Anyone who follows local NCAA Division III football knew exactly what was coming to the University of Puget Sound on Saturday.
It was a sore, angry, extra-motivated Linfield squad that saw its 41-game regular-season winning streak snapped last weekend by Willamette to fall out of first place in the Northwest Conference.
Well, the 11th-ranked Wildcats didn’t have to worry about another longstanding winning streak ending Saturday. They flattened UPS, 73-10, at Baker Stadium for their 25th win in a row in the series.
Very few things went right for the Loggers (3-5, 2-4 in NWC) in the first half. Consider:
• Their offense could barely move the football, gaining a season-low 38 yards.
• Their special teams not only gave up big punt returns, but UPS Sawyer Petre also had a punt blocked that was recovered at the Loggers’ 6-inch line, leading to a Linfield touchdown.
Even if the Loggers had thoughts of moving the football, they were constantly retreating, thanks to four personal-foul or unnecessary-
By the time the two teams reached halftime, Linfield led 52-0.
“We let them outphysical us, all across the board,” UPS quarterback Braden Foley said. “We let then beat us.”
Foley, the NWC’s fourth-leading passer coming in with 201 yards per game, never really got settled. For starters, pretty much every time he dropped back to pass, the Wildcats’ pressure was in his face. He was sacked three times.
Foley started with eight consecutive incompletions in the first 10 minutes.
And then the penalties began piling up — inexplicably.
“We falsely think toughness means hitting people late,” UPS coach Jeff Thomas said.
Up 17-0, the Wildcats (7-1, 5-1) came after Petre, who was standing inside his own 5-yard-line, for a UPS punt. Defensive back Kennedy Johnson smothered the kick, and wide receiver Derek Van Leeuwen recovered it at the 14:14 mark of the second quarter.
The Loggers held, forcing a field goal. But the Linfield offense came back on the field after a UPS penalty.
On the next play, Sam Riddle hit Jeremy Girod on a 7-yard touchdown pass to extend the lead to 24-0.
Seventeen seconds later, Foley was trying to connect with receiver Kevin Miller in the middle of the field. Safety Keanu Yamamoto stepped in front for an interception, and rumbled down the left sideline for a 27-yard touchdown return.
It was certainly a tough way for Thomas to bid farewell at home to his first group of recruits — and also to offensive coordinator Jeff Halstead, who is leaving the team at the end of the season to focus on full-time coaching duties with Loggers baseball.
“These recruits chose us when a lot of these guys, quite frankly, were looking at a Linfield or a Pacific Lutheran,” Thomas said.
“I wish it could be a Cinderella story, where they rode off in the sunset with a conference championship … but their legacy is lasting.”
At Pacific Lutheran University 41, Whitworth 27: Meet Dalton Ritchey, spectacular running quarterback for the Lutes, who got loose for a career-long 87-yard touchdown run in the first half.
And meet Ritchey, comeback eliminator. His 47-yard scoring scamper with 2:27 to go ended the Pirates’ bid to steal a road victory.
In all, Ritchey rushed for a career-best 203 yards. Tailback Niko Madison added 150 rushing yards and a pair of touchdowns as the Lutes won at Sparks Stadium in Puyallup.
Ritchey’s 87-yarder at the 8:46 mark of second quarter gave PLU (6-2, 4-2 NWC) a 21-7 lead.
But Whitworth (6-4, 4-3) closed the gap with two touchdowns in 88 seconds in the fourth quarter — the last on Bryan Peterson’s 21-yard scoring strike to Drew Clauson to cut it to 35-27 with 2:32 to go.
The Pirates tried an onside kick, but the Lutes recovered. And Ritchey took off on his final touchdown run one play later.