Whitworth Comes Back to Defeat Willamette 20-16 - SWX Right Now-Sports for Spokane, CdA, Tri-Cities, WA

Whitworth Comes Back to Defeat Willamette 20-16

Whitworth will close out the regular season next Saturday at home against Lewis & Clark (0-8).  A win over the Pioneers would give the Pirates nine victories in a season for only the fifth time in school history. Whitworth will close out the regular season next Saturday at home against Lewis & Clark (0-8). A win over the Pioneers would give the Pirates nine victories in a season for only the fifth time in school history.

SALEM, Ore. – Whitworth rallied from a 13-0 first half deficit to win 20-16 at Willamette in a Northwest Conference football game on Saturday afternoon at McCulloch Stadium.

The Pirates improved to 8-1 overall and 5-1 in the NWC in a torrential downpour throughout the game.  The Bearcats dropped to 2-6, 2-4.

Whitworth was outgained 300-201 and Willamette finished with a 33:09 – 26:51 edge in time of possession.  But the Pirates took advantage of four interceptions to keep the Bearcats at bay.

The game could not have started in a worse way for Whitworth.  A muffed opening kickoff return led to possession inside the ten-yard line and the Pirates went backwards from there.  After Robert Thullen punted from the back line of his endzone, Willamette took over at the Whitworth 36-yard line.  But the Pirate defense stiffened and the Bearcats had to settle for a 20-yard field goal by Cameron Coe.

Two plays later a deflected Ian Kolste pass led to a Willamette interception at the Whitworth 45-yard line.  Again the Pirate defense made the Bearcats settle for a field goal.  This time Coe's kick was from 33 yards.

Two plays later the Pirates fumbled on their own 33-yard line.  Again the Whitworth defense held, this time forcing the Bearcats to move backwards and fall short on 4th and 21-to-go.

The Whitworth offense continued to struggle and had to punt a second time after a three-and-out.  Willamette used some good fortune to score its only touchdown of the game.  Ryan Knowlton's pass over the middle toward Austin Jones was deflected twice by the Pirate defense, but Kevin Martz ran under the ball and went untouched to the endzone for a 71-yard touchdown reception that gave Willamette a 13-0 lead at the end of the first quarter.

After another exchange of possessions Taylor Roelofs intercepted Knowlton at the Willamette 34 yard line.  That seemed to spark the Whitworth offense.  The Pirates moved downfield and scored seven plays later on QB Ian Kolste's four-yard run.

A bad long snap on a punt on Willamette's next possession gave Whitworth a first down at the Bearcats' 15-yard line.  But the Pirates had to settle for Rehn Reiley's 29-yard field goal that cut the margin to 13-10.

Willamette's best offensive possession of the game came at the end of the second quarter.  The Bearcats drove the ball 73 yards to inside the Whitworth ten yard line.  But for the third time in the game Willamette had to settle for a field goal.  Coe converted from 24 yards out to give the Bearcats a 16-10 lead at halftime. 

Willamette outgained Whitworth 235-53 in the opening half and had a 2-1 edge in turnovers.

The Pirate defense forced a three-and-out to start the second half and a short punt gave Whitworth first down at the Bearcats' 32-yard line.  Five plays later Kevin Thomas outjumped his defender in the endzone for a 12-yard touchdown pass reception from Kolste that gave the Pirates a 17-16 lead. 

Meanwhile the Whitworth defense bottled up the Willamette offense, holding the Bearcats to 65 net yards after halftime.

The Pirates had a chance to extend their lead late in the third quarter, but running back Duke DeGaetano was stopped on 4th and 2 at the Willamette seven yard line.

But Roelofs followed with his second interception of the game, this time at the Willamette 42-yard line.  The Pirates were able to get to the Bearcats' 11-yard line before Reiley kicked a 28-yard field goal with 13:04 to play in the game.

Later in the fourth quarter Kelvin Mackey intercepted Knowlton at the Whitworth 38 yard line, but the Pirates could not take advantage and were forced to punt.

The wet conditions led to Willamette's best scoring opportunity in the second half.  Kolste mishandled a low snap from center and the Bearcats recovered at the Whitworth 38-yard line with 8:08 to play.  But Danny Welstad's tackle for loss on third down forced Willamette to punt again.

The final Bearcat possession of the game was their best of the second half.  Taking over on its own 26-yard line, Willamette converted three first downs to move into Whitworth territory.  But Aaron Powe's heavy pass rush led to Patch Kulp's interception at the Pirates' 36-yard line with 3:07 left.

Whitworth was then able to convert two third downs and run out the clock.

Kolste completed 17 of 30 passes for 109 yards with one touchdown and one interception.  He also finished with 20 net rushing yards and a score.  DeGaetano ran 28 times for 74 yards.  He was also the leading receiver with six catches for 39 yards.  The Thomas touchdown reception was his third of the season.

Willamette's Knowlton finished the game 19 of 39 for 265 yards with a touchdown and four interceptions.  Martz finished with seven catches for 111 yards and a score.  Jacob Swilley ran 14 times for 54 yards.

Kulp finished with a career-high 12 tackles and his end-of-game interception to lead the Pirate defense.  Daniel Portillo had seven tackles, including two sacks for 14 yards and two other tackles for loss.  Roelofs had six tackles and two other pass deflections to go with his two interceptions.

Whitworth will close out the regular season next Saturday at home against Lewis & Clark (0-8).  A win over the Pioneers would give the Pirates nine victories in a season for only the fifth time in school history.

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