SPOKANE, Wash. -- Menlo College turned ten quarterback sacks into a 24-17 comeback win at Whitworth University in a non-conference football game on Saturday afternoon at the Pine Bowl.
But the game was ultimately decided when Anthony Bendana intercepted Bryan Peterson's pass in the endzone with 28 seconds left after Menlo had scored the go-ahead TD with 1:43 to go.
Menlo improved to 4-0 by rallying from 14-6 and 17-14 deficits in the second half. Whitworth fell to 1-3.
Chris Tosello led the visiting Oaks defense, getting in on three of the ten sacks. Those ten sacks by Menlo cost the Pirates 73 yards in the game.
The first half was controlled by both defenses. Neither team scored until Kevin Kurtz booted a 27-yard field goal with 17 seconds left in the second quarter, giving the Oaks a 3-0 lead at halftime.
Whitworth got on the board first in the third quarter when Cailen Thomason intercepted a pass and returned it 35 yards for a touchdown.
Kurtz kicked his second field goal of the game to pull Menlo within 7-6. But the Pirates answered with a 78 yard drive that only took four plays. Ronnie Thomas broke several tackles near the line of scrimmage then bolted for a 65-yard run to the Menlo 13-yard line. After a pair of plays - including a sack - lost ten yards, Peterson hit Jack DeGooyer for a 23 yard touchdown to lift Whitworth to a 14-6 lead midway through the third quarter.
Whitworth held on downs during Menlo's next possession, but the Pirates moved backwards after a sack and a holding penalty. A short punt allowed the Oaks to take over at Whitworth's 33 yard line, and one play later Matt Pelasasa hit Robert Adan for a 33-yard touchdown. A two-point conversion pass to Adan tied the game at 14-14.
The Pirates drove to Menlo's 11 yard line on their next possession, but the Oaks held after two incompletions and a penalty. Drew Goranson booted a 29-yard field goal, his first of the season, to give Whitworth its final lead at 17-14 with 12:14 to play.
Menlo tied the game 17-17 when Kurtz kicked his third field goal of the game, this one from 40 yards, with 8:43 to play.
After an exchange of possessions the Pirates were pinned inside their own five yard line after a Kurtz punt. Whitworth moved out to the seven, but the Bucs only punted out to the 38 yard line. Five plays later Pelasasa found Adan in the back-left corner of the endzone for a 23-yard touchdown pass with 1:43 to play, giving Menlo a 24-17 lead.
Whitworth's final drive got to Menlo's 30 yard line before Bendana made his interception.
Menlo gained 307 yards of offense. Pelasasa completed 14 of 32 passes for 167 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. Kyle Campas ran 25 times for 110 yards, 89 of the yards after halftime. Adan caught five passes for 85 yards and both scores.
Peterson played the entire game at QB for the Pirates, completing 14 of 29 passes for 181 yards with a touchdown and an interception - his first of the season. DeGooyer had a big game, catching eight passes for 11 yards and a score. Thomas finished with 102 yards on 15 carries. But the Pirates finished with 80 net rushing yards when the 73 yards in sacks were factored into the totals. Whitworth had 261 yards of total offense.
Bendana had eight tackles and the interception for Menlo. Devon Jonsson also had eight stops, including two sacks for 17 yards. Shawn Winters also had two of Menlo's sacks.
Fernando Noriega led Whitworth with ten tackles, while Casey Monahan was in on eight stops. Thomason finished with seven tackles, the interception return for a touchdown, and three total pass breakups. Grant Livingston had both of the Pirates' sacks in the game and totaled seven tackles.
Whitworth is off next week and will back back in action on October 8th when the Bucs host Pacific Lutheran in the NWC opener and also Homecoming and Hall of Fame weekend.