By Logan Brandon • Sports Editor • 

Linfield upsets Saint John's, 31-28; 'Cats advance to DIII quarterfinals

Editor's Note:  Linfield College announced Monday that the Wildcat team will travel to Belton, TX, for Saturday's playoff game against Mary Hardin-Baylor.

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COLLEGEVILLE, Minnesota - Linfield's unbeaten season continued today when the seventh-ranked Wildcats defeated number-five Saint John's 31-28 in the second round of the Division III football playoffs. The Wildcats handed the Johnnies their first loss of the year; Linfield claimed its first win over Saint John's in four playoff meetings.

Fifth-year senior quarterback Wyatt Smith edged closer to the 'Cats' all-time passing touchdowns record of 110, set by Brett Elliot in 2005. Smith threw for 273 yards and three TDs in today's victory, moving his career total to 108 scoring passes.

Joel Valadez was Smith's favorite target against the Johnnies. The freshman wide out hauled in 13 passes for 102 yards and a pair of scores.

Connor McNabb (17 rushes, 73 yards; eight receptions, 64 yards) and Devon Murray (two receptions, 44 yards) also found the end zone for the Wildcats.

Andrew Starkel's 23-yard field goal proved the game-winner when he drilled the short kick with 1:01 remaining to extend Linfield's lead to 31-21.

Jon Sedy and Tyler Sitton both picked off St. John's passes, while veteran safety Tyler Bergeron recorded a team-high 10 tackles. Blake Rybar sacked St. John's quarterback Chris Backes for a seven-yard loss.

Linfield's exciting postseason run now leads to a tough matchup against University of Mary Hardin-Baylor next Saturday; time and location to be determined.

Comments

Don Dix

Upset? From what I witnessed, the better team won ... maybe the ranking committee was wrong.

Jeb Bladine

Don,

In case you're getting hazy on when you graduated from Mac High, I still recall the year -- 1965. One reason I remember is because that December, I watched up-close-and-personal St. John's dismantle Linfield 33-0 in the national championship game. The ranking oommittee was right that year, but not so much in 2021! I guess if you stay upright long enough, everything comes back around!

Don Dix

Jeb -- St.John's was extremely lucky not getting knocked off earlier -- and from what I saw, Linfield's defense and special teams were better prepared for in game situations and adjustments. The Cat's RBs and WRs are young, fast, and talented -- If Joe finds a QB that can throw, lookout! And I suspect you probably had to find your yearbook to get the date correct :)

Logan

Don,

Seems pretty simple: A lower seed (road team) beats a higher seed (home team), thus an upset.

Logan

Don Dix

Logan -- seeding is arbitrary, so it's an upset only if the seedings are correct --in this case, based on results and both teams being undefeated, I only submitted that the committee might have made an incorrect decision.

Russ

Regarding seeding it is not just Ws and Ls. In the case of D3 it is also about how much NCAA projects it might have to pay for long-distance travel. But in the current seeding it also has to do with St. John's having the No. 1 strength of schedule among D3 football teams. Linfield was 58. Beating better teams throughout the season gets you a better seeding.
https://www.d3football.com/seasons/2021/schedule?tmpl=sos-template

Don Dix

Linfield's next opponent is #2 ranked Mary Hardin-Baylor -- a tough matchup for sure -- with a SOS of 164. George Fox (34), Whitworth (39), and Redlands (41) all had a better SOS than Linfield (58). The SOS seems of little use in that respect. D3 is all about 'next', not how rankings are figured -- Go Cats!

Russ

SOS has no meaning regarding Fox and Whitworth since Linfield got an automatic berth by winning the conference. As did Redlands in winning SCIAC. Linfield was paired against Redlands in the first round not based on SOS but to reduce travel costs. That way NCAA was guaranteed that one or the other would be knocked out, cutting future travel costs. West Coast teams are always at a disadvantage because NCAA tries to save money if the West teams get knocked out early. It's no secret and Linfield knows it will almost always be on the road to the central or eastern time zones in the playoffs after the first round. The players just need to reset their circadian clocks for central or eastern time zones when traveling. So SOS may not have to do with Linfield's and Redlands' seeding as it ideally should, but it may be more germane for matchups of teams within a 500 mile bus ride of each other. A more cynical view is that the selection committee has basically pre-determined the semifinalists and everything else is just show.