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No. 3 Linfield presents big challenge for Whits

Whitworth University (Whitworth University)
Whitworth University (Whitworth University)

Whitworth’s football team has faced a number of challenges this season, including four road games, opponents coming off bye weeks and an unbeaten foe or two.

It gets even tougher today when the Pirates (5-1, 1-1 Northwest Conference) visit No. 3 Linfield (4-0, 1-0) at Maxwell Field in McMinnville, Ore. It’s homecoming for the Wildcats, who opened NWC play with a 31-24 road win over Pacific Lutheran and then had a week to rest and prepare for Whitworth.

The Pirates, coming off a 38-24 home loss to co-NWC leading Willamette, probably need a win to stay in the race for the conference championship.

“In our league, two losses would be difficult, even though I think it’s one of the best leagues in country,” Whitworth coach John Tully said. “Our guys can’t concern themselves with that. We have to concern ourselves with playing good football for four quarters. It’s a challenge, but I think if you’re a competitor you love challenges.”

Linfield, led by senior quarterback Mickey Inns’ 247 passing yards per game, has scored at least 30 points in every game. Senior Josh Hill leads the NWC in rushing yards per game (133.7), but his status isn’t known after missing the PLU game two weeks ago.

The Wildcats, who defeated current No. 8 Cal Lutheran 33-30, allow an average of 382.2 yards and 24.5 points per game, but they’ve scored three defensive touchdowns.

“We expect them to try to throw the ball deep on us,” said Tully, whose team lost a 42-38 shootout to Linfield last season. “Defensively, they’ve run a similar scheme for many years but they do it well. Our challenge is to make first downs, keep the football and hopefully a few times to bust a couple big plays.”