(Image from www.linfield.edu/sports)
The 1984 Northwestern College football team was good….darn good. The defending NAIA Division II champions (1983) came in and dominated the ‘Cats for over 2 quarters of football and Linfield was happy to help with putting the ball on the ground and a young David Lindley not have a stellar 2 ½ quarters behind center. Honestly, in watching the 1984 Championship game I was thinking “How can Linfield come back from this?” Granted I was thinking this sitting on my couch last Saturday so we all know the ‘Cats did indeed come back for the 33-22 victory, but the way they stormed back was just incredible.
Down 22-0 with under ten minutes to play in the 3rd quarter the ‘Cats finally get a drive going in typical Rutschman style with a balanced offense and a QB that utilized his backs in the passing game, however, the drive stalled on the Red Raider 8-yard line and Ad Rutschman was left with a decision. Do you try to force a TD or do you run your kicker out just to break the seal? It was a decision of monumental proportions but Rutschman knew his team and kids well enough to send his kicker out. It was such a brilliant move in terms of psychology.
What message would he be sending if he kept his offense on the field to go for the TD? To me that could tell his team that “We’re not good enough to get this close again so we have to take our shot now”. Kicking the field goal was a message that said “We’re under control, let’s get on the board and get back in the game.” This is a classic example of a coach with such a full understanding of the mental make-up of his kids. He knew they just needed a small victory to start the wheels rolling and as soon as those 3 points were tacked on the board the ‘Cats turned into a different team and Northwestern didn’t have a chance.
I haven’t see every Linfield game in history so I can’t say with authority if this was the greatest Linfield victory ever but considering the stage and circumstances of the comeback I think people would be hard pressed to come up with a greater moment in Wildcat football history.
Video: 1984 NAIA Championship game hi-light recap