptions. Mason Elms caught the game-winning touchdown pass from 14 yards out with 2:55 to play.
The Whitworth defense was in full bend-but-don't-break mode, especially in the second half. George Fox gained 558 yards of offense, over 120 more yards than the Pirates gained. Schroeder threw for 318 yards and ran for 151. But the Bruins did not crack the scoreboard after halftime. They punted twice, missed two field goals, lost a fumble on a kickoff, and could not reach the Whitworth endzone on the final possession of the game.
Rehn Reiley had an up-and-down game kicking the ball. He missed two field goals, but his five punts averaged 45.4 yards. McKay had 49 return yards. He returned two punts for a total of 24 yards, and had one 25-yard kickoff return.
Coming up next: Whitworth will travel to Puyallup, Washington to take on Pacific Lutheran University in a rematch of one of the wildest games of the 2016 season when the Pirates rallied from 17 points behind in the fourth quarter to defeat the Lutes. The game will begin at 1:00 pm.