MCMINNVILLE, Ore. – After cracking the national Top 25 this week for the first time since 2007, the reality of what it takes to continue moving up hit No. 25 Whitworth hard on Saturday.
The Pirates were no match for No. 2 Linfield as quarterback Sam Riddle threw for five touchdowns and the Wildcats’ defense allowed just 133 total yards in an emphatic 52-10 win at Maxwell Field.
Whitworth (6-1, 3-1) led 3-0 after Rehn Reilly hit a 47-yard field goal on the Pirates’ opening drive. From there, it was all downhill, as Linfield scored the final 28 points of the first half and for the game ran up 587 yards against the Pirates.
Linfield (6-0, 4-0) has made a habit of doing this to opponents this season. The Wildcats lead Division III in scoring margin, outscoring their opponents 59-7. Whitworth may have been Linfield’s toughest opponent on paper to date, but the Wildcats treated the Pirates like a doormat.
“Linfield is an incredible team. I’m really impressed with their program, their players and their coaches. That’s where we want to be,” Whitworth coach Rod Sandberg said. “We learned today we have a ways to go. We’re going to learn from this.”
Linfield’s defense had Whitworth quarterback Ian Kolste on the run most of the afternoon. The Wildcats had eight sacks, and though Kolste completed 22 of 34 passes, the cumulative yardage total was 143 yards. The Pirates’ running game went nowhere, as Whitworth had 33 rushes for minus-10 yards.
Kolste said there were no surprises from what he saw from Linfield on video.
“We got what we thought what we were going to get. They’re just a good program, a good team. We have to do better if we want to produce,” Kolste said.
It went wrong in a number of ways for Whitworth, but two areas that particularly stuck out to Sandberg were third-down conversions and taking advantage of turnovers.
The Pirates went 2 of 17 on third-down. Whitworth had a fumble recovery, and twice tackled Linfield’s punter on fourth down, but the three opportunities resulted in zero points.
“We had to have a lot of things go our way if we were going to compete,” Sandberg said.
Whitworth was sharp on its opening drive, moving the ball 45 yards to the Linfield 30, where Reilly hit a 47-yard field goal for a 3-0 lead. It got a little better, when the Wildcats lost a fumble on their opening drive, giving the Pirates a shot of momentum.
From there, it collapsed. Linfield scored on four of its next five drives, with Riddle cracking the end zone on a 7-yard run, and throwing passes on the other three touchdowns.
Whitworth scored its lone touchdown late in the third quarter on a 3-yard run by Duke DeGaetano, cutting the deficit to 35-10. But the Pirates went three-and-out on four of their final five drives, while Linfield added 17 points to its total.
Next up for Whitworth is Saturday’s home game against Pacific. As soon as the Linfield game ended, Sandberg tried to convince his team not to let the result linger.
“We still have a lot to play for. Our seniors set goals before the season – they had to go 6-0 at home, get to the playoffs, have a 3.2 team GPA. There’s a lot of goals out there for this team to accomplish,” Sandberg said. “We’re going to call on our senior to lead us and rebound from this.”
Pacific Lutheran 28, George Fox 27: Cole Chandler threw for two scores, Austen Kindle scored on two short runs and the Lutes (1-5, 1-3) edged the Bruins (3-4, 1-3) in a Northwest Conference game in Puyallup.
Puget Sound 38, Lewis & Clark 7: Hans Fortune threw for 299 yards and three touchdowns and Max McGuinn ran for 141 yards and two scores as the Loggers (4-2, 3-1) routed the Pioneers (0-6, 0-4) in a Northwest Conference game in Portland, Oregon.
Humboldt State 42, Central Washington 17: Gardner ran for 140 yards and two scores and the Lumberjacks (6-1, 4-0) topped the Wildcats (3-5, 1-3) in a Great Northwest Athletic Conference game in Ellensburg, Washington.
Montana Tech 42, Carroll 7: Nolan Saraceni racked up 284 rushing yards on 24 carries and scored four touchdowns to guide the Orediggers (6-1, 6-1) past the Saints (3-4, 3-4) in a Frontier Conference game in Helena, Montana.
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