by Nathan Webber
Freshman starting quarterback Bryan Peterson accounted for 141 total yards and two touchdowns, including the game-winning score and two-point conversion, as Whitworth knocked off Willamette University 25-24 in two overtimes on Saturday, Oct. 29 in Salem, Ore.
“Saturday’s game was one of the most exciting games I’ve ever been a part of in my entire football career,” freshman cornerback Paul Miller said. “The offense, defense, and special teams all had huge impacts on the game and performed when it mattered most. It was great to finally have a close game go our way.”
Fellow freshman Austin Ehlo was on the receiving end of the game’s final two scores. Ehlo hauled in Peterson’s 25-yard pass on the first play of the second overtime and the two hooked up again on the following 2-point conversion for the winning score. Ehlo finished the day with 121 total yards and one touchdown.
The Pirates (3-5, 2-2 in the Northwest Conference) snapped a three-game losing streak to the Bearcats (3-5, 2-2 in the Northwest Conference) as they moved into fourth place in the Northwest Conference, just ahead of Willamette.
Whitworth won back-to-back conference games for the first time since beating Pacific Lutheran University and Lewis & Clark College in the final two games of the 2009 season.
Regulation was less than spectacular for the offenses as both teams turned the ball over four times while scoring only 10 points each. Willamette went four for 16 on third downs and Whitworth went five for 17 as both teams struggled to move the ball down the field.
Willamette received the ball first but on their first play of scrimmage, Pirate freshman Jonathan Allen forced a fumble on the Bearcat wide receiver. The Bucs recovered and started their drive at their own 40. Eight plays later, Peterson called his own number and rushed 15 yards for the game’s first score.
After two consecutive punts by each team, Willamette went 87 yards in seven and a half minutes to tie the score at seven as the Bearcats’ Jamiere Abney ran for a 3-yard score.
Peterson was picked off two times, and Willamette fumbled and was intercepted once before the end of the half, tying the game at seven.
The punters were busy in the second half as Whitworth punted in four of their seven possessions and Willamette punted on five of their six possessions. Pirate punter Ehlo had seven punts for a 41.4 average and a long punt of 68, which would be tied for the 14th longest punt in the at the Division I football bowl subdivision college football level this season.
Both teams scored on a field goal on their last possessions of the game to force the matchup into overtime.
Willamette won the toss and elected to start on defense in overtime. Whitworth inched down the field on its first possession and scored on 1-yard run by junior Ronnie Thomas.
With Whitworth leading 17-10, Willamette took its first drive and scored seven plays later on a 3-yard pass, forcing the game into a second overtime.
On Willamette’s second play of the second overtime, the Bearcats Jake Turner rushed for a 23-yard touchdown, pulling Willamette ahead 24-17.The Pirates answered right back on their first play as Peterson connected with Ehlo for a 25-yard score.
The Pirates decided to take their fate in their own hands and go for two instead of kicking the extra point. Fate was on their side as Peterson and Ehlo connected again for the score and the win.
“Playing at their home field, being the underdog, and then winning it on a two-point conversion in double overtime can’t really be surpassed,” Miller said, who had nine tackles with one for a loss on the day. “It was awesome being able to rush the field on their home turf.”
Whitworth will play the fifth-ranked Wildcats of Linfield College in the final home game of the season this Saturday. Kick-off is set for 12:30 p.m.