Oct 17, 2018

Game Preview: Bruins Host No. 24 Linfield on Oct. 20

A Winning Tradition

 
  • One post-season appearance (1960 Crusader Bowl)
  • One AFCA Division III Coaches' All-American (Nolan Schuler, 2017)
  • One CoSIDA Academic All-American (Caleb Dalzell, 2017)
  • Two CoSIDA Academic All-District (Caleb Dalzell, 2017; Grant Schroeder, 2017)
  • Three D3football.com All-Americans
  • Four D3football.com All-Region Honorees
  • 37 All-NWC Athletes 
  • Five D3Football.com Team of the Week
  • Nine NWC Student-Athlete of the Week Awards 
  • One Cliff Harris Award Finalist (Charles Riga, 2017)
  • Two NSCA All-American (Justin Kruse, 2015; Dane Jensen, 2017)
  • Two NFL Draft Picks 
 

By: Jake Bienvenue

NEWBERG – Coming off a solid 28-6 victory over Willamette in week six, George Fox (3-3, 1-2 NWC) returns home with a chance to upset the No. 24 Linfield Wildcats (3-2, 2-1 NWC) in a Saturday afternoon showdown.

Through seven weeks last year, these conference rivals were in very different places. George Fox was surging, ranked in the top-25 for the first time in program history and boasting an undefeated record in the Northwest Conference. The Wildcats were showcasing their usual dominance, winning all three of their conference games while setting their sights on a national title. They were ranked seventh in the country at the time.  

Last season's highly touted match-up was all about defense. The Bruins kept the Wildcats' high-powered offense out of the end zone, holding Linfield to a conversion rate of 4-of-17 on third down, but four field goals were enough to sneak past George Fox, 12-6. Linfield went on to clinch its ninth straight conference title, punching its ticket to the NCAA Division III playoffs before losing in the second round to the eventual runner-up, Mary Hardin-Baylor.

Although not ranked as highly this season, the Wildcats nonetheless field a strong lineup, continuing a long tradition of program success.

On offense, Linfield returns Northwest Conference first-team running back Chidubem Nnoli. Through five games, he has carried the ball 88 times for 454 yards and three touchdowns. His average of 90.8 yards per game is second-most in the conference.

Sophomore quarterback Wyatt Smith has proven himself as a field general this season, averaging 239.6 yards per game while throwing seven touchdowns. He ranks fourth in the conference in both statistical categories.

Although Smith has found six different wide receivers in the end zone, two have emerged as top targets. Keegan Weiss has racked up 295 yards and a touchdown, and J.D. Lasswell has contributed 215 yards and three touchdowns while playing in only four games.

On the defensive side, senior safety Duke Mackle has stepped up as an anchor, racking up 39 tackles and three interceptions. Defensive end Travis Swanson will be a force as well, having made 20 tackles, seven of which were for loss, to go along with 2.5 sacks and a fumble recovery.

George Fox freshman quarterback Jaden Sheffey will look to continue his recent success. Against the Bearcats last week, Sheffey threw for 128 yards and a touchdown while gaining 62 yards on the ground. Wide receiver Kenny May has been a favorite target thus far and will likely feature prominently in the passing game. May has put together a solid season with 20 receptions for 385 yards and three touchdowns.

The Bruins will look to frustrate a Linfield offense that scores a conference-best 38.7 points per game in NWC play. George Fox has the defensive personnel to contend with the 'Cats, boasting five players with over 30 tackles each on the season. Linebacker Daniel Campos leads the group with 49 tackles, an interception, and a sack. His 8.2 tackles per game are good for fourth-best in the conference. Austin Taylor heads up a tough corps of defensive backs, with 41 tackles to go with a pair of interceptions. Caleb Harrel has also been a factor, recording three interceptions and 27 tackles.

Kickoff is set at Stoffer Family Stadium Saturday at 1:30 p.m.