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An unfortunate finish to a fine career

by: THE OUTLOOK: DAVID BALL - Linfield QB Mickey Inns signals to his receivers during Saturday's playoff loss to UW-Oshkosh.

Smiles were nowhere to be found when Linfield coach Joseph Smith entered Saturday’s post-game press conference followed by senior quarterback Mickey Inns and a couple other players.

The Wildcats had just lost in overtime when a double reverse ended up on the turf. Wisconsin-Oshkosh pounced on the ball. Game over, season over, and for Inns, the end of a career.

The first question after the game was a softball intended to give the players and coach time to find their voice.

The second question got to the heart of the matter. Coach, can you explain that call on the final play?

“We fumbled the football. Ultimately it’s a bad call because it didn’t work,” Smith said. “Had it worked, it would have been a great call. That’s all I need to say about that.”

As I saw the play unfold, I admit to wondering why the Wildcats would go to a gimmick at that stage of the game. But there is a reason that Smith has 60 wins under his belt — 42-5 (.894) over the last four seasons — while I don’t have a pee-wee football win to my credit.

But forget the Xs and Os. This play call was about something much more personal.

In my interviews with Smith this season, he used words such as leader, courage and smart to describe his QB. When talking with Mickey, he mentioned a potential coaching future based largely on the strong mentors he has found on the Linfield staff.

Immediately after the game, coach and player sat together in the rain, Smith's arm around his QB, consoling each other after the loss.

But a 10-minute cooling off period wasn't enough to erase the pain. It was still there during the post-game interviews.

Mickey didn’t want to trick Oshkosh, he wanted to beat them — he wanted his coach to put the ball in his hands.

The senior QB had earned that right. He came into Saturday’s game with a 21-1 (.955) record as the team’s starter. He had showcased that winner’s mentality moments earlier, hitting a pair of passes and scrambling through the middle on another play to get the Wildcats into position for a winning field goal on the final play of regulation.

The kick was blocked.

by: THE OUTLOOK: DAVID BALL - Linfield coach Joseph Smith comes onto the field to check on linebacker Dominique Forrest, who went down with a knee injury in the first quarter of Saturday's quarterfinal game.

With the season on the line in overtime, Inns deserved a chance to drop back and make those crunch-time decisions.

Allow him to fire the ball into the end zone.

A game-saving touchdown or a deflating interception — at least the result would be Mickey's to claim. Diving to the ground to try and clean up a botched trick play was an unfitting end to his stellar career with the Wildcats.

It was apparent in the press conference that player and coach didn't agree on the final call, but as time passes, I hope both will look back fondly on their four years together.

Remembering the person who stood next to you in the rain, while forgiving a decision made under the pressure of a 45-second clock.

Inns finished his Linfield career third on the school’s completions list (474) and fifth in passing yardage (6,282).




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