The Linfield football team ground down the Pacific University Boxers with touchdowns on offense and special teams to cruise to a 49-6 victory Oct. 15 in Forest Grove, Ore.
The ’Cats kept the Boxers out of the end zone for the first time all season while limiting them to 228 yards of offense, including -five yards rushing. Despite this, Pacific was able to stay competitive through the first two quarters due to Linfield penalties and mental mistakes. The ’Cats piled up 10 penalties for 96 yards, both season highs.
Junior quarterback Mickey Inns got the scoring started on a 14-yard touchdown strike to junior receiver Lucas Jepson early in the first quarter. Pacific answered right back with a 37-yard field goal that was set up by a 15-yard personal foul penalty on the Wildcats to make the score 7-3. Special teams took over the game for the rest of the quarter, with sophomore safety Colin Foreman returning a kickoff 86 yards for a touchdown and senior safety Drew Fisher blocking a punt and recovering it for a score, setting a 21-3 margin after one quarter.
“Special teams played a huge role,” Fisher said in an email. “They scored twice and provided good field position all day.”
Pacific converted again on its drive to open the second period, helped by four more Linfield penalties. A 22-yard field goal pulled the Boxers within 21-6, but Pacific did not score again for the remainder of the game. Inns tossed his second of three touchdown passes for four yards to senior receiver Buddy Saxon, widening the lead to 28-6. An interception by Fisher wiped out a Pacific drive and kept the score the same at the half.
“Even though we won by a sizable margin, we just didn’t play the game in an emotionally involved way,” sophomore tight end Jacob Priester said in an email.
The Linfield starters remained in for the third quarter to put away the Boxers. Inns fired his deepest touchdown pass of the season, a 65-yard catch-and-run to Jepson, to increase the score to 35-6. On a later drive, four consecutive passes into the end zone fell short, two of them on dropped balls by the receiver. Fisher said these mental mistakes must be eliminated for the team to succeed in the second half of the season.
“We have a lot of work and improvement to do if we want to get to where we want to,” Fisher said in an email. “We need to work on tackling, knocking balls down, intercepting passes, causing fumbles, knowing our assignments better and playing with enthusiasm and passion.”
Linfield’s defense continued to shut down Pacific while backup quarterback sophomore Josh Yoder ran in a score from four yards to cushion the lead further. Third-string quarterback freshman Matt Yarbrough capped the game’s scoring with a 24-yard pass to freshman receiver Colin Nelson. On defense, the ’Cats finished with five sacks for 46 yards and 25 tackles for a loss that added up to 72 yards. The victory assured Linfield a winning season, preserving and extending “The Streak” to 56 consecutive seasons. Fisher said, however, that the team still has a long way to go before reaching its potential.
“The outcome was of course a solid margin of victory,” Fisher said in an email, “But we don’t feel as a team we played to our potential and ability.”
The ’Cats will next face Pacific Lutheran University at home at Maxwell Field on Oct. 22. The Lutes are 4-1 on the season and undefeated at 2-0 in NWC play, and will seek to challenge Linfield’s bid for a third consecutive conference championship. According to Priester, the game against Pacific may have sent an important message to the team about what it will take to succeed in the post-season.
Chris Forrer/Sports columnist
Chris Forrer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.