The No. 5 Linfield Wildcat football team ground out a 23-6 victory over No. 25 Menlo College in Atherton, Calif., on Oct. 29.
The ’Cats struggled in what became a closer-than-expected contest, gaining only 299 yards of total offense and accruing eight penalties for 99 yards.
According to sophomore tight end Jacob Priester, the team’s mental focus was out of sync.
“We had too many mistakes, missed assignments and penalties,” Priester said. “We weren’t on the same page as a team.”
Junior quarterback Mickey Inns had a successful outing, racking up 255 yards and two scores, but also throwing a rare interception late in the game.
Both touchdown strikes were to junior receiver Lucas Jepson, the first coming early in the contest on a 31-yard missile to stake Linfield to a 7-0 lead.
A blocked punt by sophomore safety Colin Foreman was scooped up by sophomore linebacker Tyler Robitaille and returned 24 yards to tack on another touchdown, though the PAT try by junior kicker Josh Kay was blocked.
The play marked the third consecutive game Linfield special teams had scored on plays other than kick returns.
“Special teams again played a huge role,” Priester said. “The blocked punt was an important moment for us.”
A missed assignment allowed Menlo running back Thomas Reynolds to take off for a 40-yard touchdown run, but senior defensive tackle Joell Reyes blocked the ensuing PAT attempt.
Kay would attempt field goals of 37 and 34 yards before the half ended, hitting the first but pulling the second wide right. Menlo only gained 64 yards of total offense in the half.
“Their [Menlo’s] quarterback is a scrambler who can make plays with his feet,” Priester said. “The defense did really well against a player like that.”
The Linfield offense continued to sputter in the second half until Inns connected with Jepson again for a 71-yard catch-and-run down the sideline to ice the game with six minutes remaining.
The team was able to grind out the victory by picking themselves up after every mistake and not pointing fingers.
The Wildcats face a difficult two-game stretch to close the season, beginning with a road game in Spokane, Wash., to face Whitworth University on Nov. 5.
The Pirates are 3-5 on the season but stunned Northwest Conference foe Willamette 25-24 in their last game Oct. 29.
The ’Cats close the season out with a showdown against undefeated Lewis & Clark College on Nov. 12 that will likely decide the NWC championship.
According to Priester, the team knows that more focus will be needed for these games than was given against Menlo.
“We have to work harder,” Priester said. “Today was pretty ugly.”
Chris Forrer/Sports Columnist
Chris Forrer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.