Whitworth Remains Undefeated with 28-14 Victory over Bearcats

SPOKANE, WASH. -- Whitworth College senior quarterback Joel Clark passed for two touchdowns and ran for one touchdown, leading the 11th-ranked Pirates to a 28-14 victory over Willamette University in a Northwest Conference game at the Pine Bowl on Saturday, Oct. 28. Whitworth, now 8-0 overall and 4-0 in the NWC, also scored on a fake field goal late in the first half for a 21-7 halftime lead. The Bearcats fell to 1-6 overall, 1-3 in the NWC.

Clark was 11 of 20 passing for 219 yards, including touchdowns of 33 yards and 16 yards. He threw no interceptions and contributed 49 rushing yards, including a 5-yard touchdown early in the fourth quarter to complete the scoring.

Senior flanker Ryan Hernandez (Portland, OR/Portland Christian HS) scored both of Willamette’s touchdowns on a 1-yard run and a 10-yard run. He also caught four passes for 47 yards. He leads the Bearcats in rushing this season with 369 yards on 64 carries (5.8 yards per rush) and has hauled in 10 passes for 162 yards. He has scored three rushing touchdowns to go with two touchdowns on pass receptions.

The Pirates opened the scoring on the final play of the first quarter, when Clark connected with Michael Allan on a 33-yard touchdown pass. Clark’s scoring toss was recorded on a 4th-and-6 play. Cam Collings added the extra point to complete Whitworth’s seven-play, 61-yard drive.

On its next possession, Whitworth took over at its own 36-yard line following a Willamette punt. The Pirates scored five plays later on a 16-yard pass from Clark to Jay Tully. The big play of the drive was a 49-yard pass to Allan on 3rd-and-3 at the Whitworth 43. Allan’s catch brought the ball to the Willamette 8-yard line. Clark was sacked by Matt Gomez (Jr., DT, Petaluma, CA/Casa Grande HS) on the next play, but rebounded by throwing the touchdown pass to Tully on second down.

Willamette reduced the lead to 14-7 when Hernandez scored the first of his two touchdowns with 3:04 left in the first half. His carry for the touchdown went for just 1-yard, but came on a dramatic 4th-and-1 play, as Whitworth attempted a goal line stand. The Bearcats kept the ball for 5:22 during the drive, as WU marched 80 yards on 11 plays. Matt Bicocca (Jr., PK, San Andreas,CA/Calaveras HS) converted the extra point.

After Bicocca kicked off, the Pirates had the ball at their own 27-yard line. They answered Willamette’s lengthy drive with one of their own, as WC used 10 plays to drive 73 yards. The first six plays moved the ball to the WU 20-yard line. Clark ran for four yards on first down, but threw two consecutive incomplete passes. On fourth down, Whitworth lined up in field goal formation, but sent Allan near the sideline, where the Bearcats left him open for a 16-yard touchdown pass from back-up quarterback and holder Jon Luke. Allen scored with just 18 seconds left in the half.

The Bearcats pulled back within a touchdown on another lengthy drive in the third quarter. WU moved the pigskin 70 yards on 13 plays, leading to a 10-yard scoring jaunt by Hernandez with 3:37 left in the period. Willamette drained 6:47 off the clock during the possession, which included a 16-yard run by Dan King (So., RB, Nevada City, CA/Nevada Union HS) and a 17-yard run by reserve quarterback Grant Leslie (So., Bainbridge Island, WA/Bainbridge HS). The drive also featured a 3-yard run by King on 4th-and-1 at the Whitworth 13-yard line. Willamette trailed 21-14 following the extra point kick by Bicocca.

Whitworth gained an insurance score at the end of a 78-yard drive on its next possession. On the second play, Clark threw a 35-yard pass to running back Kyle Havercroft that advanced the ball to the WU 37-yard line. Four plays later, Chris Ahsing carried the ball nine yards to the two-yard line on the final play of the quarter.

Whitworth needed three more plays to score. Ahsing gained one yard on first down, but lost four yards on second down. Clark kept the ball on third down and crossed the goal line on a 5-yard run. Collings booted the PAT to achieve the 28-14 final score.

The Pirates have allowed only 239.9 total yards per game this season, and the Bearcats were their fourth consecutive opponent held under 200 total yards. Willamette concluded the game with 189 yards, including 139 rushing yards on 45 carries. The Bearcats gained 150 yards on their two touchdown drives.

Willamette’s top rusher was King, who achieved 46 yards on nine carries (5.1 avg.). Hernandez followed with 26 yards, while Skylar Swinford (Jr., RB, McCall, ID/McCall-Donnelly HS) rushed for 25 yards on four carries in his first action since sustaining a facial injury against Gustavus Adolphus College on Sept. 9. Kevin Dean (Sr., FB, Weed, CA/Weed HS) added 24 yards on nine carries.

Starting quarterback Kevin Whipps (Jr., Eagle, ID/Eagle HS) was 3 of 3 passing for 37 yards and played in the first half. Leslie converted 2 of 10 passes for 13 yards and one interception in the second half. Each WU quarterback was sacked three times, as Whitworth attained a season-high six sacks.

Allan led Whitworth with five catches for 124 yards. Steve Silva added four receptions for 51 yards. Clark’s 49 rushing yards topped the WC offensive chart, while Ahsing tacked on 30 yards on 17 carries. Whitworth gained just 99 rushing yards on 34 carries.

The teams combined for success on 5 of 6 fourth-down plays, as the Bearcats went 2 for 3 and Whitworth was 3 for 3. Both teams struggled on third down, as Willamette converted just 2 of 12 plays and the Pirates gained first downs on 3 of 12 plays.

Phil Sweet (Jr., LB, Albany, OR/West Albany HS) led Willamette’s defensive efforts with seven total tackles. Taylor Hermes (Jr., LB, Keizer, OR/McNary HS/Southern Oregon University) and Ben Fennimore (Jr., FS, Salem, OR/McKay HS) each contributed six total tackles.

The Pirates received 12 tackles (8 solo) by linebacker Casey Clifton. Greg Caster and Peter Ghilardi added seven total tackles apiece. Ryan Marshall of Whitworth recorded the game’s only interception, while Willamette’s Gomez was the only player to recovery a fumble by the opposing team.

Willamette will play its final home game of the season on Saturday, Nov. 4, when the Bearcats host Lewis & Clark College. Kickoff at McCulloch Stadium is set for 1 p.m. (PST).