Linfield enters 2014 at number 9 in our rankings. Check out our Top 25 Season Preview for more on the top college teams to watch this fall. Can’t find your team in the Top 25? View our full rankings to see where every team stands.
Last Season: 11-1 (6-0) Northwest Conference
Linfield football continued their run of dominance in the Northwest Conference last season. They featured the number one scoring offense in D3, scoring an average of 48.8 ppg over the course of the season. The defense was similarly impressive – as they boasted the best rushing defense in the division – 60.3 ypg allowed. For the fourth-straight year, the Wildcats went undefeated in-conference and made the playoffs.
Once they arrived, they made it count. Their first game was a 42-21 drubbing of conference-rival Pacific Lutheran, followed by Old Dominion Athletic Conference champs Hampden-Sydney. The Cats fell behind 21-10 at halftime before this punt return by Spencer Payne (featuring huge blocks by Tyler Robitaille, Westley Meng, and Jordan Giza), really got the sidelines hyped up and sparked the Linfield run of 21 unanswered points to end the game. The next week, in the National Quarterfinals, the Wildcats came up against eventual National Champions Wisconsin-Whitewater, who ended their season by a score of 28-17.
– Jesse Archambault OT – Second team All-NWC
– Josh Yoder QB – NWC Offensive POY, 190/299 (53.5%), 2,687 yards, 20 TDs, 11 INTs, 168 carries, 600 yards, 17 TDs
– Josh Hill RB/KR – First team All-NWC, 155 carries, 655 yards, 16 TDs
– Tyler Steele DT – First team All-NWC, 22 tackles, 7.5 TFL, 3 sacks, 1 FR, 1 FF
– Dominique Forrest LB – AFCA All-American, NWC Defensive POY, 96 tackles, 16 TFL, 5 sacks, 2 FRs, 4 FFs
– Kyle Wright SS (Monster Back) – First team All-NWC, 54 tackles, .5 TFL, 3 INTs, 8 pass defenses, 1 FR
– Colin Forman FS – First team All-NWC, 44 tackles, 3.5 TFL, 1 sack, 3 INTs, 4 pass defences, 1 FR, 1 FF
What to Watch For
Run the NW – Josh Hill was stellar for the ‘Cats last season. Named first-team All-NWC, his 16 TDs on the ground were second only to his quarterback for the most in the NWC. His departure left a big hole in the Linfield backfield – a hole the team thinks Spencer Payne will be able to fill.
Payne rushed for 238 yards on only 27 touches last season – an otherworldly 8.8 yards per carry with three touchdowns. Tavon Williams will also get a chance to shine, and Matt Yarborough proved what a dual-threat he could be last season from the quarterback position. Almost the entire Wildcat offensive line will be back, including first team All-NWC Eric Pitassi and Steven Schultz. Watch for an explosive ground-attack this season from Linfield.
The Linfield Wildcats have owned the Northwest Conference for the last four years. The four-year seniors who graduated in spring of 2013 never lost a NWC game and never experienced anything other than a conference championship season. That’s almost unprecedented success in college football, and it doesn’t look like things will change this year.
They lost some talented players – quarterback Josh Yoder, running back Josh Hill, monster back (kind of like a strong safety, but more awesome) Kyle Wright, and AFCA All-American linebacker Dom Forrest. For every player lost though, the Wildcats have two talented players returning. Dalton Richie and Pacific Lutheran will be the Wildcats’ biggest challenge for the conference title, especially after they lost their entire defensive backfield, but it’s hard to imagine anything but a continuation of Wildcat dominance in the NWC.