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PLU Hosts No. 3-Ranked Linfield in NWC Opener

Daniel Herr (9)
Daniel Herr (9)

RIVALRY RENEWED: One of the best small college football rivalries in the country will be renewed this Saturday when Pacific Lutheran hosts No. 3-ranked Linfield in the Northwest Conference opener for both teams. The game comes on Homecoming weekend at PLU, and kickoff is slated for 12:30 p.m. at Sparks Stadium in Puyallup.

FOLLOW THE LUTES: You can listen to PLU football action throughout the year in the Tacoma area on KLAY 1180 AM with Steve Thomas and Karl Hoseth calling the action. The broadcasts are also available online on the KLAY website ( Additionally, listeners can access the PLU football broadcasts on the PLU athletics website at, then clicking on Listen Live and following the link.

DIRECTIONS TO SPARKS STADIUM: Sparks Stadium, owned by the Puyallup School District, is the home of Lute football.  Sparks is located 10 miles east of the PLU campus in the city of Puyallup. The stadium has an artificial surface and covered seating for 4,500. To get to Sparks stadium from Interstate 5, take exit 127, and go east on Highway 512 for approximately 10 miles. Once in Puyallup, take the Meridian Street exit and turn left onto Meridian. Follow Meridian to 7th Ave. SW and turn left.  Sparks is located on the corner of 7th Avenue and 5th Street, the address is 601 7th Ave. SW, Puyallup, WA 98371.

BYE, BYE: With its 28-14 road victory over then No. 25-ranked Redlands in the rear view mirror, Pacific Lutheran used last week to recover and prepare for its third consecutive nationally ranked opponent. The Wildcats, who are 3-0 this season, also had a bye last Saturday.

'CATS ARE WINNERS: Nationally ranked, unbeaten and three-time defending conference champion Linfield is off to another great start in 2012, and with two more wins will be assured of its 57th consecutive season with a winning record. That, easily, is the all-time record at all levels of college football. Included in its 3-0 start this season are home victories over Menlo (30-9) and Hardin-Simmons (49-35), and a road victory two weeks ago against Cal Lutheran (33-30). The Lutes faced Cal Lutheran in their season opener and dropped a 37-23 decision at Sparks Stadium. As three-time defending NWC champions, Linfield comes into Saturday's game riding a 20-game conference winning streak dating back to late 2008.  

THE SERIES: PLU and Linfield will face each other for the 48th straight year, which is PLU football's longest ongoing series. During five of those years the teams met twice, once during the regular season and again in the NAIA Division II playoffs. Linfield has a 36-21-4 advantage in the series that dates all the way back to 1933 when it beat Pacific Lutheran College, 20-6. The Wildcats are currently on a 10-game winning streak against PLU, which is the longest winning streak for either team in the series. During that streak, Linfield has scored at least 40 points six times and has averaged 39.1 points per game compared to 15.7 for the Lutes. PLU's last victory in the series came by a 31-20 score in 2001 in McMinnville. Pacific Lutheran has twice put together three-game winning streaks against Linfield (1939-41, 1994-96). Linfield's biggest margin of victory was 45 points (45-0) in 2008, while Pacific Lutheran's biggest win came by 39 points (45-6) way back in 1940.

LAST YEAR: Linfield rolled up a big margin in total yards and took advantage of four Pacific Lutheran turnovers in running past the Lutes, 45-7, last October 22 at Maxwell Field in McMinnville, Ore. Linfield wasted little time getting on the scoreboard, intercepting a pass on PLU's first play of the game and driving 43 yards in five plays, capping the short-field drive on a 20-yard pass from Mickey Inns to Lucas Jepson. Just 1:43 into the game, Linfield held a 7-0 lead. Linfield later drove 50 yards to score on Josh Hill's 5-yard run, making the score 14-0, and it added Josh Kay's 32-yard field goal and Taylor Skore's 23-yard touchdown run to take a 24-0 lead into the halftime break. Any hope of the PLU comeback pretty much ended on Linfield's opening possession of the third quarter when it drove 68 yards on seven plays, scoring on Hill's 11-yard run. The hosts added two more touchdowns on 6- and 5-yard passes from Mickey Inns to Buddy Saxon, to take a 45-0 lead just 14 seconds into the final period. The Lutes got a bit of redemption late in the fourth period, driving 80 yards on 12 plays and scoring on Daniel Herr's 1-yard sweep around end. Linfield dominated the game in every offensive category with 25 first downs and 460 total yards on 81 plays to 12 first downs and 183 yards on 59 plays for the Lutes. Hill carried 18 times for 100 yards to lead Linfield's ground game, and quarterbacks Mickey Inns and Josh Yoder combined to complete 26-of-37 passes (to 11 different receivers) for 326 yards with three touchdowns and one interception. Steven McDonald was in on 12 tackles and recovered a fumble to lead the PLU defense.

SCOUTING LINFIELD: This year's Linfield team has shown the ability to pile up the points and the yards, but it has also allowed opponents an unusually high amount of offense. The 2012 'Cats average 37.3 points and 456.7 yards per game while allowing 24.7 points and 404.7 yards through their first three contests. The balanced offense shows 269.3 yards passing per game and 187.3 yards per game on the ground. The leading ball carrier is Josh Hill, who averages 133.7 yards per game. Quarterback Mickey Inns, a first team all-conference performer last season, has again been outstanding this year. He is 61-for-113 for 779 yards with seven touchdowns and three interceptions. His favorite target is possession receiver Deidre Wiersma, who has 17 catches for 146 yards. Lucas Jepson has 14 catches for 182 yards and two touchdowns, and both Charlie Poppen and Hill has 11 receptions. Poppen is the long threat with an average of 17.5 yards per catch, while Hill has two receiving touchdowns. Linebacker Dom Forrest leads the Wildcats with 28 tackles, followed by monster back Kyle Wright with 26. Expect the 'Cats to put a lot of pressure on PLU sophomore quarterback Dalton Ritchey. Through three games Linfield has 13 quarterback sacks, led by defensive end Brynnan Hyland with five among his 11 total tackles.

LUTE NOTES: Pacific Lutheran enters with a 1-1 record, including a 37-23 season-opening home loss to then No. 11-ranked Cal Lutheran, followed by a 28-14 road win over then No. 25-ranked Redlands. Add up those numbers and you discover that the Lutes have scored 51 points while giving up the same number. PLU has averaraged 426 yards per game while allowing 343.5, and it also has eight takeaways while turning the ball over five times. The aforementioned Dalton Ritchey is off to an excellent start, averaging 311 passing yards per game on 43-for-74 accuracy with two TDs and two interceptions. His favorite targets are sophomore wide receivers Kellen Westering with 14 catches for 203 yards and Kyle Warner with 10 catches for 210 yards. Daniel Herr, a sophomore slotback, has been solid with eight catches for 86 yards. The Lutes average 112 rushing yards per game, led by Brandon James with 78.5 yards per game and two touchdowns. Linebacker Dalton Darmody leads PLU with 14 tackles, followed by nose tackle Mychael Tuiasosopo with 13 and safety Greg Hibbard with 12. Linebacker Jordan Patterson has 11 total tackles and cornerback Jonny Volland, who also has 11 tackles, is among the Division III nationals leaders with three interceptions through two games.

ABOUT THE COACHES: Scott Westering is in his ninth year as head coach at Pacific Lutheran, where he has compiled a 41-33 overall record. Scott joined the PLU coaching staff in 1981 after playing tight end for the Lutes under his father, Frosty Westering. Scott served as the Lutes' offensive coordinator from 1983-2003, helping PLU to two NAIA Division II and one NCAA Division III national championships, as well as four runner-up finishes. He has coached 11 first-team All-Americans, including the 1999 NCAA Division III Player of the Year, Chad Johnson. Scott was a captain and All-American tight end on the 1980 PLU team that won the Lutes' first NAIA national championship. He was inducted into the PLU Hall of Fame in 1998. Joseph Smith, an All-America defensive back at Linfield, was a longtime Wildcats assistant coach before taking over stewardship of the Linfield football program in 2006. No in his seventh season, his career record stands at 52-13. A popular but demanding coach, Smith served as an assistant at Linfield for 13 years, including seven seasons as defensive coordinator from 1999 to 2005.

CHAMPIONSHIP TRADITIONS: During the 1980s and into the early 1990s, these two programs generally alternated long runs into the NAIA national playoffs. Since both schools joined NCAA Division III in the fall of 1998, both have also won a national football championship. PLU won NAIA Division II nationals titles in 1980, 1987 and 1993 and finished as runner-up four times, while Linfield took NAIA championships in 1982, 1984, and 1986 and finished as runner-up three times. The teams faced each other four times in the NAIA national playoffs between 1980 and 1991. As NCAA Division III members, PLU won a national title in 1999 (42-13 over Rowan) and Linfield took the crown in 2004 (28-21 over Mary Hardin-Baylor).

PLU-LINFIELD: THE NAIA GLORY YEARS, 1980-1994: From 1980-1991, Frosty Westering (PLU) and Ad Rutschman (Linfield) were the head coaches of the two schools.  During this 12-year span both coaches compiled outstanding records.  Westering led the Lutes to a 104-23-3 record during that time span while Rutschman guided the Wildcats to a 100-21-1 record, including three undefeated seasons.  In head-to-head games Linfield edged the Lutes 8-7, but in the playoffs PLU held the edge 3-2.
Here is a list of the years where either PLU or Linfield made it to the NAIA national championship game.
1980 – PLU defeated Linfield in the first round 35-20 and went on to win the national championship.
1982 – Linfield wins the national championship.
1983 – PLU finishes national runner-up.
1984 – Linfield wins the national championship.
1985 – PLU defeated Linfield in the first round 30-12 and goes on to finish national runner-up.
1986 – Linfield defeated PLU in the first round 27-21 (OT) and went on to win the national championship.
1987 – PLU wins the national championship.
1991 – PLU defeated Linfield in the second round 23-0 and went on to finish national runner-up.
1992 – Linfield defeated PLU in the second round 44-30 and went on to finish national runner-up.
1993 – PLU wins the national championship.
1994 –PLU finishes national runner-up.

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