CLEVELAND, Ohio – Traveling 2,500 miles and three times zones to play a regular-season football game, the Linfield Wildcats fashioned a 45-0 shutout of Case Western Reserve in a sloppy contest Saturday at Case Field.
Tavon Willis rushed for a game-high 80 yards and Brian Balsiger caught eight passes for 99 yards to pace Linfield, which improved to 3-0 for the season. Josh Yoder passed for 235 yards and two touchdowns, but the Wildcats' senior signal caller was intercepted twice and sacked three times.
Perhaps distracted by homecoming festivities, Case Western produced just 89 yards against the unbeaten and second-ranked Wildcats, all of it coming in the second half when the game was already out of reach.
Michael MacClanathan recorded a team-high six tackles while Tyler Steele, Dominique Forrest and Tim Edmonds all had five stops for the stingy Linfield defense, which handed Case Western its first shutout in 77 games, a streak that began in 2005.
Case Western (1-3) spun its wheels for four quarters, failing to reach the end zone even when golden opportunities presented themselves. An interception return by the Spartans' Austin Webb spotted the ball at the Linfield 10-yard line early in the third quarter, but that red-zone chance was spoiled one play later when Kenny Riordan's fumble was recovered by Colin Forman. And a botched snap on a punt that sailed over the head of Josh Repp handed Case Western the ball at the Wildcats' 31, but that gift produced a futile three-and-out effort.
Once all the stats were counted, Linfield had outgained Case Western 429-89, holding the Spartans to 5 yards rushing and 0.2 yards per carry.
Though Linfield led 24-0 at intermission, the margin could have been greater. The Wildcats accumulated 187 first-half yards, 67 of it on the next-to-last drive. A missed field goal and an interception prevented the 'Cats from opening up a commanding lead.
Linfield's offensive frustrations matter little. The defense held the Case Western to minus-3 yards during the first two quarters and the Spartans never got past their own 30 before the break. A 0-for-7 result on third-down plays by the hosts resulted in eight punts in the first half alone.
After a listless third quarter when neither team scored, the Wildcats punched in three touchdowns over the final 15 minutes with a mixture of starters and backups, starting with the 5-yard run by Josh Hill on the first play of the fourth period that capped a 13-play, 80-yard march.
Matt Yarbrough took over in relief of Yoder after Hill's TD and guided the Wildcats on yet another point-producing drive. Evan Peterson snagged an 11-yard bullet in the end zone from Yarbrough that made the score 38-0 with 8:05 left to play.
Ian Zarosinski put the finishing touches on the road rout with a nifty 71-yard interception return for a touchdown with 2:51 to go.
Case quarterbacks Erik Olson and Billy Belcher combined to complete just 11 of 29 throws for 84 yards. The Spartans converted just one third-down play in 12 chances.
'CAT SCRATCH: Saturday's attendance was 2,203. . . Case Field is surrounded by student residence halls on three sides and a combination grandstand/parking garage on the fourth. . . the Wildcats entered Saturday's game leading the nation in total offense (658.0 yards per game) and scoring (61.5). . . the Wildcats will travel just under 5,000 miles to complete their latest road trip. . . the team is expected to return to Oregon Sunday morning. . . an estimated 60 parents and Wildcat fans turned out to support the team. . . Saturday's game marked the second time in Linfield history that a Linfield team has faced a team from Ohio. . . the Wildcats also played the University of Findlay in the 1992 NAIA national championship game. . . Linfield is 19-for-19 on red-zone scoring chances this season.
NEXT: Linfield returns to Maxwell Field for its Northwest Conference opener against league rival Pacific Lutheran. The annual Homecoming Game kicks off at 1:30 p.m. . . all Linfield alumni football players are invited to participate in the annual Walk of Honor starting at 1:15. . . alumni are asked to gather and organize at 1 p.m. at the stadium.