A few weeks ago, we published an article chronicling the dominance of UW-Whitewater and Mount Union. These two schools have owned D3 football for the better part of two decades, but their reign has to come to an end eventually. This is the third installment of a series profiling the teams who just might be the ones to end that reign. This time — BR-8 Linfield.
Like the first two teams we reviewed in our Title Shot Series, Mary Hardin-Baylor and John Carroll, the Linfield Wildcats featured a dominant defense in 2013. They allowed an average of 14.1 points per game in their 12 contests last season, good for 12th in D3. The Wildcats had something Mary Hardin-Baylor, John Carroll, Mount Union, UW-Whitewater, and every other D3 team didn’t: an offense that scored an average of 48.8 points per game.
Last season was the fourth-consecutive year the Wildcats went undefeated in conference play and took the Northwest Conference Title. They made it to the playoffs and continued their streak all the way to the National Quarterfinals, where their undefeated season ended at the hands of UW-Whitewater, 28-17.
The Wildcat offense lost a few key players last offseason in quarterback Josh Yoder and running back Josh Hill. Matt Yarbrough was in-line to replace Yoder until he went down not even a full game into the season to injury.
Sam Riddle, who was third on the depth chart at the start of the season, has led the Wildcats to their two wins to start the season. The first was in dramatic fashion — a fourth quarter goal line dive to seal the win at Chapman. They haven’t put up the impressive numbers they did last season so far, but that doesn’t mean they won’t by season’s-end. The defense has already played to expectations.
The defense lost four All-NWC performers from last year’s squad, including All-American NWC Defensive Player of the Year — linebacker Dominique Forrest. Forrest and his All-NWC teammates were tough to replace, but the defense has performed admirably thus far. They’ve allowed their opponents 14 and 3 points in their two games this season, and have allowed less than half the yardage their offense has produced (449 yards vs 911 yards). They’re still waiting on their first turnover, but with five forced fumbles in two games, you have to figure they’re due.
This is a young team, but even the youngsters know about Linfield’s ownership of the NWC, and they would like to continue that run of dominance at Pacific Lutheran this weekend. The Lutes will be Linfield’s biggest test of the season at BR-24. If they can get by their rivals from the north, they’ll be at home against every team ranked inside the BR Top 100 for the rest of the season. A win would set them up beautifully for a return to playoffs where you know they’d be focused on another shot at UW-Whitewater.
Linfield was the last team other than Whitewater or Mount Union to win a D3 title, all the way back in 2004. On the ten-year anniversary, who’s to say they won’t do it again?