It was an eerily spooky day Saturday for a college football game at Baker Stadium.
For starters, a stiff breeze blew over the east-end goalpost so severely, officials at the University of Puget Sound first tried straightening it back up with what was immediately available to them — jump rope.
By halftime, an October deluge had dumped so much rain on the grassy surface, the second half was played in a mud bog between the hashes.
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What wasn’t so odd was the outcome — a 24-7 Whitworth victory, marking the Pirates’ 20th consecutive triumph over UPS.
After the two top-ranking offenses combined for 408 total yards in the first half, the unrelenting weather finally took control of the game. The Pirates (5-0, 2-0 in NWC) and Loggers (2-2, 1-1) totaled just 124 yards in the second half.
UPS coach Jeff Thomas said afterward it was the worst condition he had ever coached in for a game — but refused to use the weather as an excuse for his offense’s poor play.
“It impacted us both,” Thomas said. “They reacted to it better.”
The Loggers’ totals were not finally gaining a little steam at the end of the first half. Fortune threw a 3-yard touchdown pass to senior Kevin Miller in the right flat to cut Whitworth’s lead to 15-7.
On Whitworth’s next series, safety Jake Wuesthoff intercepted an Ian Kolste pass at the Loggers’ 30 to end a threat with 1:53 remaining.
Then it all slipped away – literally – for the Loggers.
On their second drive after halftime, receivers slipped pretty. Consider:
▪ They finished with minus-32 yards rushing.
▪ Quarterbacks Hans Fortune and Tanner Diebold were sacked seven times and turned the football over three times.
▪ UPS failed to convert any of its third downs (14) or fourth downs (two).
“(The weather) was tough,” UPS receiver Brennan Schon said, “on our style of offense.”
Yet, slowly, it seemed as if the Loggers were on routes and dropped Fortune passes.
Then on third down, Fortune slid to the ground untouched for an 8-yard loss on a sack.
On came Sawyer Petre, who lost his footing trying to plant on a punt for the Loggers. His punt ended up being minus-8 yards — and Whitworth took possession at the UPS 16.
Two plays later, Kolste kept it on a quarterback keeper, and scooted in for a touchdown from 11 yards out to give the Pirates a 22-7 lead.
“It was a disappointing day for us in a lot of aspects,” Thomas said. “Certainly that punt, and our inefficiency of moving the ball in the third quarter just sapped the strength of this program.”
Whitworth’s Duke DeGaetano finished with 159 yards on 46 carries.
Fortune, the leading passer in NCAA Division III, was 14 of 33 for 162 yards. He left the game with 10:57 to go with a left leg injury. Thomas wasn’t sure of the severity of it after the game.
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PLU wastes scoring chances, falls to visiting Willamette
Twice in the second half Pacific Lutheran University starting quarterback Jon Schaub guided the Lutes offense into a position to extend their lead with a touchdown.
Both drives, however, ended with Schaub watching from the sidelines and PLU failing to find the end zone.
It wasn’t the heavy downpour, the rain-soaked conditions or even anything visiting Willamette did that most affected Pacific Lutheran.
No, the Lutes simply couldn’t get out of their own way at times — experiencing plenty of timely misfortune, drive-killing mistakes and costly penalties during their 10-9 loss to the Bearcats in Northwest Conference play at Sparks Stadium on Saturday.
“That’s kind of been the story of the year for us, all the way around,” PLU coach Scott Westering said. “From poor play calls to poor execution, it hasn’t just been one person, it’s been all of us.”
The young Lutes actually controlled the game’s flow for much of the contest and took a 6-0 lead early in the second quarter when Schaub, who threw for 185 yards on 17-of-31 passing, hit D.J. Winter on an 11-yard scoring strike to cap a 12-play, 80-yard drive.
PLU (0-4 overall) later added a 32-yard field goal from Dallan Rodriguez, who split the uprights despite kicking under driving rain and wind midway through the third quarter, but never again found the end zone despite having a trio of quality scoring chances.
The first came in the closing moments of the first half, when PLU failed to parlay Kyle Madsen’s 48-yard reception — which took the Lutes to the Bearcats 17 late in the first half — into any points.
An 8-yard loss on a Richard Johnson run was followed by back-to-back incompletions before Schaub was unable to convert a fourth-and-18.
Willamette (1-3) started its final drive of the second half with just 1 minute, 21 seconds left on the clock, but, aided by two costly PLU penalties, managed to march down to the Lutes 8 and cut the deficit to 6-3 on Cameron Coe’s 25-yard field goal as time expired.
PLU put together a solid drive to open the second half, taking it down to the Willamette 10 before briefly losing Schaub after the junior signal caller took a big hit on his throwing arm.
Freshman Cole Chandler took over, throwing an incompletion on his first play and being sacked on his second, which led to Rodriguez’s field goal that increased the Lutes’ lead to 9-3.
“It was just kind of one of those snakebitten things,” Westering said. “Granted, we wanted to play Cole today. We wanted to get him some live college snaps. He’s our backup, but you look at the situation when that happened and we’re throwing him in there against a veteran defense at the 9-yard line and saying, ‘OK, get in there and play quarterback.’ That’s a tough situation to be in.”
A similar situation surfaced in the fourth when Schaub once again was forced to the sidelines prior to a fourth-down play after losing his helmet during a tackle. The Lutes were unable to convert the fourth-and-4 at the Willamette 30 as Chandler was sacked for a second time.
The Bearcats took the lead for good on Jimmy Sharpe’s 1-yard touchdown plunge on the first play of the fourth quarter.
The Lutes had one last chance, getting the ball with 1:32 remaining, but were unable to reach midfield.
“That execution, that experience is all still part of who we are as a young football team at the end of the day,” said Westering, whose team was whistled for eight penalties.
“We just need to continue to get some miles under us with this group.”
Contributing writer Grant Clark covered the PLU-Willamette game.