Box Score | Coach Buckley's Postgame Press Conference
FOREST GROVE – Coming into today's game, Linfield had averaged 48.8 points per game and made a habit of blowing out their Northwest Conference opponents. On Saturday, Pacific gave the Wildcats all they could handle and gave their seniors a game they will remember for years to come.
Trailing 13-7 at halftime, Linfield rallied behind quarterback Josh Yoder to three second half touchdowns as they survived an upset score with a 28-22 victory over the Boxers at Lincoln Park Stadium.
The Boxers (7-3, 3-3 NWC) led by as much as 16-7 early in the third quarter before the Wildcats (9-0, 6-0 NWC) scored three the three touchdowns to keep their undefeated season intact. Josh Hill accounted for the first score while Yoder had runs of four yards and 17 yards.
Pacific gave Linfield, ranked No. 2 in the D3Football.com Poll and No. 3 in the AFCA Division III Coaches Poll, their closest game of the year. The Boxers outgained the Wildcats on offense 381 to 313 and dominated time of possession, holding onto the ball for 35 minutes. Turnovers proved to be the Boxers' nemesis as Linfield came up with two interceptions and a fumble recovery.
The game proved to be a defining moment for Pacific, who finishes with seven wins just four years after restarting the program from scratch in 2010. Pacific said farewell to 38 seniors who helped build the program from the start.
Head Coach Keith Buckley praised the play of his squad on an emotional day, but did not hide the fact that everyone came away disappointed. "From where we started to where we were a year ago to where we are, there is absolute progress in this football program," Buckley said. "But we had a chance. We were up and we didn't close it out, and that hurts. Ultimately, though, we are proud of what this team has accomplished."
Quarterback P.J. Minaya (Sr., Wahiawa, Hawaii) was strong in his Pacific finale, completing 17 of 31 passes for 188 yards. T.C. Campbell (Jr., Kaimuki, Hawaii) completed 11 of 17 passes for 114 yards and the Boxers' only passing touchdown. Jakob Lawrence (Jr., Sherwood, Ore.) was the top target, catching six balls for 105 yards and a touchdown, while Gunther Schultze (Sr., Bellflower, Calif.) capped his Pacific career by rushing for 47 yards on 13 carries.
Punter Aaron Koford (Sr., Wilsonville, Ore.) was critical to the field position game, punting four times for an average of 46.8 yards per punt and a career-long punt of 55 yards. Three of his four boots were inside the 20-yard line.
Yoder completed 10 of 16 passes for 89 yards and also rushed for 82 yards and three touchdowns to lead Linfield. Hill rushed for 100 yards and a touchdown while Evan Peterson and David Sigler each finished with 20 receiving yards.
The Pacific defense stunned the Wildcats in the early going, forcing three-and-out on their first series and punts on each of their first three possessions. After the Linfield defense held on the Boxers' first series, Pacific cobbled together a number of short runs to score their first points. Villareal-Gomez broke the deadlock with a 43-yard field goal that completed a 14-play drive that ate 7:38 for a 3-0 Pacific lead.
Special teams would set the Wildcats up for their first score as Eli Biodine hit Pacific return man Brandon Harms (Jr., Canby, Ore.), forcing a fumble and recovering the ball at the Pacific 14-yard line. Yoder wasted no time, running 14 yards on the next play for the score to put Linfield ahead 7-3 with 20 seconds to go in the first quarter.
The defensive struggle continued in the second quarter, but the Boxers managed to break through late when Campbell found Lawrence for a leaping 20-yard touchdown pass with 1:32 to go that made it a 10-7 game. Two plays later, Sean Bangs (Sr., Portland, Ore.) landed one of three sacks of Yoder, forcing a fumble that was recovered by the Boxers' Eddie Carrillo (Jr., Milpitas, Calif.). The Boxers converted that into a 29-yard Villareal-Gomez field goal that sent Pacific into the locker room with a 13-7 lead.
It was the first time Linfield had trailed an opponent all season as the Wildcats were held to just 82 yards and seven first downs. Pacific finished with 122 first half yards and had the ball for over 20 minutes.
Pacific opened the second half with another scoring drive. Villareal-Gomez hit his third field goal of the game, this time connecting from 28 yards to give the Boxers a 16-7 lead. Linfield responded on their next drive, with a one-yard Hill run completing an eight-play, 63-yard drive that brought the Wildcats within 16-14 with 6:53 to go in the quarter.
The defense started the drive that gave Linfield the lead back as Colin Forman intercepted Campbell with 2:14 left in the third. Yoder completed the drive with a four-yard touchdown run that put the Wildcats up 21-16 at the 13:08 mark of the fourth. The Wildcats added the winning score on their next drive, with Yoder breaking through the middle on third down for a 17-yard run that made it a 28-16 lead with 6:44 to go.
True to form, the Boxers did not go away quietly. After their next series was stunted by a Ian Zarosinzki intercepted, Pacific forced a punt and drive quickly for the score. Minaya capped a nine-play, 69-yard drive of 1:34 with a five-yard run that brought Pacific within 28-22 with 2:12 left. Pacific had two tries at the onside kick thanks to a Linfield penalty, but the Wildcats recovered and proceeded to run out the clock.
Six seniors topped the Pacific defensive chart, led by eight tackles each from Bryan Mills (Sr., Imbler, Ore.) and Tim Hastie (Sr., Auberry, Calif.) Each player was credited with a tackle for loss while Hastie had one of the Boxers' three sacks. Forman led Linfield with 10 tackles, three tackles for loss and an interception.
With seven wins, the 2013 Boxers become just the fifth team in school history to amass seven or more victories and finish fourth in the NWC at 3-3. Linfield will learn of their first round NCAA Division III playoff opponent on Sunday.
BOXER BYTES: An estimated crowd of 3,200, the largest to see a Pacific home game since the 2010 return of the program, attended Saturday's contest…Linfield's 28 points was their fewest of the season and their six-point margin of victory is their smallest of the year…Pacific's three losses in 2013 came by a grand total of 11 points…Pacific's 38 seniors were honored on Friday night with a banquet attended by the players, their families and coaches. The seniors ran out onto the field as a group before the rest of the team prior to the game…In a halftime ceremony, Pacific's Student-Athlete Advisory Committee presented a $3,000 check to Oregon Health Science University's Knight Cancer Institute. The money was raised by the sale of pink breast cancer awareness t-shirts by SAAC during Homecoming week.