By Rusty Rae • Of the News-Register • 

Linfield tops PLU, 16-10 in OT

Rockne Rolle/News-Register##
Chidubem Nnoli scored the game winner for the  Cats Saturday against PLU in an overtime 16-10 win. Seen here in action against Lewis & Clark, earlier in the year.
Rockne Rolle/News-Register## Chidubem Nnoli scored the game winner for the 'Cats Saturday against PLU in an overtime 16-10 win. Seen here in action against Lewis & Clark, earlier in the year.

PUYALLUP -- It wasn't pretty, but it was a win!

Linfield shut out arch-rival Pacific Lutheran in the first overtime period Saturday at Sparks Field, and Chudubem Nnoli sliced into the end zone from five yards out as the 'Cats came away with a 16-10 win. The win allowed the 'Cats, sixth rated in the latest poll, to remain undefeated in league play and in control of the Northwest conference.

To their credit, the Lutes outplayed Linfield in many phases of the game, holding the 'Cats to a paltry 185 yards of total offense, while racking up 292 yards of its own. On the day, Linfield had very few statistical advantages -- the only one -- the one that counted -- was on the scoreboard.

With the game tied at 10 in regulation, Linfield won the toss and elected to play defense first during the opening extra period. 

The Linfield defense, which played inspired all afternoon, came up with the big play when it needed. In the overtime session the defense forced the Lutes to attempt a 38-yard field. Alex Brost's attempt was blocked by Blake Burnett, Doug James, and Mitchell Kekel. Jake Reimer recovered the ball and set off down the sideline, getting to the Linfield 47-yard line before the Lutes knocked him out of bounds.

When the 'Cats took their shot on offense, the offensive line finally found a blocking combination to spring Nnoli.  He went for 11 yards on the first carry of the Linfield OT frame. Nnoli got one on the next play and Linfield head coach Joseph Smith decided to go for the winning field goal on third down.

Linfield field goal kicker Willy Warne has been money all season, hitting 11-12, and earlier in the game kicked a 27-yarder. On this try, however, he was wide right, but the Lutes were flagged for roughing the kicker. 

With a first and goal from the PLU five-yard line, Linfield called on Nnoli and he didn't disappoint. Nnoli took the hand off from 'Cat QB Wyatt Smith, and would not be denied the score. He shook loose one Lute defender, and then launched himself into the end zone, through a passel of Linfield and PLU bodies for the score and the win.

Starting the second half in place of Aiden Wilder, Mac alum Wyatt Smith, son of head coach Joseph Smith, was sent in run the Linfield offense. Smith was 6-8 for 56-yards but was sacked three times. He also ran the ball twice for positive yards when receivers were not open.

Another Mac alum, Colton Ramos, was again stellar with punting duties. He averaged almost 41 yards per kick and had a long of 57 yards.

The Lutes drew first blood, as Brost hit a 29-yard field goal at the 10-minute mark of the first quarter. 

Linfield came back with a TD drive when Lute QB LaVoy Walker was sacked by defensive end Marcus McGovern, also creating a fumble. Jason Farlow recorded the loose ball on the Lute 47.

Wilder supercharged the Linfield offense with a pair of scampers, moving the ball 21 yards on three carries, with a Nnoli one-yard plunge mixed in. In grind-it-out fashion, the 'Cats' Blake Burnett pushed Linfield to the Lute 10. The 'Cats finally scored on a seven-yard pass from Wilder to J.D. Lasswell, earning the 'Cats a 10-7 lead.

The lead was short-lived, however, as the Lutes drove 75 yards on the next series, scoring on a nine-yard pass from Walker to Jacob King. The Lutes carried the 10-7 lead into the halftime break.

Warne booted a 27-yard field to knot the game at 10 at the 1:25 mark of the third frame. The two teams stalemated each other in the fourth period sending the game into overtime.

Linfield will host University of Puget Sound Saturday in the 'Cats' final regular home contest of the year. Game time is 1 p.m.


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