McMINNVILLE, Ore. - Aaron Boehme ran for three short touchdowns and passed for two more scores as No. 16 Linfield held 15th-ranked Willamette scoreless over the final three quarters on its way to a dominating 35-7 Northwest Conference win Saturday afternoon at Maxwell Field.
Linfield (2-1, 1-0 NWC), which had been outscored in the second half 36-20 in its opening two games, avoided a second-half meltdown this time by rolling up 428 yards of total offense on the way.
The Wildcats defense was stingy, holding Willamette (2-2, 0-1 NWC) to 335 yards, including 136 rushing. Willamette struggled to move the chains, converting 2-of-13 attempts on third down.
After throwing an interception on the Wildcats' opening series, Boehme settled down, completing 18-of-27 passes for 277 yards.
With a 21-7 advantage going into the second half, Linfield grabbed a stranglehold of the game midway through the third quarter. Boehme got the offense rolling with a screen pass to Aaron Williams that broke open for a gain of 42 yards.
Boehme capped off the eight-play, 69-yard drive with a three-yard touchdown run, giving the Wildcats a 28-7 advantage.
Willamette answered back with a drive deep into Linfield territory, only to have the threat ended by an interception by Bryce Comfort. Linfield's offense remained on the attack, answering back with a 10-play, 80-yard scoring drive.
A Chris Slezak 34-yard reception sparked a drive that saw Boehme throw for his second touchdown of the afternoon. Boehme hit Deidre Wiersma on a 12-yard slant for a touchdown.
With a 28-7 lead, Linfield controlled the ball for more than eight minutes of the fourth quarter. Boehme and Williams combined for 109 yards on the ground.
Despite outgaining the Wildcats in yardage in the first half, 213-190, the Bearcats trailed by two touchdowns at intermission. WU was 2-of-7 on third-down conversions and cashed in just 1-of-3 scoring opportunities inside the red zone. Linfield, in contrast, was 3-of-3 when penetrating the Bearcats' 20-yard line over the game's first two quarters.
After a pass interference call on third down kept Linfield's first drive of the game alive, the Wildcats used big plays from Simon Lamson and Slezak to move the ball down to the WU 14. Two plays later, Boehme hooked up with Chris Saunders for a 15-yard touchdown reception at the 12:33 mark.
On its first play from scrimmage following the ensuing kickoff, Willamette quarterback Brian Widing found an open Jake Knecht for a 59-yard gain. The Bearcats failed to cash in on prime field position as kicker Kyle Derby missed a 26-yard field goal attempt.
The Bearcats' kicking woes continued minutes later. After picking off Boehme and moving the ball down to the 18-yard line, Knecht missed a 42-yard field goal attempt.
With a 7-0 advantage, Linfield committed its second turnover of
the afternoon. Lamson's fumble at the Linfield 39 line set up
a Jamiere Abney eight-yard touchdown run with 5:11 remaining in the
Linfield closed out the quarter with an eight-yard touchdown run from Boehme. The drive started at the Willamette 32-yard line after the Bearcats muffed the previous punt.
Willamette's miscues continued to aid the Linfield offense on the Wildcats first drive of the second quarter. Boehme opened the drive with a 44-yard pass to Slezak. With an additional 15-yard roughing-the-passer penalty, the Wildcats had first down at the Bearcats' 19.
Slezak proved to be Boehme's primary target in the first half, as the senior made four catches for 93 yards. Slezak finished the game with 131 yards receiving.
After Ryan Henderson corraled a ball that moved LInfield the Bearcats' 1, Boehme put Linfield up 21-7 with a short touchdown run.
Widing finished the game with 174 yards passing, completing 10-of-18 attempts. Terrell Malley ran for 60 yards on seven carries for the Bearcats.
Eric Hedin had a monster game for Wildcats, tallying a team-high seven tackles and two sacks. Sam Higgins totaled 5½ tackles, including one for loss.
NEXT: Linfield faces its first NWC road test Saturday when the 'Cats travel north to Tacoma, Wash., where they'll take on Puget Sound at 1 p.m.