By News-Register staff • 

Bearcats deal Wildcats first NWC loss since 2008

Linfield had not trailed by more than 10 points at halftime since 2011. The Wildcats had not lost a Northwest Conference game since Oct. 25, 2008, against Willamette.

The Bearcats snapped both streaks in dramatic fashion Saturday afternoon at Maxwell Field, defeating No. 5 Linfield, 31-28, and knocking the Wildcats back into second place in the NWC.

Willamette (5-2, 3-2 NWC) controlled the game from essentially the opening snap, forcing Linfield (6-1, 4-1 NWC) into a pair of three-and-outs and a lost fumble on the Wildcats' first three drives. Bearcats running back Dylan Jones was an able picador; he amassed 166 yards on 35 carries, including touchdown runs of 1, 5 and 98 yards. (The latter is a Willamette school record.)

Linfield quarterback Sam Riddle threw for 197 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the fourth quarter, attempting to rally the Wildcats from a 24-7 deficit early in the period. (Riddle scored Linfield's first touchdown of the game on a 5-yard rush.) The Bearcats defense sacked Riddle four times and intercepted him three times, including two in the fourth quarter.

Willamette entered the fourth quarter leading 17-7 with the ball deep in Wildcat territory. The visitor's quick touchdown was one of five TDs scored by the two teams in the first 4:22 of the final quarter.

With Willamette leading 31-21 with 10:54 remaining, the Bearcats fumbled a kickoff and Linfield's John Carroll recovered at the Willamette 21-yard line. Sophomore running back Bryan Cassil capitalized on the very next play with a 21-yard rushing touchdown to put the Wildcats within three at the 10:38 mark. 

On the next Willamette possession, a tip drill led to a diving interception by Kennedy Johnson, setting Linfield back up at its own 47-yard line. The Wildcats drove to the Bearcats' 25-yard line, where Michael Metter attempted a 42-yard field goal from with six minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.

Metter's attempt was wide right, and Linfield would not get closer to than the Willamette 41-yard line for the rest of the game. A last-ditch Hail Mary attempt from Riddle was distant and true, but the Bearcats batted it away from wide receiver Colin Nelson to end the game.

Linfield plays at Puget Sound Nov. 8.

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