SPOKANE, Wash. – In his final game in the Whitworth Pine Bowl, Duke DeGaetano saved his best for last by rushing for a career-high 197 yards and three touchdowns to lead Whitworth to a 34-14 win over visiting Willamette in a Northwest Conference football game on Saturday.
DeGaetano scored on runs of 8, 42 and 15 yards and has set a new Pirate team record for rushing touchdowns in a season with 20. The senior RB averaged 9.9 yards per carry against the Bearcats. DeGaetano's previous career-high for rushing yards in a game was 166 yards against Pacific (Ore.) in 2015.
Whitworth improved to 7-2 overall and 5-1 in the NWC with a third straight win over Willamette, though the Bearcats still hold a 33-21 edge in the series. The Pirates will finish the regular season next Saturday at Lewis & Clark College.
Ian Kolste hooked up with Kevin Thomas for a pair of touchdown passes for the Pirates. The first was a nine-yard pass that gave Whitworth an early 6-0 lead after a two-point conversion try was no good.
Willamette (3-6 overall, 2-4 NWC) took its only lead of the game at 7-6 early in the second quarter when Ryan Knowlton passed 19 yards to Kevin Martz to complete a 16-play, 80-yard drive that took nearly eight minutes.
DeGaetano scored his first touchdown of the game on the Pirates' next possession and Whitworth would not trail again. But the score was only 13-7 at halftime as the Bearcats controlled the ball for nearly 20 minutes in the first half.
DeGaetano accounted for all 59 yards of Whitworth's second possession of the second half. He opened the drive with a 17-yard run up the middle. Then he went off tackle for a 42-yard touchdown run that gave the Bucs a 20-7 lead.
Willamette grabbed momentum at the end of the third quarter by getting a hand on Rehn Reiley's punt. The block gave the Bearcats the ball at midfield and they scored eight plays later on a ten-yard pass from Knowlton to Jordan Fickas, cutting the margin to 20-14 with 12:26 to play.
Willamette then blocked Reiley's 48-yard field goal attempt and gained possession inside Whitworth territory with a chance to take the lead. But the Pirates' defense stiffened and forced a short punt. Whitworth then went 88 yards and scored when Kolste found Thomas wide open up the left sideline for a 54-yard scoring pass. A two-point conversion attempt to stretch the margin to 14 points failed, and Whitworth led 26-14 with 5:41 to play.
Dalin McDonnell then put the game away for the Pirates when he intercepted Knowlton inside Willamette's 20-yard line and returned the ball to the 15. DeGaetano scored his third TD of the game one play later. This time the two-point conversion was good, giving the Pirates their final margin of 34-14.
Whitworth outgained Willamette 485-356, despite the fact that the Bearcats had a 14-minute advantage in time of possession and ran 17 more plays than the Pirates. Kolste, who set Whitworth single season records for passing yardage and total offense last week, completed 29-40 passes for 286 yards. He threw two interceptions in the game. Thomas caught seven passes for 108 yards with the two touchdowns.
Knowlton completed 19 of 36 passes for 191 yards with two touchdowns and one interception for Willamette. Fickas and Martz each finished with seven receptions. Taylor Wyman ran for 119 yards on 22 carries to lead the Bearcats' ground game.
Daniel Portillo had a big day for the Whitworth defense during his final game in the Pine Bowl. He finished with ten tackles, including three for loss, and he forced a fumble. Fellow senior DE Mac Shaw, also playing in his final home game, added a career-high three sacks for 15 yards among six total tackles. Whitworth sacked Willamette QBs six times for 31 yards in losses.
Tao Oulman led the Bearcat defense with 14 tackles and had one of the interceptions. Tommy MacDivitt had the other interception.
Whitworth set two single season records on Saturday. The Pirates have rolled up 5006 yards of offense in 2016, breaking the old record of 4,521 set in 2014. Whitworth has scored 426 points this season, upending the old record of 392 set in 1961.