Friday, September 19, 2014

2014 Around The 'CatdomeO'sphere: Week 3

The 'Cats will be down South once again this weekend.
Welcome back to this week's Around The 'CatdomeO'sphere where I try to round up all the coverage I can on your Linfield Wildcats and the Northwest Conference. 2nd week in a row where we don't have any News-Register links and that's due to the fact the website made a tough decision to go to a paywall system last year.  Maybe I'll add their articles to the list with a paywall warning but I can't stand it when I'm going through a news link round-up and I click on an article that looks interesting to only hit a paywall.  So for now, we'll have to find our Linfield coverage through other sources.  Some good stuff to digest this week so get to it!

The Panther Online: Panthers fall to Linfield Wildcats in second half

OCregister.com: Linfield comes from behind to beat Chapman

The Panther Online: Statement not made against Linfield

Wes Rapaport YouTube: D3 Report: Chapman falls to Linfield in home opener, 21-14

Chapman University Athletics Face Book Page: Chapman post game interviews

bennettrank.com: A Tough Riddle: Linfield Wildcats vs. Chapman Panthers

Wildcatville: Linfield at Chapman Slideshow

Redlandsdailyfacts.com: University of Redlands brace for another tough opponent

Willamettecollegian.com: Bearcats snag first win

Statesmanjournal.com: Local Salem paper with a pathetic effort in covering Willamette's win

The Newberg Graphic: La Veren outguns Fox 47-33

thewhitworthian.com: Rats get second win at Whittier

spokesman.com: Banged up Whitworth should get tested against La Verne (REALLY!?)

WhitworthPirates YouTube Page: Sandberg's head in a box interview

occidentalweekly: Oxy gets victory in opener vs UPS

Oxyathletics YouTube Page: Oxy vs UPS highlights

VCstar.com: CLU loses opener in Washington vs PLU

thenewstribuen.com: PLU gets 35-28 win over CLU to open season

piolog.com: Pioneers adds new QB, Senior Leadership

Thursday, September 18, 2014

2014 NWC Pick 'em Contest: Week 3

The Linfield Offensive Line looks to have a big weekend at Redlands.
After stinking it up in week 1, Wildcat11 had a bounce back week 2 in nailing 8 out of 9 games to bring my overall total to 11 out of 16 (69.75%).  That’s still terrible but it’s enough to put me in a current 2nd place tie with about 85 other people on the NWC pick ‘em page.  (509)Rat is also 11 out of 16 on the year but I have him on a bonus game pick so I’m slightly ahead on the point total (15 points to 14 points).

In week 2 around the NWC, Willamette had a strong start last week, Whitworth showed some cracks but a victory otherwise at Whittier, L&C lost to CMS but at least it wasn’t by 50 points (it’s about the small victories), UPS lost but looks to be a more competitive club in 2014, and Fox let La Verne put up 590 yards of offense on the board.  That’s a major yikes.  A good slate of games await us in week 3 as a number of NWC teams have challenging long road games to contend with before Northwest Conference plays opens up in two weeks.  Let’s get to the action!

Northwest Conference Games of the Week

#7 Linfield (1-0) over Redlands (0-1) (at Redlands). (509)Rat says Linfield:  Redlands will think that their offense has improved after moving the ball and probably scoring a few points this weekend. No offense to Linfield, but anyone will look better when they aren't playing against that UMHB defense. This game will only be close if the Wildcats get the same QB play they got last week. I don't think that happens, so Linfield by 17.

Whittier (0-1) over Lewis and Clark (0-2) (at Whittier): The drive for un-perfection marches on for the Pios as Whittier will write off Lewis and Clark.  (See what I did there?  “Write off”.  The Whittier Poets…..*sigh*…forget it).

(509)Rat says Whittier:  Rivera (Whittier QB) is a good athlete who doesn't throw the ball real well. He will be more than enough to beat a Lewis and Clark team who gives up around 6 yards per play. Whittier actually has some talent; they just don't execute and kill themselves with mistakes/penalties. Normally that's the kind of team I pick against, but this week I'm going to make an exception.

Willamette (1-0) over Cal Lutheran (0-1) (at CLU): I’m 100% going to regret taking Willamette to steal one on the road at the Cal Lu’s home soccer field that sometime acts as a football facility.   The Bearcats had another good start to their season in turning over Trinity to victory while CLU put up a darn good fight up at PLU.  I want to take CLU but their defense has been so bad over the past year that I can’t take them in a game against a quality opponent.  Willamette starts another year hot until they eventually run into PLU and Linfield.

(509)Rat says Willamette:   I'm not super confident in the Bearcats, they won't be able to turn the ball over 4 times and beat the solutes. Willamette beat Trinity because they were more talented, but Cal Lu will easily match them in that department. The Bearcats defense will win them this game after forcing 5 turnovers and holding Trinity to 247 total yards. Cal Lu will probably again split time between 2 QB's, which is dumb. Besides Tully-ball, there isn't anything that drives me crazier than teams who platoon QB's. Inconsistent play at the QB position will give Cal Lu their 2nd loss of the season.

Whitworth (2-0) over La Verne (1-0) (at Whitworth):  La Verne is not a very good football team.  Not much else to say beyond that as the Pirates wrap up their killer tough non-conference schedule by going 3-0.  Seriously, SEC teams would shutter at the prospect of having to play Lewis & Clark, Whittier, and La Verne to start a football season.

(509)Rats says Whitworth: La Verne gave up a ton of yards and points to George Fox. They should be able to put up some points on the Pirates but it won't be enough. I expect Kolste to improve on his 50% completion rate this week. He has to since La Verne will be the best offense the Pirates see this year, and will likely put up points against an "ok" Whitworth defense. No way the Leopards beat the Pirates for the second time in as many years. Remember, you (almost) always go with the NWC.

Dubuque (0-2) over Pacific (0-1) (at Debuque): This was a tough one that I lingered on.  Pacific had a bye week to get some issues worked on and the fact that College of Idaho won last week as well had to take a little sting out of losing to a 1st year program.   However, Dubuque may not be a ball of fire but they’re capable of playing some good football.  I’m expecting this to be a close one and could go either way but I’m taking the home team.

(509)Rat says Debuque: I've never understood all the Pacific love on d3boards. They lost a lot guys from a team that took advantage of a weak (outside of Linfield and PLU) NWC. Dubuque almost knocked off UW-Plateville last week and that's enough for me to take them over a Pacific team that has to travel 2 times zones. Of course, now that I'm picking Dubuque, they'll play more like they did against UW-LaCrosse in week 1 and Pacific will come back with a W.

West Region Game of the Week:

St. Johns (2-0) over Concordia-Moorhead (2-0) (at SJU):  This should be highly entertaining football as it looks like SJU has found their mojo once again in the form a legitimate rushing attack and solid defensive play.  The Cobbers are no slouch themselves as Concordia-Moorhead has outscored their 1st two opponents 70-22 to start the season.  Division 3 football is 100x more fun when SJU is relavent so I’m taking the Johnnies mainly out of hope that the Johnnies are back.

(509)Rat Says SJU: There might not be a single pass this game. Sam Sura is averaging 7.5 yards per carry...on 60 attempts. That's insane. St. Johns is at home and Collegeville will be rockin. One of my good buddies played football at St. John's so I'm a closet Johnny fan anyways.

National Game of the Week:

#5 North Central (1-0) over #7 UW-Platteville (2-0) (at NCC):  This is a rematch from last year’s 2nd round playoff game when North Central SLAPPED Platteville 52-24.  I know that Platteville has been strong in the WIAC for the past couple of seasons but they come off to me like a paper tiger.  I just think they are clearly a cut below the next grouping of the Division 3 “elite” and that gets played out this Saturday. NCC in a boat race.

(509)Rat says North Central:  North Central is a legit program. I think Plateville gets a little too much love simply because they are the second best team in the WIAC. I don't think this one will be close. North Central cruises at home.

Bonus Game of the Week:

#10 John Carroll (1-0) over # 16 Heidelberg (1-0) (at JCU): The battle of the who gets to be the runner’s up in the OAC game.  John Carroll is known for their defense (unless they’re playing Mount Union or anybody in the playoffs) and Heidelberg is hyped due to their dynamic running back Cartel Brooks (he’s good).  JCU finally was able to get out from under Heidelberg’s thumb in 2013 and I see that continuing on Saturday.

(509)Rats says Heidelberg:  The "Student Princes" is a stupid mascot, but so is a "Lutheran" and PLU has a pretty good team. John Carroll took it to Hberg last year, in a game where the final score was not indicative of how talented Hberg was. The Student Princes think they are a better team this year and they took a step towards proving it by absolutely crushing Alma in week 1. John Carroll lost some key contributors on both sides of the ball but they have Don Shula's grandkid running the Defense...that has to make up for something. I will probably be wrong but I need to pick up a game on WC11 somehow.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Game 2 Preview: Linfield (1-0) at Redlands (0-1)

Now those are some good looking mascots!
There is no rest for Linfield this weekend as YOUR ‘Cats will once again be boarding a plane for Southern California to hook up with another tough adversary in the University of Redlands Bulldogs.  Coming off a hard fought 21-14 come from behind victory over the Chapman Panthers last week, the ‘Cats have to be hard at work in looking at a laundry list of items to correct and strengthen against the defending SCIAC champions. 

Linfield and Redlands renew their series as the teams entered a 2-year agreement this off-season as the Bulldogs will be making the return trip up to the ‘Catdome in 2015.  These programs first squared off in Linfield’s 1st official game as Division III member in 1998 with a thrilling 24-23 seesaw affair that saw the ‘Cats escape with a 4th quarter victory.  After 1998, the teams saw each other four more times (1999, 2002, and twice in 2003 (playoffs)) and the ‘Cats have been able to get the better of Dawgs in each match-up.  However, that past has no impact on this Saturday as both of these teams are focused on their present progress.

The ‘Cats obviously have much to improve upon from last week.  I think all Wildcat fans are looking for some more consistent offensive play and I expect for that to start happening moving forward after some key personnel questions were answered last week.  The ‘Cats also had a number of silly mistakes and gave up too many big run plays for the staff’s liking.  However, with even the flaws you could see it during the game that this team has the opportunity to be special. The talent is obvious and the celiing is sky high for this group.  It’s going to be a matter of how hard these ‘Cats are willing to work for it and then execute under the game time pressure.  I’m excited to see what happens next.

If you’re looking at Redlands, please do me a favor and 100% ignore their outcome this past Saturday at University of Mary Hardin-Baylor.  This was Redlands 3rd time playing UMHB in their last 11 games and 4th time playing The Cru since 2011.  The Bulldogs are not the first or the last talented team to not have it go their way in Belton, Texas.   You just have to forget that and know that Redlands is a true West Coast contender.  Over the past four seasons, Redlands have not only battled UMHB but faced North Central twice and Pacific Lutheran multiple times in non-conference play.  I respect the heck out of that type of aggressive scheduling and the long term benefits that will come with measuring yourself against some of the best in Division III.  For the ‘Cats that means Redlands isn’t going to be intimidated with what Linfield is bringing to the table.  Redlands has already had a healthy dose of the size, speed, physicality, and tempo that elite programs consistently put out on the field.  The Bulldogs are going to be ready to give the ‘Cats a fight for their lives on Saturday night.

Get To Know A Wildcat

#22 Kyle Belcher, Junior, Corner
Hometown: El Dorado Hills, CA., High School: Oak Ridge

Favorite place to in Mac: Mikey's Pizzeria

Favorite Movie: The Dark Knight

Music of choice: Rap

Favorite TV show: Shark Tank

Favorite Book: Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10

Class I Most Look Forward to: Economics

iPhone or Android: iPhone

CPU Homepage: ESPN

Personal Mantra: "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" Philippians 4:13

Social Media of choice: Twitter

Car or Truck: Car

Xbox, PS3, or Wii: Xbox

What first inspired you to play football: Watching the pros and envying the aggressive game play

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

Favorite part of playing at Linfield: Creating unbreakable bonds and friendships between the guys as we all work and grind towards a common goal year in and year out

Post Linfield aspirations: Become an actuary or CFO

Wildcat11’s Keys To Victory

Four Quarters of Wildcat Football: This is going to be another big challenge and the ‘Cats can’t wait this weekend till the 2nd half to get their complete game in gear.  I’m not saying Linfield has to be perfect but I would like to see Linfield show some game one to game two growth on a number of fronts.  You can see the potential on this team but the ‘Cats have to start realizing that potential at some point.

Finding Offensive Consistency: Yeah, it took the ‘Cats a large chunk of the Chapman game to start finding some footing on offense.  Linfield is going to face another quick 3 man front this weekend (Redlands base defense is a 3-3-5) so the ‘Cats have to have a better week in consistently moving the ball against another quick and athletic team.

Limit the Bulldog Rushing Attack: The Bulldogs offense is a balanced attack that can explode in the passing game but their success is based off their running attack.  While Linfield was able to hold Chapman’s rush total down the Panthers were able to gash the ‘Cats for large chunks rushing at a time.  Redlands returns their top three running backs (Tanquary, Brown, Appleton) and their QB Kevin Russell are all playmakers  so trying to limit the rush will be a huge component on Saturday.

Close off big plays: The Bulldogs have a number of explosive offensive weapons and I’m expecting Redlands to challenge the ‘Cats young secondary in taking some shots down the field. Also, if any running plays do break, the 'Cats have to be able to contain the damage as they did against Chapman.

More effective rushing attack:  The improvement of the Linfield running game is going to be critical to not only the success on Saturday night but for the long term prospects of this 2014 season.  If the ground game gets going, the ‘Cats are going to be tough for opposition defenses to get off the field.

Solid tackling:  You can make football an incredibly complex game but at its core the game is all about blocking and tackling.  The Wildcat defense has to be superb tacklers against a fleet of talented running backs and a quarterback with the ability to pull it down and make things happen with his feet.

Minimize mistakes:  Linfield can go a long ways into helping themselves by not making silly drive killing/drive extending penalties and turning it over.  Much of that I feel were some first timer nerves but there has to be a better effort against Redlands.

Overall

‘Cats +7.  This is going to be another slugfest.  Like I mentioned before, don’t even look at Redlands opening game at UMHB. Redlands and Chapman are the current top teams in the SCIAC and the Dawgs are going to be hyped to open up their home season and erase the taste of last week out of their mouths.  Linfield is going to see Redland’s best.  However, I feel the ‘Cats are going to show some offensive growth from last week and if the ‘Cats defense can clean up a few issues our ‘Cats have the goods to fight for a hard earned victory.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Linfield at Chapman Mini Highlight


Well, I didn't want Tuesday to be a dead day on our blog so I needed something to put here and let's face it...I edit a ton better than I articulate.  So with that in mind here's a mini highlight from this past weekend at Chapman. Come back tomorrow for a Redlands game preview.

Monday, September 15, 2014

‘Cats Win! Linfield puts the 2nd half squeeze on Chapman in Orange County

Tavon Willis and the 'Cats offense came alive in the 3rd quarter.
Photo Courtesy of Dan Harris: (View the Linfield vs Chapman Gallery here)

Damn, I love winning a tough road game.  That was nerve wracking, tense, and thrilling all wrapped into one this past Saturday night as YOUR Linfield Wildcats pulled out a 21-14 victory over a fine challenger in the Chapman Panthers. 

Yeah, the 1st half on number of fronts was one to forget for Linfield as the ‘Cats offense sputtered, miscues on special teams, and some ill-timed drive extending penalties left Linfield in a 14-7 halftime hole.  Chapman deserves much credit for that 14-7 score as the Panthers executed a good game plan that had the ‘Cats on their heels.  However, there was no panic in the ‘Cats locker room at half.    Coach Smith, as usual, was right in that all his team had to do was execute better, play in the moment, and Linfield’s play would eventually turn for the better.

And turn it did, as Linfield’s defense put the hammer down on highly experienced offense and the ‘Cats offense showed a flash of what I think could be as the ‘Cats put up two quick touchdowns in the 3rd quarter to give Linfield the lead and eventual final score at 21-14.  Saturday night was a major gut check for Linfield and instead of rolling over and letting Chapman run away with it, the ‘Cats kept grinding and trying to get the right mix of talent on the field to get the job done.

I think that Linfield learned a lot on Saturday.  First, this team found out they truly have a chance to an elite team but right now there is much work to be done.  The offense showed in that 3rd quarter they can move the ball in a hurry.  This offense is going to continue to grow and improve but that has to happen sooner rather than later.  Defensively, the ‘Cats defense line was masterful in creating chaos and forcing Chapman from trying to have any sort of drop back pass game.  There are areas where the defense needs to get tuned up as the level of difficulty increases this weekend down at Redlands but defensive unit had a solid 2014 debut.
 
The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

The Good

2nd half response: Great composure for a group with so many new and young parts in the locker room.  Linfield knew that the longer they waited the harder it was going to be to overcome Chapman.  Once Linfield took that 21-14 lead with 1:57 left in the 3rd you could feel the Panthers tighten up as the ‘Cats started to enforce their will.  Winning on the road against quality opponents is hard but Linfield once again found a way to get it done.  Exceptional resolve.

Defensive Effort: The Chapman offense returned a large bulk of their starters from a group that scored 45 points a game while putting up 500 yards per contest in 2013.  Considering the ‘Cats only had 4 defensive starters returning, Linfield defensive effort was great against Chapman.  The defensive effort is what kept the ‘Cats in the game while the Offense worked through some early game issues. 

3rd quarter offensive response: It happened in a hurry as the ‘Cats offense and quarterback Sam Riddle tied up the game with a 75 yard drive that only took 1 minute and 26 seconds.  On Linfield’s very next possession once again the ‘Cats went 75 yards and this time in only 34 seconds off a huge 73 yard Riddle to Charlie Poppen bomb set up a short Riddle rushing blast.  In that two minutes you could see what is possible for this Wildcat offense.

Kicking Unit:  Our sophomore kickers were freaking first rate great.  I don’t think Linfield punter Kevin McClean was planning on 7 punts but his play was clutch.  McClean boomed his punts for an average of 44.1 yards per punt and 6 of those within the 20.  That’s not a fluke as McClean is a talent.  Also, kicker Cayman Conley was great on kickoff in getting all four of his kicks high and at the goal line and kicker Michael Metter executed on those PAT’s.  It was only a first game but it was a heck of a start for the ‘Cats leg men. Also props to Junior long snapper Hunter Durante. Long snappers never get singled out unless they screw up but Durante was throwing gas back to McClean and that was good to see.

Pass Protection:  I though the ‘Cats offense line and backs had a great night in pass pro.  The pressure on the Wildcat quarterbacks was minimal at best for most of the ‘Cats 33 passing attempts and should be a big strength with this year’s O-Line. 

Defensive Line Pressure:  The ‘Cats defensive line made the defending SCIAC offensive player of the year’s night miserable as Linfield sacked Chapman QB Michale Lahey six times and continually hammered him during the night.  Chapman threw the ball 28 times but most of that consisted of boots outside of the pocket. Anytime Lahey set up in the pocket it was open season as Defensive End Alex Hoff racked up 3 sacks and Defensive Tackle Marq Randall added 2 of his own.  During that last drive of Chapman I had no doubt Linfield would come through because there was no way the Panthers could run a traditional 2-minute drill and have their QB setting up on long developing pass plays. Great debut for this defensive line.


Instagram Photo Courtesy of Linfield SID Kelly Bird: (View Linfield Football Albums Here)


Guys stepping in and stepping up: The ‘Cats had a big number of new faces coming into the game and then even more players assume larger responsibilities when we lost some key contributors to injury. The response was great as a number of guys walked out onto the field and owned the moment and situation. It speaks well for where this team is headed.

The Bad

1st Half Jitters:  I don’t need to spend a lot of time on this.  The ‘Cats had some spotty play in the 1st half with missed passes, dropped passes, turnovers, extending drives on bad penalties, etc, etc. Learn from it and move on.

Open field tackling: While the defense played a heck of a game one glaring sore spot with me was some open field tackling on the perimeter.  Chapman was dumping the ball out in the flat on a number of occasions and let their crafty and speedy running backs get to work.  The 2nd half was much improved on this front but the Linfield defense needs to sharpen this up.

3rd down conversion: Going 3 of 11 on 3rd down just isn’t good enough.  I’m not typing anything the offense already knows.  Linfield needs to be able to improve on their conversion rate, move chains, and that will lead to more points.

Rushing Attack: 21 attempts for 76 yards (3.6 per carry):  I didn’t want to put this in the “bad” category because I think Chapman’s whole defensive game plan was to take away the running game and Linfield didn’t put too much emphasis on pounding the ball.  However, 76 rushing yards on the ground needs to be a 1st quarter or 1st half stat and not a game total.

The Ugly

Penalties: 10 for 107 (four Chapman drives extended by penalties) Rough night on the penalty front.  On both of Chapman’s 1st half scores, the ‘Cats at some point of the drive turned the Panthers away on 3rd down to only see the drive continue on either a roughing the punter or roughing the passer penalty.  I love the aggressiveness but you work so hard in getting that stop to see it continue on a penalty can be a killer. 

Onto another HUGE road game this week at Redlands.  Let’s Go ‘Cats!

Friday, September 12, 2014

Around The Catdome'Osphere: Week 2


It doesn't get any better than the 'Catdome

Welcome to our 1st Around The Cadome'Osphere of the 2014 season.  For those that are new to visiting the blog this is where I gather up the media links from around the Northwest Conference and this week's Linfield opponette to give you a one stop shop to feast on all things Linfield and NWC football.  If I miss a link or news story please fell free to drop me an email at catdomealumni@yahoo.com.  A lot to crew on this week as there is ton of action around the NWC.  Enjoy your football!

Linfield Sports: Linfield Wildcat 2014 Season Outlook: Is this the year of the 'Cat?

The Daily Orange (Syracuse Student Paper): Linfield rides 58-year streak of winning campains into 2014 season

Oregonlive.com: Joseph Smith finds his place at Linfield

The Panther Online: Chapman is ready for 2014

Linfield Review: Sophomore Kicks off the Football Season

The Panther Online: Chapman looking to top record setting 2013

Wildcatville Blog: Dr. Stephen Teal new Linfield football public address "voice"

D3football.com's Triple Take: Keith McMillan has Chapman vs Linfield as neck and neck

Orange Country Register: Chapman football ready for a title run

Willamette Collegian: Bearcats sets sights on playoffs

Statesmanjournal.com: Willamette Football picture gallery (practice)

Oregonlive.com: Pacific Boxer football on the rise

Oregonlive.com: Pacific Boxer football loses to 1st year College of Idaho

YoteAthletics: CofI vs Pacific game highlights

Pacific University Athletics YouTube: Coach is disappointed

Pacific University Athletics: CofI post game player interviews

The News Tribune: 2014 UPS football: Will Logger defense take step forward?

The News Tribune: Loggers win first home game since 2010 (YIKES!)

Puget Sound YouTube: CMS post game interview

Newberg Graphic: Bruin rally comes up short

KREM.com: Whitworth's Sandberg notches first win vs Lewis & Clark (video)

The Spokesman-Review: Whitworth vs L&C picture story

The Spokesman-Review: New Look Pirates open with dominating win over L&C

WhitworthPirates YouTube: Rod Sandberg is pleased.

LuteAthletics YouTube: Scott Westering previews the 2014 Lutes and keeps it under 2 minutes. Mircles do happen.

The News Tribune: Former Wildcat great and UPS Coach (we'll forgive him), Thomas Ford, works on turning around Tacoma area high school program

Thursday, September 11, 2014

2014 NWC Pick 'Em Contest: Week 2

Gotta Love Game Week!
What a disaster in Week 1.  Only 3 out of 7 correct game picks is a unmitigated failure on my part.  Good news is that I wasn’t the only one as many around the NWC pick ‘em page took it in the shorts.  For review, I was 1-3 in Northwest Conference games which is so bad for someone that’s been around the conference for so long.  Pacific losing to a 1st year NAIA school was terrible (509Rat actually picked that right), I wasn’t surprised about Fox losing and should have trusted my gut, and I’m sure the UPS person that visits this blog daily said “Go pound sand, Wildcat11!” after the Loggers overcame CMS 13-10.  A rough start but hope to bounce back in week 2.

Also, I have the pleasure of welcoming back guest picker (509)Rat to the fold.  (509)Rat is a former Whitworth athlete that loves himself some Whitworth hoops and has been in agony watching Tully Ball over the past handful of years.  I’ve never met (509) and have no idea what he even looks like.  I picture less handsome version of Uncle Eddie from Christmas Vacation.  Like Uncle Eddie I can see Rat rocking a dickie to a holiday party.  So (509)Rat’s picks and opinions are his alone but I usually find his picks insightful to amusing to laugh out loud funny.

Enough of that, let’s get to the picks!

Northwest Conference Games

#4 Linfield (0-0) over Chapman (at Chapman): (509)Rat says Linfield: dahlby is a great guy (Chapman poster on D3boards.com) and I now have a soft spot for Chapman, but no sane individual could think Chapman has much of a chance in this one. Another game where the outcome would be different if on-the-field results didn't matter. But in this case Chapman would get the W for having a better looking campus and better looking co-eds. Linfield's O and D lines will be too much for the Panthers who are still, at best, the 2nd best team in the SCIAC (Wildcat11 Note: I picked Linfield yesterday (I always pick Linfield) so no need for me to rehash my thoughts today.)


#17 Pacific Lutheran (0-0) over Cal Lutheran (0-0) (at PLU): I think CLU is in a bit of a retooling phase after running the SCIAC from 2009-2012.  Last year was a disaster for CLU and there looks to be a youth movement in Thousand Oaks.  Unfortunately, they’re going to take some lumps before they get back to contender status and one of those lumps will come at the hands of a what I expect to be an explosive PLU football team.

(509)Rats says Pacific Lutheran: Last time I checked Cal Lu still plays in the SCIAC, and you should never pick the SCIAC in a matchup with the NWC. They also have exactly 1 returning offensive lineman from an offensive line that wasn't any good last year. The SoLutes brought in a bunch of transfers like they usually do, but I don't think the sudden influx of talent (something that was missing in their 4-5 campaign last year) will not be enough to beat a PLU program that is suddenly developed some consistency. I expect the PLU O to have their way with the Kngsmen and the DL and LB crew to look better than they really are against a shaky Cal Lu O-Line. Both coaches are goobers, but Scott is the lesser of two evils so...EMAL


Occidental (0-0) over Puget Sound (1-0) (at Oxy):   Man, break up the Loggers!  I know that CMS isn’t a good team but that had to feel good for UPS.  However, I expect those good feelings to get dashed down at Oxy this weekend as the Tigers return 17 out of 22 starters from a team that went 5-4 last year.  I’m curious to see if the solid defense the Loggers played in week 1 was just an blip or if they’ve made significant improvement on that sides of the ball.  Oxy’s offense will provide a much greater challenge.

(509)Rats says Occidental:
Ok, so maybe this one time you pick the SCIAC. Unfortunately for UPS they are down a QB and Occidental (though a shell of their former selves) are still much better than CMS. Apparently Oxy has a dynamic offense. Whatever. UPS is bad and that's all that really needs to be said in this one.
      
Whitworth (1-0) over Whittier (0-0) (at Whittier): Well, Whitworth had a good scrimmage last week against the former college football team, Lewis & Clark.  The degree of difficulty for the Rats doesn’t increase that much this week as Whittier is a dumpster fire.  The hardest decision the Whitworth coaching staff will face this weekend is to decide to either watch The Notebook or Love Actually on the team flight down to SoCal.

(509)Rat says Whitworth: Whitworth's offense is much improved. That's not saying much but it’s the first time I've been excited to see us have the ball since Joel Clark was behind center. Unfortunately we all have to wait another week to see just how improved the Whitworth O is. L&C would get beat by several of the top High School football teams in both Washington and Oregon, they are that bad. Whittier can't be worse but they are not good enough to put up much of a fight in this one. Coach Sandberg will be the first to tell you that Whitworth doesn't have the beef or the talent to compete at a national level yet, but there hasn't been as much buzz surrounding the program and there haven't been as many talented kids showing interest in a long time.

        
Willamette (0-0) over Trinity (Tx) (0-1) (at Willamette): This is one that could blow up in my face. To me it comes down to quarterback play for Willamette.  If they get productivity out of that spot the Bearcats will be a competent team.  My gut says they’re going to go with the Sophomore Zack Moore but multiple QB’s could see time until that job is settled.  That could give Trinity (a run first offense) the chance they need to get a road win.  However, I’ll give the Bearcats the benefit of the doubt for this week.

(509)Rats says Willamette:  Trinity gave up a lot of yards against Howard Payne, most of them through the air. I think Trinity has more than enough talent to keep this one close, but I expect the Tigers to experience a little deja vu in Salem. I expect Willamette to have a capable QB but that has to be the biggest question mark coming in to this one. As long as whoever starts doesn't completely crap down their leg, Willamette should outscore Trinity by a couple of touchdowns.
  
La Verne (0-0) over George Fox (0-1): La Verne is a bad football program but their 20 something seniors and number of returning starters will be the difference here.  Fox has some pieces but their offensive line is terrible and their defense let a fellow first year team that couldn’t run the ball run wild on them last weekend.  I’ll take the Leos

(509)Rat says La Verne: Dang it, SCIAC again. GF stinks. It's too bad they play the game and don't pick the winner based on how crisp the helmets and jerseys look. GF would be undefeated.
        
Claremont-Mudd-Scripps (0-1) over Lewis & Clark (0-1) (at CMS): Man, I should have given Keith Welch some more respect because he was the only thing standing in-between the Pios “hanging in there” and what this season could be.  It’s gonna get ugly.

(509)Rat says CMS: After last week, I will not be picking L&C in any game, ever. CMS gets a feel good win at home. If this isn't their homecoming game the AD should be fired.

West Region Game of the Week

#7 Bethel (0-0) over #15 Wartburg (1-0) (at Wartburg): This should be a donnybrook of a football game.  I had a Saint John’s fan reach out to me before the season from his local YMCA and say “Calling it right now, Bethel will be the 2014 National Champions”  Pretty high praise from inside the MIAC.  The Royals did had a fantastic 2013 and brings back a lot of their talent into 2014.  But, I also really like Wartburg and think they’re undervalued at #15.  The Knights started off the year right by pasting Augsburg 40-3 and head home to play a national contender.  I’m gonna take Bethel but this could be a great football game.

(509)Rat says Bethel: I'm sticking with chalk in this one, mostly because a slim majority of the MIAC guys also picked Bethel. I know nothing about either team and this one could go either way.


National Game of the Week


Rhodes (1-0) over Washington U (0-1) (at Rhodes): Slim pickings for key match ups around the other regions so we’re left with this.  I’m going to take Rhodes on the fact they had a solid win to kick off the year and are hosting.  This one is pure dart tossing.

(509)Rat says Washington U: They have a fantastic medical school. They beat Whitworth in basketball once. Therefore I respect the Bears. That's all I got.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Game 1 Preview: Linfield (0-0) at Chapman (0-0)

Saturday night under the lights!

Kickoff: 7pm on Saturday Sept. 13th
Linfield Audio
Chapman Video Feed
Chapman Live Stats
Chapman Audio

It’s game week for your Linfield Wildcats.  Thank goodness because seeing college football on my TV the past two weekends has been driving me crazy waiting for the ‘Cats to kick off the year.  Linfield is coming off their 5th consecutive Northwest Conference title and another deep run into the playoffs.  Headed into 2013, the Wildcats were widely regarded as a national championship contender, and even after being hindered with a large amount of injuries, the ‘Cats were within reach of a possible semifinal berth before falling to the eventual champions, UW-Whitewater.

Going into 2014, many folks around the conference and country still expect Linfield to be a major player on the national stage but there are lingering questions about the loss of 8 defensive starters and just who will be the ‘Cats quarterback for 2014.  Those questions have casted an error of doubt about Linfield’s early season prospects, as D3football.com’s Keith McMillan has predicated Chapman to upset Linfield in this weekend’s season opener.  Keith’s reasoning is that he’s big on returning starters and that’s something Linfield lacks on defense against a Panther offense that returns the large majority of their starters and put up 45 points per game in 2013. 

Those are legitimate concerns that shouldn’t be dismissed but what I’ve seen out of this past fall camp is that the potential for Linfield to have another banner year is great.  The talented, speed, athletic ability, and potential is there but it comes down to live performance and it doesn’t get much more live than playing against a team coming off an 8-1 season that averages 500 yards per game.

On the other side of the ball, the ‘Cats have a chance to be lethal on offense.  Linfield returns 4 out of 5 offensive line starters from 2013 and 2012 starting offensive tackle Jacob Hanke returns after missing 2013.  Along with that, you have what I feel could be the best group of  receivers (Poppen, Peterson, Balsiger, Nelson, Robinson, Carroll) Linfield has had since the 2003-2005 legendary group and a number of RB’s to perfectly compliment the ‘Cats up-tempo attack.  It comes down to quarterback play and Linfield has the luxury of having 3 starting quality QB’s in the program right now.  Only one QB can play and if that one is the guy that can drive this offense, I’m expecting huge production from the ‘Cats offensive attack. 

For Chapman, hosting Linfield is a landmark opportunity to come out as a national level player in Division III.  Being circled on the calendar is not a unique experience for Linfield and I fully expect a large and rowdy crowd, and a fired up Chapman team that’s going to throw the kitchen sink at Linfield.  The lights are going to be bright on Saturday night and we all should be excited to see if the Wildcats can shine.

Get To Know A Wildcat

Photo Courtesy of Brad Thompson: Purchase Brad's Photos Here
#7 Tavon Willis, Running Back, Junior
(Hometown: Elk Grove, Ca., High School: Cosumnes Oaks )

Favorite place to in Mac: Wildwood Café

Favorite Movie: Law Abiding Citizen/ American Gangster

Favorite Music: Rap, R&B, Gospel, country anything that sounds good.

Favorite TV show: Walking Dead/Friday Night Lights

Favorite Book: The Immortal life of Henrietta Lacks

Class I Most Look Forward to: Health Education Methods

IPhone or Android: IPhone but for now I have an Android

CPU Homepage: Google

Personal Mantra: “Trust God and get going."

Social Media of choice: Instagram

Car or Truck: Truck

Xbox, PS3, or Wii: Ps3

What first inspired you to play football: My dad coaching football

Favorite Coach Smith Saying: You don't know what you don't know

Favorite part of playing at Linfield: Having one big family with your teammates, fans and alumni

Post Linfield aspirations: To stay around the game whether that's playing somewhere or coaching.

Wildcat11’s Keys To Victory

Trust in your training and each other:  There’s an old saying within Linfield football and that’s “No “S” on the chest.” which means nobody on the field for Linfield has to be Superman.  All the Wildcat players need to focus on this Saturday night is doing their job to the best of their ability.  The moment a player starts worrying about what the man next to them is doing is when a team starts having breakdowns.  The ceiling for the 2014 Wildcats is about as high as it can get and if this group comes together as a single unit, they’re going to turn some heads.
    
Control the line of scrimmage:  While skill players get the media attention and focus, we all know that football games are won or lost at the line of scrimmage.  That adage holds much truth versus Chapman. If the ‘Cats can win the fight up front; the odds for victory will dramatically increase.

Limit the Chapman rushing attack:  Chapman QB Michael Lahey is the returning SCIAC offensive player of the year and for good reason, but the Panther offensive attack is much more than their signal caller.  Senior RB Cody Chapple is a dynamic back that averaged 116.4 total yards per game last year (781 rush, 267 receiving) with 11 TDs, and Chapman also returns 2012 1st team All-SCIAC RB Jeremiah McKibbins after missing 2013 due to injury.
 
While the Chapman offense is balanced (247.6 pass/253.2 rush), the Panther offense wants to establish the running attack and that’s where Linfield defense has to limit the yardage.  If the ‘Cats can slow down the Chapman rushing attack, Linfield will be able to pressure the Panthers on passing downs.

Establish the ‘Cats rushing attack:  Linfield and Chapman’s offense are similar in the fact both teams can hurt you via the run or pass but the running game is where is begins.   The ‘Cats need to attack Chapman’s 3-4 defensive front with the rushing attack to help Linfield’s new signal caller get settled.  If Linfield can make Chapman respect the rush, it’s going to give Linfield’s dynamic receivers opportunities to make some big plays.

Execute on special teams: How many times did you see it on opening weekend where special teams made a HUGE impact on the outcome of the games?  It happened often and where Linfield needs to have a clean game.  Coach Hazenberg has done a great job with special teams over the year and let’s hope this 2014 group continues that tradition.

Win 3rd down:  Last season Chapman was at 45% with 3rd down conversions, while checked in at 52%.  The ‘Cats have to get Chapman in 3rd and long situations and turn it loose and at the same time the ‘Cats offense needs to keep those chains moving.  This will be one of the 1st stats I look at after the game.
 
Overall:  

‘Cats +7.  I’m expecting a hotly contested and exciting football game in LA.  This is a game that Chapman has wanted for a long time and Chapman has full confidence they can take Linfield down.  That fact isn’t lost on Linfield as the ‘Cats look to continue their extended run as one of the top D3 programs in the country.  Saturday is going to be a night of new faces and possibilities but I believe this team will be up for the challenge.  Go ‘Cats!

Interview: Defensive Coordinator Jackson Vaughan.



Had a chance to catch up with long time Linfield DC, Jackson Vaughan at the conclusion of Linfield's annual scrimmage.  Coach Vaughan and the defesnive staff is working feverishly to get his talented but inexperienced group ready for a big challenge at Chapman this Saturday.  I don't think there is a better DC around the country than Coach Vaughan and I'm looking forward to the staff put together another great product on the field in 2014.

Come back later this afternoon for our game preview.

Monday, September 8, 2014

2014 Fall Camp Interview: Linebacker Mike Nardoni (Sr.)



We conclude our series of fall camp phone interview with outside linebacker Mike Nardoni.  We cover a lot of ground including talking about the ever popular Linfield Football Swim Olympics that conclude at the end of each fall camp.  Why Mike choose Linfield, the challenges of playing on the road, Mike's transition from Rover to Will backer, and much more.

As I just mentioned, Nardoni is entering his senior year transitioning from Rover in Linfield's 4-2-5 defense to outside linebacker.  It should be a smooth transition for the 2013 1st All-Northwest Conference defender as Mike picked up 31 tackles, 6 TFLs, 1 pick, 1 sack, and 5 pass breakups as the 'Cats Rover last season. 

Sunday, September 7, 2014

'Cats wrap up 2014 Fall Camp with annual scrimmage


Your Linfield Wildcats wrapped up their 2014 camp with the 'Cats annual scrimmage.  Coach Smith was very happy afterwards as you saw the flashes of what could be as this team starts putting the pieces together.  Above is a clip of some of the action as Linfield ran close to a full game simulation during the morning hours at the 'Catdome. (note on video: I didn't have the audio on my camera for about 3/4th of the scrimmage so that's the reason for the little music track)

We'll start talking about Chapman on Wednesday but early notes from the Linfield staff is nothing but respect for the talent and coaching for the Panther program.  The 'Cats are fully aware they're going to get pressed hard by an explosive offense and fast defense.   One of the D3football.com head pundits (Keith McMillian) is calling for the Chapman upset so there are some who feel a new look Linfield is vulnerable early in 2014.  The good news is we get to find out soon just what the 'Cats have and I'm fired up to see this hard working group get a chance to shine under the lights.


Friday, September 5, 2014

2014 Northwest Conference Pick ‘Em Contest: Week 1


Oh man...you can smell football in the air!

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…..Yes, yes it is.  Football is back and you would have a hard time slapping the smile off my face.  For those that are new to my humble little blog, every week of the season (traditionally on Thursday) we run Wildcat11's weekly Northwest Conference game picks with Regional and National Games mixed in as well.  This is actually part of a popular segment on the D3football.com’s posting board community as a number of fans organize pick ‘em contests for in their respective conferences.   This is the 7th year the NWC has had a pick ‘em contest and it is open to ANYBODY that wants to take part. 

Here is the link to the NWC pick ‘em page and all you have to do is register to become a board member and get your picks in each week.  Simple.

I am a former champion of the pick ‘em page (2010) but my title reign dissolved faster than Lewis & Clark's pass protection.  The past two seasons has seen Wildcat11 in the middle of the pack at best and I lay full blame at the feet of UPS football for giving me hope of numerous victories to only get let down time and again from Logger Nation.  Oh, and your nicely produced football video isn’t gonna fool me this year either!

The past two years former Whitworth football player “(509)Rat” has joined me as well and has an open invite for 2014.  I think I need to send (509)Rat some money because I haven’t been able to reach him as of late.  I think his mom finally cut off his basement internet rights. 

Week 1 features some sure fire locks but some toss up games are sprinkled throughout that should have pickers divided.  Let’s get to the action!

Northwest Conference Games

Whitworth over Lewis & Clark (at Whitworth):  The new look Rats, and by new look I mean head coach, coaching staff, offense, defense, and uniforms. The Rats will be hosting the Lewis & Clark Pioneers in a the RARE season/conference opener for both teams.  I think L&C is headed for a zero win season and Whitworth will get a confidence clinic out of the gates at Whitworth.   BTW, good luck to any coaching staff getting the Rats home game film this year.  I’m sure it will be easy to identify players by their numbers

Claremont-Mudd-Scripps over UPS (at UPS):  Yeah, I know that I just said that UPS wouldn’t fool me again but I wanted to pick the Loggers in this one so badly.  CMS is a middle of the road SCIAC team (that means they stink) but UPS does return a lot of their roster (a roster that only won 1 game last year…but) and Puget Sound gets the advantage of hosting CMS in The Morgue (I call it that because the atmosphere at UPS is dead).   Oh man…I just have to say I’m going with CMS before I change my mind and switch to UPS and have that faith in the Loggers ultimately get let down yet again.

Pacific over College of Idaho (at Pacific): Easy pick.  First game ever for College of Idaho (NAIA) and it’s on the road against a solid Pacific program.  It should be a blood bath and give the Boxers a chance to break in their new QB in what should be a glorified scrimmage.

George Fox over Arizona Christian (at Fox):  I thought about this one for a few minutes before settling on Fox.  Both of these schools are entering their 1st year playing football since whenever it was.  I don’t know if Fox will have a QB that can throw the ball consistently 20 yards down the field but they should have some talented RB’s and other skilled players.  What gave me pause is that this will be Arizona Christian’s 3rd game of the season already while this will be Fox’s first.  ACU is 0-2 and have been terrible on offense but looks to have some size and athletic ability.  However, the travel for them is going to be brutal for a 1st year team.  I see Fox getting past some jitters to eventually control and win their 1st game back as a program.  The Bruins will then celebrate that night with a Sadie Hawkins dance in the quad.  WHEEEEEE!!!!!

West Region Game of the Week: 

St. Scholastica over Ripon (at St. Scholastica).  I’ve been following Division III football since 1998 and I couldn’t tell you jack about either school besides the fact that St. Scholastica is one of those teams that wins their terrible conference each year and then gets throttled by the Bethel’s of the world in what is essentially a 1st round playoff bye.  Ticks me off each year to see Linfield having to get in death matches with PLU and CLU in the 1st round while these guys are fodder  for some MIAC school.  Go pound sand, St. Scholastica!!!!  Oh, I think they’ll beat Ripon.

National Game of the Week:

No. 16 Wabash over No. 20 Hampden-Sydney (at Wabash):  Dubbed “The Gentlemen’s Classic” or the "Toilet Seat is Always Up" game matches the two all-male school (that’s really still a thing?) and what is promising to be a massively entertaining game.  Both teams showcase high powered offenses as Wabash posted 46 points per game while only allowing 11.3 per game.  However that wasn’t good enough as the Little Giants were a 2013 playoff snub after compiling a 9-1 record. Hampden-Sydney have high hopes for 2014 as they return a potent QB/WR combo and Linfield knows the Tigers are a talented squad from last season’s playoff game.  I just hope that Hampden-Sydney worked on their punt coverage this off season.  LOOK OUT!  I like Wabash to take a close and hard fought game.

BONUS GAME:

No. 25 Franklin over Illinois Wesleyan (IWU):   A lot of people are split over this one and it could go either way easily.  Both of these squads were 2013 playoff participants as Franklin is the favorite to win the HCAC while IWU is chasing North Central in the highly regarded CCIW.   I’m expecting a lot offense and for the Griz to pull out a hard fought road victory.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

2014 Linfield Fall Camp: Quick Look (Sept. 1st)


Without a doubt, one of the deepest position groups on the 2014 Linfield Wildcats are the wide receivers.  The 'Cats boast a number of proven play making veterans and up and comers that should give defenses fits this fall.  The video above is a quick look of the 'Cats drilling and during one of their daily one-on-one session with the 'Cats defensive backs.

Coming up this Saturday is the 'Cats annual team inter-squad scrimmage and onto the season opener at Chapman on the 13th.  Let's go!

As a bonus below are some pictures from yesterday's practice.  

Monday, September 1, 2014

2014 Fall Camp Interview: Defensive Tackle Marq Randall


I have another GREAT interview for you tonight.  This time we talk with Defensive Tackle Marq Randall on various subjects including his return to the line up after missing 2013 when Marq broke his leg right before fall camp, thoughts on the progress of the Wildcat defense, how his faith lines up with the program's core beliefs, the upcoming season, and much more.

I'm looking forward to seeing Marq back on the field this season as he had a tremendous Freshman campaign in 2012.  Marq was named a 1st team All-Northwest Conference defensive tackle after posting up 30 tackles, 10.5 Tackles For Loss, and 7 quarterback sacks.  After listening to the interview you'll understand my excitement is not only because Marq is a talented player but a great person as well who upholds the values of Linfield Football: Team, Excellence, Attitude, Class.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

2014 Fall Camp Interview: Center Jeremy Patrick



We're back with our next 2014 Fall Camp interview.  Today's subject is 3rd year starting offensive center, Jeremy Patrick.   As with the Evan Peterson interview, I found Jeremy to provide some great thoughts as we touched on a number of subjects including: this year's offensive line, the future of the position group, the difference between regular season competition and the playoff talent, Coach Hire, and more.

Expect Jeremy to have a great 2014 as his experience and talent should be a key building block for what has the potential to be a great Linfield offensive line.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

2014 Linfield Fall Camp: Quick Look (Aug 30th)


Wildcat11 was lucky enough to get out to practice once again on the 1st wet day of the season as some light showers rolled over the valley to help snap a stretch of hot late August weather.  The identity of the 2014 Linfield Wildcats is slowly forming and it's exciting to see young guys getting the chance to flourish in a number of key positions.  There is a large amount of talent in the program and it will get their 1st chance to shine in two weeks.

Friday, August 29, 2014

2014 Fall Camp Interview: WR Evan Peterson


Leading up to the 2014 kickoff down in Chapman we'll be grabbing some of the 'Cats over the phone to discuss the progress of fall camp, their position group, and how they are feeling about the 'Cats 2014 outlook.

Starting us off is senior WR Evan Peterson (#9).  Evan had an outstanding 2013 season in leading the 'Cats in receiving TD's (7) and yards per catch (31 receptions for 553 yards = 17.8 yards per catch).  EP and the 'Cats return a large amount of talent at receiver and we discussed that and much more.

Photo is courtesy of Brad Thompson:  View and Purchase Brad's Photos here.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

2014 Alumni vs JV game set for Oct 11 at 7pm


The annual Linfield Alumni vs. Junior Varsity will take place on same weekend as the home opener (Oct. 11th at 7pm).  This is one of the best kept secrets in terms of viewing experiences for Linfield fans. The 'Cats have been playing alumni/j.v. game since 2005 and to see the past of the Linfield program suit up once again to face the future of the program is always a thrill for all involved.

Again, this year's game will be played at 7 P.M. on Saturday, October 11th.  If you're interested in playing in the game contact Coach Aaron Boehme and tell him that you want to buckle up one more time.  You can reach Coach at at aboehme@linfield.edu

Admission to the game is free and with the modified rules (no special teams) the game is a quick and action packed affair.  So get a double dose of Linfield football at homecome.  Watch the 'Cats play the 1st year George Fox Bruins at 1 P.M. and finish it off with the Alumni vs JV at night.  It promises to be a great day in the 'Catdome!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

2014 Linfield Fall Camp: Quick Look


The above video was shot last Saturday (8/23) during the 'Cats morning practice as Linfield was nearing the 1st full week of fall camp.  The video is just a quick glace at some of the work the 'Cats are putting in as the September 13th season opener at Chapman quickly approaches.

The reports coming in so far have been very positive from the Linfield contingent.  There is no sidestepping the fact that the 'Cats defense is going to be a new look group from the senior dominated team from 2013.  However, there is a great deal of optimism of the players that have been assuming larger roles headed into this season.    On the offensive side of the ball the big question is going to be who will be the Linfield quarterback.  I still don't know if that question has been fully answered but I think the picture is becoming more clear. All three quarterbacks could start for just about any DIII team in the country, so it isn't a matter of talent, but finding out who is going to be the one that can push the right buttons on what has a chance to be a high octane Wildcat offensive attack. 

Along with the video be sure to go check out the fantastic feature that The Oregonian ran on Linfield Head Coach, Joe Smith.  Coach Smith has been a Linfield lifer and has become one of the top Division III coaches in the country.  While some programs make their head coach the face of the program and are constantly pimping their HC's image, Coach Smith has purposefully made it about Linfield during his tenure as the Top 'Cat.  That alone speaks to the nature of what Linfield is all about in that desire to put others above your own personal accomplishments.

Low Ego, High Output.

The Oregonian: Joseph Smith finds his place at Linfield

Monday, August 25, 2014

The Northwest Conference Coaches have selected Linfield as the 2014 preseason favorite.

#5 Brian Balsiger and the 'Cats look to make it 6 consecutive NWC titles this fall.
(Photo courtesy of Brad Thompson: View Brad's 2013 Linfield Football Photos here)

NWCsports.com has released information that shouldn’t be surprising to anybody as the Northwest Conference coaches overwhelmingly pick Linfield as the favorite for the 2014 title. We all know the preseason honors amounts to a hill of beans once the actual games are played. It’s a nice nod of respect to the fact that Linfield has won 11 out of the last 14 NWC conference titles but has zero impact the season ahead.

However, this is the 13th time in the past 14 years that Linfield was named by the coaches as the NWC favorites. Even during the 3 consecutive seasons that Linfield didn’t win the NWC crown (2006, 2007 & 2008) the ‘Cats were still preseason favorites. It wasn’t until 2009 that the coaches finally decided that Linfield wasn’t Linfield anymore and choose Willamette as the preseason champs. I think we all remember what happened that year as Linfield went 9-0 during the regular season and reached the NCAA final four (12-1 overall).

2014 should be a very exciting year in what many, including myself, consider one of the best Division III conferences in the country. It will not be an easy road for Linfield as the ‘Cats have three tough road games to open up the year and that includes a gigantic test up at Sparks Stadium vs PLU on Oct 4th (The ‘Lutes are stacked on offense). The rest of the major NWC tests consists of a new look Whitworth team and NWC showdowns against Willamette and Pacific.

As for the rest of the NWC coaches picks….I don’t know if I agree but here are how the coaches see it:

1. Linfield -This is where Linfield belongs until proven otherwise and there’s a list of teams that are gearing up their programs to make a run at the ‘Cats. Send 'em up.

2. PLU -Easy top two pick. The ‘Lutes have a chance to be a scary offensive unit with weapons on the outside, tight end, RB, and proven offensive line. They lost some key defenders but I feel PLU will be outstanding.

3. Willamette - I’m not sold on Willamette. Their offense is so quarterback-centric and I don’t know if they had a QB in waiting to replace the productivity of now departed Josh Dean. The Bearcats have some pieces but I can see them slipping this year if they don’t have a dynamic trigger man.

4. Pacific - Again, quarterback play is a big question in 2014 but could be a year away from pushing the top teams to the limit. The Boxers lost their 1st true senior class that logged a huge amount of games played and experience (especially on off & def lines). The Boxers have some good vets and a lot of young talent. They could have some bumps early but should be hitting a stride at end of year.

5. Whitworth - New Coach, New attitude, New look. Word is the offense is going to be a major departure from Tully Ball (zone left, QB draw, incomplete pass, crown moans, and punt) as the Rats should be playing a minimal substitution passing offense and switching to a 3-4 defense. The Rats brought in 50 something new players and I think that while this will be a transition year, Whitworth will be on an upswing moving forward.

6. UPS -Might be better than last year but not good enough to challenge the middle NWC teams. I see them beating Lewis & Clark to start NWC play (BREAK UP THE LOGGERS) and maybe…just maybe are able to beat George Fox (maybe) but it gets into mud stopping territory after that.

7. Lewis & Clark - The Pios could be historically bad this year. That’s saying something. Since the 2000 season, the 2013 Lewis & Clark team had the worst total defense (502.6 yards allowed per game) and allowed the most points per game (53 points per game!!!) than any NWC team over the past 14 years. (yeah, I keep track of that stuff). With the departure of their lone difference maker, Keith Welch, and a 57 man roster, I just don’t see them winning an NWC game this season. That includes George Fox.

8. George Fox - The Bruins are screaming they’re going to be better than people think and that could be the case with their weak non-conference opponents, numbers, and some transfers. They could fast track some wins before their players realize they actually are having to go to school at George Fox. 

How Wildcat11 sees 2014 playing out (reminder, I’ve been terrible at this in the past):

1. Linfield
2. PLU
3. Pacific
4. Whitworth
5. Willamette
6. UPS
7. GFU
8. L&C