TACOMA, Wash. – Leif Ericksen threw three touchdown passes and Mason Elms ran for two touchdowns as visiting Whitworth methodically rolled past Puget Sound 47-13 in a Northwest Conference football game on Saturday at Baker Stadium.
The 18th-ranked Pirates improved to 6-0 overall and 4-0 in the NWC while the Loggers dropped to 4-3, 2-2.
Ericksen only completed 13 of 29 passes, but he was on target when it counted. He threw for 262 yards and three scores without throwing an interception.
Meanwhile the Whitworth defense came up with five takeaways, five sacks and limited Puget Sound to its lowest point total of the season.
The game got off to a rough start for the Bucs, who were forced to punt on their first possession and had that punt blocked. After gaining a first down, the Loggers had first and goal at the Whitworth three yard line. On fourth down at the two, Kale Wong sacked QB Murdock Rutledge, forcing a fumble that Jaylen Gonzales returned 49 yards. Two plays later Ericksen hit Bryce Powers for a 32-yard touchdown to stun the hosts, who were within two yards of taking the game's first lead.
Just two minutes later Elms scored his first touchdown of the game from two yards away. He set up his own score with a 34-yard run to the two-yard line.
Puget Sound got on the board when Silas Washington scored on a three-yard run to complete a 75-yard drive, the Loggers' best possession of the game. The extra point was no good and Whitworth still led 14-6.
The Pirates answered with a 65-yard drive that took only four plays. Ericksen's 54-yard completion to Noah Alejado set up the Bucs deep in Logger territory and Ericksen found Anthony Ruiz for a five-yard touchdown pass.
Whitworth made it 28-6 early in the second quarter as Ericksen hit Nick McGill up the visitors' sideline and McGill broke a tackle on the way to a 48-yard touchdown reception. The Bucs needed only three plays to move 67 yards.
Cody McDonald's 31-yard field goal with 51 seconds left in the second period gave Whitworth a 31-6 lead at halftime. Corner back Jayden Jira set up the final score when he intercepted Rutledge at the Pirates' 20 yard line and returned the ball 39 yards to the Loggers' 41.
After Puget Sound took the opening possession of the second half to the Whitworth 24, a penalty moved the ball back ten yards and Chad Wilburg sacked Rutledge for a 15-yard loss, forcing a fumble recovered by the Pirates.
Four plays later Elms broke through the middle of the line and raced 34 yards for a touchdown. The extra point was blocked, but Whitworth still led 37-6.
Puget Sound got one score back when Jewell Day somehow stayed in bounds to haul in a 14-yard touchdown pass from back up QB Nick Barnhardt.
The Loggers failed on an onsides kick attempt, setting up Whitworth in good field position. McDonald converted a 24-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter to extend the Pirates' lead to 40-13. The Bucs added their final touchdown four minutes later when back up QB Cole Hinrichs passed 18 yards to Andrew Meridith.
Whitworth outgained Puget Sound 556-338. The Loggers came into the game averaging nearly 370 passing yards per game, the second-highest total in Division III. The Bucs averaged 5.5 yards per play, running for 276 yards and passing for 280 in the balanced attack. Puget Sound only averaged 3.7 yards per play and only ran for 48 yards.
Elms is initially credited for rushing 167 yards on 18 attempts. Tariq Ellis added 60 yards on 15 carries. Garrett McKay led Whitworth's receivers with three catches for 30 yards. Ten different Pirates caught a pass.
Gonzales led the defensive effort with eight tackles, two pass breakups and his 49-yard fumble return. Wilburg finished with five tackles, including two sacks, a forced fumble and two pass breakups. Ian Black and Colten Chelin joined Jira with interceptions.
Rutledge completed only 16 of 42 passes for 192 yards with two interceptions for Puget Sound. Bernhardt went 12 for 18 for 76 yards with one score and one interception.
Whitworth will return home to host Pacific (Ore.) next Saturday in the Pine Bowl. The Pirates and the Boxers (4-3 overall, 3-1 NWC) are the only two NWC schools that control their own destiny to the conference title and an NCAA Division III playoff berth.