SPOKANE, Wash. – Whitworth University took over sole possession of first place in the Northwest Conference football standings with a 55-13 thumping of visiting Pacific Lutheran University on Homecoming Saturday in the Pine Bowl.
The Pirates improved to 5-0 overall and 3-0 in the NWC, one game ahead of three other schools that are tied for second place. Puget Sound suffered its first conference loss of the season this afternoon and the Pirates travel to play the Loggers next Saturday in Tacoma.
Whitworth dominated both sides of the football. The Pirates outgained the Lutes 624-146 and finished with a 3-0 edge in turnovers. Whitworth held the ball for 40:56 of the game's 60 minutes. Leif Ericksen completed 31 of 40 passes for 306 yards with five touchdowns and no interceptions.
Whitworth scored on its first possession, set up by Brayden Corona's 41-yard kickoff return. The Bucs went 50 yards in eight plays and hit pay dirt on Mason Elms' two-yard run.
PLU got within 7-6 when the Lutes blocked Whitworth's punt on its next possession. Jake Herzog recovered in the endzone for the score. Tyler Adamson blocked his third PAT of the season to keep the Pirates in the lead.
Whitworth took its next drive for a touchdown when Ericksen found Noah Alejado on a screen pass at the PLU 44 and Alejado broke several tackles on the way to a long touchdown on his first career pass reception. Anthony Ruiz caught a one-yard touchdown pass from Ericksen at the end of the first quarter to increase the margin to 21-6.
Whitworth scored three more touchdowns in the second quarter. Tariq Ellis ran in from 16 yards out to cap an 83-yard drive, the Pirates' longest of the game. Garrett McKay caught a two-yard touchdown pass from Ericksen for a 35-6 lead and Alejado hauled in his second TD of the game from nine yards out for a 42-6 lead.
PLU still had not gotten a first down at that point. However, the Lutes put together their best drive of the game, going 75 yards in nine plays for a score. Anthony Louthan appeared on his way to a 24-yard touchdown run, but he fumbled near the goal line. Colin McKay was there to fall on the fumble for PLU's lone offensive touchdown of the game. Half of PLU's total offense in the game came on one drive.
Whitworth scored ten more points in the third quarter. Cody McDonald kicked a 31-yard field goal and Ericksen found Isain Wong-Lonzanida for a one-yard touchdown throw. It was the first touchdown reception in Wong-Lonzanida's career.
After the Pirates recovered a PLU fumble deep in Lute territory, Kevin Ramsey kicked a 40-yard field goal for the only points by either team in the fourth quarter.
Ericksen only played two and a half quarters. Cole Hinrichs and Jaedyn Prewitt, both freshmen, came on in relief and combined to complete 9 of 14 passes for 64 yards.
Garrett McKay led Whitworth's receivers with ten catches for 111 yards. Wong-Lonzanida added seven grabs, while Alejado had three for 59 yards. In all, 15 different players caught a pass for Whitworth.
Elms finished with 106 rushing yards on 14 carries. Ellis ran for 77 yards on 13 attempts as the Pirates gained 254 rushing yards.
Colton Chelin made five tackles and had the game's only interception in the first half, which he returned 19 yards. Iain Black and Jaylen Gonzales added four tackles each. Whitworth sacked PLU quarterbacks four times in the game.
Nolan Hoover started at QB for PLU and completed 4 of 9 passes for 18 yards with an interception. LaVoy Walker took over and went 8 of 17 for 68 yards. Liam Nabors was 0-1. Louthan ran for 52 yards on seven carries, but the Lutes gained only 60 rushing yards on 22 attempts. Wesley Nixon led PLU receivers with five catches, but for only 15 yards.
Matt Anthony had nine tackles for PLU, including three for losses of 14 yards.