BEARCATS ON THE BUBBLE WITH LOSS TO LINFIELD

McMINNVILLE, Ore. - Second-ranked Linfield nailed down its fifth consecutive Northwest Conference championship with a 48-14 win over No. 21 Willamette in the regular-season finalé at chilly Maxwell Field.

The Bearcats (7-3, 4-1 NWC) must now wait to see if they received a bid to the NCAA Championships Playoffs. That selection will be announced live Sunday morning at 10 a.m. on ESPN News.

The Bearcats fell behind early, but had their chances to score, especially in the first half.

Three times in the first half, the Bearcats drove inside the red zone, and came away without a point. WU quarterback Cameron Walton threw incomplete on three straight downs to halt a drive near the end of the first quarter, then Walton was intercepted by Brandon Hazenberg at the Linfield 5 early in the second quarter.

Wildcats quarterback Brett Elliott set the Linfield single-season passing yardage record, throwing for 372 yards and five scores. Elliott completed 25 of 33 throws without an interception. Elliott surpassed the record of 3,084 yards set last season by All-American Tyler Matthews.

Linfield built a 34-0 lead through 2 1/2 quarters, before a pair of second half touchdowns brought the Bearcats to within 20.

Riley Jenkins opened the scoring with a 3-yard plunge up the middle, capping a 14-play, 75-yard march that consumed 7:29 off the clock. The extra point failed and Linfield had the early 6-0 lead.

Linfield stretched its lead to 14-0 midway through the second. Elliott scrambled 20 yards to the Bearcats 5, then hit Casey Allen in the back of the end zone on the next play. Elliott passed successfully to Jenkins for the two-point conversion.

The Bearcats threatened again with two minutes left in the half, but Walton tossed his second interception of the game to safety Eric Hillison .

Three plays later, Elliott found Carter streaking up the left sideline for a 57-yard TD strike. The extra point attempt by Garrett Wales was blocked and the Wildcats led 20-0 with 1:14 left in the half.

Brad McKechnie swept 50 yards around left end on the opening possession of the third quarter, extending the Wildcats' lead to 27-0. Two minutes later, Linfield was in the end zone again as Elliott passed 20 yards to Tyler Kaluza in the right corner.

Quentin Brock gave Willamette its first points with 4:33 left in the third. Brock's 1-yard run was set up by a Walton pass to Brett Meyer on a third-and-19 play that gave the Bearcats the ball at the Linfield 1.

Following a Linfield punt, the Bearcats moved 71 yards in three plays, scoring on Walton's 9-yard rush up the middle. The extra point by Matt Bicocca was good, drawing the Bearcats back to within 20, 34-14.

Elliott threw his fourth TD pass of the afternoon, 15 yards to Kaluza with 10:41 remaining. That put Linfield on top 41-14, clinching the conference championship and the Wildcats' 33rd consecutive regular-season victory.

Willamette was held to a season-low 174 yards rushing and 334 yards of total offense. Walton completed 9 of 21 throws for 98 yards. Brett Meyer was the Bearcats' leading rusher with 44 yards.

Linfield (9-0, 5-0 NWC) completed a third consecutive unbeaten regular season for the first time in its history. The Wildcats learn Sunday of their pairing in the NCAA Division III playoffs.