Willamette offense prevails in match-up of Northwest Conference unbeatens The Whitworth football team’s 5-game winning streak was snapped Saturday, after losing to a tough Willamette University team in the Pirates’ homecoming game, 38-24. After a competitive first half, the dominant Bearcat offense rolled during the second half to take down the Bucs in front of their home crowd.
“The first half went well both offensively and defensively,” Whitworth head coach John Tully said. “I was very pleased with the effort. Second half, we just didn’t play [as well as we can]. They’re a good team, but we’re a good team. They just made plays when we didn’t.”
Whitworth was first on the board early in the first quarter with a 29-yard field goal by freshman kicker Robert Thullen. Willamette answered quickly the next drive. Ten plays and less than three minutes later, the Bearcats found the end zone for the first time of the afternoon.
Before the end of the first quarter, Whitworth sophomore quarterback Bryan Peterson connected with senior wide receiver Jake DeGooyer in the end zone to put seven more points on the board for the Bucs.
The scoring did not slow in the second quarter. After a holding penalty on the Bearcats, which put them in a first-and-20 situation, Willamette found open grass behind Whitworth’s secondary to complete a 59-yard touchdown pass and again take the lead. A few minutes later, sophomore defensive back De’ Hall picked off a Willamette pass, which gave Whitworth possession on its own 28-yard line and set the Bucs up for a 10-play scoring drive. Peterson himself carried the ball across the goal line with just over four minutes to go in the half. At halftime, the Pirates led 17-14.
“Obviously, we had a great first half,” said senior team captain and running back Ronnie Thomas. “The offensive line did well. They got great push and gave Bryan time to throw.”
The Bucs got off to a slow start in the second half and the quick, aggressive Willamette offense capitalized. Just four minutes into the third quarter, the Bearcats scored another touchdown, regaining the lead, which they would hold for the rest of the game.
With two minutes to go in the quarter, Whitworth had a huge goal line stand on fourth and goal to keep the score close, but the Bucs couldn’t capitalize on the opportunity and quickly went three-and-out. Whitworth only had two first downs in the third quarter.
“The second half we just didn’t do the little things well,” Tully said.
Following another Whitworth three-and-out, it took Willamette less than two minutes at the beginning of the fourth quarter to get in the end zone and increase its lead, 28-17. Five minutes later, the Bearcats added a field goal, advancing their lead to 31-17 and putting the Bucs in a hole of which they would be unable to dig their way out.
Peterson threw a critical interception with just under five minutes remaining to make the situation bleaker for the Bucs.
Thanks to a Willamette three-and-out, and with a sense of urgency, Peterson led the Pirates down the field in 13 plays and hit sophomore wide receiver Austin Ehlo in the end zone to cut the lead to a touchdown with 1:47 to play in the game.
After an unsuccessful onside kick, Willamette moved up the field in a minute to once again cross the goal line. The Bearcats offense was a machine on the day, accumulating nearly 600 yards of total offense.
Whitworth received the ball back with less than a minute in the game and was unable to score.
“We have to play a full game,” Thomas said. “Period.”
Thomas led the Bucs rushing on the day with 85 yards. He is averaging 126.3 yards per game — second in the Northwest Conference — and leads Whitworth on the season with nearly 800 yards rushing.
DeGooyer had 10 receptions on the day for 104 yards and a touchdown.
“I thought I played well,” DeGooyer said. “But we play as a team. We win as a team. We lose as a team.”
The Bucs, (5-1, 1-1 NWC), head to McMinville, Ore., next week to take on an undefeated Linfield squad.
“We just [can’t] take this loss as a big hit,” DeGooyer said. “We just [have to] drop it and come out ready to play against Linfield.”
Tully is still pleased with the trajectory of the team.
“I’ve been very, very pleased with the guys’ work ethic,” Tully said. “[Saturday was] a tough loss but we got a lot of football left. I think when we get to Linfield our guys will be ready to play.”
Sena Hughes Staff Writer