Whitworth Pulls away in Fourth Quarter to Defeat Bearcats, 34-14

Jordan Fickas (Jr., WR, Gilbert, AZ/Campo Verde HS)
Jordan Fickas (Jr., WR, Gilbert, AZ/Campo Verde HS)

By Robert McKinney, Assistant Athletics Director, Communications

SPOKANE, Wash. -- Willamette University pulled within six points of Whitworth University early in the fourth quarter, but the Pirates scored touchdowns with 5:41 and 4:58 remaining to pull away from the Bearcats, 34-14, at the Pine Bowl on Saturday, Nov. 5. Whitworth improved to 7-2 on the season, including 5-1 in the Northwest Conference. Willamette dropped to 3-6 overall, 2-4 in the NWC.

The Pirates held just a 20-14 lead after Jordan Fickas (Jr., WR, Gilbert, AZ/Campo Verde HS) scored for the Bearcats on a 10-yard pass from Ryan Knowlton (Jr., QB, Puyallup, WA/Emerald Ridge HS) with 12:26 left in the fourth quarter. Whitworth extended its lead to 26-14 on a 54-yard touchdown pass from Ian Kolste to Kevin Thomas with 5:41 remaining to complete a 7-play, 82-yard drive.

An interception two plays later by Dalin McDonnell gave Whitworth the ball at the Bearcats' 15-yard line. Duke DeGaetano ran for a 15-yard touchdown on the ensuing play. The Pirates added a two-point conversion on a pass from Kolste to Nick Kiourkas.

DeGaetano carried the ball 20 times for 197 yards and three touchdowns. Taylor Wyman (Sr., RB, Bellevue, WA/Issaquah HS) of Willamette rushed 22 times for 119 yards. Wyman has rushed for 981 yards on the season, is averaging 109.0 yards per game, and has gained 1,971 career rushing yards.

Kevin Martz (Jr./So., WR, Salem, OR/South Salem HS/Claremont McKenna College) scored Willamette's first touchdown on a 19-yard pass from Knowlton for a 7-6 lead early in the second quarter. Martz caught seven passes during the game for 60 yards. Fickas hauled in seven passes for 71 yards.

Whitworth missed a 51-yard field goal on the first drive of the game. The Pirates limited Willamette to one first down on the Bearcats' opening possession.

After Willamette punted, Whitworth drove 62 yards on five plays to reach the end zone. The drive included a 35-yard catch by Garrett McKay. Kevin Thomas scored the touchdown for the Pirates on a 9-yard run. A two-point pass by Jonah Koski failed on the conversion.

The Pirates missed a 28-yard field goal attempt by Rehn Reiley with 6:04 left in the first quarter.

Kevin Martz (Jr./So., WR, Salem, OR/South Salem HS/Claremont McKenna College) Willamette took over and drove 80 yards on 16 plays. The mammoth drive ended with Martz's 19-yard touchdown catch. The drive was highlighted by four third-down conversions, including the touchdown, which occurred on 3rd-and-4. Benjamin Jahn (Jr./So., DL, Juneau, AK/Thunder Mountain HS) kicked the extra point for a 7-6 lead.

McKay returned the ensuing kickoff 42 yards to the midfield stripe. Whitworth moved the ball the final 50 yards on 10 plays. The key play was on 4th-and-4 at the Willamette 18, when Kolste completed a 10-yard pass to Michael McKeown. DeGaetano scored on an 8-yard run. Reiley kicked the extra point, as the Pirates surged back in front, 13-7.

DeGaetano added a 42-yard touchdown run with 9:51 left in the third quarter to increase Whitworth's lead to 20-7. DeGaetano had both carries on the two-play drive, which he began with a 17-yard run. Reiley was successful on the extra point kick.

Willamette advanced to the Whitworth 24-yard line on its next possession, but a pass by Knowlton fell incomplete on 4th-and-7.

The Bearcats reduced the Pirates' advantage to six points when Fickas scored on his 10-yard touchdown reception. The score ended an 8-play, 50-yard drive that began with two plays at the end of the third quarter.

Willamette converted two third downs during the drive, including a 3-yard run by Wyman on 3rd-and-1 at the Whitworth 28. A pass interference penalty brought the ball to the 10-yard line. Two plays later, Knowlton took the snap and connected with Fickas for the touchdown.

Tao Oulman (So., DB, Portland, OR/Lincoln HS) The Pirates drove to the Willamette 31-yard line, before a 48-yard field goal by Reiley was blocked by George Hedreen (Fr., LB, Williamstown, MA/Mt. Greylock Regional HS). Tao Oulman (So., DB, Portland, OR/Lincoln HS) recovered the ball at the Whitworth 46.

Five plays later, Willamette punted. The Pirates took over at their own 18-yard line. Seven plays later, Whitworth scored to extend its lead to two touchdowns.

Whitworth gained 485 yards of total offense, including 286 passing yards and 199 rushing yards. The Bearcats finished with 356 total yards, after passing for 212 yards and gaining 144 yards on the ground.

Knowlton was 19 of 36 through the air for 191 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. Kolste was 29 of 40 for Whitworth, as he tossed two touchdowns and threw two interceptions. Willamette's interceptions were recorded by Oulman and Tommy MacDevitt (Fr., LB, Santa Clara, CA/Saint Francis HS).

Oulman led the Bearcats with 14 total tackles, including 11 solo stops. He also intercepted a pass and recovered a blocked field goal. Nick Brickous (Sr./Jr., SS, Mesa, AZ/Perry HS/U.S. Military Acad.) contributed seven total tackles and broke up a pass.

Daniel Portillo and Jordan Pride each accumulated 10 tackles to lead Whitworth on defense. Mac Shaw registered 3.0 quarterback sacks. Shaw and Portillo each earned a team-high 3.0 tackles for loss, with Portillo also forcing a fumble.

Willamette will take on George Fox University on Saturday, Nov. 5 at McCulloch Stadium. Kickoff is set for 4 p.m. (PST).