McMINNVILLE, Ore. – Sam Riddle passed for 268 yards and four touchdowns and Spencer Payne rushed for 139 yards as No. 2 Linfield beat Whitworth 48-10 in the first round of the NCAA Division III football playoffs Saturday afternoon at Maxwell Field. Eric Igbinoba had three touchdown catches for the Wildcats in the rematch of Northwest Conference schools.
Linfield (10-0) will play Cortland State of New York on Saturday, Nov. 28, in the NCAA's second round, most likely at noon in McMinnville. Sites confirmed by the NCAA Sunday. Cortland State (9-2) beat Salisbury 45-21 Saturday.
Whitworth (9-2) had its second rough trip to McMinnville this fall. The Wildcats had beaten the Pirates 52-10 on October 24 in the game that decided the NWC title. In both games, Whitworth saw early 3-0 leads evaporate.
Saturday, Linfield scored on five of its first six possessions to take a 31-3 lead by halftime. For the day, the Wildcats outgained the Pirates 478-293 with a balanced attack, picking up 277 yards passing and 201 rushing.
Riddle finished 15-for-24 passing with no interceptions for those 268 yards and four scores. He also rushed for 27 yards and a touchdown. Riddle has for 27 touchdown passes this fall, tying him for eighth on Linfield's single-season list.
Payne had his 139 yards on 25 carries and moved within 41 yards of the 1,000-yard mark for the season and he added 49 receiving yards on four catches. Payne's 959 yards rushing move him into 10th place on Linfield's all-time single-season list.
Igbinoba's three TDs came on his only three catches of the day, totaling 65 yards. His three scoring grabs were one away from the Linfield single-game record, set by Casey Allen three times in the 2004 and 2005 seasons.
Brian Balsiger had three catches for 61 yards and Tavon Willis rushed six times for 52 yards for Linfield. Marcus McGovern made a pair of quarterback sacks and Zach Grate two tackles for lost yardage for the Wildcats, who also got interceptions from Dylan Lewis and Mikey Arkans.
For Whitworth, quarterback Ian Kolste provided the majority of the offense. He completed 29 of 52 passes for 175 yards and a touchdown while being intercepted twice, and rushed 17 times for 68 yards. Mike McKeown had nine catches for 26 yards for the Pirates and Anthony Fullman had five grabs for 36 yards.
Leading 7-3 after one quarter, Linfield outscored the visitors 24-0 in the second quarter. After missing a field goal early in the period, the Wildcats forced three straight three-and-out possessions by the Pirates and followed each with a touchdown to make it 28-3 with just over a minute left before halftime.
Linfield's first drive in the decisive stretch went 60 yards in six plays, culminating in Riddle's 9-yard pass to Levi Altringer with 7:17 to go in the half. Key in the drive was a 36-yard completion from Riddle to a diving Eric Douglas III down the left sideline to the Bucs 22 on a third-and-8 play.
Another acrobatic catch sparked the Wildcats' next drive, as Riddle found Balsiger deep down the right side and he outfought a Pirate defensive back for the ball and a 30-yard gain to the Whitworth 24. From there, Riddle found Igbinoba on the left side for the score to wrap up a three-play, 59-yard drive. That made it 21-3 with 5:31 to go in the period.
A short punt gave Linfield possession at the Pirates 31 for its next drive, and the Wildcats took five plays for the 'Cats to score. John Carroll outjumped a Whitworth defender in the back right corner of the end zone to haul in a 12-yard pass from Riddle for the score, giving Linfield a 28-3 lead with 1:12 left before intermission.
Whitworth broke through for a first down on its next possession, but the Wildcats got the ball back when Lewis picked off a Kolste pass at the Linfield 33. A 26-yard completion from Riddle to Balsiger and Payne's 21-yard run helped take the ball to the Whitworth 7, and Michael Metter's 24-yard field goal on the last play of the half made it 31-3 at the break.
"I was real pleased about how our guys played today," Linfield head coach Joseph Smith said. "It was a good first half of football against a dangerous team."
Whitworth reached the Linfield 3-yard line early in the third quarter, but Kolste's fourth-down pass fell incomplete in the end zone.
Metter added a 46-yard field goal to put the 'Cats up 34-3 with 4:07 left in the third period. After Arkans' interception got the ball back, Linfield made it 41-3 as Igbinoba took a 32-yard pass away from a Pirate and managed to stay inbounds in the back right corner of the end zone with 2:02 to go in the third quarter.
Whitworth got within 41-10 on Kolste's 6-yard pass to Nick Kiourkas with 12:02 to play, wrapping up a 15-play, 75-yard drive.
Igbinoba's final TD grab came with 8:11 left in the game, a 9-yard pass from Tom Knecht, giving Linfield a 48-10 lead.
The Pirates began the game by going 48 yards in 10 plays following the opening kickoff, taking a 3-0 lead on Rehn Reiley's 44-yard field goal. Linfield answered with a 61-yard, nine-play drive and took a 7-3 lead on Riddle's 11-yard ramble up the middle.