By Rusty Rae • Sport Editor • 

Pirates whack Wildcats, 19-14

SPOKANE -- Linfield's 11th-ranked football team (1-2, 0-1 NWC), outplayed much of the second half, surrendered a 7-0 halftime lead to the Whitworth Pirates, falling, 19-14 in a game not as close as the score indicated.

The Wildcats led at the half 7-0 on the strength of a 29-yard from QB Wyatt Smith to wide receiver J.D. Lasswell with 46 seconds left in the half. 

However, Linfield's offense was never able to dominate the Pirates. It's running game was good for a paltry 28 yards, forcing the locals to go to the air. Even those yards are misleading as Linfield's top running back, Chidubem Nnoli fumbled on the second series of the second half after the nifty eight-yard run. The ball was recovered by Whitworth -- and with the recovery the momentum shifted to the Pirates who went on to score three touchdowns in the third period.

In the Pirates, Linfield met a team primed for its first win over the 'Cats in 10 years, and when the Pirates went to an up-tempo offense, the 'Cats too often seemed a step behind, as Whitworth scored all its points in a eight-plus minute span in the third stanza.

First the Whitworth QB, Leif Erickson, ripped off a 22-yard run for the Pirates first score of the game at the 9:10 mark of the second period. The PAT was no good. Then Erickson hit Garrett McKay on a 31-yard pass on which the Linfield defender was beaten on the play. The two  point conversion failed.

With 56 seconds left in the period, the Pirates Mason Elms slammed into the end zone from one yard out. 

Early in the fourth quarter, Duke Mackle intercepted Erickson -- one of Erickson's poorer decisions in the game. Mackle appeared as if he might take the ball to the house, but was pushed out of bounds deep inside Whitworth territory, However, Linfield, whistled for holding on the run back,and  wound up starting the ensuing drive on its own 43-yard line.

Penalties stung the 'Cats all afternoon, keeping them out of offensive rhythm. They had 10 for 76 yards -- with many of the errors happening at key times in drives. Whitworth had eight for 81-yards, but was able to play past them.

Linfield scored it's final touchdown at the 12-second mark of the fourth quarter on a 27-yard pass caught by Aiden Wilder. 

But Whitworth fielded the on-side kick, running out the final seconds of the game from the victory formation.

Make no mistake, the Pirates deserved the win, out-playing Linfield much of the contest. The 'Cats defense played well enough for Linfield to win, but the offense again stumbled through the game. Smith, who was 23-37 for 258-yards was sacked four times for 41-yards and regularly had to run for his life from a fierce rush from the Pirate defense. 

Linfield's preseason All-American kicker, Willy Warne, had another o-fer game in the field goal department. His first try was blocked -- perhaps kicked into his own man. The second try was good from the 31, but the 'Cats were whistled for holding, and the second try from 10-yards farther back was wide right. 

Linfield will play Willamette next Saturday in its homecoming clash with the Bearcats. Kickoff is set for 1:30 p.m. 

 

 

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