/seasons/2014/contrib/20141005q7dx4q

Linfield drubs PLU, takes NWC upper hand

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PUYALLUP, Wash. – Holding its conference rival to 81 second-half yards and no points, fifth-ranked Linfield manhandled No. 14 Pacific Lutheran 41-14 in a battle of unbeaten Northwest rivals Saturday before a packed Homecoming crowd of 3,726 at Sparks Stadium.

Wildcats quarterback Sam Riddle (So., Hillsboro, Ore.) threw for 239 yards and four touchdowns while completing 80 percent of his passes. Evan Peterson (Sr., Bellevue, Wash.) caught three balls, two for TDs, and the Wildcats rolled up 460 yards to just 202 for the Lutes.

The 'Cats (3-0, 1-0 NWC) extended their series hex over the Lutes to 15 games at the same time seizing the early upper hand in the Northwest Conference title chase. PLU (2-1, 0-1 NWC), the NWC runner-up the last two seasons behind five-time champion Linfield, spun its wheels for much of the second half following a resilient showing during the first two periods.

Riddle passed for three scores to three different receivers in the first half, leading the 'Cats to a 24-14 advantage at the break. The sophomore connected on 9-of-11 throws for 139 yards, including a nifty 53-yard bomb down the right sideline to Charlie Poppen (Sr., Oregon City, Ore.) with 5:03 left before intermission that pushed Linfield in front by 10. Poppen finished with six catches for 77 yards.

Riddle piloted the Wildcats to the end zone on their first possession, methodically moving 75 yards in 11 plays. Brian Balsiger (Jr., Tualatin, Ore.) hauled in Riddle's 14-yard toss with less than five minutes elapsed to open the scoring. Balsiger had six receptions of his own, spanning 70 yards.

PLU answered with Dalton Ritchey's 13-yard tackle-breaking run. The extra point by Dallan Rodriguez knotted the game at 7 with 2:16 left in the first quarter.

Following the Lutes' touchdown, tailback Spencer Payne (So., McMinnville, Ore.) carried four times for 27 yards, setting up the go-ahead points on a 37-yard field goal by Michael Metter (So., Portland, Ore.).

PLU's ensuing possession went awry on the first play. Ritchey's pass glanced off Kyle Warner and into the hands of monsterback Jordan Giza (Sr., Salem, Ore.) at the PLU 42-yard line. Five plays later, Linfield was celebrating Riddle's 25-yard spiral to Peterson, pushing the spread back to 10.

Lutes halfback Niko Madison capped a nine-play, 69-yard drive, scoring on a 9-yard run with 6:31 to play in the second quarter to draw PLU back to 17-14. That's when Riddle and Poppen hooked up with the momentum-stealing pass play that kept the Wildcats in control.

Linfield outgained PLU 252-118 in the first half, including a 139-54 edge in passing. The Wildcats ended with 460 total yards while the Lutes were confined to just 202.

The Wildcats got the ball to begin the second half and quickly added to their lead. Riddle called his own number on a 2-yard keeper, completing a six-play, 70-yard jaunt. That was the only score of the third quarter. PLU produced just 35 yards in the period, going 0-for-3 on third down.

In the final period, the Wildcats tacked on Peterson's second touchdown, plus a 28-yard field goal from Metter, to end any hope of  PLU rally.

For the game, Ritchey gained a game-high 75 yards rushing on 16 carries but the senior quarterback was limited to just 87 yards through the air. He also threw three interceptions and was sacked three times by harassing ends Brynnan Hyland (Sr., Eugene, Ore.) and Alex Hoff (Jr., Lebanon, Ore.).

Hyland finished with four tackles in his first action of the season. Tackle Jeremy Girod (Sr., Vancouver, Wash.), linebacker Mike Nardoni (Sr., Palos Verdes, Calif.) and cornerback Kennedy Johnson (So., Gresham, Ore.) shared team-high honors for tackles with six each.

Lutes linebacker Blake Peterson was credited with 15 tackles, two for loss, and recovered a fumble, the Wildcats' only turnover of the game.

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Nov. 24: All times Eastern
12:00 PM
Centre at Mount Union
Video Preview Live stats Live stats Audio
12:00 PM
RPI at Brockport
12:00 PM
Randolph-Macon at Muhlenberg
Video Live stats Audio
12:00 PM
Johns Hopkins at Frostburg State
1:00 PM
St. Norbert at UW-Whitewater
1:00 PM
Berry at Mary Hardin-Baylor
Video Live stats Audio
1:00 PM
Bethel at North Central (Ill.)
1:00 PM
Whitworth at St. John's
Video Live stats Audio