Defense stands stout in OT
Review staff writer
A fumble recovery by junior defensive tackle Paul Nishizaki sealed the first win of the season for the Wildcats on Sept. 27 as they took down Southern Oregon University in overtime.
The first half did not provide much excitement for Wildcat fans as Linfield was only able to rack up 125 yards of total offense, never entering the red zone inside the opponent’s 20-yard line.
The lone scoring threat from the ’Cats came midway through the second quarter when senior kicker Scott Birkhofer missed a 51-yard field goal attempt.
SOU, however, had two golden scoring opportunities in the second quarter. Raider senior kicker Corey O’Neill attempted a 34-yard field goal but sailed it wide to the left with five minutes remaining in the half.
With 20 seconds remaining, the Raiders were on the Linfield 10-yard line. SOU senior quarterback Bryan Lee-Lauduski was picked off by junior cornerback Bubba Lemon.
The first score of the contest did not occur until the 4:24 mark of the third quarter after a Linfield fumble was recovered by SOU. Lee-Lauduski then connected with senior wide receiver Danny Patenaude for a 22-yard touchdown.
Linfield responded quickly with freshman defensive end Sparky Gonzalez recovering a fumble on the Raider 35-yard line.
After driving to the one-yard line, sophomore running back Simon Lamson punched it through for the tying score.
With a little more than 10 minutes remaining in regulation, Linfield stopped SOU on third down to force a Raider punt. The ’Cats began their drive on their own five-yard line. Fifteen plays later, Linfield was on the Raider one-yard line with 1:06 left in the game. Lamson tried to power his way through for the go-ahead score, but he fumbled, and it was recovered by SOU in the end zone, resulting in a touchback.
After a Raider punt, Linfield decided to run out the clock to send the game into overtime, the Wildcats’ first since 2002, also against SOU.
Nineteen seconds into overtime, Linfield sophomore quarterback Cole Franklin scampered into the end zone, giving the ’Cats their first lead of the game.
On SOU’s first overtime play, Lee-Lauduski fumbled the snap, and Nishizaki fell on top of the ball to seal the victory.
Linfield was able to hold Raider senior running back Marlon Rosales to 26 yards on the ground after he busted out 81 yards in the first half.
Franklin passed for 123 yards on 9-18 passing and added 63 yards rushing with the winning touchdown.
Sharing the spotlight with Franklin was Lamson, who achieved a career-high 126 yards rushing on 23 carries and one touchdown.
“Everything was going right,” Lamson said. “The offensive line opened up lanes I couldn’t miss. I have to credit them with my statistics and the way the game ended. They’re the guys doing the dirty work.”
The Raiders totaled 240 yards throughout the game, but the Linfield defense forced three crucial turnovers, two fumbles and an interception.
The win improves the Wildcats’ record to 1-1 overall as they prepare for their conference opener against the Menlo College Oaks on Oct. 4.
“They’re a dangerous offensive team,” Smith said.