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Linfield wins Top 25 matchup easily

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McMINNVILLE, Ore. – West coast rivals Linfield and Cal Lutheran battled Saturday at Maxwell Field in an early season matchup of nationally ranked foes and the result was no contest.

Linfield quarterback Josh Yoder passed for three touchdowns and scored on a 35-yard romp as the third-ranked Wildcats bolted past 22nd-ranked CLU to move to 2-0 for the straight third season.

Linfield receivers Charlie Poppen and Brian Balsiger combined for 12 catches and 220 aerial yards, while tailback Josh Hill rushed 15 times for 71 yards and one touchdown to complement a balanced Wildcats attack.

The Kingsmen never found their offensive groove, scoring single touchdowns in the first and fourth quarters in an otherwise lopsided affair. Linfield outgained Cal Lutheran 655-361, including a 283-180 advantage on the ground.

The home opener went so well that Linfield called on its punting unit just once, though the Wildcats were flagged 14 times for 99 yards and gave away one more turnover than the visitors.

On the game's first possession, Hill scored from seven yards out to cap an 11-play, 75-yard drive, breaking several tackles on the way to the end zone. The senior all-star rushed for 59 yards in the quarter, firmly establishing Linfield's ground game early on.

CLU evened the score at 7 when Kingsmen quarterback Cameron Deen passed two yards to Alix Moise with 2:22 left before Yoder and tight end Westly Meng hooked up for a 32-yard scoring play with 25 seconds left in the opening quarter. Four minutes later, Josh Repp made it 17-7 with a 37-yard field goal.

Linfield padded its lead in the closing seconds of the half as Yoder found Poppen for an 11-yard touchdown. The extra point by Repp made the score 24-7 with nine ticks left on the clock.

Keeping the ball on a fourth-and-2 from the CLU 35, Yoder weaved his way to the goal line, extending the hosts' lead to 24 points on Linfield's first possession of the second half.

Yoder then passed 30 yards over the top to to Colin Nelson for another score and the rout was on. Freshman tailback Spencer Payne added to Cal Lutheran's misery with a 14-yard run with 10:08 left in the fourth quarter.

Wayne Chapman scored on a 5-yard run for CLU with 7:27 to go, but Linfield got the points right back with a 13-yard TD by senior Mikkel Smythe that completed a 12-play, 80-yard march.

On other occasions when the Kingsmen did move the ball, they failed to come away with points. Kicker Sean Belliotti was wide left on two field goal opportunities, the first from 28 yards away in the second quarter, and the other on a 33-yarder early in the third.

Wildcats linebacker Dominique Forrest turned in a 15-tackle performance that included two stops behind the line of scrimmage. Tim Edmonds had nine tackles, 1½ for loss, and broke up two passes. Kyle Wright picked off a pass to go with his four tackles.

Chapman ran for a game-high 113 yards but never smelled the end zone. Deen completed 13 of 25 throws for 147 yards and one TD.

On the other sideline, Yoder finished 16 for 24 for 322 yards and three TDs, but he threw two interceptions and was sacked twice.

'CAT SCRATCH: Saturday's attendance was 2,480. . . among the dignitaries in attendance Saturday were former Oregon coach Mike Bellotti and Nevada Governor Brian Sandovol . . . the Wildcats defeated Cal Lutheran for the fifth straight time and by the widest margin of the eight-game series. . . Linfield was 5-for-5 inside the oppenents' red zone. . . Jorden Walker averaged 62.2 yards on eight kickoffs, including two that went for touchbacks. . . Linfield's 2013 baseball team was presented its national championship rings during special ceremony at halftime. . . Payne, a local product from McMinnville High School, scored a TD in his first collegiate game.

NEXT: Linfield travels three time zones east to Cleveland, Ohio, to face Case Western Reserve Saturday in game that kicks off at 9 a.m. on the west coast. It will be the second long plane trip in three weeks for the Wildcats, who also scored a 71-21 win Sept. 14 over Hardin-Simmons at Abilene, Texas.

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