October 15, 2011

Linfield assured of record 56th consecutive winning season

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FOREST GROVE, Ore. – Quarterback Mickey Inns passed for three touchdowns, including two to Lucas Jepson, and fifth-ranked Linfield clinched its 56th consecutive winning season with a 49-6 Northwest Conference romp over Pacific Saturday at Lincoln Park Stadium.

The Wildcats' extended the program's own national record for consecutive winning campaigns to 56, a figure that leads all divisions of NCAA and NAIA. Linfield's last losing season was in 1955. 

Perhaps more importantly, the Wildcats notched their 17th consecutive league victory to move one step closer toward solidifying their third straight NWC title and the conference's automatic berth to the NCAA Division III playoffs.

Linfield doubled Pacific's offensive output, 477-228, holding the Boxers to minus-5 yards rushing. The Wildcats played their second straight game without surrendering a turnover. 

All-America safety Drew Fisher was a force on defense for Linfield, recording 7½ tackles, including three for loss, an interception and a touchdown off a blocked punt by Kyle Wright.

Inns completed 16-of-25 throws for 239 yards in 2½ quarters of action. Jepson caught three of Inns' passes and two went for touchdowns. Deidre Wiersma pulled in a team-high five catches for 45 yards and Buddy Saxon had four receptions for 61 yards and a touchdown. 

Tailback Josh Hill rushed for a game-high 69 yards on 12 carries, including 60 yards rushing in the first half.

Special teams played a big role in spurring the Wildcats a 28-6 lead at intermission.

Linfield started the scoring when Jepson hauled in a 14-yard touchdown pass from Inns midway through the first quarter. The Boxers answered with Moses Villareal-Gomez's 37-yard field goal that snipped the margin to 7-3 with 2:32 left in the opening quarter.

Colin Forman took the ensuing kickoff 86 yards for a touchdown, putting the 'Cats in front 14-3. Pacific went three-and-out on its next series, forcing a punt deep in Boxers territory. Aaron Koford's punt was blocked by Wright at the Pacific 4 and Fisher scooped up the loose ball and ran untouched into the endzone. The extra point by Josh Kay was good and Linfield led 21-3. 

Villareal-Gomez added a 22-yard field goal at the 9:48 mark of the second quarter, capping an 11-play, 59-yard march. Linfield kept the pressure on as Inns moved the Wildcats 70 yards in eight plays, passing four yards to Saxon for a 28-6 Wildcats advantage.

Despite holding the ball for just eight minutes of the first half, the Wildcats were efficient on offense as Inns completed 10 of 13 attempts and the Wildcats coverted 3-of-4 third-down conversions. The Boxers, though, held the visitors to just 166 yards through the first two quarters. 

Linfield scored on its first offensive play of the third quarter to put the game out of reach. Inns connected with Jepson on a 65-yard bomb down the left sideline and the Wildcats led 35-6. Three minutes later, Linfield padded its lead as Stephen Nasca powered over the goal line from the Boxers 4-yard line with 12:08 to play. Third-string quarterback Matt Yarbrough passed 24 yards to Colin Nelson for the final points of the game.

Pacific quarterbacks T.C. Campbell and P.J. Minaya combined for 227 yards passing, completing 16-of-31 attempts. 

'CAT SCRATCH: Saturday's attendance was 1,757. . . a combined seven quarterbacks saw action for both teams, including four for the Wildcats . . . Dominique Forrest aided the Wildcats' defensive effort with 6 ½ tackles and a pair of sacks. . . Linfield's defense piled up a season-high five sacks for 46 yards in losses. . . Pacific held the ball for two-thirds of the game's 60 minutes, yet was held without a touchdown.

AHEAD: The Wildcats return home Saturday to face NWC rival Pacific Lutheran at 1:30 p.m.

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