Willamette Holds Off Wildcats to Improve to 5-2 on the Season
McMINNVILLE, ORE. -- Willamette University upset archrival Linfield College, 31-28, in a Northwest Conference football game on Saturday, Nov. 1 at Maxwell Field. Linfield entered the game ranked #5 in the D3footbal.com Top 25.
The Bearcats improved to 5-2 on the season and to 3-2 in the NWC. Linfield, which lost for the first time after 41 consecutive regular seasons wins, fell to 6-1 overall, 4-1 in the NWC. In addition to ending the Wildcats' regular-season streak, the Bearcats stopped Linfield's 38-game NWC winning streak and its 25-game regular-season unbeaten streak at home.
Willamette led 31-14 early in the fourth quarter, but two quick scores pulled Linfield within 31-28 with 10:38 to go.
For Willamette, Dylan Jones (Sr., RB, Santa Maria, CA/Ernest Righetti HS) rushed for 166 yards on a career-high 35 carries.
Jones scored three touchdowns, including a 98-yard scamper for the longest run in Willamette football history. The old record of 90 yards was held by both Andy Miguel versus Linfield on Nov. 11, 2000 and Justin Peterson versus Southern Oregon University on Oct. 6, 2001.
Jones has rushed for 1,210 yards this season and needs 30 yards to reach the school record of 1,240 set by Drew Ecklund in 2002.
The Bearcats scored on the first possession of the game. Brandon Wadsworth (Fr., DB, Oak View, CA/Nordhoff HS) returned the kickoff 31 yards and Willamette marched 65 yards on 11 plays, with Jones scoring on a 1-yard run.
Willamette picked up three third downs during the drive. The first was a 3-yard run by Jones on 3rd-and-1 at the WU 44. The second was a 19-yard pass from Trent Spallas (So., QB, Elk Grove, CA/Franklin HS) to Derek Traeger (Sr., WR, Mount Angel, OR/John F. Kennedy HS) on 3rd-and-4 at the Linfield 47.
The final third down conversion was a 27-yard pass from Spallas to Jones on 3rd-and-10 at the Linfield 28. Jones scored two plays later with 9:13 left in the first quarter.
A bit later in the first quarter, Samuel Robinson fumbled for Linfield and the Bearcats recovered a the Widlcats' 26. Four plays later, Conner Mertens (Fr., PK/P, Kennewick, WA/Southridge HS) missed on a 40-yard field goal. WU remained in front 7-0 when the first quarter ended.
The Wildcats began a drive at their own 18-yard line as the second quarter got underway. Linfield drove 82 yards on 11 plays, including an 11-yard pass from Sam Riddle to Charlie Poppen on 3rd-and-4 at the Willamette 24. Three plays later, Riddle kept the ball and scored on a 5-yard touchdown run. Michael Metter's extra point tied the game.
WU responded with a 77-yard, 13-play drive that ate up 7:08 on the clock. Jones reached the end zone on a 5-yard run with 3:22 remaining in the half. Mertens kicked the PAT, giving the Bearcats a 14-7 lead.
Riddle was intercepted just over a minute later by Damian Jackson (So., DB, Puyallup, WA/Rogers HS), who returned the pickoff 16 yards to the WU 49. Spallas hit Beau Smith (Sr., WR, Roseville, CA/Roseville HS) on a 23-yard pass to begin the drive. On the seventh play, Mertens kicked a 30-yard field goal, as Willamette earned a 17-7 lead at halftime.
Neither team scored in the third quarter, although Willamette ran the final 11 plays of the period. Linfield almost ended the possession with an interception midway through the drive, but the Wildcats were offside. The penalty occurred on 4th-and-3, giving WU a first down at the Linfield 27-yard line. Five plays later the quarter ended.
On the first play of the fourth quarter, Spallas connected with Traeger for a 12-yard touchdown pass. During the drive, Jones carried the ball 10 times and caught one pass for 22 yards.
Bryan Cassil returned the kickoff 55 yards setting up Linfield at the WU 33. Riddle threw two passes to Poppen, with the second covering 18 yards for a touchdown. The extra point cut Willamette's lead to 24-14.
The Bearcats had to punt four plays later, giving Linfield possession at the WU 45. The Wildcats kept the ball for only one play, as Riddle was intercepted by Nick Brickous (Fr., DB, Mesa, AZ/Perry HS) at the Willamette 2-yard line. On the next play, Jones dashed 98 yards to give the Bearcats a 31-14 advantage with 12:01 left.
Linfield changed the score quickly with two touchdowns in 16 seconds. First, the Wildcats drove 66 yards in just four plays, with Colin Nelson hauling in a 25-yard scoring strike from Riddle at the 10:54 mark. Then Tyler Tamayo forced Wadsworth to fumble on the ensuing kickoff return and Linfield recovered. On the next play, Bryan Cassil rushed 21 yards for a touchdown.
The Wildcats were within three points at 31-28, and had the ball again following an interception by Kennedy Johnson at the Linfield 47. Several plays later, Cassil was stopped for a two-yard loss on 3rd-and-5 at the WU 24. Metter was short on a 41-yard field goal attempt with 5:57 to go.
Linfield got the ball back at the Willamette 43 with 3:18 on the clock and the Bearcats still leading by three points. Riddle was intercepted on the first play by Brickous at the WU 25.
The Bearcats ran the clock down to about a minute left. In the process, WU forced Linfield to use all of its timeouts. After a 36-yard punt by David Cheng (Jr., P/DB, Dublin CA/Dublin HS), the Wildcats took over at their own 28.
Riddle was sacked for a 7-yard loss on the second play by Nikk Ryan (So., DL, Oakdale, CA/Oakdale HS). On 4th-and-12, Riddle completed a 24-yard pass to Poppen. The game ended three plays later with the Wildcats at the WU 41.
Willamette outgained the Wildcats, 371-317. The Bearcats rushed for 212 yards on 52 carries, while Spallas completed 9 of 21 passes for 159 yards and one touchdown. Linfield gained 120 rushing yards on 32 attempts, with Cassil earning 72 yards on 10 carries. Riddle was 17 of 27 passing for 197 yards and two scores, but had three interceptions.
The Bearcats amassed 38:34 in time of possession, while limiting the Wildcats to 21:26. Linfield held a slim 20-19 edge in first downs.
Jack Nelson (Sr., ILB, Portland, OR/Jesuit HS) led the Willamette defense with 12 tackles -- all unassisted. Eli Biondine topped Linfield with eight tackles, also all unassisted.
Up next for the Bearcats is a match-up with Pacific University in Forest Grove, Ore., on Saturday, Nov. 8. Pacific edged Lewis & Clark College, 48-42 in overtime, on Saturday to take sole possession of first place in the NWC with a 5-0 record. The Boxers improved to 5-2 overall.