ABILENE, Texas – There's a new sheriff in town and his name is Josh Yoder.
Yoder passed for three touchdowns and ran for another score in his first career start, and Dominique Forrest had 13 tackles as third-ranked Linfield dominated Hardin-Simmons 71-21 Saturday at sun-drenched Shelton Stadium.
With Yoder at the controls, the Wildcats (1-0) rolled up 661 yards of offense on the shell-shocked Cowboys (0-2), halting a five-game home winning streak. Yoder connected on 22 of 33 passes for 350 yards without an interception and also gained 54 yards on nine carries.
Linfield pounced on the Cowboys from the start. After HSU's Jessie Ramos returned the opening kickoff to the Linfield 32, HSU advanced the ball to the 2, but Linfield held firm on four successive runs up the middle. Two plays later, Yoder fired 84 yards up the right sideline to a wide-open Charlie Poppen for the game's first touchdown. The extra point was no good.
When a HSU drive went nowhere, a blocked punt by Mikey Arkans deep inside Cowboys territory led directly to another score. Tavon Willis carried three straight plays, capping the brief march with a 1-yard plunge that made it 13-0 with 8:05 left in the first quarter.
The Cowboys gave the ball back, going three-and-out on their next drive. Yoder drove the Wildcats 70 yards in 12 plays, calling his own number on a 2-yard run. A 21-yard catch-and-run by Evan Peterson was a key play of the drive, along with a 13-yard scamper by Yoder after the pocket collapsed around him.
Linfield stretched its lead to 26-0 at the 9:39 mark of the second quarter. A 1-yard run by Josh Hill polished off a five-play drive that included Yoder's 36-yard hookup with Brian Balsiger that spotted the ball at the HSU 10.
The Cowboys got on the scoreboard with 6:39 left in the second quarter when Ramos worked free for a 16-yard pass completion from Josh Christian.
Yoder fired two more touchdowns in the span of 1:18, hitting Hill for an 18-yard score and Peterson for a 5-yard scoring completion with 19 seconds left before the break. Repp's extra point made it 40-7 and the Wildcats were firmly in control.
Linfield outgained the hosts 387-141 during the first two quarters, and 661-330 for the game, as Yoder passed for 265 yards and rushed for 29 more before intermission.
The second half was more of the same with the Wildcats outscoring the Cowboys 31-14.
Repp booted a 40-yard field goal five minutes into the third quarter and Yoder directed one more scoring drive, ending with Hill's 1-yard aerial dive into the end zone. Reserve quarterback Matt Yarbrough then ran 18 yards for one score and passed two yards to Peterson for another TD that made it 64-21 with 6:50 left to play. Jordy Romick added the final points, rushing six yards into the end zone to complete an 81-yard drive.
Poppen finished with five catches for 144 yards, Balsiger pulled in seven receptions for 80 yards, and Hill and Peterson both had four catches.
Willis ended with a game-high 61 yards rushing and one touchdown on on 13 carries. Hill packed the ball 12 times for 57 yards and scored twice.
Forrest topped the defensive statistics with 15 stops, five of the unassisted. End Alex Hoff contributed six tackles for the Wildcats, including two for loss.
'CAT SCRATCH: Temperature at kickoff was 91 degrees. . . about 50 fans, alumni and parents gathered on the HSU campus for a special pregame rally. . . among those in attendance was Wes Suan, former head tennis coach and assistant football coach who continued his football coaching career at the University of Hawaii and Southern Methodist University. . . Repp averaged 38.0 yards per punt on two attempts. . . Chad Coburn accounted for 102 all-purpose yards on kickoff and punt returns. . . the Wildcats' 71 points Saturday were the most ever scored by a Linfield team on the road and the second-highest scoring output of the modern, post-war era. . . collectively, Linfield quarterbacks rushed for 151 yards and two TDs . . . Linfield passed for four scores while yielding but one quarterback sack. . . the Cowboys were held to 60 yards rushing.
NEXT: Linfield returns to McMinnville on Sunday and begins preparations for it home opener Saturday against nationally ranked Cal Lutheran. Kickoff is set for 12:30 p.m. Special wristbands will be distributed at the game in support of Linfield alumnus Steve Davis '72, who was recently diagnosed with leukemia and is undergoing chemotherapy treatment. Davis, a Linfield Athletics Hall of Fame inductee, is a former Wildcats football player and sports information director who has volunteered his time to manage the concession stand at home football games.