|Linfield and Cal Lutheran
have met twice a year each of the past two years, and the cycle
starts again this week.
2010 d3photography.com photo by Dan Harris
In the past few years, Linfield and Cal Lutheran have played some big games. Saturday's will be no different. The fifth-ranked Wildcats travel to Thousand Oaks to battle the No. 10 Kingsmen for the sixth time in four seasons. Linfield has owned the series as of late with a 4-1 mark.
"The past wins we have enjoyed vs. CLU is water under the bridge," Linfield coach Joe Smith said, however. "It means nothing. We are fairly evenly matched and the team that executes at the highest level, for the longest time, will win."
Cal Lutheran won its first game, 37-23 over Pacific Lutheran, a NWC foe of Linfield's. Eric Rogers led the way with 177 yards on 11 catches and a touchdown. Linfield broke open a 21-21 tie by scoring 21 in the third quarter to hold off Hardin-Simmons 42-28 and improve to 2-0. Quarterback Mickey Inns threw for 309 yards and four touchdowns and running back Josh Hill added 195 all-purpose yards and a touchdown to pace the Wildcats.
Kingsmen coach Ben McEnroe welcomes the matchup that has a chance of repeating itself like it has the last two seasons. Linfield is 3-1 over the last two seasons and has won first-round playoff games each time.
"It's sort of become an annual tradition to see these guys," McEnroe said. "The biggest challenge is getting our house in order. We’ve played them more than most of teams in our conference. It's good for our growth to see what a perennial top ten team looks like."
Both games last season were close as Linfield pulled away with a 24-14 win in the regular season and a 30-27 victory in the playoffs.
"We were driving the length of field and we got a holding penalty," McEnroe said. "We had opportunity to win that game late."
A win Saturday would help the Kingsmen's national profile.
"If we truly want to compete at national level, we have to compete with Linfield and have to beat Linfield," McEnroe said. "They are a measuring stick. We've got to find a way to win it now."
Smith said he knows his team's hands will be full with the familiar foe.
"Cal Lutheran is a tremendous football team," Smith said. "From having played the best teams around the country the past decade, I believe Cal Lutheran is a top 10 caliber team most every season. They are very fast and athletic, and they are very well coached."
Everyone else in the entire college football landscape is trying to catch Puget Sound's Adam Kniffin.
Kniffin, the Loggers senior standout wide receiver, caught 12 passes for a school-record 267 yards and scored four touchdowns in Puget Sound's 55-35 loss at Chapman Saturday. After two games, Kniffin has 363 yards and a 181.5 average -- both tops in all divisions of football, not just Division III. The closest to Kniffin is Shjuan Richardson of D-II Emporia State with 352 yards in two games (176 average). East Stroudsburg's Jordan Hallman, another D-II player, has 179 yards in one game, which is the closest to Kniffin's average.
"Again it's something it's pretty cool," Kniffin said, "But it's only two games into the season, I don't try to look at those stats. I want to see those stats be successful for the team."
The Loggers have lost 11 straight, including the first two this season. Kniffin wants wins, not numbers.
"It's something cool," Kniffin said. "I wish it would come in a win. I'm just trying to make big plays for the team. We're trying to do what we can to get a win."
Although the wins haven't come for the Loggers, the stats have for Kniffin. The senior, who has 2,269 yards, is 43 yards away from breaking the school's all-time mark, set by Mike Bos in 1982. He also holds single-season records in yardage (995), touchdowns (17) and receptions (95).
"Traditionally our offense hasn't been a passing offense," Kniffin said. "I try to keep it in perspective, (but it's) definitely a great honor to have."
Even with all of the records, Kniffin still finds himself in some single-coverage situations.
"I'm trying to give a look to (quarterback) Braden (Foley) to let him know if he doesn't see it," Kniffin said of single-coverage situations at the line of scrimmage. "Foley does a good job of getting the ball out of hands quick and gives myself and the other receivers a chance to make a play."
The Loggers have a week off before facing Whittier to try and earn that elusive win. Kniffin said it was crucial to get off to a much better start. Puget Sound trailed 28-0 after the first quarter at Chapman.
"I think we need to focus on the smaller details," Kniffin said. "We were three-and-out to start to start the game. We need to focus on not getting penalties and not making mental errors. We had a big deficit at the beginning of the game and it was hard to climb out of."
After getting shocked on their home turf by UW-La Crosse, North Central responded in a big way by destroying Redlands 42-16, avenging last season's 35-29 loss at Redlands. The Cardinals outscored the Bulldogs 35-0 in the second and third quarters.
Yards put up between Whitworth and Whittier in Whitworth's 47-42 win Saturday night. The two teams combined for 730 through the air with Whitworth accounting for 394.