ATHERTON, Calif. – Lucas Jepson caught two touchdown passes from Mickey Inns, including the game-clincher with 6:01 to play, propelling the fifth-ranked Linfield Wildcats to a 23-6 nonconference victory over Menlo Saturday at Connor Field.
Menlo, ranked 25th in the latest NAIA poll, dropped to 5-3 for the season.
Linfield remained unbeaten at 7-0 but was less than perfect. The Wildcats managed just 299 yards, allowed four sacks and were whistled for eight penalties totaling 99 yards.
As the offense struggled to extend an early lead, it was defense and special teams that helped Linfield avoid the ambush.
In the early going, it looked as though the 'Cats might run away with the game. Linfield jumped in front 13-0 in the opening 10 minutes as Inns passed 31 yards to a wide-open Jepson at the goal line for the Wildcats' first touchdown at the 10:05 mark of the first quarter.
Linfield's special teams accounted for the next score. Menlo punter Kevin Kurtz had his kick blocked by Colin Forman and Tyler Robitaille scooped up the bouncing ball and returned it 24 yards for a touchdown. Shawn Winters blocked the extra point attempt by Josh Kay and the score remained 13-0.
As the Linfield offense continued to spin its wheels, Menlo cut the deficit to seven, scoring on Thomas Reynolds' 40-yard run off right tackle. Joell Reyes blocked the extra point and the Wildcats clung to a 13-6 advantage.
Linfield threatened to go on top by three scores, marching to the Menlo 10-yard line, but Inns was sacked for a 10-yard loss and instead, the Wildcats settled for Kay's 37-yard field goal with 1:37 left in the half. The Wildcats got the ball back once more, but three incomplete passes by Inns forced Linfield to try a 34-yard field goal by Kay that missed wide right.
Both offenses were muted in the first half. Though they came into the game averaging 455 yards of offense, the Wildcats were held to 108 yards in the first two quarters. Menlo managed just 64 yards before intermission.
With each team's defense holding the other offense in check, the only scoring of the second half came on Jepson's bomb down the left sideline, a play that covered 73 yards and effectively sealed the victory for the visitors.
The teams combined for 19 punts, including 11 by Menlo. Linfield totaled a season-low 44 yards rushing as Josh Hill, the Wildcats' leading rusher, was limited to 39 yards on 13 carries.
Inns finished with 255 yards passing, completing 21 of 38 attempts with one interception. Jepson caught four passes for 136 yards. Buddy Saxon had five grabs for 53 yards and Deidre Wiersma had four catches for 36 yards.
'CAT SCRATCH: Saturday's attendance was estimated at 1,100. . . with the victory, the Wildcats kept their series record against Menlo spotless, stretching it to 13-0. . . the temperature at kickoff was 76 degrees. . . Inns' fourth-quarter interception was the only turnover of the game. . . Menlo controlled the ball for 39 of the game's 60 minutes.
AHEAD: Linfield faces another long road trip in the coming week as the Wildcats trek to Spokane, Wash., to play Whitworth at the Pine Bowl. Kickoff is set for 12:30 p.m. Menlo hosts Azusa Pacific Saturday in the Oaks' final home game of the season.