Whitworth University will close out the 2017 season by hosting Willamette University on Saturday at 12:30 pm in the Pine Bowl. The football senior class of 2018, which includes 20 players, will be honored prior to kickoff. The game will be heard live in Spokane on KSBN 1230am and on the world wide web at KSBN.net. The radio broadcast will begin at 12:15 pm.
The Pirates (7-2, 4-2 NWC) have a chance to finish off the second-best three-year stretch in school history. The Bearcats (0-8, 0-6 NWC) are looking to claim their first win of 2017.
Live Links for Saturday's game:
Whitworth (7-2, 4-2 NWC)
Willamette (0-8, 0-6 NWC)
Saturday - Nov. 11
The Pirates: Whitworth rolled up 598 yards of total offense and held Lewis & Clark to 342 yards in a 48-7 win in Portland last Saturday. The Bucs played a very clean game – no penalties, no turnovers and no sacks allowed.
The Whitworth offense was dominant and balanced, passing for 308 yards and running for 290. Ian Kolste reached a career milestone while completing 24 of 37 passes for 305 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions. In doing so, he surpassed 10,000 yards of total offense for his career. He hit Kevin Thomas for a 60-yard touchdown pass on the third play from scrimmage and Thomas went on to catch six passes for 141 yards (23.5 yards per catch) with two touchdowns. Michael McKeown also caught a pair of touchdowns and finished with five catches for 64 yards. Mason Elms had another explosive day running the ball, finishing with 122 yards on only eight carries (15.2 yards per rush). One week after running 87 yards for a touchdown at Pacific, Elms burst through the line for a 96-yard TD at Lewis & Clark, breaking a 69-year-old school record for longest run from scrimmage. The Pirates averaged 9.4 yards per carry, led by a dominant effort from the offensive line.
The Whitworth defense held L&C to a single touchdown, stopping the Pioneers on fourth down three times in Whitworth territory. Zach Hillman had his best game as a Pirate, finishing with 12 tackles (10 solo), including a nine-yard sack. John-Robert Woolley added eight tackles and broke up a pass. Three of Charlie Ball's four tackles went for losses of 11 yards, including a seven-yard sack. Shai Pulawa returned an interception 48 yards deep into L&C territory, setting up a Whitworth touchdown.
After the Pioneers scored their only touchdown of the game late in the second quarter, Chase Takaki returned the ensuing kickoff 49 yards to set up Whitworth's fourth touchdown of the first half. Rehn Reiley only had to punt once in the game and it went for 45 yards. He had two touchbacks on his eight kickoffs and went 6-6 on extra points. He missed his only field goal attempt (from 30 yards) in the fourth quarter.
Three-Year Run: With a win on Saturday against Willamette, Whitworth can finish off the second-best three-year stretch in school history. The Pirates have 24 wins since the start of the 2015 season, currently tied with the 1953-55 teams for second-most victories in any three consecutive seasons. The most wins in a three-year period is 26, set by the 1959-61 Pirates.
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.
The Long Run: The 96-yard touchdown run for Mason Elms is the longest run by a Whitworth player in school history, and his second long run in as many weeks. The old record was set when Vern Tucker went 92 yards for a touchdown against Eastern Washington in 1948. Elms, who ran 87 yards for a score at Pacific on October 28th, is averaging 66.0 rushing yards per game and 7.6 yards per carry this season with five touchdowns.
The Long Run Too: Garrett McKay's 82-yard punt return for a touchdown at Pacific on October 28th is Whitworth's first since 2006. It is also the longest punt return for a touchdown in school history, breaking the record of 64 yards set by Darryl Russell in 1959.
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
Oct. 7 – Chase Takaki
Oct. 14 – Rehn Reiley
Oct. 21 – Ben Stockdale
Oct. 28 – Michael McKeown
Nov. 4 – Taylor Hall
Gunslinger: QB Ian Kolste has broken several career records at Whitworth. Over the course of this season, he surpassed Joel Clark's (2003-06) records for total offense, passing yards and passing TDs. He now has 10,209 yards of offense, 9,860 passing yards and 80 touchdowns as a Pirate. Kolste also holds the Pirates' career record for completions (926) and total passes (1,395).
Kolste earned first team All-NWC and second team All-West Region (D3football.com) following the 2016 season. He set Whitworth 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).
Kolste is 25-6 as a starting QB at Whitworth.
I am Ironman: Taylor Roelofs has started all 40 games of his Pirate career. The senior corner back has been a stalwart for the Whitworth defense. He has 161 tackles, eight interceptions and 40 passes defended in nearly four full 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 40 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. Kiourkas has 144 career receptions for 1,932 yards and 21 touchdowns.
Similarly, redshirt junior Garrett McKay has at least one catch in every game of his Whitworth career, which is 32 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.
Spreading the Wealth: Whitworth has a deep and capable receiving corps once again in 2017. Seventeen different Pirates have caught at least one pass so far this season, and 12 players have five catches or more. Nine different Pirates have caught a touchdown this season. Garrett McKay currently has the team lead with 51 receptions while Kevin Thomas has 673 receiving yards and six touchdown catches.
Big Foot: Rehn Reiley has scored more points with his foot than any kicker in Whitworth history. The junior has made 33 field goals in 53 attempts and has hit 115-118 extra points. His 214 career points are more than any previous Pirate kicker. But he also adds to the kickoff and punt game. Reiley has touchbacks on more than 50% of his career kickoffs and he currently leads the NWC with an average of 40.6 yards per punt.
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 is listed with "others receiving votes" in the latest (Nov. 6) D3football.com poll. The Pirates have six points in the poll.
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 carried two of Whitworth's games this season: the Oct. 21 game against Puget Sound and the Homecoming game against George Fox (Oct. 7). Sam Adams and Mike Peterson provided 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.
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 Bearcats: Willamette University (0-8 overall, 0-6 NWC) is not only hungry to get its first win of 2017, the Bearcats are looking to end a ten-game losing streak that dates back to the 2016 season. Willamette will attempt to avoid its first winless season in the school's football history, which dates back to 1894. Glen Fowles (25-30 record) is in his sixth season as head coach of the Bearcats and his 22nd year on the coaching staff.
Willamette is averaging 17.8 points per game and 326.0 yards of offense per contest, 141 yards on the ground and 185 yards through the air. The Bearcats have given up 36.5 points and 439.8 yards per game.
Sophomore QB Matthew Castaneda has completed 57.4% of his passes for 1,126 yards with six touchdowns and six interceptions. He has also run for 306 yards and five more TDs. Running backs Joey Thurman (Sr.) and Matt Stone (Jr.) have combined for 561 yards and four touchdowns. Senior WRs Jordan Fickas and Alex Israel have caught 67 passes for 678 yards and four touchdowns between them. Jeremiah James, a RS junior, is second in the NWC in kick return average (25.1). On defense sophomore linebacker Alec Stevenson has 86 tackles and ranks second in the NWC in tackles per game (10.8). Junior lineman Benjamin Jahn has 10.5 tackles for losses of 31 yards, which is third in the NWC.
Last Saturday Willamette battled visiting Pacific to a 13-13 stalemate at halftime before the visiting Boxers outscored the Bearcats 28-0 in the second half and won 41-13. Pacific outgained Willamette 555-238 in the game. Castaneda completed 13 of 23 passes for 96 yards and ran for 40 yards, including both of the Bearcats' touchdowns. Thurman rushed for 79 yards on only ten carries, while Israel caught four passes for 55 yards. Stevenson finished with 17 tackles.
The Series: Willamette is Whitworth's second-oldest continuing rival. The teams first met on the field in 1908 and Whitworth won 18-0. The biggest Pirate win in the series was 46-0 in 1983. The biggest Bearcat victory was 67-0 in 1912. Willamette holds a 33-21 edge in the all-time series, but the Pirates have won the last three matchups. Whitworth and Willamette have gone to overtime four times in the last 15 meetings and a margin of ten points or less have decided seven of the games since 1998. Whitworth has never won four in a row over Willamette.
Last Year: Whitworth earned a 34-14 Senior Day victory over Willamette in the Pine Bowl last season. The Pirates pulled away with two fourth quarter touchdowns after the Bearcats had pulled to within 20-14.
Duke DeGaetano ran for a career-high 197 yards on only 19 carries and scored three touchdowns, giving him 20 for the season which set a team record. Ian Kolste completed 29 of 40 passes for 286 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. Kevin Thomas caught both of Kolste's touchdown passes – a nine-yard score in the first quarter and a 54-yard strike in the fourth quarter. Garrett McKay and Michael McKeown had five catches each. Whitworth finished the game with a 485-366 edge in total offense, despite the fact that Willamette had the ball for 13 more minutes and ran 17 more plays than the Pirates.
The Whitworth defense played one of its best games of the year, holding the Bearcats to 14 points and 4.4 yards per play. After Willamette had pulled within 20-14, the Bearcats blocked a field goal, which gave them possession at the Whitworth 46 with a chance to take the lead with less than ten minutes to play in the game. But the Pirate defense limited Willamette to only 50 total yards over the Bearcats' final four possessions.