SPOKANE, Wash. – Tevin Tyus and Aaron Cochran led a dominating Whitworth defense that shut down visiting Whittier throughout the second half on the way to a 38-17 victory over the visiting Poets on Saturday afternoon in the Pine Bowl.
The Pirates improved to 2-0 while Whittier fell to 0-1.
After allowing 10 points and 129 yards in the first half, Whitworth's defense did not allow any points and held the Poets to 99 second half yards. Most of that second half yardage came on Whittier's final two possessions (54 of the yards).
Tyus returned an interception 19 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter and added a fumble recovery and a sack to his defensive stat line. Cochran led the Pirates with nine tackles, 4.5 of which were for losses of 16 yards.
Cody Muncio opened the game with a 52-yard kickoff return, setting Whittier up at the Whitworth 38 yard line. Six plays later tailback Anthony Walker strolled in from 17 yards out to give the Poets a 7-0 lead less than three minutes into the game. It looked like the contest could turn into a repeat of 2012's offensive shootout won by Whitworth 47-42.
But the Pirate defense did not allow another touchdown. It also set up the first Whitworth score of the day when De' Hall intercepted his third pass of the season at the Whittier 31 yard line and returned the ball to the Poets' eight. Two plays later Griffin Hare scored from six yards away to tie the game.
Bryan Peterson's four-yard touchdown pass to Devon Lind early in the second quarter capped a 69-yard drive for Whitworth and gave the Bucs a 14-7 lead.
Whittier pulled within 14-10 late in the half on a 43-yard field goal from Alex Jungsten.
The Poets took their last lead of the game when Mundo Guzman intercepted Peterson on Whitworth's opening possession of the second half and returned it 32 yards for a touchdown.
Trailing 17-14, the Pirates went 74 yards on only four plays. The big gainer was a 53-yard pass from Peterson to back up tight end Lucas McGill, a converted QB, deep into Poet territory. Peterson completed the touchdown drive with a 14-yard scoring run. The Bucs led 20-17 after a botched extra point.
Kicker Kyler Gracey made up for the extra point by making a 29 yard field goal with 1:48 to play in the third quarter, extending Whitworth's lead to 23-17.
Then Tyus gave the Pirates some much-needed breathing room when he intercepted Whittier QB Steven Rivera at the Poets' 19 yard line and took the ball into the endzone. A two-point conversion pass from Kekoa Turbeville to Wade Meyer gave Whitworth a 31-17 lead with just over a full quarter to play.
DJ Tripoli capped the scoring when he broke off a 54-yard scoring run with 4:04 to go in the game.
Whitworth outgained Whittier 382-228 and had a six minute edge in time of possession. Most important to the outcome of the game, the Pirates finished with a 6-1 advantage in turnovers.
Peterson completed 11 of 23 passes for 205 yards with one touchdown and one interception. He also ran for a score. Tripoli gained 112 yards on 16 carries, while Ricky Abernathy added 33 yards on six attempts. Drew Clausen was the leading receiver with five catches for 94 yards. Lind's touchdown reception was his second of the season.
The Poets did get to Peterson four times for 34 yards in sacks. Nathan Poole had two of those for 16 yards in losses. Jacob Former led Whittier with eight total tackles.
Rivera complete only nine of his 26 passes for 78 yards with two interceptions and no touchdowns. Chris Lopez came on as QB in the fourth quarter and was 2-10 of 51 yards. Walker finished the day with 60 yards rushing on 19 attempts. Makale Ruiz-McCobb had three receptions for 42 yards, while Diante Jackson had three for 14 total yards.
In addition to big days on defense by Cochran and Tyus, Casey Monahan had eight tackles and three passes defended. Grant Livingston had eight stops and a fumble recovery. Hall added a fumble recovery to his interception and Jacob Kriegbaum had six tackles, including two for loss (-9) and a fumble recovery.
Whitworth will host University of La Verne next Saturday at 1:00 pm. Whittier will play Puget Sound next Saturday in its home opener.