Pacific outscored Whitworth 17-0 in the third quarter to turn a halftime deficit into a 31-21 victory, spoiling the Pirates' Homecoming celebration on Saturday afternoon at the Pine Bowl.
The Boxers improved to 4-0 for the first time since 1950 and earned their first victory over Whitworth since 1978. The Pirates dropped to 2-3 with their third straight setback. It was the Northwest Conference opener for both schools.
Whitworth grabbed a 14-0 lead early in the second quarter. The Pirates scored after the game's first turnover set up a short field. Fernando Noriega forced a fumble that was recovered by Casey Monahan and returned to the Pacific 28 yard line. Five plays later Griffin Hare ran in from eight yards for a 7-0 lead.
The Pirates used a more conventional drive to score their second touchdown. Moving 77 yards in 14 plays, Whitworth scored when QB Bryan Peterson found a wide-open Devon Lind with a touchdown pass from ten yards out with 10:03 left to play in the second quarter.
At that point Whitworth had outgained Pacific 179-23 and had 12 first downs to none for the Boxers.
But Pacific never panicked and the Boxers began to move the ball late in the second quarter. Taking over at their own 45 with less than two minutes to play in the half, the Boxers took only 34 seconds to get on the scoreboard. P.J. Minaya found a streaking Jordan Fukumoto for a 29-yard touchdown pass to pull Pacific within 14-7 at halftime.
The Boxers opened the second half with a 67-yard scoring drive that only took six plays. Caleb Roher caught a 22-yard scoring pass from Minaya to tie the game 14-14 just under three minutes into the second half.
Whitworth returned the fumble favor to Pacific as Chris Santiago forced the turnover on the Pirates' first play of the second half. Brandon Harms recovered at Whitworth's 24 yard line. Four plays later Deven McKinney broke several tackles on the way to an 11-yard touchdown run. Pacific led 21-14 and would keep the lead the rest of the way.
After Pacific forced Whitworth to punt, the Boxers moved quickly back down field. T.C. Campbell completed a 44-yard pass to Jacob Lawrence to move deep into Pirate territory. That set up a 26-yard field goal by Moses Villareal-Gomez for a 24-14 lead.
Whitworth answered with its last scoring drive of the game, moving 60 yards in seven plays. Peterson hit fullback Alfonso Miranda in the corner of the endzone for nine-yard touchdown pass to pull the Pirates within 24-21 with 14:26 to play in the game.
But the Boxers responded with their final touchdown on their next possession. Bobby Ladiges dove over the line from one yard out to cap a 56-yard drive. Pacific led 31-21 with 11:50 to go.
Whitworth appeared poised to get back into the endzone after Peterson completed a 43-yard pass to tight end Wade Meyer on third and 22. The Pirates had first and goal at the eight, but Pacific's defense stiffened and a 26-yard field goal was wide right.
The Pirates got the ball back one final time, but a sack and three incomplete passes led to a turnover on downs with 2:16 to play.
Pacific finished with a 408-331 edge in total offense. Boxer QBs Minaya and Campbell combined to complete 16 of 25 passes for 279 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. Lawrence led Pacific receivers with four grabs for 80 yards. Gunther Schultze ran seven times for 56 yards and Ladiges added 47 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries.
Peterson completed 18 of 26 passes for 217 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions for the Pirates. Meyer caught five passes for 94 yards, while Lind had five catches for 56 yards and a score. DJ Tripoli ran for 99 yards on 21 attempts. Whitworth finished with 114 net yards rushing, but Peterson was sacked five times for38 yards in losses.
Alex Willeford was in on two of those Pacific sacks while Josh Brinkworth finished with nine stops and forced a fumble. Devin Langorio had six tackles, half of which went for losses of 10 yards.
Monahan added an interception to his fumble recovery for the Pirates and he finished with four tackles. Tevin Tyus led the Bucs on defense with eight tackles. Kyle Davidson had six stops and Whitworth's only sack.
The Pirates will head to Willamette for a Northwest Conference game next Friday night. Pacific returns home to host Puget Sound, looking for a 2-0 start in the NWC.