'Cats clobber Pacific, head to playoffs on a roll
McMINNVILLE, Ore. – Mickey Inns passed for 362 yards and four touchdowns, piloting third-ranked Linfield to a convincing 51-17 Northwest Conference victory over Pacific Saturday at chilly Maxwell Field.
The unbeaten Wildcats (9-0, 6-0 NWC) wrapped up their third unbeaten regular season in four years, clinching the program's fourth straight and 36th conference championships outright.
Sparked by Inns' three successive touchdown passes, Linfield (8-0, 5-0 NWC) scored 30 unanswered points across the second and third quarters on the way to a 12th unbeaten regular season since 2000.
Pacific, in its third year since the program's rebirth, ended the season at 3-6 overall, 2-4 in the NWC.
Inns completed 24 of his 35 throws for the afternoon, nine into the hands of senior Deidre Wiersma. Charlie Poppen caught six balls, two for touchdowns.
The Wildcats began slowly in opening quarter but built momentum after that.
Stephen Nasca scored on a 4-yard blast up the middle two minutes into the game. The Wildcats sailed 63 yards dowin the field in five plays for a quick 7-0 advantage.
Pacific evened the score minutes later, cashing in a fumble by Wildcats freshman Sam Robinson that gave the Boxers the ball at the Linfield 29. Six plays later, Brian Taylor caught a 10-yard pass from P.J. Minaya.
Wiersma made it 14-7 after snagging a 42-yard catch-and-run from Inns with 25 seconds left in the opening quarter.
Pacific closed the margin early in the second quarter. After another fumble gave Boxers the ball at the Linfield 40, Pacific moved six plays before Moses Villareal-Gomez booted a 39-yard field goal to cut the deficit to 14-10.
A bad snap in the end zone by Pacific enabled Linfield to notch a safety with 7:48 left in the second quarter.
Linfield made it a two-score game three minutes later when John Shaffer bulled over from 8 yards out for a 23-10 Wildcats lead. Shaffer finished with 29 yards rushing on nine carries.
Pacific's next drive lost 12 yards before the Wildcats seized the momentum by marching 52 yards to paydirt. Inns threw 10 yards to Charlie Poppen for a score. The two Wildcats hooked up again just a minute later for a 9-yard TD and the 'Cats took a 37-10 lead into the locker room at intermission.
Linfield outgained Pacific 328-72 over the first two quarters. The Boxers were limited to 5 net rushing yards on 18 carries. Inns connected on 22-of-33 throws in the half for 291 yards and three touchdowns.
The Wildcats ended any chance of a Boxers comeback when Inns tossed a 71-yard bomb to David Sigler with 5:18 left in the third quarter. Pacific backup quarterback Warner Shaw passed 54 yards to Cameron Pumphrey for the Boxers' second touchdown with 1:13 to go in the quarter. The extra point by Villareall-Gomez was good, breaking the Pacific career PAT record and making the score 44-17.
Linfield linebacker Dominique Forrest piled up six tackles and returned an interception 26 yards to lead a Linfield defense that held Pacific to 150 total yards, including just seven net yards on the ground. The Wildcats piled up seven sacks for the day. All-star end Brynnan Hyland was credited with 2½ sacks, giving him 18 for the season.
Minaya finished with 58 yards passing before exiting the game with an undisclosed injury in the second quarter. Bobby Ladiges led the Boxers with 28 yards rushing on 12 carries.
'CAT SCRATCH: Saturday's attendance was 1,901. . . 16 Linfield seniors were recognized on the occasion of their final regular-season home games. . . Inns passed former Wildcats All-America quarterback Alan Schmidlin on Linfield's career passing ladder. . . Inns now ranks fifth all-time with 5,510 passing yards. . . Wiersma raised his career receptions total to 148, passing John Nosler for third-most in program history. . . eight former Linfield athletes, including football players Drake Conti, Leo Sloan and Travis Olson, were slated for induction Saturday night in the Linfield Athletics Hall of Fame…the Wildcats wrapped up their eighth unbeaten regular season since 2000 (1982, 1984, 1986, 1992, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2009, 2011, 2012). . .Linfield won its 26th consecutive conference game, moving to within one of the program record of 27 straight NWC wins set between 2001 and 2006.
NEXT: Linfield awaits Sunday's NCAA playoff announcement, scheduled for 3 p.m. Pacific time on NCAA.com. The Wildcats are competing in the NCAA playoffs for the ninth time since 2000. Including NAIA playoffs, Linfield is appearing in the postseason for the 24th time in program history.