Linfield Wildcats Dominate Widener in 45-7 Victory
The Linfield Wildcats continued their upstart run to the NCAA Division-III semi-finals with a dominant 45-7 win over the Widener Pride on Saturday. The win was the third victory of these playoffs by the Wildcats over a top 17 team, who will now move on to face the No. 1 team in the country. No worrying about that right now. For tonight Linfield can enjoy that they dropped another top ranked team; not just winning, but dominating from start to finish.
The Pride took the opening kickoff and were forced to punt after three plays, but their punt attempt was muffed, and Linfield grabbed possession at the 1-yard line of Widener. It looked like the Wildcats were going to jump out to a quick lead, but the Pride’s defense made an unbelievable goal line stand, denying Linfield the end zone on four straight plays, keeping the game scoreless. The euphoria of the defensive stand did not last long however.
Widener took the ball at their own 2-yard line, but were held to five yards on the first two plays. That set up a third and 5. Seth Klein went back to pass looking to get the first down, but Kennedy Johnson read the play perfectly, intercepting the ball and giving his offense possession at the 11-yard line. Three plays later quarterback Sam Riddle passed to Spencer Payne for the touchdown and the Wildcats were up 7-0.
Back to the field went the Widener offense. Terrant Morrison rushed for 15-yards and a first down on the first play of the drive. Two plays later it was third and 9, and Klein went looking for a receiver for a first down, but Keanu Yamamoto intercepted the pass and returned it to midfield. From there Riddle took over. On his first play he rushed for 19-yards, and followed that up with a 9-yard carry. On second and 1 at the 22, Riddle passed to Evan Peterson for the score and it was 14-0.
Into the second quarter the game remained a 14-point lead for Linfield. The Wildcats had the ball to start the quarter, but Riddle’s pass was intercepted by Ameer Sorrell at the 4-yard line and returned 63 yards to the Linfield 33. Eight plays later Morrison rushed up the middle for 2-yards and the score to get Linfield back into the game. It was the last glimmer of hope the Pride would have.
Linfield took possession of the ball with 8:49 left in the quarter at their own 39. Five plays later Riddle went looking for Charlie Poppen. He found him for a 44-yard touchdown restoring the lead to 21-7.
On their next possession the Wildcats would find the end zone again. After two runs by Payne began the drive, Riddle took command, completing 4 of 8 passes, the last of which was a 5-yard strike to Peterson to make it 28-7.
The Linfield offense was clicking and Widener had no answer for them. The defense was also having their way with the Pride offense. The defense had recorded 2 interceptions and a fumble recovery, and with the offense rolling as they were, it meant that the Pride had to try to score touchdowns. This lead to three turnovers on downs to go along with three punts. The Pride had run 50-plays in the first half, but had just 111 yards of total offense.
The second half did not get any better for Widener. Seven possessions resulted in six punts and an interception. The Widener offense had the ball for 24 plays for just 62 yards in the half, and had five possessions of three-n-out.
Meanwhile the Linfield offense continued to put up points. After being forced to punt on their first three possessions, the Wildcats scored on their next three drives.
After a scoreless third quarter, the Wilcats moved to the Widener 27. On fourth and 13 they decided to go for a 44-yard field goal and Michael Metter proved he has quite a leg on him, drilling it through the uprights to make it 31-7.
The Wildcats next possession began at their own 48. Tavon Willis carried the ball the first three plays moving the ball to the Widener 40. On third and 8, Riddle threw a perfect strike to Colin Nelson for the touchdown, making it 38-7. That was the quarterback’s fifth touchdown pass of the game, to go along with 261 yards passing.
On the next Widener possession Klein was intercepted by Mike Nardoni, who returned the ball 38 yards to the Widener 29. Five plays later Matt Yarborough scored from 9-yards out making it 45-7. That would be the final score.
It was an absolutely dominant performance by the Linfield defense, who held Widener to 173 total yards of offense. The Wildcats defense recorded seven sacks, led by Alex Hoff who had 4.5. He was an incredible disruption all game long. The defense also had three interceptions and a fumble recovery.
Riddle not only had a big day through the air, but added 75 yards on the ground. Poppen caught five passes for 112 yards and a TD. Peterson also had five catches, and two went for touchdowns. As a team Linfield put up 409 yards of total offense.
The Linfield Wildcats now move on to face the No. 1 team in the country in the Wisconsin-Whitewater Warhawks. This will be a matchup of the No. 1 team vs. the No. 10 Wildcats. The Minor League Sports Report will have a preview of this game on Thursday.
By Robert Pannier