Kickoff: Sat., Sept. 15, at 1:30 p.m.
Maxwell Field, Linfield College
The University of Redlands football team heads to the Pacific Northwest for the second time in as many weeks, with this Saturday's showdown pitting the Bulldogs against the No. 7 Linfield College (OR) Wildcats in McMinnville, Oregon, at 1:30 p.m.
Last week, Redlands gutted out a hard-fought 28-21 win over the University of Puget Sound (WA) in Tacoma to begin the season 2-0 for its best start since 2011.
The Bulldogs' defense played a huge role in the victory by executing two, goal-line stands in the first half to keep the Loggers off the board. In two games this season, Redlands has allowed only 20 yards on the ground, as highlighted by a minus-24-yard showing at UPS.
During the second half, the Maroon and Gray found the end zone on four occasions, including a critical 95-yard drive that covered just nine plays in the fourth quarter. By the final whistle, senior running back Conner Kennedy (Olympia, WA) had battled for every inch on the ground, earning 134 rushing yards as the Bulldogs' top ball-carrier. While managing plenty of roadblocks in the contest, senior quarterback Levi Plante (Lake Arrowhead, CA) found a way to score three of the team's touchdowns, thanks in part to the relentless effort of the offensive line. Junior Brandyn Alvarez (Grand Terrace, CA), and seniors Christian Godina (Phoenix, AZ), Tommy Garcia (La Habra, CA), and Joey Caffaro (Jackson Hole, WY) continue to lead this corps.
"I am impressed with Linfield up front and we will need to play well against them," commented Head Coach Mike Maynard.
In two games so far, Redlands has averaged 381 yards of offense. Junior tight end Blake Roy (Camas, WA) ranks as Plante's top target with 11 catches for 131 yards and a touchdown. Junior wide receiver Mitchell Nickovich (Mission Viejo, CA) closely follows with seven receptions and 73 yards. Both average more than 10 yards per catch.
Linfield dropped its season opener against Carroll College (MT) by a score of 14-21 in a game that forced the Wildcats out of the box by throwing the ball 54 times. With a tendency to want to run the ball, especially with the talents of junior running back Chidubem Nnoli, Linfield adjusted to Carroll's stacked defense. However, knowing Linfield's history of success, reasonable expectations point toward a more balanced attack with sophomore quarterback Wyatt Smith leading the charge. Last week, Smith moved out of the pocket and became a receiver for Dawson Ruhl's touchdown pass.
The Wildcats' defense appears young on paper but looks to the leadership of Occidental College transfer Travis Swanson to step up. Against Carroll, he recorded eight tackles, including 3.5 for a loss, and a 13-yard sack.
Saturday's game serves as the Wildcats' home opener on Maxwell Field and the Bulldogs' third contest of the season. Linfield holds a 7-0 advantage over Redlands in a match-up that dates back to 1998.
To get the job done this week, Redlands must simply play better than it has in the last two games.
"We have to execute well. We need a high-efficiency rate on offense and must sustain drives. It also comes down to turnovers and eliminating mistakes," stated Maynard. "We have won two games but have to play better against a team as strong and capable as Linfield."
Kennedy, Alvarez, sophomore defensive back Marvin Perkins Jr. (Las Vegas, NV), and junior defensive lineman Elias Hackney (Santa Monica, CA) were selected as the Bulldogs' honorary captains for this week's game.
Redlands faces Linfield as part of the two-year agreement between the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) and the Northwest Conference (NWC) that matches up respective counterparts based on wins and losses from 2013-2016. During this timeframe, Redlands and Linfield finished at the top of their conference's standings.