Friday, October 31, 2014

ADvantage Friday Feature: Mack Farag's Red and Purple Family.

Mack Farag is one of Linfield Football's unsung heroes.
Photo Courtesy from Tim Marsh: Read Tim's Wildcatville Blog Here.
Unlike many people in this day and age, Mack Farag doesn’t like to be the center of a story. Farag is a team player. After talking with him, it’s impossible to think otherwise.

He’ll talk about what everyone else brings to the table, and how this team is built up of players, coaches and a lot more people who have helped make Linfield the powerhouse it is today.

It all started with Coach Locey nine years ago. Coach Smith was the 'Cats Defensive Coordinator, Coach Vaughan was the Defensive Line Coach and Farag was working at the high school.

“Coach Locey and I have been friends for 30 years,” said Farag. “He used to joke, asking me several times to come work with Linfield.”

After years of asking, Farag finally agreed, right as Locey made his transfer to Oregon State. Farag had the option to step back completely, but instead joined the Linfield staff as the equipment manager and said he wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.

“Locey left this program better than when he got it,” said Farag. “Smith asked me to stay on and I respect everything the coaches do with this program. I believe in what the coaches do.”

Now, along with Farag, Smith and Vaughan, comes an army of coaches that range from recent graduates and former All-Americans, to Hall of Fame coaches, many of which attended Linfield and had family do the same.

Coach Hire met his wife Theresa when they were both students at Linfield; and their two children, Aaron and Miranda, followed in their footsteps playing football and soccer respectively. Not only did Coach Vaughan attend Linfield but his sister, Julia, also played soccer for the Wildcats.

And after two years at Cal. Lutheran, Farag’s daughter came home and transferred to Linfield.

“As much as I wanted her here, it was her decision,” said Farag. “And once she made her decision, I supported her. But I love that she’s back now.”

Even though she was a student at a rival school, Linfield pride runs deep. Three weeks in to Alexandria Farag’s freshman year, Linfield came down to play Cal. Lutheran.

She sat on the Linfield sideline.

“All of the coaches’ kids and wives and families are special,” said Farag. “They’re the reason we all get to do what we do. If it weren’t for their support and them sitting in the bleachers every game, none of us would be here. It’s a very special thing to be a part of.”

A high honor of being a part of this program was when one of the Hawaiian players called Farag “Uncle.”

“Aaron Hire was the first kid to start calling me that,” said Farag. “Other players started joining in and I realized ‘okay, I’m a part of this family now.’”

Interactions like these are what make the Linfield program so special. Whether they are rookies or seasoned vets, every member of the team, past and present, has played an important role in this program.

“I’ve had the greatest conversations with the kids and had the greatest time,” said Farag. “I’ve dealt with more personal things with the players and got to have a unique perspective in this program.

One kid called me a caretaker. And I guess that’s what I am, I do what I have to do to prepare.”

One of those things includes halftime snacks. It’s no secret that boys tend to get hungry, especially when they’re running around and hitting each other. So, Farag always likes to carry a lot of snacks during games to help in those situations.

He also keeps a jar of candy on the desk in his office, which players frequently stop by to take advantage of.

“That jar gets empty everyday,” said Farag. “Some come in and talk and some just want candy. It’s cool that they know they can just come in whenever they want. It’s cool.”

 It’s not just the current players who impact the Catdome. Alumni are never far and play just as important of a role.

Farag’s hardest yet favorite day is the day of the alumni game. Although he’s busy, constantly running around getting equipment for everyone, it’s pure joy.

“The young kids have no idea who they’re up against, they think the alumni are all old,” laughed Farag. “But in the first half they just get run up. Then in the second half, the alumni are just trying to survive.”

With everyone around, remembering how special their time at Linfield was, it’s no surprise that this program is what it is. This team is built up of a lot more than just coaches and players and a friend who always has candy.

“I’ve had guys come back who didn’t know me treat me like guys who graduated last year,” said Farag. “Everyone here is a family, past and present. I didn’t understand for a few years but once you’re a part of this family, you are A PART of this family.”

And Linfield sure is lucky to have every single one of them.

-Sara Miller

Thursday, October 30, 2014

2014 Northwest Conference Pick ‘Em Contest: Week 9

I love the 'Catdome.
Solid week 8 for old Wildcat11 and (509)Rat as we both went 6 out of 7 games. Our only miss (a lot of people missed) was the huge CCIW showdown when Wheaton knocked off North Central on a last second field goal. That should cause a big shakeup in the playoff picture out in the North region.  Back home in the Northwest Conference PLU showed heart in playing a great game vs Willamette, George Fox is still waiting for their offense to begin, and Whitworth turned over UPS NINE times and threw SEVEN picks. Yikes.

This week there will be zero movement in the NWC pick ‘em leader board as everyone is of the same mind in how week 9 is going to play out. That doesn’t mean it will go down that way but the chalk seems to be pretty heavy around the NWC and with our featured regional and national games.

Both Wildcat11 and (509)Rat are still playing for pride and looking to have back-to-back solid weeks. Right now WC11 is  38 out of 51 (74.5%) and (509)Rat is 36 out of 51  (70.5%). Let’s get to the action!!!!!

Northwest Conference Games of the Week:

#5 Linfield (6-0) over Willamette (4-2) (at Linfield): (509)Rat says Linfield: I feel bad for whoever gets the start under center for the Bearcats. It's gonna be a loooooong day. Another week, another chance for the Wildcat backups to get some playing time.

Pacific Lutheran (4-2) over Puget Sound (3-3) (at UPS):
Have to give a big old tip of the cap to PLU for their performance last week against Willamette. It would have been very easy for that big group of Lute seniors to check out but it almost seems that some of the Lutes (….Dalton Ritchey) played without a care and tore it up like it was 2012 again.  About the game….Puget Sound has played PLU tough over the past few years and I expect them to give the Lutes some issues but the Lutes are too talented to lose this cross town rival showdown.

(509)Rat says PLU: PLU's playoff hopes are done but that didn't stop them from beating up on Willamette last week. You could maybe say UPS has improved some as a program, but not by much. It's too bad the Loggers already played L&C...there aren't any wins left on that schedule.

Whitworth (5-3) over George Fox (0-6) (at Whitworth): I talked to a keen Linfield/NWC observer yesterday and he pointed out a very curious stat. George Fox currently is averaging 266.0 yards of offense a game (though 6 games) and Pacific averaged 266.6 yards per game during their reboot season in 2010. Fox is currently allowing 435.8 yards per game and Pacific allowed 462.2 yards per game in 2010. Interesting that two programs that took completely different approaches to restarts (Pacific: all frosh/minimal transfers/no zero year vs Fox: zero year/lots of transfers) are about at the same place during their first year back.  Personally, I think Pacific’s way might be the better for the long term but what the heck do I know.  Oh…Whitworth is going to put up more video game like numbers but Fox might actually score a rushing touchdown in a conference game this week.

(509)Rat Says Whitworth: George Fox might not throw 800 interceptions like UPS did last week but they're still gonna lose by 40. Hey, at least the Bruins will look good doing it!

Pacific (4-2) over Lewis & Clark (0-7) (at L&C): Next…..

(509)Rat Says Pacific: I feel like all future L&C games should just be left off the pick'em schedule and everybody should get the points for the inevitable Pio loss.

West Region Game of the Week:


#11 Bethel (6-1) over Gustavus Adolphus (6-1) (at Gustavus):
Gustavus has been a nice little sub-plot in the MIAC this season with a QB that’s slinging it around the yard but SJU ate up their offense last week and Bethel is that much better than the Johnnies. This should be an old fashioned whoopin.

(509)Rat Says Bethel: Bethel should be picking up steam after beating St. Thomas, which is bad news for a plucky Gustavus team. They hung right in there with St. John's last weekend and I wouldn't be surprised if they do the same this week. But you can't turn the ball over and expect to beat the big boys in the MIAC.

#1 UW-Whitewater (7-0) over #16 UW-Platteville (6-1) (at UWP): So, the last time I had Platteville in a pick ‘em I called them a paper tiger and said to never pick Platteville when they play someone good. Then Platteville proceeded to hammer Stevens Point and make me look like a chump. Well, I’m picking against them again. Some UWW fans weren’t happy with the Warhawks offense last week but with that UWW defense you pretty much just need to score 10 points and that will do it. Warhawks pound out another victory.

(509)Rat Says UWW: Must not be many decent west region games this week. Platteville will be lucky if this is still a game going into half time. UWW has turned the ball over twice this season...TWICE. And their defense has allowed 5 Touchdowns this year. The Warhawks win another easy one.

National Game of the Week:

#13 Wheaton (7-0) over Elmhurst (5-2) (at Elmhurst): I said last week that Elmhurst doesn’t matter this season in the CCIW and I’m sticking to it in this match-up on conference undefeated’s. Unless Wheaton has a huge win hangover after knocking off North Central, I can’t see the Thunder not rolling over the Bluejays.

(509)Rat says Wheaton: You beat NCC, you earn the right to be picked in all future CCIW matchups.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

2014 Game 7 Preview: Linfield (6-0) vs Willamette (4-2)

Wildcats vs Bearcats in the month of November? Oh yeah!
It’s onto the critical second half of the Northwest Conference season for your Linfield Wildcats as the Willamette Bearcats come to the ‘Catdome to open up the month of November. With only three games left in the regular season, it’s imperative that Linfield is on top of their game. Any misstep and Linfield could find themselves losing out a potential home playoff games or right out of the playoffs themselves. You might say, “Oh, Linfield would be fine if they dropped one game and don’t win the NWC crown.”. Don't believe that for a second. Those of us that have been living out in the Division III outpost here in the Pacific Northwest know that you NEVER put your post-season hopes in the hands of a committee. Linfield’s best and only real bet is to leave no doubt with regards to if Linfield is worthy of the Northwest Conference title and a post-season berth.

Standing in the way of those goals are the Willamette Bearcats. The Bearcats are having another fine 2014 season in posting up a 4-2 overall record but their NWC title hopes took a major blow last weekend when Willamette’s NWC record evened up at 2-2 with a tough loss against PLU. As disappointing as that loss is for Willamette there is still much to play for as a Bearcat.  Right now, Willamette is a program that’s trying to maintain their place in the top rungs of the conference. Willamette has compiled a 19-6 record since 2012 and have a number of high quality football players in their program. This game against Linfield is a critical moment for Willamette to reaffirm to their players, recruits, and the NWC, that Willamette will compete with the best and plan on doing so yearly.

For Linfield, this will be a “where’s your mind at” game for me. The ‘Cats are coming off a de facto bye-week against L&C and Linfield’s starters haven’t seen a full game of action in close to a month now. I know the Linfield staff has been preaching to the team about continuing to build, improve, and push the limits but saying that and doing that are two different things. You guys know that I think this could be a very special Linfield team but I’m looking to see this weekend if the ‘Cats are locked into that vision or if their eyes somewhere else. I can’t wait to find out.

Get To Know A Wildcat

#11 Erick Douglas III, Receiver, Sophomore
Hometown: Clackamas, OR. High School: Clackamas High

Place to eat in Mac: Tequila Grill

Favorite Movie: Fury and Seven Pounds

Favorite Music: R&B/Soul and hip hop/rap

Favorite TV show: Fresh Prince of Bel Air and The Boondocks

Favorite Book: The Alchemist

Class I Look Forward to Most: Philosophy

iPhone or Android: iPhone gang

CPU Homepage: Apple

Personal Mantra: “Don’t ever let somebody tell you… You can’t do something. You got a dream… You gotta protect it. People can’t do somethin’ themselves, they wanna tell you you can’t do it. If you want somethin’, go get it. Period.” -Will Smith from the Pursuit of Happyness

Social Media of Choice: Twitter

Car or Truck: Sports Car

Xbox, PS3, or Wii: Xbox One

What first inspired you to play football: I watched a special on Jerry Rice with my Dad when I was in grade school, I quit soccer real fast.

Favorite Coach Smith Saying: You have to "Dougie" it.

Favorite part of playing at Linfield: Playing with Pride and continuing a winning tradition, along with playing with my best friends.

Post Linfield Aspirations: Corporate Banker

Wildcat11’s Keys To Victory

Offensive Fast Start: The ‘Cats offense started fast at Redlands and PLU, then had a little bit of sputtering against Fox and Whitworth before kicking it into high gear. Some of that is teams throwing new looks at Linfield before the ‘Cats adjust and blow their doors off.  I think it will bode well for the ‘Cats if Linfield’s offense can get rolling out of the gates to put the pressure on a Willamette defense that has been gashed at times in 2014.

Limit Dylan Jones and the Bearcat ground game:  The Bearcat running back is a stud (1044 yards, 174 avg., 24 carries a game, 12 rush TDs) and he’s the guy the Willamette offense has to have up and running for Willamette to hang with Linfield.  One of Jones best assets is once he gets into the second level of a defense is his speed and ability to make defensive backs look bad on tackle attempts. It’s imperative for Linfield’s defense front to box Jones in and limit his productivity.

Attack Willamette’s defensive front: Willamette defense is their traditional 3-4 front so Linfield’s offensive line and backs have to be the aggressors and push the Bearcats at the point of attack in the rushing game.  The Bearcats are only allowing 3.7 rush yards per game (isn’t too bad at all) and I’m sure Willamette is still burning over the rushing performance by Linfield in 2013 when the ‘Cats rushed for 451 yards.

Pressure, Pressure, Pressure: Willamette hasn’t been the most dynamic passing team this season (starting QB, Trent Spallas is 66 out of 124 (53.2 percent) for 812 yards and 7 TD’s to 6 interceptions) so don’t look for Willamette to show a complex passing scheme. I’m expecting a lot of short routes, quick play-action routes, and look for the occasional deep ball.  Even if Willamette decides not to hang on the ball for very long, Linfield’s defensive front have to be aggressive in getting heat on Spallas.

Take care of the football: The Bearcats have done a decent job in turning over teams.  The Bearcat defense has 8 picks on the season and recovered 7 fumbles.  Linfield 1st offensive unit has been solid all season long in ball security and decision making and that trend needs to continue this weekend.

Not allowing the big play:  Willamette’s offense thrives on the big play and you can understand that when you have a running back like Jones. I think if Linfield can force Willamette to put together drives to score points, the Wildcats will be incredibly effective against the Bearcat offense. Make ‘em earn it.

Overall

‘Cats by 14. Willamette has taken it in the teeth a couple of times this season and are coming off a tough loss up at PLU.  The Bearcats are a prideful program and I fully expect them to come into the ‘Catdome with intentions of giving Linfield all they can handle. However, the ‘Cats defense has been great against the run this season and if they can limit the Bearcat rush, Linfield will control this game. Go ‘Cats!

Monday, October 27, 2014

‘Cats Win!!! Linfield lights a victory cigar in a 59-7 win over Lewis & Clark.

After the 1st quarter, the L&C Coaching staff didn't want to watch anymore.
Photo Courtesy of Brad Thompson: Purchase Brad's photos here.
The ‘Cats blew into Portland and rained down a massive early beating on the winless Lewis & Clark Pioneers to move to 6-0 overall and 4-0 in Northwest Conference play.  Linfield extends their winning streak over the Pios to 38 games as the class of 1973 is the last one from L&C that can brag about knocking off the ‘Cats.

Lewis and Clark wanted no part in standing back in the pocket as the Pios tried to pop some quick hitting dives, options, fly sweeps, and quick fades, but Linfield was having none of that in constantly forcing Pioneers punts (at least that’s what they looked like) and setting up short fields for the ‘Cats offense to race down before popping another TD. Mix in a defensive touchdown in with the quick scores and next thing you knew you saw a 42 posted up on the scoreboard and both sidelines looking for ways to shorten up the game.

(Not 100% accurate. Linfield beat GFU 59-0. My bad.)

For the ‘Cats, it wasn’t much of an exercise for the starting units but it was great that so many players on the roster that were able to get out on the field and pull down some extended reps.  That time is well earned and it’s always great to see young guys and reserve vets getting a chance to line up and hit someone.  One item that stood out for me is that the ‘Cats have developed a nice group of running backs this season. The depth and ability of the Linfield running backs was a big question mark coming into 2014 with only Tavon Willis back as a proven RB and Spencer Payne questionable with an injury. However, Samuel Robinson’s move from the slot has been seamless (Sam was an RB in high school), Bryan Cassil has turned in three consecutive quality performances, and once Spencer Payne is back healthy you have a big time home run hitter. Kudos to those four ‘Cats and the Linfield offensive line in creating a dynamic rushing attack for the Wildcats. We’re going to need you guys as this season moves forward.

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

The Good

Starting out strong: Well, I asked the ‘Cats to put L&C out in a hurry and 42 points in the 1st quarter is an effective way to that. That has to be some sort of program record but Linfield has dished out so much punishment over the years it would take some time to figure that out.

1st half defensive lock down:  The ‘Cats first couple of defensive units handled their business in forcing five 3 and outs in the Pioneers first 8 offensive possessions and only 72 yards of total offense in the 1st half.  L&C didn’t even cross the 50 yard line until sometime in the 3rd quarter against the young pups.

Bag of tricks: It’s pretty close to Halloween so the ‘Cats reached into their bag of goodies and ran some gadget plays to perfection. Loved the throwback on the punt return to combat L&C’s rugby punt style and it’s always a good time to see a QB catch a pass from one of his receivers.

Special Teams:  At the beginning of the year our kickoff team wasn’t too sharp but over the weeks this group has tightened it up and Saturday was another example of their improvement.  Linfield kicked off 10 times on Saturday and pinned L&C with average starting position on their own 22 yard line.
Dylan Lewis, #2, added to the early fireworks with his 24 yard pick six.
Photo Courtesy of Brad Thompson: Purchase Brad's photos here.

Pick Sixing: The Wildcats picked off their 10th pass on the year and returned two more interceptions for touchdowns to bring the year total up to 4 interceptions returned for touchdown.  That’s pretty good considering the ‘Cats didn’t force a turnover in their 1st two games of the year.

Penalties: 4 flags for 27 yards.  That’s an improvement and a solid effort considering how many different guys played for Linfield. Sometimes you’ll see an increase in penalties when you have a lot of new faces getting reps in those blowout games.  That has to continue to be a focus against more competitive programs.

The Bad

Hard to pick on something: I could riff on the fact that the play turned a little lethargic in the 2nd quarter after the ‘Cats posted up that 42. Some of that is only natural and also due to both sides of the ball looking to burn more clock, get more conservative play calling, and not firing off so many plays. I would have loved to see the young guys preserve the shutout in the 2nd half, but at the same time, I’m not going to get too upset. The last thing I want to do is turn into the fan that used to get ticked off at Coach Locey for not scoring “fast enough” when the ‘Cats laid at 62-7 scrubbing on Puget Sound in 2005.

A photo posted by catdomealumni (@catdomealumni) on

(Sometimes you just gotta adjust, where you gotta adjust.)

The Ugly

765 in attendance: Out of that I would say about 715 of those folks where Linfield fans. Seriously, L&C is a program that has zero support….nada, zip, none. Yeah, the weather was bad, the team is bad, but you would think there was some sort of school spirit up on the hill.  Apparently not, and that’s too bad for those young people in black and orange. Brutal.

Friday, October 24, 2014

ADvantage Friday Feature: Craven Saves The Streak

It may be hard to believe now but "The Streak" almost ended at Lewis & Clark in 1996.

Let’s set the scene.

The year is 1996 and the Linfield Wildcats are playing Lewis and Clark. Their record at this moment is 3-4, meaning if they lose, their streak of winning seasons is over.

The score is 26-20, Linfield. There are 20 seconds left on the clock with Lewis and Clark on the 4-yard line, fourth-and-goal.

“It literally came down to the last play of the game,” recalled Coach Smith, the defensive line coach during the ’96 season.

“Time for just one play. As Lewis and Clark came to the line, I remember vividly looking over at [Head] Coach Locey and smiling anxiously, saying ‘Alright here it is or the Streak, let’s go!’”

The ball was snapped as the quarterback rolled out of the pocket to the left, looking for the end zone.

“All I could think about was the ‘reminders’ we would repeat every Friday after practice,” said Matt Craven, a junior cornerback during the ’96 season. “They will not score on the run. If they pass it must be over the top.”

And that’s exactly what happened. The ball was thrown over the top toward the end zone where Craven deflected the ball out of bounds, incomplete.

“I was just watching the officials to make sure there weren’t any flags,” said Craven. “Once the field was clear, it was pure elation. We knew we could run out the clock.”

With his deflection of the ball, Linfield went on to win the game. The following weekend they pummeled Whitworth, finishing the season with a 5-4 record.

That secured Linfield’s 41st consecutive winning season. Two years later the Cats surpassed Harvard and Notre Dame for the collegiate record and continued on to where they are today, 59 consecutive winning seasons.

“For us coaches that year, the weight of the season was tangible on our shoulders,” said Coach Smith. “We started very slowly and had to win the next four of five games. We struggled to find ways to win but it never came that close again.

The streak literally came down to one play at the end, one play for 40-plus years of tradition. I never want to feel that way again.”

Luckily, with the reputation Linfield has in the college football circuit, he hasn’t had to. Smith has been a part of Linfield for more than 25 years, the past nine as the head coach.

“The streak gives the program something that is unique on a national level,” said Craven. “The quality attracts fine athletes. The consistency breeds success. My wife and I laugh that Linfield is the only college football program where you can visit 20 years later and still know most of the coaches.”

Like Smith, Craven continues his passion for the sport by coaching.  He is the head coach at Bend High School and draws from what he learned on the field during his time at Linfield.

Former All-Conference Corner Matt Craven continues to leave a football legacy in Bend, Or.

“Coaching is much more difficult than playing,” said Craven. “Being a product of the Linfield program, I have always been a proponent of treating kids with respect. Kids want to get better and it’s our job to show them how.”

The Linfield program prides itself on four things: Team, Excellence, Attitude and Class. With those facets, the coaches hope to teach the boys much more than just how to beat teams like Lewis and Clark.

“I believe that the Linfield football team is the best class for life success skills taught here at Linfield,” said Coach Smith. “The nearly 80 percent winning percentage over the streaks’ span speaks to the power of our Linfield Culture.”

That culture is what brought the Wildcats to where they are today, 20 years later.

Plays like 1996s “Craven Saves the Streak” have gotten the Wildcats to where they are today. Another Saturday afternoon in Griswold Stadium, playing Lewis and Clark doing what they love and making all who love them proud.

“If the streak had ended [that game], I don’t think it would have made much difference in the Linfield program,” said Craven. “The program takes pride in developing young men. That would not have stopped because of a loss. There has never been a program as consistent as Linfield…period.”

-Sara Miller

Thursday, October 23, 2014

2014 Northwest Conference Pick ‘Em Contest: Week 8


We'll be back to you soon enough.
Both (509)Rat and I took it on the chin last week as Platteville had enough of us calling them fool’s gold and Pacific finally upended PLU. It was even worse for (509) as his faith in George Fox was rewarded in another miss as the Loggers rolled to a NWC road win (BREAK UP THE LOGGERS!!!!). Currently both of us are out of the NWC Pick ‘Em title hunt and we’re playing for pride at this point (I feel you PLU).  On the year, WC11 is hitting on 32 out of 44 games (72.7%) and (509)Rat is sitting on 30 out of 44 games (68.2%).

It was an interesting week around the conference as Pacific broke through with their biggest win since reinstating their program in 2010 and essentially ending Pacific Lutheran’s 2014 NWC title/playoff hopes (I did have a Linfield fan reach out to me stating he was sad he would never see another Dalton Ritchey turnover in person now that the Lutes season is done. Ouch.). What that means for Pacific is they are a lock to get a shot at either a piece or for the outright NWC title at the end of the year when they come to Linfield. That’s going to be a fun one.

This week around the NWC it looks like a bunch of for sure picks. We’ll see if PLU has a hangover from the loss to Pacific and if UPS has enough defense to slow down Whitworth.  A few big games from around the nation as well as we move deeper into the second half of the regular season.

Northwest Conference Games of the Week:

#5 Linfield (5-0) over Lewis & Clark (0-6): (509)Rat says Linfield: Not sure if the Wildcats have any lingering injuries but the bye week will give them a good chance to rest up before finishing up conference play.

Pacific Lutheran (3-2) over Willamette (4-1) (at PLU): Easily the most interesting matchup in the conference this week as Willamette looks to stay in the NWC title hunt and PLU’s season was crushed last week. The Bearcats went with a Frosh QB (Ryan Knowlton) last week against L&C. I’m not sure if that was due to injury to their main starter or looking to add more of a passing component to the Bearcat offense.  I’m very curious to see where PLU’s head is at after last week but regardless I still like them to prevail against Willamette.

(509)Rat Says PLU:  I have serious doubts about this PLU team after seeing what everyone else has done to CLU and last week’s loss to Pacific. I still think they are good enough to prevent Jones from running wild and the rest of the Willamette O from breaking off a bunch of big plays. I won't be surprised if they lose, but Willamette's defense and lack of a passing game don't inspire much confidence.

Whitworth (4-3) over Puget Sound (3-2) (at Whit):  Did you know that UPS is only allowing 21.8 points per game this season? Yeah, neither did I. I’ve been saying all year that UPS is better, not good, but better. That’s a big improvement to where they’ve been. And I think that Whitworth has a chance to be pretty good in the next couple of years but right now their defense stinks and I’m not in love with the offensive philosophy. This will be a long game as both teams love chucking it around the yard and I’m expecting a high scoring game with the Rats coming out on top.

(509)Rats Says Whitworth: Thankfully Puget Sound is not Linfield, as I don't know if I could handle a second straight shellacking. UPS will score some points against a bad Whitworth defense. However, an even worse UPS defense will give up more.

Pacific (3-2) over George Fox (0-5) (at GFU):  So through three Northwest Conference games, George Fox is averaging 6.66 points per game.  What!? I’m just sayin’. This won’t be much of a game. Pacific is going to mop up the Bruins and Fox will release another of the worst game reviews in the history of sports information. Seriously, go check out their game reviews.  Is someone actually being paid to write these or do they draw straws in their athletic/marketing department?

(509)Rat says Pacific: I hate Pacific and I hate myself every time I have to pick them. George Fox just isn't any good. Had they not played what must be a horrendous Arizona Christian team to open the season, and then kept it close with La Verne, I probably wouldn't have whiffed on them last week against UPS. Never again...well, until L&C shows up in Newberg.

West Region Game of the Week:

#11 Bethel (5-1) over #22 St. Thomas (5-1) (at Bethel): Major showdown out in the MIAC, as Bethel is 4-0 in MIAC play and FOUR other teams sit with only one conference loss. One of those team is St. Thomas and it’s make or break for the Tommies this Satruday. Win and UST still has a shot at the MIAC title or Pool C, lose and UST is done.  I would love nothing more than to see UST done with 3 weeks to play so I’m pulling for the Royals all the way.

(509)Rat Says Bethel: So Wartburg has a very good team this year. Bethel handled the Cobbers in conference play a few weeks ago and hasn't been tested since. St. Thomas has been killing the lesser of their MIAC brethren as well, but that loss to St. John's still hangs over their heads. This is going to be a close game and I'm going to play it safe, picking the favorite at home.

National Games of the Week:

#12 North Central (5-1) over #17 Wheaton (6-0) (at Wheaton): The current and traditional top two teams in the CCIW hook up for what should be the deciding game in their conference title hunt (Elmhurst is still lurking but won’t be so for long).  Wheaton is undefeated but has played nobody of note and hasn’t been racking up the style points while NCC took one on the chin vs UW-Stevens Point 4 weeks ago and has been stomping the opposition since. I think NCC will have too much offense and Wheaton won’t have enough offense in the end. Cards with the big CCIW win.

(509)Rat Says NCC:  Wheaton really hasn't played anyone yet and I think that will be the difference. NCC is the better team and has already been tested, twice. They are more than prepared to go on the road for a big game and get a W. No UW-SP let down this week. Wheaton has been playing some great defense but I fully expect those stats to take a big hit when a capable offense finally lines up on the other side of the ball.

#2 Mary-Hardin Baylor (6-0) over Texas Lutheran (6-0) (at TLU): Texas Lutheran is sitting right on the outside of the D3football.com Top 25 poll and is itching for a signature win for their program and the SCAC. Too bad that’s not happening this weekend against the ‘Cru. I’m expecting a Texas sized beat down by UMHB.

(509)Rat says UMHB:  I won't be picking against UMHB until UWW or Mt Union is the other option.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

2014 Game 6 Preview: Linfield (5-0) at Lewis & Clark (0-6)

Linfield looks to extend their win streak vs L&C to 37 games.
The ‘Cats hit the road after back-to-back dominate home wins against George Fox (Is that billboard still up?) and Whitworth, as Linfield will made the short trip up I-5 to Palatine Hill to face the Lewis and Clark Pioneers.  Honestly, I love this road trip. First, it’s not too far away from home and I love getting a cup of coffee for the drive. Second, Palatine Hill is one of my favorite setting/backdrop for football in the Northwest Conference (Quick WC11 NWC 2014 Stadium rankings: Linfield, Whitworth, L&C, Willamette, Fox, PLU, Pacific, UPS). If L&C was any good and had a following, Griswold Stadium would be a tremendous environment for football.

It would be great if Linfield was headed up to a rocking Griswold Stadium but it will probably be mostly a Linfield contingent holding it down for the ‘Cats.  Right now, Linfield is in a strong position in sitting at 5-0 overall and 3-0 in Northwest Conference play. There is still a tremendous amount of work to be done if this Wildcat team wants to reach the level they aspire to. This week is about getting better for Linfield and not about Lewis & Clark.  The Weather is starting to turn wet, it’s getting darker sooner, colder, harder. This is the time of year when getting everyone to continue to buy into what you’re trying to accomplish as a program becomes paramount. There are only 11 full padded practices left in the regular season. You have to make each one of those count.

I’m going to spend a lot of time trying to dress this one up. Let’s face it, Lewis and Clark isn’t a very good football team. I’m actually a concern about their viability as a program after only being a few years removed from a 2011 season that saw L&C finish 7-2 overall, second place finished in the Northwest Conference, and getting a chance to play Linfield is a defacto NWC “title game” at the end of the regular season.  If Lewis & Clark was going to strike and carry that momentum to build a competitive program that was the time to do it.  Instead, the Pioneers have fallen sharply in going 4-5 in 2012 and then 1-8 in 2013.  It clearly looks like the Pioneers are going to be winless in 2014 (Yes, I think even George Fox will be able to beat the Pios).  Compounding my concern is the depletion of bodies in the Pioneer program. At their more recent high-water mark, the Pios had 73 members on the roster in 2011 & 2012. Now, Lewis & Clark is down to only 56 players (only 16 lineman currently in their program) and I’m scratching my head if we’re moving towards another 2005 situation, with Lewis & Clark taking a long hard look on if football is even worth it to the L&C community.  Both Pacific and Fox have brought back football and with Puget Sound starting to resemble a football team, Lewis & Clark is moving even further away from the pack.  I really hope I’m reading too much into this performance trend and the Pioneers can start moving in the right direction.  It’s better for everyone in the NWC if the Pioneers can get in a better place.

Get To Know A Wildcat

#2 Dylan Lewis, Corner, Sophomore
Hometown: Pleasant Hill, OR,  High School: Sheldon High School

Favorite place to in Mac: Alfs

Favorite Movie: The Lion King

Favorite Music: Country

Favorite TV show: The Office

Favorite Book: The Bible

Class I Most Look Forward to: Accounting

Iphone or Android: Android

CPU Homepage: Apple

Personal Mantra: "If you want something done right, do it yourself."

Social Media of choice: Twitter

Car or Truck: Truck

Xbox, PS3, or Wii: PS3

What first inspired you to play football: My Dad loved football and every kid wants to be like their dad.

Favorite Coach Smith Saying: "It never went to 40"

Favorite part of playing at Linfield: Being able to continue a winning tradition.

Post Linfield aspirations: I'd like to either be a CPA or Police Officer.

Wildcat11’s Keys To Victory:

Eyes on the Prize: Like every Saturday, this is about Linfield’s effort and determination. The ‘Cats have to come into this game with a mindset of improving as a program and maintaining a competitive sharpness. That can be challenging in these types of situation but giving your all anytime you put on the uniform is the Linfield Way.

Early Offensive Sharpness: In the past two games, the Linfield offense stalled on their first 2 drives before starting to gain traction. That can’t be a continuing trend as Linfield needs to come out in their opening drives and establish their offensive attack.

Pressure: The Pioneers are leaning more on the pass this season and will probably start a freshman this week (Rochon, started last week against Willamette).  I’m expecting L&C to try to get the ball out fast but Linfield needs to turn up the heat on the Pioneers up front.

Sharpness: I want to see Linfield play a sharp brand of football. We talked about the penalties on Monday and how I feel that some of that is due to the aggressive style of play.  I want to see if Linfield can maintain that razor’s edge style of play but see if they can fine tune it so we don’t see so much laundry on the field.

Young Guys turn it loose: If Linfield is sharp; this should turn into a situation where a number of young guys see extended time for Linfield. Don’t let youth and inexperience hold you back.  When you get on the field, do your job, turn it loose, and showcase what you’ve got.

Overall:

‘Cats by a lot.  It’s going to be victory by a wide margin this weekend. There is a good chance the weather will be poor and that’s a great thing. I’d love to see the ‘Cats get some reps in poor conditions as that can only serve Linfield well as we move deeper in the season. I’m expecting a great effort on Saturday and for each player to focus on their role and responsibility. If the ‘Cats can do that, the victory will be satisfactory for all parties involved.

Monday, October 20, 2014

‘Cats Win!!! Linfield gives Whitworth no quarter in 65-13 plundering at the ‘Catdome.

The 'Cats dropped The Hammer for 60 minutes on Whitworth.
Photo Courtesy of Brad Thompson: Purchase Brad's Photos Here.

My goodness that was a double barrel blasting of a team that came into ‘Catdome with a winning record.  Whitworth isn’t a terrible team.  The Rats do have some pieces and skill but the sum of their parts doesn’t come close to the product that Linfield is putting on the field this season. 

For the Rats, Saturday’s hopes came down to one thing only and that was their offense being able to move the chains and put up points.  If the Pirates could convert and extend drives they might have been able to linger a little longer but once they lined up to actually play the game it became apparent that Linfield’s defense had no intention of allowing Whitworth to get on track.  Once the Rats' offense started giving up the ball after 82 seconds of clock run off, it was lights out for Whitworth.

I’m not joking either…Whitworth’s offense had 16 possessions and only held onto the football an average of 1 minute and 22 seconds of game clock.  The result of that high tempo/not going anywhere offense was Linfield putting up ridiculous offensive numbers.   719 yards of total offense, 352 rushing, 367 passing, 35 first downs, 97 offensive plays at 7.4 yards per play.  Somewhere, John Tully was smiling looking at that box score.

To me, Saturday was the first real test for the ‘Cats young secondary and I thought those guys passed with flying colors. The Linfield defensive backfield is stocked with athletic ability, length, speed, and fundamentally sound play. They closed a lot of windows against Whitworth and it was great to see.

Linfield did many excellent things on Saturday (we’ll get to those below) but this team still has much room for improvement.  Maybe that’s being unreasonable but I still think the 2014 Linfield Wildcats haven’t played their best football yet.  This team has aspirations and dreams to do big things and the top of the Division III pile are in their respective parts of the country laying waste to the competition, like the ‘Cats are out on the West Coast.  Right now, Linfield has to worry and focus on being the best Linfield team they can be and not mailing in any efforts in the next couple of weeks. There is work to put in but man could this be a special group when this is all said and done.

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

The Good

Complete team effort: Offense, Defense, Special Teams.  All three units worked together to create positive field position, hold that field position, and then capitalize to get points on the board.  Wash, Rinse, and Repeat and the next thing you know the ‘Cats are tossing the Rats right out of the building. If there was a woodshed at Maxwell Field, the ‘Cats would have taken Whitworth behind it.

Offensive Output: As mentioned above, the offensive output was crazy. Sam Riddle tossed 5 touchdowns (Charlie Poppen with 3 of those), four different ‘Cats caught touchdowns, 3 different ‘Cats rushed for touchdowns, 6 different players had 40 yards rushing or more. I’m actually dreading putting together this game highlight. This could be my War and Peace of offensive highlights.


If this was old school Tecmo Bowl, Linfield would have been Bo Jackson this past Saturday.
Photo Courtesy of Brad Thompson: Purchase Brad's Photos Here.

Defensive Effort: Ten 3 and Outs, held Whitworth to a season low of 264 total yards, sacked Rat QB's six times, only allowed two scores, great tackling after the catch, great pressure and physicality. Overall, another wonderful effort by this Linfield defense.

Offensive Line: The Linfield offensive line has been a force this season and they continue to get the job done. The big fellas have such a great combination of size, skill, aggression, and understanding of the offense that it makes the job of skill players so much easier.  Offensive lines never get enough credit, and too much blame, but I’m telling you this is one of the best Linfield offensive lines that I've seen.

3rd down defense: This was the critical stat coming into the game and Linfield held Whitworth to only 6 of 19 (31.5%) on 3rd down and that lead to a major butt kicking.

Defensive Backs: I bragged on these guys already but a great result against a pass happy offense. The Linfield defensive backs piled up 7 pass break-ups, a pick, and great tackling after the catch all game long.  I loved what I saw out of the Wildcat DB’s on Saturday.

Special Teams Coverage: By far the best performance from the coverage units this season.  Massive improvement on kickoff team and the punt coverage was great as well.  On 8 returned kickoffs, Whitworth’s average starting position was the 24 yard line. When you paired that starting field position with Linfield’s defense it means prime starting position for the ‘Cats offense.


Bonus Good:

Linfield Tailgate Scene: I have to say that the Linfield tailgate scene for Homecoming was spot on. The Keck parking lot was jammed with tents, RVs, 5th wheels, mobile BBQ trailers, great food, beverages, and fun.  The Keck Parking lot is always a great place to be during a Linfield home game, but I have to say that Linfield is developing a top flight tailgating experience.

The Bad

Penalties: Some of this comes from the aggressive nature of Linfield’s play.  The ‘Cats play a hard-nosed, fast, and to the whistle style of play and sometimes that will draw a flag. I can live with some of that but Linfield has to get this area cleaner without sacrificing any aggressiveness. That’s much easier to type than actually do.

The Ugly

Not a darn thing: The Portland area was getting hammered by the rain on Friday night but the weather held out and turned in a beautiful Saturday afternoon in the Valley.  A ton of Linfield spirit, alumni back on campus and a great performance by the ‘Cats.  Saturday was another great day to be a Wildcat.

Friday, October 17, 2014

ADvantage Friday Feature: Coming Home

Tyler Steele had his hands all over many Linfield victories from 2009-2013
Photo Courtesy of Brad Thompson: View Brad's Photos Here.

Homecoming: a long-held tradition of welcoming alumni back to campus. For some, that means dresses, corsages and uncomfortable dancing. For the Linfield Wildcats, however, that means one thing: football.

Tailgating and football, that’s what Linfield does…in the fall at least. To learn this for yourself make your way to the parking lot on the south end of campus on Saturday. I promise there will be no lack in merriment and stories of the “glory days” from Linfield football alums.

One of those storytellers may even be Linfield football alum, Tyler Steele.

“The Catdome is a special place and you only know what I mean if you've been a part of Linfield football,” said Steele. “I would give up a lot to be able to go back and play one more game with my guys in the Catdome.”

Steele graduated in 2014 after redshirting his senior year due to a knee injury. He completed his career with All-American acknowledgment and was the recipient of the Vern Marshall Award, an honor recognizing the top student athletes on campus.

 With the granting of his fifth-year, he got the chance to do something he had never done before: play alongside his brother.

“[Last year], I had the pleasure of playing with my brother and that was the number one sports moment in my life,” said Steele. “That’s more important to me than any award or record. It’s something I’ll remember for the rest of my life.”

Alex Hoff, #55, is standing tall among the best defensive linemen in Division III in 2014

Steele’s younger brother, junior Alex Hoff, is a defensive end for the ‘Cats and now represents them both out on the turf.

“When we were younger we were one year apart from playing together,” said Hoff. “When he came back for his fifth year, it was very special to be playing alongside him on the D-line.”

That special bond is something that both brothers treasure, especially now that Steele has graduated.

“My brother has always been a huge positive role model in my life,” said Hoff. “Knowing that I’m playing in front of him and doing something we both love so much makes me even more driven to go out and play to the best of my ability.”

“He is and will continue to surpass me as a football player at Linfield,” said Steele. “Athletically, he can do things that I never could. He’s just a ‘freak.’ Words can’t describe how proud I am of him.”

While Hoff will be making tackles and stopping plays on the field, Steele will be partaking in homecoming from the fan section for the first time.

“Watching homecoming for the first time is going to be weird,” said Steele. “As a player, you know that there is going to be a large crowd and alumni are going to be around the field.”

Going from player to fan is not something people look forward to. Take it from someone who knows, that transition is rough. Lucky for Steele and the rest of the Linfield football alums, the Catdome family is strong, whether you’re on the field or off.

“We are good because of what we put into it,” said Hoff. “The football program is part of an extended family and the alumni are a part of that family too. And when Saturday comes around, we get to show everyone why the Catdome is such a special place.”

Alumni, young and old, will be at Linfield College on Saturday. They will reminisce about huge upsets and devastating losses. They will bond over food and games of flip cup. But, most importantly, they will be in the Catdome cheering on their boys as they claim their 59th winning season.

“We pride ourselves on being the best in the West,” said Hoff. “We are expected to carry on a winning tradition that started 58 years ago and we want to show the people that started the tradition that we aren’t letting that title go anywhere.”

-Sara Miller

Thursday, October 16, 2014

2014 NWC Pick 'Em Contest: Week 7

You just can't beat the 'Catdome on a Fall Saturday afternoon.
After taking a week off from our Pick ‘em post, WC11 and (509)Rat are back to give you our tremendous insights that have us sitting around the middle of the pack of the NWC Pick ‘Em Contest. Seriously, don’t listen to us right now.  We stink.

For the season, WC11 is sitting on 27 out of 37 games (72.9%), while Rat is hitting on 26 out of 37 (70.2%).  After this upcoming week, we’re either going to be separated by two games or in a dead tie as we’re only disagreeing on one game this Saturday and that’s UPS vs GFU. 

In the NWC, there are two keys games. If Whitworth drops to Linfield, their NWC title hopes are done. Even bigger is PLU at Pacific. The outcome of that game is going to have a major effect on the upcoming weeks of the Conference season. If PLU wins, they are still very much alive for a Pool C bid. Pacific’s only hope for the playoffs is to win the NWC outright so they have to beat PLU this week or it could be lights out.  That should be an interesting match-up.

Northwest Conference Games of the Week:

#5 Linfield (4-0) over Whitworth (4-2) (at Linfield): (509)Rat says: Picking against Whitworth again, this time it's not gonna come back to bite me in the tail. I think Linfield is going to get too much pressure on the QB for the Whitworth offense to move the ball with any regularity. Whitworth will likely try to counter with a strong quick passing/screen/draw game. Even if Whitworth's offense does score, say 3-4 TDs, the defense won't be able to stop Linfield from moving the chains. The Wildcats should be able to keep the ball on the ground without much resistance. I really like the new direction Whitworth is going, but this is year 1 in a legitimate rebuilding project.

#21 Pacific Lutheran (3-1) over Pacific (2-2) (at Pacific):  Huge game for both the Lutes and the Boxers. Pacific has to be licking their chops in getting the Lutes at home after taking PLU to the wire last season. I’m fully expecting for Pacific to watch the Linfield/PLU game film and attack PLU the same way Linfield did with rushing the ball at the belly of Lute defense and taking big shots off the play action.  If the PLU receiving corp is still not 100% healthy, it could spell doom for PLU and set up Pacific for a legit NWC title shot at Linfield at the end of the year.   I’m *this close*to leaning towards Pacific in this game but until they can prove it, I’m sticking with the Lutes to find a way.

(509)Rat Says PLU: Just because Whitworth laid an egg doesn't mean Pacific is any good. Linfield is going to make a lot of people look worse than they really are, PLU included. The Lutes should win this game easily after getting a bye Lewis & Clark last week.

Willamette (3-1) over Lewis & Clark (0-5) (at Willamette): You’re going to see a ton of rushing yards again by the Bearcats and that’s out of necessity more than design. Willamette’s passing game is brutal and is going to bite them when they have to face PLU, Pacific, and Linfield. However, they get a pass this week against L&C.

(509)Rat Says Willamette:  Dylan Jones probably won't run for 350 yds, but then again Willamette won't lose this week. Bearcats get a confidence booster on Saturday.

Puget Sound (2-2) over George Fox (0-4) (at GFU): A lot of people had this circled as one of three potential wins for George Fox this year but it’s not happening.  Puget Sound is playing better football and better defense this year and that’s going to carry them over the Bruins.

(509)Rat Says George Fox: This is one of two winnable games on Fox's schedule. I'm rooting for them. I think UPS is the better team (surprisingly) but the Loggers don't run the ball real well and don't play good defense against anyone not named Lewis and Clark. I fully expect the chrome on the Bruins' helmets to blind the Loggers, forcing at least 3 INTs.

West Region Game of the Week:

#13 UW-Stevens Point over #14 UW-Platteville (at Platte):  In the battle of who’s going to be the WIAC runner up/Pool C candidate features the Pointers vs the Pioneers.  My philosophy when it comes to Platteville is they look great against everybody except when they play a high quality team and then the fold like a cheap suit. Stevens Point is a quality team so I’m going with the Pointers all day.

(509)Rats Says UW-Stevens Point: The Pointers have been playing really good football this year. Platteville is still clinging on to 2012 and 2013 performances if you as me. I'm sure I'm putting way too much stock into Stevens Point win over NCC and Platteville may end up winning this game. I like the up-and-comer, though. I got the Pointers winning the right to say they are the second best team in the WIAC.

National Games of the Week:

Franklin (4-2) over Mt. St. Joseph (At MSJ):  The battle for the automatic bid out in the HCAC is going down as the Grizzlies hook up with the…..*looking up on Google*…..the Lions. Yeah, the Lions.  Franklin has the rep and only lost one HCAC game in the past 5 seasons so I’m going with the chalk.

(509)Rat Says Franklin: FCGrizzlies picked them and he's killing me in this pick'em thing. I don't care if he's biased, Go Grizzlies.

#25 Hampden-Sydney (4-1) over Emory and Henry (5-0):  Large showdown in the ODAC as Hampden-Sydney reentered the top 25 poll this week. The Tigers have busted off 4 straight wins since dropping the season opener to Wabash (avg 52 PPG in those wins) and will hook up with rival (I think) Emory & Henry who’s off to their best start in forever. I’m going with the team that’s been there and with the known talent.
 
(509)Rat Says Hampden-Sydney:  Hampden-Sydney looked good in the playoff game against Linfield last year. That's all I know, and that'll work for me.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

2014 Game 5 Preview: Linfield (4-0) vs Whitworth (4-2)

What's going to give this Saturday at the 'Catdome?
It’s homecoming week and the ‘Cats 5th game of the year is rounding into an interesting contest between the offensive minded Whitworth Pirates and your Linfield Wildcats.  It will be back-to-back home games for Linfield, as the Wildcats look to maintain the inside track in the NWC title race, and for Whitworth, Saturday marks the opportunity to make a national splash with an upset minded effort.

For those that have been around the Northwest Conference since its reformation back in 1997, you knew what to expect out of Whitworth week…Tully Ball.  That was the unmistakable brand of football developed by 19 year Whitworth head coach John Tully, where the “Rats” would play conservative ball control offense and rely on linebacker centric defensive play to creative turnovers and force opposition mistakes.  That Tully Ball brand had a solid run in the NWC as Whitworth ran off a 100-83 record during Tully’s tenure and peaked during the 2006-2007 seasons when the Pirates won back-to-back NWC titles and a trip to the NCAA’s in 2006 (Don’t ask about the 2007 playoff snub, Mike Maynard, and a knife in the back).  However, the fizzle started going out of the Whitworth bubble as an offensive game plan of Zone Left, Zone Right, Pass, Punt left little to the offensive imagination and the record started to reflect it. So after the 2013 season, John Tully stepped down as captain of the Rats' ship.

So in comes long time defensive coordinator of the Wheaton Thunder (CCIW) Rod Sandberg. The energetic Sandberg for the most part gutted the previous Whitworth staff but kept some pieces and then reached out to a number of former Pirates making hay in the high school coaching ranks. Sandberg’s biggest get was Offensive Coordinator Alan Stanfield who was having a great run of success as head coach of Shadle Park High in the Spokane area. Stanfield brought his offense with him to Whitworth, which is pretty much Mike Leach’s Air Raid offense from Washington State (Hal Mumme strikes again) where an offense tries to use a short passing attack as their quasi-running game.

The “Air Rat” offense (I’m putting a trademark on that) has found instant success as Whitworth is 2nd in the NCAA in passing per game (390 yards), first in 1st downs gained (161), tossed 23 passing touchdowns, and Whitworth is averaging 478.5 yards of total offense.  Whitworth has some talented receivers in 6’ 5” Connor Williams (55 receptions, 571 yards, 6 TDs), Drew Clausen (51 receptions, 305 yards, 3 TDs), and Brett Moser (27 receptions, 338 yards, 1 TD).  Tossing the pigskin is 4th year starting QB Bryan Peterson who has had some nice success in the past vs Linfield (2011) and also has been rolled over by Linfield (2012).

Bottom line, Linfield no longer gets to beat up on Tully Ball and will be getting a very stiff test this weekend by the Whitworth offense.  Linfield has been so dominate with the pass rush this season that our DB’s at times haven’t been tested to the extent this Saturday might present. It should be a great challenge and you better get to the ‘Catdome to watch it go down.

Get To Know A Wildcat

#64 Owen Fritz, Offensive Guard, Senior
Hometown:  Lynnwood, Wash.  , High School: Mountlake Terranc

Favorite place to in Mac: Wildwood Cafe

Favorite Movie: American Gangster

Favorite Music: Rap/Hip-Hop/R&B

Favorite TV show: Workaholics

Favorite Book: Angels & Demons

Class I Most Look Forward to: Investments

iPhone or Android: iPhone

CPU Homepage: ESPN.com

Personal Mantra:  "Today I will do what others won't, so tomorrow I can accomplish what others can't"

Social Media of choice: Twitter

Car or Truck: I drive an ’06 F150

Xbox, PS3, or Wii: Xbox

What first inspired you to play football: Ray Lewis

Favorite Coach Smith Saying:  "Do common things in an uncommon manner."

Favorite part of playing at Linfield: The high expectations and the brotherhood I’ve built with my teammates.”

Post Linfield aspirations:  I’d like to work for an investment firm in the PNW.

Wildcat11’s Keys To Victory:


Discipline Defensive Play: As mentioned above, Whitworth “Air Rat” offense is putting up some crazy numbers as it takes on the Division III West Coast teams and will present the Linfield defensive backs with their largest test to date. The pace of the offense will minimize the ‘Cats ability for substitution waves so the players on the field are going to have to play a specific brand of discipline football. That means getting into the right alignments, communications, and execution. The pace and speed of the Air Raid is counting on defensive breakdowns by the opposition.

Attacking Balanced Offense: Whitworth’s defense is giving up a whopping 515.2 yards per contest and are being hurt on the ground (212.0 rush yards allowed per game) and air (303.2 pass yards allowed per game).  Linfield’s offense needs to be attacking Whitworth early, often, and constantly throughout the game with both the run and pass. Even though the ‘Cats posted up 59-0 points last week, I think the Linfield offense could be sharper and will need to be this week.

Fantastic Tacklers: The defensive game is going to come down to whose athletes are better…Whitworth’s receivers at breaking tackles or the Wildcat DB’s/LB’s at tackling?  You’re going to see a ton of short passes, arrows, curls, bubble screens, and not a lot of long developing layered passing plays, so the basic fundamental of tackling will be the telling sign of Linfield’s defensive effectiveness against Whitworth.

Limiting Mistakes:  The ‘Cats are going to make Whitworth’s task of upending the favorite that much more difficult if the ‘Cats can limit mistakes. That means ball security, good decision making, limiting penalities, etc.  Linfield doesn’t have to be prefect but the cleaner the effort the harder Linfield is to beat.

Third and fourth down conversion attempts: Huge. Critical. Big.  Through six games, Whitworth has attempted 122 third down conversions and has hit on 51 of those (42%). The Rats are going to run a ton of plays and should be in third down situations against Linfield a number of times. These are going to be critical downs that Linfield has to get the better of.  Whitworth has also attempted 23 fourth down attempts this season as well. Compare that to Linfield (through 4 games), as the ‘Cats have only attempted 52 third down conversion and have only gone for it on fourth down twice.

Pass Protection: While the Rats are giving up 33.0 points per game, Whitworth has been able to get to the Quarterback for 18 sacks. Let's make sure we keep Riddle upright (which the O-Line has done a great job on this season).

Don’t let the passing hype take away from the Whitworth Rushing attack:  All the hype for Whitworth are the passing numbers but Whitworth has slowly developed a running game to compliment to the air attack. Rat RB Duke Degaetano rushed for 141 yards on 27 carries last week against Willamette (3 TDs) and was a major factor in why Whitworth was able to close out Willamette. The Rats only run a couple of running plays and Linfield cannot allow Whitworth to gash them running the ball.

Foot on the Gas: If the ‘Cats can command an early lead, Linfield has to have the mindset of keep applying pressure on Whitworth.  The Pirates are not going to change their style if they get down and they believe they have the ability to quickly make up ground. Linfield has to be in attack mode for a full 60 minutes of play.

 Overall

‘Cats by 14 plus.  This game could go a couple of different ways. If Linfield spins their wheels and are not sharp then the ‘Cats are going to get all they can handle and then more by Whitworth. The Pirates do have the ability to score points and move the ball and have proven that to this point.  However, there has been no indication that this Wildcat team has any intention on slowing down as this group has been singled minded from the season outset.  There might be some ups and downs this game but ultimately, I think Linfield is going to have too much for Whitworth to contend with.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

2014 Linfield College Football: George Fox Mini-Highlight

‘Cats Win!!! Linfield batter the Bruins in a 59-0 romp.

The 'Cats ran right past George Fox this past Saturday in the 'Catdome.
Photo Courtesy of Brad Thompson: View and Purchase Brad's Photos Here.

Welcome to the ‘Catdome. It was so nice to be able to see all of the fanfare, the energy, and buzz of the Linfield campus on game day.  It’s such a great setting for college football and it had been way too long of a wait.

Speaking of waiting, the ‘Cats didn't make the home crowd wait too long before opening it up on our Yamhill County neighbors as Linfield exploded in the 1st quarter to put the game out of reach early and left no doubt that if Fox wants to reach the level of Linfield, they have a lot of work to do. Linfield was the faster, more athletic, more skilled, more aggressive, and the more physical team. It was a textbook case of Linfield not letting an inferior team hang around and when Linfield has that mindset, it can get ugly for the opposition in a hurry.

This past Saturday didn’t reveal too much about the ‘Cats but rather it was more of a confirmation of what we already know. The ‘Cats having another fast and physical defense, and Linfield possesses a number of weapons that get the luxury of having a first rate offensive line leading the way.  Next week is going to present a much bigger challenge for the ‘Cats defense as Whitworth will bring their “Air Rat” offense to town so there is much to look forward in the homecoming challenge.

For George Fox, it was what I expected it to be. The Bruins have some nice players and size.  I think they’ll be able to develop that into a competitive team as the years move along but I think the Bruins are finding out it’s a lot harder to win football games than some around George Fox thought it was going to be.

The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

The Good

Putting away George Fox Early: 35-0 at the end of the 1st quarter.  That’s how you put away a team early and leave no doubt what the remaining outcome of the game will be.  It took the ‘Cats offense a couple of possession to get it moving but once they did the ‘Cats offense started rolling and it spelled doomed as Linfield’s defense was already putting the Bruins on ice. It was wild to see how fast Linfield was able to tack up 35 points.

Defensive aggressiveness: The Wildcat defense held the Bruins to -21 total offensive yards in the 1st quarter alone as the ‘Cats defensive front suffocated the Fox offensive line.  The Bruins could not find any consistent offense on the day as GFU only crossed the Wildcat 50 yard line twice in 18 offensive possessions. The ‘Cats defense wrapped up with 7 sacks, 3 interceptions, 2 of those returned for touchdown, and 15 tackles for loss. It was a great defensive day by the ‘Cats all around.

Creating turnovers:  A major part of the ‘Cats being able to wrap up this game early was Linfield ending three consecutive GFU possessions off of turnovers. Two off of interceptions and one on creating the fumble on a Fox kickoff return. Turnovers create momentum and those three early ones were a tidal wave of mo.

Rushing Attack: I thought the ‘Cats rushing attack was strong again this past Saturday. Linfield had 224 net yards of rushing off 48 carries, for a 4.7 yards per rush average, and 3 rushing touchdowns.  The development of the rushing attack is vital for the ‘Cats as the year continues to move on.

93 ‘Cats getting to play: Thanks to MonroviaCat of the D3boards for doing the research on this one but a huge bulk of the Wildcat roster were able to break in their brand new Linfield home uniform in style. This whole program works incredibly hard, from the starting quarterback all the way to guys busting their backside on scout team. It’s a great reward for all of these guys getting the chance to get live action under their belts.

The Bad:

10 Penalties: I have to really reach for a bad this week but it’s never a good thing when you are getting into the double digits with penalties. Linfield has to be mindful in trying to minimize the laundry on the field.

The Ugly:

Nothing.  A rocking crowd, a great day for football in the ‘Catdome, and rolling to victory. There is nothing ugly about that.

Friday, October 10, 2014

ADvantage Friday Feature: The Linfield Way


I'm thrilled to announce a new Friday article that we'll be posting up for the remainder of the season as former Linfield soccer player, Sara Miller will be joining the Catdomealumni.com team to bring you deeper insights in the players and people that make this Linfield Football program great.

Sara graduated from Linfield this past Spring with a degree in Mass Communications and is currently residing in Federal Way, Washington as she starts her career. Sara grew up attending Huskies and Seahawks games with her father and is a major sports enthusiast. In fact, Sara ran a wonder series of video pieces this past Spring on the Linfield Baseball team as they defended their 2013 National Title.  I remember watching these and was impress with Sara's ability to have people relax and be themselves as they talk about various subjects. It's that ability to have her subjects open up that made asking Sara taking part of this blog a no-brainier. A special thanks to former Linfield punter Josh Repp for initially contacting me about Sara.

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Team, Excellence, Attitude, Class
The Linfield football program holds its players to a high standard. With great football comes great responsibility, after all.

And that responsibility falls to a group of seniors who, after three years of disappointment, have their eyes set on a championship game that looms in December.

“As freshmen, everybody always told us that time flies and it’s one of those things that was hard to comprehend,” said Colin Nelson, a senior from Redmond, Wash. “I still remember how overwhelming it could be when you’re a freshman because there is a lot expected out of you right away.”

That viewpoint has evolved since freshman year.

“Now that I’m a senior, I have made a conscious effort to become a more vocal leader and to help the young guys as much as possible,” said Nelson. “I’ve done my best to pass on my knowledge and experiences to make it as easy for the young bucks as it can be.”

“I feel a responsibility to be the best player and teammate I can be because of all the sacrifices that former and present players have put into this amazing program,” said Evan Peterson, a senior from Bellevue, Wash.

“Tradition is what we pride ourselves on here,” said Jordan Giza, a senior from Salem, Ore. “We work hard and win games. The Linfield way.”

Nelson, Peterson and Giza are just three players who represent the senior class in the Catdome. And in their rise to the top, they’ve learned that football means a lot more to this community than to just toss the pigskin around on a Saturday afternoon.

“Tradition is very important here and it is the foundation of the program,” said Giza. “Knowing that so many great players have been out on that field in the past, makes the Catdome a very special place on Saturday.”

“Linfield football is based on tradition and structure,” said Peterson. “I believe that’s why we have the longest streak of winning seasons in college football at 58 (about to be 59) years.”

This senior class has compiled one of the best records in Linfield football history. In fact, this group of brothers has never lost a regular season game on their home field. That brotherhood goes far beyond the numbers and hash marks that line the turf.

“In my four years I’ve met so many alumni and ex-players who all want us to succeed as much as we do ourselves,” said Nelson. “We are representing a group of people much larger than just our team; and to win a national championship would mean a lot to so many people.”

It’s this kind of commitment and heart that makes the Linfield football program one of the most respected in the country. It creates a special bond that lives long past the time spent on the field.

And after three years, these boys are example of that.

“There's people I've met in my four years that I consider my brothers and will be groomsmen in my wedding,” said Giza. “I've met mentors that I look to for advice and will always admire, numerous people who have helped me further myself as a student, athlete and man.”

“I’ve spent most of my time doing football related activities,” said Peterson. “I’ve experienced a lot with these guys and this program. From 6 am workouts and spring practices, to playing in 10 degree weather in Wisconsin.”

Catdome fans remember the 17-21 loss to Wisconsin Whitewater that knocked the Wildcats out of the play-offs last December. This group of seniors feels that sting a little deeper than most, and it has united them for their final go-round.

“That was the third time in three years that we had failed to close out a game that we felt we should have won,” said Nelson. “So, we recommitted ourselves to the idea of winning a national championship and carried that throughout the off-season.”

That mindset fueled these seniors to be more ready than ever before. They are willing to do whatever it takes to change the outcome this time.

“Coming in to this season, I knew people outside of our program were talking about the so-called ‘question marks’ we have as a defense,” said Giza. “I wanted to install the mindset that we have a special group of players who are really talented.”

Every Saturday this special group of young men uphold and pass the traditions to the next generation of Linfield Wildcats.

“I want to be a leader through my hard work and play on the field,” said Peterson. “I want my teammates to trust in me and believe that if a play needs to be made to win the game, and my number is called, they know they can count on me.”

“It’s such a privilege to play for a program like this. It’s something I take a lot of pride in,” said Giza. “And the only thing we can do is focus on getting better each day so, come late December, we're the ones who are still playing.”

-Sara Miller