Bearcats Remain Undefeated with 52-28 win at Linfield

By Daniel Carroll, Graduate Student Worker and
Robert McKinney, Athletics Communications Director, (503) 370-6110.

McMINNVILLE,ORE. -- Willamette University built a 28-7 lead in the first quarter, but Linfield College pulled within 31-28 at the 8:50 mark of the fourth quarter, before the Bearcats put up the final 21 points in a 52-28 victory over the Wildcats. The win at Maxwell Field on Saturday, Oct. 25 kept Willamette undefeated on the season.

The Bearcats are now 8-0 and have gained sole possession of first place in the Northwest Conference at 4-0. WU has scored more than 30 points in every game so far this season. Linfield fell to 4-2 overall, 3-1 in the NWC.

Willamette entered the game ranked #15 in the AFCA Coaches Poll and #16 in the D3Football.com Top 25. Linfield was ranked #25 by the AFCA and #23 by D3Football.com.

After its lead was reduced to three points on Reggie Ford's 5-yard run, Willamette responded with an offensive drive that took just 48 seconds, spanned 57 yards and lasted only three plays. The Bearcats completed the drive with a 31-yard strike from Grant Leslie (Sr. QB, Bainbridge Island, WA/Bainbridge HS) to Merben Woo (Sr. WR, Salinas, CA/North Salinas HS/Hartnell College).

The drive started with a pass that deflected off Woo's hands and was caught by Scott Schoettgen (So., WR, Columbia, CA/Sonora HS) for a 26-yard gain to the Linfield 31. After Woo scored two plays later with 8:02 remaining, Willamette led 38-28.

Following the touchdown, Mitchell Rowan (Fr., PK/P, Cotati, CA/Rancho Cotate HS) booted a long line drive kickoff that bounded into the Linfield end zone for a touchback. Three plays later, Linfield managed only a 24-yard punt and WU took over at the 50-yard line. On the next play, Deon Horne (Jr., TB, Issaquah, WA/Liberty HS) scampered 50 yards for a touchdown. Rowan's extra point moved the lead to 45-28 with 6:12 left.

Horne finished the game with 16 carries for 122 yards and three touchdowns. He scored on runs of 30 and 11 yards in the first quarter. Horne is WU's leading rusher on the season with 604 yards on 85 carries (7.1 avg.).

Linfield followed Horne's last touchdown by moving 64 yards on 11 plays to reach the Willamette 9-yard line. On first-and-goal, Cole Bixenman was intercepted by Matt Banta (Jr., OLB, Baker City, OR/Baker HS), who returned the ball six yards to the WU 11. Bixenman, who was 4 for 4 prior to the interception, replaced starter Cole Franklin, who left the game after sustaining a hit midway through the drive.

Woo dashed 57 yards to the Linfield 32 on the next play. A personal foul against the Wildcats moved the ball to the 17, where Horne carried for two yards on first down. On second down, wide receiver James Yamashita (Walnut Creek, CA/Los Lomas HS/Diablo Valley College) started toward the right sideline, then angled back across the field for a 15-yard touchdown.

The 52 points tied for the most by Willamette against Linfield in the 81 games in the series. Willamette also scored 52 in 1929, when the Bearcats shut out the Wildcats.

In this year's game, the teams combined for 887 total yards. The Wildcats gained 459 yards on 78 plays, while the Bearcats achieved 428 yards on just 43 plays. Willamette, which scored on a blocked punt return and tallied five touchdowns on drives of three plays or less, averaged 10.0 yards per play.

Horne led Willamette's ground attack, while Woo checked in with 110 rushing yards on just four carries. Woo's rushing total included a 52-yard score that gave the Bearcats a 21-7 lead in the first quarter.

Leslie was 6 of 15 passing for 160 yards, as he averaged 26.7 yards per completion. Franklin was 14 of 24 for 174 yards for Linfield.

Franklin also carried the ball 14 times for 102 yards, including a 1-yard run for the Wildcats' first touchdown in the opening quarter. Reggie Ford of Linfield scored twice and gained 100 yards on 27 carries.

For the second week in a row, the Bearcats scored the game's first points on a blocked punt. Harmon Bruno (Fr., OLB, Danville, CA/San Ramon Valley HS) blocked the kick by Linfield punter Dan Egan. Grant Piros (Sr., FS, Newberg, OR/Newberg HS) grabbed the ball on a knee-high bounce at the 23-yard line and dashed into the end zone. In WU's win at Pacific Lutheran on Oct. 18, Bruno scored on a 38-yard blocked punt return.

Linfield tied the game at 7-7 when Franklin scored to complete an 81-yard, 12-play drive with 5:50 left in the first quarter. Willamette countered by driving 59 yards for a touchdown. The drive nearly stalled at the LC 45, but Leslie's face mask was grabbed as he was being sacked by a Linfield player on 3rd-and-9. After the 15-yard penalty, Horne ran the final 30 yards to the goal line.

After forcing the Wildcats to punt, Willamette ran just one play, as Woo recorded his 52-yard touchdown. Four plays later, a bad punt snap by Linfield was fumbled by Egan and recovered by Piros. WU took over, and Horne immediately scored on an 11-yard run with 27 seconds remaining in the period. Following Rowan's PAT kick, the Bearcats led 28-7.

John Torsey caught a 17-yard pass from Franklin with 1:01 left in the second quarter to pull LC within 28-14 at halftime. The Wildcats also scored the first points of the second half on an 11-yard run by Ford.

Willamette answered with a 7-play, 75-yard drive to set up a field goal. Leslie completed passes of 23 and 36 yards to Schoettgen to move the ball to the Linfield 21. WU also received 1st-and-Goal at the 9-yard line following a defensive holding penalty. Four plays later, Rowan kicked a 23-yard field goal for a 31-21 advantage.

The Bearcats are off next weekend and will return to the field on Saturday, Nov. 8 to take on the University of Puget Sound. The Northwest Conference encounter is slated to begin at 1 p.m. (PST). Willamette will conclude the regular season with a home game against Menlo College on Saturday, Nov. 15 at 2 p.m.

Note: Photos of Merben Woo, Deon Horne and Grant Piros by Naomi Stukey. Photo of Arlin Taylor by Norm Maves.

BOX SCORE
Willamette University 52
Linfield College 28
Merben Woo rushed for 110 yards on five carries against Linfield. He scored on a 52-yard run and a 31-yard catch.

Merben Woo rushed for 110 yards on five carries against Linfield. He scored on a 52-yard run and a 31-yard catch.

Deon Horne scored three touchdowns on runs of 30, 11 and 50 yards.

Deon Horne scored three touchdowns on runs of 30, 11 and 50 yards.

Grant Piros (#30) scored on a 30-yard blocked punt return against Linfield.

Grant Piros (#30) scored on a 30-yard blocked punt return against Linfield.

Arlin Taylor recorded 10 total tackles against the Wildcats.

Arlin Taylor recorded 10 total tackles against the Wildcats.

Arlin Taylor recorded 10 total tackles against the Wildcats.

Arlin Taylor recorded 10 total tackles against the Wildcats.