Review staff writer
A late fourth quarter push by Linfield was not enough to get past Hardin-Simmons as the Cowboys handed the Wildcats their first loss.
This marks the third straight season-opening loss for Linfield in as many years.
In the first half, the ’Cats spotted Hardin-Simmons University and easy 14 points as the Cowboys turned a pair of Linfield fumbles into quick touchdowns.
The scoring began when Hardin-Simmons junior quarterback Justin Feaster ran the ball in from the two-yard line. Then, after recovering a fumble on Linfield’s next possession, the Cowboys used 10 plays and a 32-yard Feaster pass to senior wide receiver Mychal Carillo for their second score.
Linfield answered with a four-yard touchdown run by sophomore tailback Simon Lamson.
The Wildcats continued to cut into the Cowboys’ lead during the third quarter when senior placekicker Scott Birkhofer nailed a 26-yard field goal to make the score 21-10.
In the fourth quarter, senior wide out Travis Masters scored two touchdowns, one rushing and one receiving, in a span of 5 minutes, 14 seconds, putting Linfield ahead 22-21 with fewer than five minutes left in the game.
However, Hardin-Simmons went 80 yards in 3:40 on a drive that was capped off by a two-yard touchdown by sophomore running back Josh Stephens.
This only left 1:17 for young Cole Franklin, a sophomore, who entered the game in the third quarter after starting junior quarterback Aaron Boehme went down with an injury. The final drive was not of the winning sort as the ’Cats were stalled by the Cowboys’ defense, ending the game 29-22.
Boehme, making just the second start of his Linfieldcareer, suffered a collarbone injury that is rumored to be season-ending. If that is the case, Franklin would take over the top spot at quarterback for the remainder of the year.
Head coach Joe Smith said he was pleased with the comeback, even though the final score did not show it. He said he liked how the team dealt with the adversity.
“The game was moved up four hours, phones went out, clocks went out,” he said. “The score didn’t keep our guys down.”
Linfield put up 351 yards offensively, outgaining the Cowboys, including 215 yards on the ground and 136 yards passing.
“We moved the ball well on offense,” Masters said, who finished with 52 yards receiving, 45 yards rushing and two touchdowns. “We didn’t let the score get to us, and we fought hard.”
Though Linfield outgained the opponent, two key turnovers early on gave Hardin-Simmons the first points and momentum.
“We didn’t really play up to our ability,” Masters said. “We were slow out of the gate and spotted them points.”
Injuries plagued the ’Cats as starting senior running back Reggie Ford went down with a leg injury in the first half. Later, Boehme was hit.
Smith said, however, he knew Franklin would come in and do a great job.
“He scrambled well and made good decisions,” he said.
Linfield has a bye this week and will use the time off to prepare for its home opener against the Raiders of Southern Oregon University, Sept. 27.
“We just need to get healthy and focus on fundamentals,” Smith said. “We need to cut down on turnovers and do a better job blocking.”