Second-ranked Linfield survives scare to make quarterfinals, stay unbeaten
McMINNVILLE, Ore. – Scoring 28 unanswered points to avoid a major upset, second-ranked Linfield fought off opportunistic Hampden-Sydney 31-21 in a second-round Division III playoff game Saturday at chilly Maxwell Field.
Linfield (11-0) advances to a quarterfinal matchup where they'll meet fellow unbeaten Wisconsin-Whitewater (12-0), a 33-3 winner Saturday against Franklin (Ind.). The game site will be confirmed Sunday by the NCAA.
Unranked Hampden-Sydney, champion of the Old Dominion Athletics Conference, reached the second round of the playoffs for the first time in program history. But facing the playoff-seasoned Wildcats, the Tigers were firmly in control throughout the first half before Linfield's edge in experience keyed a reversal of fortune.
All-America linebacker Dominique Forrest was the difference maker for Linfield, piling up a game-high 12 tackles, a sack, two fumbles forced and recovering his own stripped ball in the end zone with a little more than six minutes left in the fourth quarter to all but seal the victory for the favored Wildcats.
Forrest's heroics overshadowed a brilliant 387-yard passing performance from Nash Nance, the one-time University of Tennessee recruit who passed for two scores and ran for another, all during the game's initial 20 minutes.
Hampden-Sydney outgained Linfield 415-375, though the Wildcats did limit the Tigers running game to 27 net yards on 20 attempts.
Linfield QB Kyle Yoder ended the day 17-for-35 for 243 yards, but Yoder, a senior, was sacked three times and served up a career-high three interceptions, all inside the 5-yard line.
Yoder teammate, Josh Hill, finished was the game's leading rusher with 55 yards and two touchdowns. Tavon Willis added another 42 yards on seven carries.