Linfield Football: 63 YEARS AND COUNTING
By Logan Brandon McMinnville N-R Oct 30, 2018
The streak lives on.
Linfield football increased its NCAA record consecutive winning seasons streak to 63 years after defeating Pacific Lutheran University 41-7 Saturday at Maxwell Field. The Wildcats’ impressive run, which began in 1956, is the longest in the history of college football at any level.
Linfield head coach Joseph Smith said he first realized the weight of the streak in 2015, when it reached 60 games.
He explained, “The number 60 was such a monumental milestone. Since that time, I guess I don’t think about it until the day that we extend it. It means a lot to me, to our program and to the guys who have gone before us. It takes a lot of work to be successful year in and year out – it’s not easy. A lot of things can go wrong in the course of a season, which is why no one has done it. We’ve defied the odds.”
Monster back Tyler Bergeron offers an interesting perspective on the streak. The freshman initially played for the Wildcats back in 2012, but after one season, joined the U.S. Marine Corps. Bergeron served five years, then rejoined Linfield this season.
Asked about the 63 successful seasons, Bergeron stated, “It’s awesome! I was here in 2012 for year number 57, took a little hiatus, came back and now I’m here for 63. It’s pretty impressive and I’m pretty happy for this program.”
Bergeron’s impact has become a welcome surprise, according to defensive coordinator Jackson Vaughn.
“He came in as an old transfer and he’s been huge for us,” he said. “We didn’t know what we’d get out of him, but now he’s emerged as a starter and he’s making some outstanding plays like his pick-six today.”
Added Smith, “Tyler has just been a wonderful addition to our team with regards to experience and the respect he has with his peers. He’s been in danger’s way for our freedom, so he’s earned instant respect. He’s also one of our hardest workers and trainers and now his play is catching up with his ability.”
Bergeron and the Wildcats’ defense posted yet another strong outing in limiting the Lute offense to 171 total yards. After entering the season with question marks, that unit has quickly become the strength of this Wildcat team.
“We’re finally maturing at some critical spots and that’s allowed us to really give up very little on defense,” explained Vaughn.
Linfield’s defensive line simply dominated the interior.
Travis Swanson led the Wildcat linemen with two sacks and three tackles for loss. Starting linebacker Patrick Pipitone also recorded an impressive performance, notching seven tackles, two-and-a-half for loss and forced three fumbles. Bergeron returned an interception 72 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter.
Offensively, the Wildcats benefited from a 108-yard rushing effort by Chidubem Nnoli. He also scored two touchdowns including Linfield’s initial pair of scores in the first and second quarters. Wyatt Smith turned in a quality outing at quarterback, throwing for 228 yards and two touchdowns.
“We worked really hard during the week and we capitalized today,” noted Nnoli. “We just got on a roll today and he had a great balance between run and adding in more of the pass. I played well today, but the line blocked great for me which always makes my job easier.”
Leading 20-7 at halftime, Linfield increased lead in the third quarter. Wyatt lofted a beautiful 36-yard touchdown pass to JD Lasswell for a 20-point advantage at the 9:32 mark.
Five minutes later, Bergeron jumped a route by PLU, intercepting the pass and returning it 72 yards for another score. Bergeron attributed his amazing run back to the advice of the Linfield linebackers’ coach, Phil Rombach.
“I could hear Coach Rombach in my head, ‘Cut it back across the field,’ so I cut it back and all my boys were there leading the pack. They made it easy for me,” said Bergeron.
In the fourth quarter, Wyatt passed for his second TD, hitting Chris Cassi on a 26-yard flag route to cement the 41-7 margin of victory.
“Today was just a good team win for us today,” noted Smith. “We played well in all three phases – offense, defense and special teams – and that’s how you get lopsided wins.”
With their 34-point victory and their streak extended another year, the Wildcats (5-2, 4-1 NWC) look to win their fifth game in a row Saturday at University of Puget Sound. Game time is 1 p.m.