Northwest Conference Opener for Bearcats and Wildcats
McMINNVILLE, ORE. -- Linfield College scored two touchdowns in the third quarter to expand a 21-7 halftime lead, as the Wildcats defeated Willamette University, 35-7, in a battle of nationally-ranked teams at Maxwell Field. It was the Northwest Conference opener for both squads.
Linfield, ranked #16 in the D3football.com Top 25, improved to 2-1 overall, 1-0 in the Northwest Conference. Willamette, ranked #15, fell to 2-2 overall, 0-1 in the NWC.
The Bearcats have opened the season with four consecutive games against nationally-ranked teams.
WU started the year with a 33-14 win at University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, which was ranked #16. Willamette then lost 31-22 at Hardin-Simmons, which was ranked #14. WUs third opponent, Southern Oregon University, was ranked #24 in the NAIA and lost to the Bearcats, 42-24.
After limiting Willamette to one first down on the opening drive of the second half, Linfield drove 69 yards on eight plays to increase its lead to 28-7. The big play of the drive was a 42-yard pass from Aaron Boehme to Aaron Williams that brought the ball to the WU 15-yard line. Four plays later, Boehme crossed the goal line on a 3-yard run.
On the first play following the kickoff, Terrell Malley (So., TB, Portland, OR/Roosevelt HS) of Willamette rushed for seven yards to the WU 37. He also carried the ball on the next play and gained 35 yards to the Linfield 28. On 4th-and-10, Willamette quarterback Brian Widing (So., Oregon City, OR/Canby Union HS) was sacked by Bryce Comfort.
The Wildcats drove for 80 yards on the next 10 plays. Linfield picked up three first downs on the drive on passes of 34, 17 and 12 yards by Boehme.
Chris Slezak caught the first pass on 3rd-and-4 at the LC 26 and Deidre Wiersma hauled in the other two third-down passes. The 12-yarder came on 3rd-and-11 at the WU 24. On the next play, Boehme hit Deidre again with a 12-yard touchdown strike.
Maika Kunioka kicked the extra point to give Linfield a 35-7 advantage with 1:30 left in the third quarter. Neither team scored during the rest of the game.
Linfield opened the contest with a 72-yard, 8-play drive. The drive almost ended after three plays and three yards, but a pass interference penalty against WU allowed Linfield to keep possession. Four plays later, Boehme completed a 26-yard pass to Slezak to place the ball at the WU 14.
On the next play, Williams was stopped for a 1-yard loss by Ralph Pineda (Sr., ILB, Los Angeles, CA/Cathedral HS/San Jose State Univ.) and Mark Meek (Jr., DT, Gladstone, OR/La Salle Catholic Prep/Western Oregon Univ.). On second down, Chris Saunders caught a 15-yard touchdown pass from Boehme, as Linfield took a 7-0 lead.
Widing hit Jake Knecht (So., WR, Issaquah, WA/Skyline HS/Illinois State Univ.) with a 64-yard pass on Willamette's first play to bring the ball to the LC 14. The Bearcats gained just five yards on three plays. Kyle Derby (Fr., PK/P, Oakdale, CA/Oakdale HS) missed wide on a 26-yard field goal attempt.
Willamette forced a turnover just two plays later. Jeff Kahler (Sr., CB, Honolulu, HI/Saint Louis HS/Whitworth Univ.) intercepted Boehme at the Linfield 38-yard line and returned the ball 20 yards.
Linfield's defense stopped WU for negative gains on back-to-back running plays, then sacked Widing for a two-yard loss at the LC 24. Willamette's 42-yard field goal attempt on fourth down went wide left.
WU caused another turnover two plays later, when Simon Lamson of Linfield fumbled at the end of an 8-yard run. Pineda forced the fumble and Reed Warner (So., OLB, Salem, OR/South Salem, HS) recovered for the Bearcats at the Linfield 39-yard line.
Willamette reached the end zone on the sixth play of the drive. Jamiere Abney (Jr., TB, Bremerton, WA/Bremerton HS) recorded the touchdown on an 8-yard run. Derby kicked the extra point for a 7-7 tie with 5:11 left in the opening quarter.
During the drive, Widing tossed a 9-yard pass to Scott Schoettgen (Sr., WR, Columbia, CA/Sonora HS) and ran twice for gains of 14 and nine yards.
The Wildcats were forced to punt without gaining a first down following the kickoff. On the punt return, one of Willamette's players was blocked into Tyler Whitcomb (Sr., Te, Oak View, CA/Nordhoff HS/Ventura CC) as Whitcomb was catching the ball. Whitcomb fumbled and Erik Koczian recovered for Linfield at the WU 32.
Boehme scored on an 8-yard run with 1:40 left in the quarter. He added a 1-yard touchdown run with 11:40 to go in the half. His TD in the second quarter ended a 78-yard drive that started with a 44-yard pass to Slezak.
The Bearcats drove into Linfield territory on their final two possessions of the first half. On the first drive, the Bearcats were stopped on downs at the LC 36. On the second drive, WU punted from the LC 44. Three plays before the punt, Willamette appeared to score on a 36-yard pass, but the play was called back due to a penalty for an offensive lineman upfield.
Linfield concluded the game with 428 total yards, while Willamette achieved 335 yards. Boehme completed 18 of 27 passes for 277 yards and ran 13 times for 52 yards on the ground. He scored three rushing touchdowns and threw for two touchdowns. Slezak led the Wildcats with six catches for 131 yards. Williams rushed 11 times for 59 yards.
Widing was 10 of 18 passing for 174 yards for the Bearcats. Schoettgen grabbed five passes for 67 yards and Knecht caught four passes for 98 yards. Malley rushed for 60 yards on seven carries and now has 282 yards on just 31 carries this season (9.1 avg.).
Mitchell Rowan (Jr., PK/P, Cotati, CA/Rancho Cotate HS) of WU averaged 34.5 yards on six punts. He placed two punts inside the 20-yard line. Josh Repp of Linfield averaged 34.0 yards on four punts with two inside the 20.
Pineda and Walter Robinson II (Sr., DE, Altadena, CA/Cathedral HS) each recorded seven total tackles for the Bearcats. Kahler, Warner and Michael Del Real (Jr., S, Salinas, CA/North Salinas HS/Hartnell College) added four tackles apiece.
Senior defensive end Eric Hedin paced Linfield's defense with seven total tackles, including two sacks and 3.5 tackles for losses. Sam Higgins, a senior linebacker, also registered seven tackles for the Wildcats.
Willamette will continue NWC play on Saturday, Oct. 9 at Pacific University in Forest Grove, Ore. Kickoff is at 1:30 p.m. (PDT). Pacific is playing football for the first time since 1991. WU defeated Pacific, 45-3, in 1991 and leads the all-time series, 53-25-5.
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