The Linfield Wildcats showed they have more than a star quarterback. Riley Jenkins turned a swing pass from Brett Elliott into a go-ahead touchdown with 5:51 to play yesterday...

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SALEM, Va. — The Linfield Wildcats showed they have more than a star quarterback.

Riley Jenkins turned a swing pass from Brett Elliott into a go-ahead touchdown with 5:51 to play yesterday as the Wildcats capped a perfect season with their first NCAA Division III national championship, beating Mary Hardin-Baylor 28-21.

The scoring pass was the second of the game for Elliott and his NCAA-record 61st of the season, but the special-teams play that set it up and solid defense throughout were every bit as important to the team from McMinnville, Ore.

“The offense has gotten a lot of the publicity, but there’s no question that to see the defense step up today and make big plays allowed us to win as a team,” Linfield coach Jay Locey said.

The 10-yard score came after Linfield (13-0) stymied the Crusaders (13-2) on their 18 and Zach Fleming disrupted Hunter Hamrick’s punt attempt, causing Hamrick to fumble the ball and fall on it on his 10.

Linfield had the break it needed to end what had become a defensive struggle between two of Division III’s highest-scoring teams.

The Wildcats wasted no time.

On the next play, Elliott hit Jenkins out of the backfield. Jenkins made a one-handed grab, eluded two defenders down the sideline and dived into the end zone.

Elliott, a former starter at Utah who transferred after losing his starting job to Alex Smith, thought he had missed his chance when he threw the ball.

“I overthrew him. I thought it was incomplete and I was thinking about the next play,” he said. “Then all of a sudden, he sticks out his left arm and makes an unbelievable catch. That’s been the story of our season.”

Jenkins was named the game’s most outstanding player after rushing for 81 yards on 18 carries and catching four passes for 64 yards.

Elliott finished 20 of 34 for 282 yards with two interceptions. He also threw a swing pass that Brandon Hazenberg turned into a 39-yard touchdown on the third play of the game for Linfield.

Mary Hardin-Baylor of Belton, Texas, had tied the game with 9:01 remaining on Freddie Rollins’ 18-yard run and then his two-point conversion run.

The Crusaders moved to the Linfield 19 on their last possession in a drive that featured a 55-yard pass to P.J. Williams. But the Wildcats ended the threat and preserved the win with a sack on fourth-and-four.

“In the huddle before we broke, everybody looked in each other’s eyes and we knew that was the play to stop the game,” said Linfield defensive end Kelley Bertrand, one of the Wildcats in on the sack.

The championship is the first in Division III for Linfield, which moved up to the division in 1998. The Wildcats won NAIA Division II national titles in 1982, 1984 and 1986.

Other game

Carroll 15, St. Francis 13

Marcus Miller kicked a 32-yard field goal with 10 seconds left to give Carroll of Helena, Mont., a victory over St. Francis (Indiana) in Savannah, Tenn. — and its third straight NAIA championship.

Miller, a freshman, is a graduate of Gonzaga Prep in Spokane.

Chris Bramell gave St. Francis (13-1) a 13-12 lead with a 1-yard touchdown plunge with 1:13 left to complete a 17-play, 89-yard drive. But it was enough time for Tyler Emmert to drive Carroll (12-2) down the field without a timeout.

Emmert went 3 for 4 for 49 yards and scrambled for 11 more on the final drive to put Miller in position to win the game, but not before a smart play by Zach Bumgarner to spike the ball on a first field-goal attempt after a bad snap with 20 seconds left. Miller lined up for the field goal again, and the kick was perfect.

Emmert was 24 of 35 for 214 yards.


• Houston athletic director Dave Maggard is upset at Nebraska for backing out of an oral agreement to play next season and scheduling I-AA Maine instead.

“This is absolutely unprofessional in every way,” Maggard said in online editions of the Houston Chronicle. “It’s gutless. Spineless. They’re going to have to live with it. I’ve lost a tremendous amount of respect for that program.”

Maggard said he arranged a nationally televised game with the Cornhuskers.

• Duke fired offensive coordinator Marty Galbraith after one season.