/seasons/2018/contrib/2018111059cve3

Linfield pounds Pacific 50-7, makes case for playoff invitation

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McMINNVILLE, Ore. –  No. 24 Linfield scored all its points in the first half as it rolled to a 50-7 victory over Pacific in Northwest Conference football during the annual Pacific Office Automatic Hall of Game Saturday at Maxwell Field. That first-half outburst included a pair of defensive touchdowns as the Linfield finished the regular season with its sixth straight win.

Linfield (7-2, 6-1 NWC) now awaits Sunday's NCAA Division III playoff selection announcement to find out if the Wildcats will make their 10th straight postseason appearance. Pacific (5-5, 4-3 NWC) ended its season with Saturday's game.

Chidubem Nnoli rushed for 108 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries for Linfield, giving him six straight games carrying for at least 100 yards. That ties the Wildcats' school record set by Spencer Payne in 2015.

Wyatt Smith was 19-for-31 passing for 274 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions for Linfield. Khory Day had four catches for 54 yards and J.D. Lasswell had four grabs for 23 yards for Linfield, which had 13 receivers with at least one catch and four receivers with touchdown catches.

Linfield rolled up 472 total yards while limiting Pacific to 145, including just 21 yards on the ground. The Boxers had just 68 yards total offense before their 80-yard scoring drive in the fourth quarter.

Defensive end Tony Kraus had three sacks and defensive tackle Havili Eteaki had two for Linfield, which sacked Boxer quarterbacks 10 times.

The Wildcats sacked Boxer quarterback J.T. Greenough nine times, including eight in the first half. Greenough was 18-for-34 passing for 122 yards, while Ty Hargis had seven catches for 43 yards and Kevin McGee carried 10 times for 43 yards.

Linfield opened the game with a 76-yard scoring drive needing just five plays, including Nnoli's 32-yard run to the Boxer 35-yard line. The touchdown came as Smith found running back Artie Johnson with a short pass on the left side and Johnson dove into the end zone to complete a 27-yard play with 13:17 left in the opening quarter.

On Pacific's third play after the kickoff, Hargis caught up a pass but Linfield rover Tyler Sitton knocked the ball loose and teammate Chris Stinchcomb recovered at the Boxer 35. It took Linfield three plays to score, Nnoli carrying for the final 21 yards as he took the ball over the right side then cut back left to reach the corner of the end zone. The Wildcats faked the point-after try, with holder Colton Ramos running the ball in for a 15-0 lead with 10:47 left in the first period.

The Boxers threatened to make a game of it late in the first quarter, taking possession at the Wildcat 35 after a short punt and driving to a first-and-goal from the 9. But Greenough's pass over the middle found Sitton, who picked the ball off at the 3-yard line and weaved his way to the left sideline. He stepped through a final tackle attempt at the Boxer 25, and his 97-yard touchdown return made it 22-0 with 4:47 left in the first quarter.

Linfield's defense accounted for the next touchdown as well. Pacific had the ball at its own 13 when Greenough tried to swing a pass to the right side. Defensive end Travis Swanson stepped in front of the intended receiver and returned the ball nine yards for the touchdown and a 29-0 lead with 8 seconds left in the opening period.

The Wildcats made it 36-0 with just over 10 minutes left in the half, with Smith connecting with Keaton Wood deep down the left side for a 41-yard touchdown. That completed a two-play, 50-yard drive.

Another long strike gave the Wildcats their next score, as Smith scrambled and found a wide-open Keegan Weiss for 36 yards and a 43-0 lead with 6:18 to go in the half. The drive covered 77 yards in seven plays and included Johnson's 22-yard run to the Boxer 42.

The Boxers' fourth turnover of the half set up Linfield's last score, as cornerback Anthony Guttadauro came up with an interception at the Wildcat 40 with 2:17 remaining in the second quarter. It took Linfield nine plays to go 60 yards, Smith and Jacob Calo connecting on a 13-yard touchdown pass to make it 50-0 just 18 seconds before intermission.

Pacific got its touchdown with 7:58 to go, Josh Harris running for six yards and the score. That capped a 15-play, 80-yard drive and prevented Linfield from posting its fourth shutout of the season.

'Cat Scratch
Sitton's 97-yard interception return was the fourth-longest in Linfield history. O.J. Gulley had a 100-yarder against Wisconsin-LaCrosse in 2004, and there were 99-yarders by Skyler Elgarico against Lewis & Clark in 2013 and Steve Johnson against Willamette in 1970 … The Wildcats' 10 sacks tied for second-most in a game in school history. The record is 11 against Willamette in 1984; Linfield also had 10 sacks against Menlo in 2010 and Puget Sound in 2013 … With Whitworth beating Willamette 52-0 Saturday, Linfield saw its string of nine straight seasons earning at least a share of the NWC title come to an end. That's the longest such streak in NWC football history. The Wildcats finished second this season, earning sole possession of that position in the final standings by beating the Boxers.

Dec. 14: All times Eastern
Final
at Mary Hardin-Baylor 24, Mount Union 16
@ Woodforest Bank Stadium; Shenandoah, Texas
Recap Photos Box Score
Dec. 14: All times Eastern
Final
at Mary Hardin-Baylor 24, Mount Union 16
@ Woodforest Bank Stadium; Shenandoah, Texas
Recap Photos Box Score