ORANGE, Calif. – It wasn't the upset the Chapman University football team was looking for on Saturday, but the Panthers will take a lot of positives away from their first-ever meeting with No. 5-ranked Linfield College; a 21-14 loss to open the 2014 season at Ernie Chapman Stadium.
The Wildcats came in as the highest-ranked Division III opponent Chapman (0-1) had ever faced and the Panthers went toe-to-toe with the five-time defending Northwest Conference champs before losing by a touchdown. Chapman fell to 0-13 all-time versus DIII's ranked and Linfield improved its regular season winning streak to 36 games.
Trailing 14-7 midway through the third quarter, Linfield (1-0) scored touchdowns on consecutive drives to take its first lead of the game with 1:57 remaining in the period. The 21-14 lead stood up as the Wildcats shut out the Chapman offense in the second half, limiting the Panthers to just 138 yards of offense in the half.
After Linfield marched 75 yards in 1:26 and five plays to tie the game with 5:47 left in the third, it was the first play of its very next possession that did the Panthers in; a 73-yard completion from Wildcats' QB Sam Riddle to WR Charlie Poppen to get them inside the 2 yard line. Riddle kept it for a 2-yard touchdown run on the next play for the eventual game-winner.
It was the Riddle-to-Poppen connection that tied the score one drive earlier for Linfield on a 27-yard pass play. Poppen finished with a game-high 119 yards, while Riddle was 17 of 26 passing for 268 yards and one interception.
The Chapman defense was stellar early on, limiting the 2013 national scoring leader to just 22 yards of offense and one first down in the Wildcats' first three drives.
The Panthers scored first, like they did in seven of their nine contests last year, getting on the board with 17 seconds remaining in the first quarter on a 4-yard pass from senior QB Michael Lahey to senior WR Spencer Jordan. The play capped an 11-play, 72-yard scoring drive for Chapman and gave it a 7-0 lead after one quarter.
Two possessions later Linfield responded with a 73-yard drive of their own with Riddle completing a 9-yard scoring pass to WR Erick Douglas III to even the score.
Chapman came right back to take the lead after a roughing the passer penalty on third and long put the Panthers on the Linfield 5 yard line. Senior RB Cody Chapple scampered 5 yards on the next play to put Chapman back on top 14-7 with a minute remaining before halftime. Chapple finished with 87 yards on 14 carries to lead the Panthers' rushing attack. Linfield limited Chapman to just 143 yards on the ground; its lowest since Nov. 12, 2011.
Lahey finished 19 of 28 for 153 yards passing and a touchdown, but was sacked six times by the Wildcats' defense.
The Panthers will have a bye week before heading to Spokane, Wash. to face Whitworth University on Sept. 27. Chapman defeated the Pirates 38-17 in Orange last year, but fell to the 17-14 the last time the two teams met in Washington. It will be the Panthers' final non-conference game before SCIAC play begins in October.
by Doug Aiken
Sports Information Director