Hampden-Sydney will face one of its biggest challenges in recent memory when the Tigers take on Linfield College today in the second round of the Division III playoffs.
H-SC has made the trip across the country to McMinnville, Ore., an hour southwest of Portland. While the Tigers earned their first playoff win in school history with a 42-34 victory over Maryville College last week, the focus is on trying to keep the second-ranked Wildcats at bay.
“It’s been a whirlwind,” Hampden-Sydney coach Marty Favret said. “We had to flip the switch after the Randolph-Macon game and this last game against Maryville, and now we’re doing the same thing.”
Linfield boasts the second-ranked scoring offense in Division III, averaging 54 points per game. Quarterback Josh Yoder leads the Wildcats’ offense. He has thrown for 2,070 yards and 19 touchdowns and leads the team in rushing with 611 yards and 16 touchdowns.
For the Tigers to stay in the contest, Favret knows his team will need to come out strong.
“I told the guys, ‘Let’s just try to win this first quarter,’ ” he said. “We know they’re going to come out and punch us in the mouth in the beginning. But when that happens, we will need to answer.”
H-SC quarterback Nash Nance will lead the Tigers as they try to keep pace with Linfield. Nance threw for 338 yards and five touchdowns in last week’s win and has thrown for 3,117 yards on the season, ranking eighth in Division III.
Linfield has the seventh-ranked defense in the nation, averaging 250 yards allowed per game, but Hampden-Sydney is not far behind, ranking 18th and allowing 280 yards per game.
“It’s the best defense I’ve seen in 14 years,” Favret said. “They don’t have a weakness, so we’re going to go right at them. But I think we may be the best team they’ve seen.”
Linfield is one of the best teams in the country on converting third downs and scoring in the red zone. The Wildcats score 92 percent of the time in the red zone and have a 56 percent conversion rate on third downs. But Hampden-Sydney junior linebacker Josh Doggett remains confident.
“One of the things our defense has done well is not give up easy touchdowns,” Doggett said. “I think we exemplified that against Maryville.
“On third downs, the distance will be key,” he added. “And when they have a short ways to go, we have to just line up and go at them. We’ve broken down their film pretty good, so we know what they’ll be doing.”