Pacific Lutheran ended the regular season on a five-game winning streak and all but assured itself of a trip to the NCAA Division III playoffs by holding off Whitworth, 28-21, on Saturday at the Pine Bowl in Spokane.
PLU (8-1 overall, 5-1 Northwest Conference) has next weekend off, and will learn Nov. 17 whether it will get an at-large berth to the national playoffs.
The Lutes jumped to a 14-0 lead, saw Whitworth storm back to tie the game right before halftime, then put together a vintage drive at the end of the third quarter to take the lead for good.
On fourth-and-7 from the Pirates’ 37, the Lutes went for it – and got a first down on Dalton Ritchey’s quarterback draw for 8 yards.
“That became a critical drive momentum-wise,” PLU coach Scott Westering said. “They blocked it really well, and Dalton made the play.”
Four plays later, PLU took a 21-14 lead on Ritchey’s 11-yard pass to Kelly Morgan with 14:08 to go.
PLU next drove 55 yards, capped by Niko Madison’s 4-yard run, for a 28-14 lead.
Westering said the team will practice and wait to learn if it’s in the playoffs.
“Everything we could do, we’ve done,” Westering said.
At No. 2 Linfield 79, Puget Sound 3: The Wildcats (8-0, 5-0 NWC) clinched a share of their fifth consecutive conference title, riding the Loggers’ early turnovers to a big first-quarter lead at Maxwell Field in McMinnville, Ore.
Linfield won its 31st consecutive NWC game, and handed the Loggers their 18th league loss in a row.
A fumble by Kupono Park on the Loggers’ first play set up the Wildcats for Josh Yoder’s 4-yard quarterback keeper after 38 seconds.
Backup UPS quarterback Max McGuinn fumbled on the next series, leading to Yoder’s TD pass to Brian Balsiger to give the Wildcats a 14-0 lead with 12:08 to play of the first quarter.
“It really set us … in a bind,” UPS coach Jeff Thomas said.