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Linfield tops PLU 41-7, clinches 63rd straight winning season

More news about: Linfield

McMINNVILLE, Ore. – No. 24 Linfield clinched its 63rd consecutive winning season as the Wildcats ran past Pacific Lutheran 41-7 in Northwest Conference football in a Family Weekend game Saturday at Maxwell Field. Linfield's streak of winning seasons, which began in 1956, is the longest in the history of college football at any level.
 
Chidubem Nnoli rushed for 104 yards and two touchdowns for Linfield (5-2 overall, 3-1 NWC), which won its fourth straight game. The Wildcats were one big play away from blanking the Lutes (3-4, 2-3), who were limited to 171 yards total offense and went 0-for-13 on third-down conversions.
 
Wildcat quarterback Wyatt Smith was 18-for-21 passing for 228 yards and two touchdowns with one interception as Linfield gained 372 yards. J.D. Lasswell had four catches for 77 yards and a score and Chris Cassi added three catches for 45 yards and a touchdown.
 
Linebacker Patrick Pipitone tied a Linfield school record by forcing three fumbles. The Lutes fumbled four times but lost none. Pipitone also had 2.5 tackles for lost yardage while defensive end Travis Swanson had two sacks and three tackles for lost yardage.
 
For PLU, Anthony Routhan rushed for 33 yards on 13 carries. The Lute quarterback tandem of Nolan Hoover and Walker LaVoy combined to go 11-for-25 passing for 72 yards.
 
After Willy Warne opened the scoring with a 26-yard field goal, Linfield had to rebound from a 7-3 deficit. PLU took the lead when running back Ethan McElderry pulled up and hit Jace Keim down the right sideline with a 72-yard scoring pass with 4:33 remaining in the first quarter.
 
Take away that play and the Lutes gained just 99 yards total offense on their other 53 plays.
 
Linfield went back in front on its next possession, driving 65 yards in five plays. The Wildcats went up 10-7 as Nnoli ran 27 yards for the score, going over the right side and then outracing the Lute defense to the corner of the end zone with 2:39 to go in the opening period. The drive also included a 24-yard pass from Smith to Lasswell deep down the left side.
 
It took until late in the second quarter for Linfield to widen the lead. The 'Cats took over on their on 45-yard line and scored in six plays with Nnoli again getting the touchdown, this time on a 20-yard draw play 3:28 before halftime. The drive also included a 12-yard run by Artie Johnson and a 13-yard pass from Smith to Aidan Wilder just before Nnoli's run.
 
Linfield's defense set up the next score, stuffing the Lutes on a fourth-and-2 from their own 49 with just over a minute to go in the half. The Wildcats turned that into Warne's 49-yard field goal for a 20-7 halftime advantage.
 
Stopping PLU after the opening kickoff of the second half, Linfield made it 27-7 on its first possession after intermission. Smith hit Lasswell for 36 yards down the right sideline and the senior receiver leaped in front of a PLU defender to make the catch at the goal line with 9:32 remaining in the quarter. On the drive, Smith had already connected with Lasswell for 18 yards and Keegan Weiss for 18 more.
 
Linfield's defense accounted for the next score. Monsterback Tyler Bergeron picked off Hoover's pass at the Wildcat 28-yard line, broke to the right sideline and scampered 72 yards for a touchdown and a 34-7 lead with 4:19 remaining in the third quarter.
 
The Wildcats closed the scoring early in the fourth quarter, Smith finding Cassi for 26 yards down the right sideline at the front corner of the end zone to make it 41-7 with 11:11 to go in the game. The drive also included Tala Teaupa's 26-yard run on a draw play.
 
'Cat Scratch
Saturday's announced attendance was 1,696 … Nnoli notched his fourth straight game of rushing for at least 100 yards, matching the second-best string in school history. Linfield's record is six straight games, set by Spencer Payne in 2015 … Bergeron's 72-yard interception return was the 14th-longest ever by a Wildcat, and the longest since Mikey Arkans' 84-yarder against Pacific in 2016 … Warne's 49-yard field goal tied the seventh-longest in school history and was the third-longest of his career … Saturday was Linfield's 19th straight win over Pacific Lutheran. The Lutes last win in the series came in 2001 in McMinnville. Linfield now has a 45-21-4 lead in the all-time series, which dates back to 1933 … Saturday's win came 10 days after the 20th anniversary of Linfield taking sole possession of the longest string of winning seasons in college football history; the Wildcats moved into first place on October 17, 1998 when they beat Willamette 20-19 in McMinnville to clinch their 43rd straight winning season. The previous record had been 42 straight winning seasons by Harvard (1881-1923) and Notre Dame (1889-1932). The second-longest active streak is Florida State's 41 seasons starting in 1977.
 
Next
Linfield heads to Tacoma, Washington, on Saturday to face the Puget Sound Loggers at 1 p.m.

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