Versus Willamette (10-24-09)
Linfield graduate Brad Hill, who has seen many a Wildcat football game as a longtime member of the Linfield football statistics crew, is our guest blogger this week from Willamette’s McCulloch Stadium.
It is a picturesque Saturday afternoon at McCullogh Stadium in Salem for the pivotal game in the race for the Northwest Conference championship. No. 6 Linfield (6-0) looks to remain perfect against what may be one of the toughest schedules in school history. They will face off against No. 17 Willamette (6-1), whose lone blemish came in a week one loss to Concordia-Moorhead of Minnesota.
Both teams come into the match-up unbeaten in conference play, meaning the winner will have a decided advantage in the pursuit of the conference crown, and the coveted automatic Division III playoff berth that goes with it.
The rival schools have statistically dominated the NWC, ranking 1-2 in a number of categories, including total offense, total defense, scoring offense, and scoring defense.
(15 minutes before game time)
The Wildcats will have payback on their minds, as they hope to avenge last year’s 52-28 drubbing by Willamette at Maxwell Field. As always, the key for the Linfield defense will be to stop the speed and elusiveness of Willamette coach Mark Speckman’s fly offense. Senior tailback Deon Horne, who rushed for 122 yards and three touchdowns in last year’s contest, leads the Bearcats in rushing with 456 yards. However, his status is doubtful for today’s contest after he left last week’s game against Pacific Lutheran with an injury.
Linfield will rely on Junior quarterback Aaron Boehme to lead the offense. Boehme leads the Northwest Conference in passing and looks to move the ball against an experienced Bearcat defense. His favorite target is senior receiver Trevor Patterson, who averages just under 100 receiving yards per game.
(10 minutes before game time)
Today is Senior Day at McCulloch Stadium, as this is the final regular season home game for the Bearcats. The Willamette seniors are currently being announced on the field. Among them is Horne, who is in street clothes and will not play.
(3 minutes before game time)
The anthem has been played, and the teams and this raucous crowd are fired up.
(15:00) Willamette kicks off to Wildcat Taylor Skore, who return it to the Linfield 34 yard-line and moves right into the no-huddle offense.
(13:28) Boehme’s first pass of the game is tipped by Willamette cornerback Jeff Kahler, but caught by Linfield receiver Chris Slezak and taken to the End Zone for the game’s first score. Kunioka misses the extra point, Linfield 6, Willamette 0.
(11:35) Willamette flanker Chad Pollard has a long run out of the Fly negated by a penalty, third down and seven from the Bearcat 33.
(11:03) The third down pass is overthrown, but a personal foul call against Linfield gives the Bearcats a first down at their own 48.
(10:09) Willamette has come out throwing, with freshman Brian Widing going to the air several times early. The Wildcat defense holds, and Willamette is forced to punt it away. The Bearcats don’t give Linfield returner PJ Sequeira enough room to catch the ball and the penalty gives the Wildcats the ball at their own 33 yard-line.
(7:20) Linfield tailback Aaron Williams is gaining positive yardage early against the Willamette front line, as the Wildcats have driven to the Willamette 33.
(6:40) Willamette stops the Wildcats and forces a punt, which goes out of bounds at the 12.
(5:23) A sack and two stuffed running plays push the Bearcats back to their own 3 yard-line, and the punt team comes on.
(5:15) Linfield starts their drive at the Willamette 33 yard-line.
(0:20) A Boehme pass to tight end Russell Sells takes the ball down to the Bearcat 5 yard-line. Three straight Williams runs put the ball on the 1 foot-line. It is fourth and goal, and Linfield calls its first time out.
(0:16) Boehme fakes the handoff to Willams and keeps it himself, walking untouched into the end zone. The extra point by Maika Kunioka is good, and Linfield leads Willamette 13-0.
(0:00) Widing hits receiver Scott Schoettgen over the middle for a 38-yard completion to the Linfield 34 yard-line.
End of First Quarter Linfield 13 Willamette 0
(13:19) Willamette drives to the Wildcat 14, but two stuffed fly sweeps and a pass deflection by Linfield rover Kole Krieger force a 28-yard field goal attempt by Mitchell Rowan, which he converted. Linfield leads Willamette 13-3.
(11:04) Linfield drives to the Willamette 37, but Boehme overthrows running back Kevin Abbott on fourth down to turn the ball back over the Bearcats. On the play just prior to the overthrow, Boehme scrambled out of the pocket to pick up big yardage and blasted a Willamette defensive back at the end of the play, bringing big cheers from the Linfield sideline.
(9:39) Willamette is driving again, this time with Kevin Ramay, their other freshman quarterback, leading the team. A completion gives the Bearcats a first down at the Linfield 45. Willamette has been without starting quarterback Ryan Whitcomb, since the season’s first game, but Willamette’s freshman duo has filled in admirably.
(8:25) Linfield cornerback Nate Dixon intercepts a long Ramay pass to give the Wildcats the ball at their own 14 yard-line.
(7:11) Linfield faces a third-and-seven at their own 29 yard-line. Head coach Joseph Smith calls a timeout to talk things over.
(7:05) Boehme flips a shovel-pass to Williams, who takes it 18 yards for the first down.
(4:15) The Wildcats drive to the Bearcat 36 yard-line, but face a third-and-four play.
(4:15) Boehme scrambles out of the pocket and takes off, but he comes two inches short of the first down. The Wildcats are going for it.
(3:57) The Williams handoff is stopped short of the first down by Ralph Pineda and Matt Banta of the Bearcats. Huge play for the Willamette defense.
(2:45) Willamette has quickly moved the ball to the Linfield 31 yard-line after a 17-yard pass to former Wildcat Mikey Lemon.
(1:39) Ramay scrambles to the 10 yard-line and Willamette calls a timeout. A touchdown would obviously be huge for the Bearcats on this drive.
(0:25) On a key third-down play from the Linfield 3 yard-line, senior Jaymin Jackson stuffed Ramay in the backfield for a loss. Willamette is forced to kick a 22-yard field goal to end the half.
End of Second Quarter Linfield 13 Willamette 6
The intensity of this game is off the charts, with several huge hits on both sides of the football. One of the reporters who was on the sideline in the first half said that it sounds like the players are hitting harder than normal.
The game is very even statistically after thirty minutes. Linfield has outgained Willamette 218-167 total yards. Williams has 67 first-half rushing yards, and Boehme has thrown for 129 yards and a touchdown.
(15:00) Linfield’s Tommy George kicks off to start the second half. Willamette will start at their own 22.
(12:33) Willamette drives to the Linfield 41 yard-line. Widing, back in the game to start the half, kept the ball on fourth-and-one and easily picked up the first down, but was hit hard and fumbled into the Linfield secondary, with cornerback Bryce Comfort recovering the ball for the Wildcats.
(7:00) Linfield drives to the Willamette 15 yard-line, but is stopped on a nice tackle by Bearcat tackle Ron Carter. Linfield settles for a 33-yard Kunioka field goal to make the score 16-6.
(4:58) Lemon just ripped off a 40-yard run off the fly sweep to put the ball at the Linfield 20.
(3:22) Willamette calls a timeout with a third-and-nine from the Linfield 19.
(2:29) Widing brings the crowd to a frenzy as he hits Schoettgen with a 27-yard jump ball toss to the end zone on fourth down. Linfield had seemingly seized momentum on the prior play with a huge sack by Ka’ohu McCabe. The extra point makes it Linfield 16, Willamette 13.
(1:21) Linfield has to give the ball back after a three-and-out. You can feel the momentum shifting Willamette’s way. Linfield needs a big play to stem the tide.
(0:00) As the third quarter ends, Willamette faces a third-and-four from their own 29 yard-line. The Wildcat defense has come up with several key plays today, and they are in much need of one here.
End of Third Quarter Linfield 16 Willamette 13
(15:00) Widing completes a pass to Lemon, but he comes up a foot short of the first down marker. Willamette is lining up to punt.
(14:22) Linfield takes over after a Sequeira fair catch at his own 28.
(13:12) Two Boehme scrambles to the right side of the field net a total of 26 yards. First and ten from the Willamette 45.
(11:50) Boehme lofts a pass down the right sideline into the end zone, but it just falls off the fingertips of Diedre Wiersma.
(11:00) On a fourth-down-and-ten, Boehme pulled the defensive line to him, then dumped a screen to Williams, who ran for just enough for the first down. First and ten from the Bearcat 23.
(10:40) Williams busts one up the middle to the Bearcat five yard-line. First and goal.
(10:06) Williams sweep right, breaks one tackle and is in the end zone for a touchdown. Kunioka’s extra point makes it Linfield 23, Willamette 13. An incredible drive for the Wildcats, covering 72 yards.
(9:55) Jamiere Abney breaks free for a long Bearcat run. A facemask penalty puts the ball on the Linfield 18.
(9:35) Abney breaks another on a carbon copy of the previous play and scampers into the end zone for a touchdown. The extra point is good – Linfield 23, Willamette 20 with 9:29 left to go in the game. Fasten your seatbelts!
(8:30) Boehme scrambles once again out of the pocket on a third-and-two and manages to pick up the first down.
(7:23) Boehme scrambles for yet another first down, this time to the Bearcat 42.
(5:45) Boehme completes over the middle to receiver Buddy Saxon for a first down to the Bearcat 22.
(4:30) Williams right up the middle again, and looks to have clear sailing, but trips at the five. It’s first-and-goal Wildcats.
(3:19) Boehme rolls out to the right and finds tight end Chris Saunders in the end zone for a touchdown. Kunioka converts the extra point – Linfield 30, Willamette 20.
(3:12) Willamette will start their drive following the kickoff from their own 31 yard-line.
(2:21) Lemon is stopped on the fly sweep on third down by Kole Krieger and Kalae Parish. Ramay scrambles on the fourth down play and picks up the first down at the Bearcat 45.
(1:10) On another fourth down play, back Jose Green makes an incredible one-handed catch to keep the drive alive and pick up the first down.
(1:01) Ramay hits Schoettgen at the Linfield 37 for a first down.
(0:40) Ramay throws to Tony Krikorian at the Linfield 7. First and goal.
(0:22) After two incompletions and a pass interference call on Linfield, Ramay hits Schoettgen one more time in the left corner for a touchdown. The extra point is good, and Linfield leads 30-27. Onside kick upcoming.
(0:18) Mitchell Rowan’s onside kick attempt bounds up in the air but sails out of bounds. Linfield will take over with a three-point lead and will get the victory.
The Wildcats escape with the white-knuckle victory and continue their amazing unbeaten run toward the playoffs.
The game was extremely close statistically, with Linfield outgaining the Bearcats 422 – 411 in total offense. Linfield did not turn the ball over during the hard-hitting affair and took advantage of two Willamette turnovers.
Linfield ended with two 100-yard rushers for the game. Aaron Williams was the workhorse, carrying the ball 32 times for 126 yards and a touchdown. Aaron Boehme finished with 100 yards on 12 carries, including a touchdown of his own. Boehme also was 17-31 for 195 yards and two touchdowns.