SPOKANE, Wash. – Taylor Kolste caught a pair of touchdown passes, Kaipo Barnes was responsible for three turnovers and Whitworth University opened defense of its Northwest Conference title with an 82-7 win over visiting Willamette University on Homecoming and Hall of Fame Day in the Pine Bowl.
The Pirates (2-1 overall, 1-0 NWC) came within a point of tying the school record for most points in a game. The Bearcats (1-2, 0-1) committed seven turnovers in the loss.
Whitworth took a 31-7 lead at halftime as Leif Ericksen completed 11 of 18 passes for 108 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. But after a 26-yard field goal to open the scoring, it was a 33-yard touchdown pass from back up Connor Johnson to Kolste that got the Pirates in the endzone for the first time. Ericksen had pitched a ball to Johnson, who pulled up and found Kolste streaking open up the sideline.
Ericksen threw a six-yard pass to Kolste for the second touchdown and completed a 33-yard score to Andrew Meredith. Meredith caught the ball at the 20, broke a tackle and outraced the defenders to the endzone for a 25-0 lead in the second quarter. Ericksen did not play after halftime.
Braydon Corona scored from one yard away to cap a 32-yard drive that was set up by a short punt, giving the Pirates a 31-0 lead.
Willamette scored its only touchdown with 11 seconds to play in the half when Matthew Castaneda threw a five-yard touchdown to Jordan Jenkins. That score was set up by Kyle Martz's interception and return to the Pirate 25-yard line.
Whitworth exploded for 35 points in the third quarter to break the game wide open. Corona broke free for a 61-yard scoring run on the Bucs' first possession. Johnson threw a five-yard touchdown to Brad Mills on the next drive, and Mills ran in from two yards away the third time Whitworth had the ball. Johnson threw touchdown passes of five yards to Ethan Peloquin and 13 yards to Caleb Jones to complete the onslaught. One of those last two scores was set up by an interception at the 25 and the second was on a fourth down stop at the Willamette 32.
Spencer Lloyd broke free for a 91-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter for a 73-7 lead. It was Whitworth's longest run from scrimmage since Mason Elms set the school record with a 96-yard run in 2016.
Whitworth's final touchdown came when Jamal Edwards returned an interception 30 yards to the endzone. The final points came when Tristan Guilfoyle blocked a Willamette punt out of the endzone for a safety.
Johnson went 7-7 for 91 yards with four touchdowns in his best throwing game as Whitworth's back up QB. Kolste finished with five receptions for 72 yards. Nine different Bucs caught passes in the game.
But the Pirates did most of their damage on the ground, running for 357 yards of the 556 yards of total offense. Corona picked up 96 yards on 10 carries, while Mills finished with 60 yards on ten tries.
Barnes, making his first career start for the Pirate defense, intercepted two passes and recovered a fumble. He had three tackles. Gunnar Swannack, making his first start of the season, led the way with six stops and also recovered a fumble. Patrick Serrano and Zach Hillman also had interceptions.
Castaneda finished 20 of 41 for 207 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions for Willamette. Back up Aiden Kuydendall went 1-4 and threw two picks. Jenkins had a big day with seven catches for 85 yards and a score.
The Pirate football record for points in a single game came in an 83-13 win over Northern Montana in 1971.
Whitworth will hit the road next weekend for a game at Lewis & Clark College.