By Robert Husseman • Sports Editor • 

Live blog: Linfield at Wisconsin-Whitewater

12:25 p.m.: Good afternoon, Catdome.

Much better time for a football game, no? Linfield has very few winless series records against Division III opponents, but this one sticks in the craw: The Wildcats are 0-3 all-time against Wisconsin-Whitewater and, with a 17-0 lead on the Warhawks in the 2013 D-III semifinals, members of the program feel like they're ready to take the next step. With all the emotion and drive Linfield has been playing with, confidence is no question.

By the same token, Wisconsin-Whitewater needs no introduction. The Warhawks are going for six national championships in an eight-year span, an historically impressive run of success. After this season, the coaching staff -- including Linfield alumnus and Warhawks offensive line coach Daryl Agpalsa -- is headed to Buffalo, New York, to attempt to revitalize the SUNY-Buffalo football program. All-Americans are on both sides of the ball. The opportunity is great, and the path for the Wildcats to get there no less treacherous.

12:35 p.m.: As these teams prepare to kick off, a matchup to watch: Linfield cornerbacks Kennedy Johnson and Kyle Belcher against Whitewater wide receivers Jake Kumerow and Justin Howard. How well can the Wildcats disrupt a pair of excellent receivers in route development?

12:37 p.m.: Ignore the ESPN3 graphics -- there has not been any score, let alone 12 points. But UW-Whitewater is targeting Kumerow heavily and getting the Wildcat defense to shift over to his side.

12:45 p.m.: Linfield senior Eric Pitassi is getting the start at right guard after missing the Widener game with an apparent wrist or hand injury. (The Wildcats did not disclose specifics on his injury.) He had a good first couple of plays but that holding call will force the Wildcats to punt.

Also, the graphics are working just fine on ESPN3.com.

12:50 p.m. One challenge for Linfield defensive coordinator Jackson Vaughan entering this contest is that UWW quarterback Matt Behrendt can run a little bit himself. He has carried the ball 34 times for 144 yards (and no touchdowns) but that belies the athleticism he does possess. No need for a spy, but Behrendt apparently has the green light to take off if a play breaks down.

12:55 p.m.: Whitewater punter Lake Bachar entered today's game averaging 40.1 yards per kick on 43 attempts. How many touchbacks this season? Two.

Clearly, the Warhawks are elite from a punt coverage standpoint as well, as emphasized by pinning Linfield down at the Wildcats' 1-yard line.

12:59 p.m.: That interception was just the ninth thrown by Sam Riddle has thrown this season.

1:00 p.m. Wisconsin-Whitewater 7, Linfield 0. Matt Behrendt finds the 6-foot-5 wide reciever Jake Kumerow for an eight-yard touchdown pass. The Warhawks gave the Wildcats a play-action look to get the defense moving away from the short slant Kumerow was running. It's a tough play to defend when UWW is so physically talented and when the Warhawks are having success (nine carries, 41 yards) running the football.

1:05 p.m.: That catch by Colin Nelson was only his 12th of the season. Nelson, at 6-foot-6, has the size to bother a Warhawks defense with slightly less overall size than its offense. His presence will bear watching in three-receiver or four-receiver sets.

1:12 p.m.: END 1st: Wisconsin-Whitewater 7, Linfield 0.

Linfield did not see Whitewater running back Dennis Moore last season; he was injured by the time the Division III semifinals were played. Moore is a 5-foot-9, 190-pound back from Elgin, Illinois, who shows plenty of speed and physicality. Whitewater has had a 1,000-yard rusher in every season since 2003, and Moore is about 30 yards away from keeping that streak alive.

1:19 p.m.: A rare mistake for Charlie Poppen, who has 64 receptions this season. That mark is the fifth-best in Linfield history, and Poppen continues his advance up the career record books this season.

1:24 p.m.: Tough pass interference call on Kyle Belcher, who has had a stellar season filling a hole left by Chad Coburn's season-ending injury in fall camp. Belcher entered today's game with 24 tackles, one interception and 11 pass breakups.

1:26 p.m.: Wisconsin-Whitewater 14, Linfield 0. Dennis Moore slips a possible tackle from Mikey Arkans on a screen pass and takes it 46 yards for the score. Arkans is the Wildcats' third-leading tackler and he already has three tackles today, but he will surely kick himself looking at that play develop on film.

1:30 p.m.: Wisconsin-Whitewater has outgained Linfield 175-74 in this game. A sustained drive is what the Wildcats need right now -- and that includes balance with the run and the pass. How long can they hold off the Warhawks?

1:35 p.m.: Sam Riddle's inexperience shows a bit on that sack: Wisconsin-Whitewater stacked a pair of defenders on left tackle Steven Schultz. Schultz blocked the defensive end but linebacker Matt Seitz was left unblocked. That play effectively took Linfield out of field goal range, as Michael Metter's 47-yarder was wide left.

1:39 p.m.: If it seems like Marq Randall is everywhere, it's because the 5-foot-8, 240-pound defensive tackle from Roseburg has been everywhere. Randall has three tackles today, including two for loss. Very impressive game for him.

1:44 p.m.: In a press conference earlier this season, Linfield coach Joseph Smith alluded to the difficulty of kick returns as 22 men scrambling down the field. In the midst of the scramble, Dylan Lewis hits Kennedy Johnson on the punt return and Wisconsin-Whitewater is knocking on the door again.

The discipline of the Warhawks on that play was something to behold: five players in front of Johnson, eventually jumping on the ball, not a white shirt in the frame. UWW has won the battle of special teams so far today. That is helping the Warhawks win the football game.

1:48 p.m.: Revenge for Kyle Belcher: miscommunication between Matt Behrendt and Jake Kumerow, poor recognition of the defense, and Belcher gets his second interception of the season.

1:52 p.m.: HALFTIME: Wisconsin-Whitewater 14, Linfield 0.

And it feels like 41-0. For now. The Wildcats will inevitably make adjustments. But Linfield has 120 yards of total offense at half after averaging 462.2 yards per game. This despite leading the game by about a minute in time of possession.

Defensively, the Wildcats have plenty to smile about. They've forced one turnover and limited Whitewater to 219 total yards. Matt Behrendt's passing line: 8-of-16, 132 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. Very good, but not dominant.

Linfield is very much in this game, and it could be a great second half.

2:18 p.m.: Linfield opens the second half with a three-and-out. It bears asking: how often will we see Sam Riddle roll out on designed passing plays? He did it once on that drive; another rollout was encouraged by pressure.

2:24 p.m.: The first mention of Parker Moore and his death on the broadcast.

2:26 p.m.: Linfield has converted on three of 10 third-down opportunities. That number is going to become increasingly important if the Wildcats continue to sputter offensively. Linfield is well below its 51-percent conversion rate entering this game.

2:29 p.m.: One week after Alex Hoff records 4.5 sacks against Widener, the junior defensive end from Lebanon forces his third fumble of the season at the most pivotal time. Wow.

2:32 p.m.: The News-Register endorses the call to go for it on fourth down, and it pays off. Riddle's first big run play of the everning.

2:34 p.m.: Wisconsin-Whitewater 14, Linfield 7. Levi Altringer picked a great time for his first touchdown catch of the season and his 12th catch overall. That was the fourth target to a tight end in this game, and it has been an occasional weak spot in the Wildcats' offensive repertoire. That was also Sam Riddle's bet throw of the game, a 14-yarder that required more than just height.

The Wildcats are very much in this game, and the defense has played solid football to this point. 

2:40 p.m.: Mike Nardoni is tied for Linfield's lead with seven tackles. It's been a quiet game for the senior from Palos Verdes, California, but he's been in on every play.

2:44 p.m.: If Charlie Poppen makes that catch, the Wildcatville blog holds a poetry contest with that as the subject.

2:49 p.m.: A no-win situation here for Linfield; it's third down and essentially goal to go. Look for a run play here toward the middle.

2:51 p.m.: Linfield 14, Wisconsin-Whitewater 14. Sam Riddle began this drive by stretching out his legs. He finished the drive with his legs as well, getting 17 yards on third-and-16 and -- a veteran move! -- stretching the ball across the goal line for the touchdown.

Perkins Stadium has sounded quite loud in moments of this game. It certainly does not right now. Linfield has all the momentum, and -- as it has for much of the year -- the defense can feed off the offense's production.

2:56 p.m.: Wisconsin-Whitewater has committed all of two penalties today -- none more costly than that one. Erases a huge gain.

2:59 p.m.: END 3rd: Linfield 14, Wisconsin-Whitewater 14. Wildcats faithful will be quick to point out that, in the 2013 semifinals, Linfield took an early 17-0 lead, had a red-zone miscue (goal line stand), and eventually watched the Warhawks come all the way back.

Wisconsin-Whitewater has gained 291 yards on 54 plays -- slightly more than Linfield (250 on 54 plays) but well below its season average of 489.8 yards per game. Linfield has been fairly stout at the point of attack and the Wildcats have adjusted in the run game after allowing a couple big plays early.

3:10 p.m.: Punt returning has been an adventure for Linfield, but once again, the defense comes alive and mitigates the interception thrown by Sam Riddle on the drive before. The Wildcats have allowed 5.3 yards per play to the Warhawks this evening -- well below UWW's average of 6.9 per play this season.

3:16 p.m.: It's been a thankless day for Spencer Payne -- lots of east-west runs to set Linfield up north to south. Nevertheless, Payne has 77 yards on 14 carries, above his season average -- and he just came up with a first down on a screen pass.

3:26 p.m.: As we get down toward five and a half minutes in this game, it bears mentioning that a sustained drive by Wisconsin-Whitewater is just as deadly as one by Linfield. That's what the Warhawks have achieved on this drive. The Wildcats have been sloppy in tackling.

3:27 p.m.: Wisconsin-Whitewater 20, Linfield 14. Dennis Moore scampers 33 yards on a patient run to give the Warhawks the lead, but Linfield blocks the extra point. McMinnville High School graduate Curtis Terry got his paw up just in time.

Special teams have been rocky for Linfield in this game, but Terry came up with the play that could save the Wildcats' season.

3:31 p.m.: Sam Riddle is over 250 yards rushing and throwing tonight. Finally found his stride, and there's Levi Altringer again.

3:35 p.m.: Sam Riddle is pressured and fumbles the football on a fourth-and-3. Wisconsin-Whitewater takes over.

3:40 p.m.: FINAL: Wisconsin-Whitewater 20, Linfield 14.

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