Box Score | Coach Buckley's Postgame Comments
McMINNVILLE, Ore. – It was a tale of two games for Pacific against No. 3 Linfield on Saturday: The game with P.J. Minaya (Jr., Wahiawa, Hawaii) and the game without him.
The junior quarterback paced the Boxers through a close game until being forced to the sidelines midway through the second quarter with an injury. The Wildcats took advantage, scoring 30 unanswered points over a 24-minute span on their way to a 51-17 rout of the Boxers in Northwest Conference football action at Maxwell Field.
Pacific found themselves in a close battle with the Wildcats in the first half, coming within 14-10 on a Moses Villareal-Gomez (So., Stockton, Calif.) 39-yard field goal with 10:21 left in the second quarter. After forcing a safety on the Boxers' next possession, the Wildcats rattled off the string of 30 that would not end until the 1:13 mark of the third quarter.
With the loss, Pacific falls to 3-6 overall and finishes fifth place in the NWC at 2-4. Linfield, who clinched their fourth NWC championship last weekend, completed an undefeated regular season by going 9-0, 6-0 NWC.
Head Coach Keith Buckley praised his players for their fight throughout the game, even with the adversity of injuries against one of the nation's top Division III programs. "We challenged the guys to come out fighting. Linfield is the No. 3 team in the country for good reason, and we hung with them and fought," he said. "Unfortunately, P.J. goes down and can't come back in and we struggled after that. But I am very proud of our fight and proud of everyone sticking with it and putting their best foot forward today and all season."
Minaya completed 8 of 16 passes for 58 yards and a touchdown before leaving the game. Warner Shaw (Fr., Waimea, Hawaii), who played most of the second half for the Boxers, completed 5 of 11 passes for 67 yards and a touchdown. Jakob Lawrence (So., Sherwood, Ore.) led 13 Pacific players to catch balls with three receptions for 30 yards while Bobby Ladiges (So., Escalon, Calif.) rushed 12 times for 28 yards. The Boxers found themselves limited to a season-low 150 yards, 143 of those coming in the air.
Linfield quarterback Mickey Inns completed 24 of 35 passes for 362 yards and four touchdowns. Deidre Wiersma proved Inn's favorite target, catching nine balls for 128 yards and a touchdown while Charlie Poppen caught six passes for 94 yards and a pair of scores. Tavon Willis rushed six times for 36 yards. Linfield finished with 500 yards of total offense, with 425 yards coming in the passing game.
Villareal-Gomez provided a bright spot for the Boxers as he became the career record holder for point-after kicks made. He connected on his 44th and 45th in the game to surpass the previous record of 44 set by Cub Shulund from 1986 to 1987. Punter Aaron Koford (Jr., Wilsonville, Ore.) also played a big role in the game, punting nine times for an average of 43.4 yard per punt and had one of 58 yards.
Linfield needed little time to convert the opening kickoff into the game's first touchdown, going 63 yards in two minutes. Stephen Nasca ended the drive with a 4-yard run to make it a 7-0 game. The Wildcats stopped the Boxers on their first possession, but Josh Brinkworth (So., Elk Grove, Calif.) forced Kyle Belcher to fumble on the Wildcats' next play, giving the Boxers the ball on the Wildcats' 29-yard line. The Boxers needed six short plays to tie the score with Minaya finding Brian Taylor (Jr., Lewiston, Idaho) for a 10-yard touchdown pass to tie it at 7-7 with six minutes gone.
The defenses on both teams held strong for much of the rest of the quarter before Inns found Wiersma for a 42-yard touchdown strike with 25 seconds left that made it a 14-7 lead at the end of one.
Pacific benefited from a second Linfield fumble for the first scoring drive of the second quarter as Bryan Mills (Jr., Imbler, Ore.) forced the ball out of Nasca's hands at the Linfield 33-yard line. Minaya moved the ball down to the 22-yard line, and Moses Villareal-Gomez (So., Stockton, Calif.) converted a 39-yard field goal to make it a 14-10 game with 10:21 left in the half.
Minaya would not throw another pass the rest of the game, leaving with an unspecified injury, and the whole complexion of Pacific's game changed. Linfield's run of 30 unanswered points began with the defense when they collected a safety at the 7:48 mark off a fumble by reserve quarterback Seth Siddle-Mitchell (Jr., Lodi, Calif.).
The Wildcats would then score on each of their final three possessions of the half. John Shaffer's 8-yard run with 4:36 left made it 23-10. Inns then found Poppen for a 10-yard touchdown reception with 1:21 left. They repeated the scoring combination with 11 seconds left, with Poppen catching a 9-yard pass that gave the Wildcats the commanding 37-10 halftime lead.
Shaw entered the game for Pacific at quarterback and the Pacific offense regained some of their groove. The freshman paced the Boxers on an 11-play that ate up six minutes of clock, but a missed 45-yard field goal by Villareal-Gomez left Pacific without points on the board. Inns made the Boxers pay on one play as he found David Sigler for a 71-yard touchdown pass that increased the Linfield lead to 44-10.
Pacific put an end to the scoreless drought with 1:13 left as Shaw found Cameron Pumphrey (Jr., Quinault, Wash.) for his first reception of the season, a 54-yard touchdown that brought the Boxers within 44-17.
The Pacific defense limited Linfield's scoring in the fourth quarter, blocking a Josh Kay 21-yard attempt with 9:50 to go and forcing a 44-yard miss with 5:32 left. Linfield would tack on one more score late in the game when Matt Yarbrough found Colin Nelson for a 9-yard score with 2:05 left.
Buckley singled out the efforts by the defense throughout the game. "All season long the defense has picked up the offense and the offense has picked up the defense. That is what team football is," he said. "They caused some turnovers and made up for mistakes that have happened. The defense came out and flew around and played great, especially at the onset of the game."
Brandon Harms (So., Canby, Ore.) led all defensive players with eight tackles, all solo efforts, including one tackle for loss. Brinkworth had five tackles and forced two of the three Linfield fumbles. Dom Forrest led Linfield with six tackles, one tackle for loss and an interception.