SPOKANE, Wash. – Whitworth University opened the 2018 football season with a 38-2 victory over visiting University of La Verne on a sunny Saturday at the Whitworth Pine Bowl.
The Pirates (1-0) kept the Leopards (0-1) out of the endzone for the second straight season, following a 53-0 win last year. Whitworth outgained ULV 459-255, holding the visitors to only 3.1 yards per play.
Leif Ericksen completed 16 of 25 passes for 239 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions in his second career start at quarterback. Back up QB Connor Johnson broke free for a 76 yard touchdown in the fourth quarter and ended up leading the Pirates in rushing with 93 yards on three carries.
Whitworth ran the ball 35 times and picked up 213 yards, an average of 6.1 yards per carry. Mason Elms did the bulk of the work, gaining 63 yards on 10 attempts with two touchdowns.
The Pirates scored on their second possession of the game, going 55 yards in eight plays. Elms carried in from four yards out to get the Bucs on the board.
Ericksen hit a streaking Garrett McKay up the right sideline for a 37-yard score on the next Whitworth possession, increasing the lead to 14-0. Ericksen then avoided a heavy rush, scrambled away from several defenders and passed to Nick McGill in the center of the endzone to cap an 80-yard drive halfway through the second quarter. Kevin Ramsey's PAT made it 21-0.
The Leopards scored their only points of the game when Austin Brown sacked Ericksen in the endzone for a safety with 4:11 to play in the first half. After the ensuing free kick, a personal foul and a 32-yard run by James Gonsalves gave La Verne a first down at the Whitworth 16 yard line. But on fourth and two at the Whitworth eight-yard line, QB Josh Evans was hit in the backfield and dropped for a loss by Jack McLeod with only 27 seconds left in the half.
Earlier in the second quarter, Tyler Adamson – normally Whitworth's starting left tackle on offense – blocked Diego Garcia's 31-yard field goal attempt.
The Pirate defense then held the Leopards to only 100 yards of total offense and four first downs in the second half of play. ULV only had 44 yards in the third quarter.
Ramsey increased Whitworth's lead to 24-2 with a 22-yard field goal with 5:33 left in the third quarter. Elms then scored from six yards out one possession later for a 31-2 lead after three periods.
With the bench playing the entire fourth quarter, the Pirates appeared content to just run out the clock. But Johnson rolled right, broke several tackles at the line of scrimmage, and outraced the defense for his 76-yard touchdown run with 8:15 to play for the final margin of victory.
McKay led Whitworth's receivers with six catches for 74 yards. McGill caught three balls for 52 yards.
Evans completed 11 of 25 passes for 96 yards for La Verne. He was intercepted twice, once by Colten Chelin and once by Shai Pulawa. Gonsalves ran 18 times for 64 yards to lead the Leopards on the ground. Nathaniel Sagastume caught five passes for 95 yards.
Jaylen Gonzales led Whitworth's defense with 11 tackles and he forced a fumble in his first career start at middle linebacker. Kale Wong had ten stops. The Pirate defense made 17 tackles for loss in the game, including three sacks.
Brown, Andrew Camargo and Conner Johnson were among several La Verne defenders with five stops each. Camargo recovered a fumble, which was forced by Johnson.
Whitworth will return to action in two weeks (Sept. 15), hosting Chapman University in the Pine Bowl at 1:00 pm.