By Rusty Rae • Of the News-Register • 

'Cats clinch NWC title, D3 playoff bid

Linfield College pitched a 23-0 victory against University of Puget Sound, and in the process got an assist from long-time rival PLU, who dropped George Fox 13-3, allowing the Wildcats to clinch its ninth consecutive Northwest Conference championship (and 41st overall) and grab the automatic berth to the NCAA Division III playoff bid.

Freshman QB Wyatt Smith led the 'Cats to a second quarter score for a 7-0 lead at half, and had a 41-yard TD pass to Kyle Kimball for a 14-0 lead. Linfield tacked on a trifecta of Willy Warne fields to close out the Loggers. Warne popped in three-pointers from 20, 48, and 20-yards while the 'Cat defense mauled the Loggers.

The Linfield defense, which has played lights-out all season, clamped down on the Logger offense, holding the pass-happy offense to 105 yards of total offense and picking off UPS QB Tanner Diebold three times. 

At the same time, the young Wyatt Smith went 26-46 with a single interception for 318 yards and a pair of scores. Smith was sacked six times in the first half, slowing the Linfield offense, but had zero sacks in the second half as Linfield rolled to its sixth win of the season.

Smith's 32-yard pass to J.D. Lasswell put Linfield up 7-0 in the first half, and he then hooked for the 41-yarder with Kimball or the 14-0 lead. Kimball, also a freshman, finished the day with nine catches for 129 yards. Lasswell had six catches for 54 yards and the first score of the day. Freshman Dawson Ruhl also had four catches for 50-yards.

The only negative of the day was the less-than-stellar performance of the running game, which produced a total of 62 yards on the day, Leading rusher was senior Blake Burnett, with 27 yards on seven carries. Chidubem Nnoli, who has led Linfield in rushing the previous four games, was held to a total of 18 yards on 12 carries.

Linfield finishes it season next weekend when it travels to Forest Grove and Pacific University. Gametime is 1 p.m.



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