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

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

2014 Game 4 Preview: Linfield (3-0) vs George Fox (0-3)

It's great to be back in the 'Catdome!!!
Finally….the ‘Cats have come back to the ‘Catdome! In what seems like forever, the 2014 Linfield Wildcats will kick off their home opener this Saturday at 1:30pm against George Fox.  I haven’t done the research but I can imagine this is probably one of the latest home starts in the history of the program and there are been many groans and complains from some fans.  However, nobody at Linfield wanted this late start but it was a matter of scheduling, pure and simple. 

After the 2013 season, both Cal Lutheran and Hardin-Simmons ended their series with Linfield and moved on (understandable).  Case Western, who Linfield played in Ohio in 2013, would not give Linfield a return game at the ‘Catdome in 2014, so that left Linfield with two new Non-Conference games to fill and an out of balanced schedule.  Many Division III teams don’t want to play Linfield and or have closer more affordable options. Excuse my language, but it’s hard as hell to find D3 games for Linfield and we’re lucky that Linfield Athletic Director Scott Carnahan does an incredible job in making that happen.

Redlands was the first team to come to a 2-year agreement with Linfield but the Bulldogs were starting off the 2014 season at Mary Hardin-Baylor so there is no way they were going to go back-to-back at UMHB and then Linfield. Fine, Linfield wants the game so the ‘Cats will go to SoCal to open up the season. That left the second game to fill and nobody was taking.  It was coming to the point that it looked like Linfield would be headed down to NAIA Menlo but Chapman came around and said they’re ready to take on the ‘Cats.  The problem for Chapman is at that point they only had three home games on the season and had to have a fourth home game.  That’s 100% understandable. So while Linfield didn’t want to go back-to-back SoCal, Chapman is a quality D3 game and the only way it would work if we played in Orange in 2014.  So that’s how we came to the spot where Linfield is playing their home opener on Oct. 11th. 

So with that said, let’s get to our football team and where they’re at and where they’re going. You had to be excited as a Linfield Wildcat after this past weekend’s performance.  Linfield looks like a complete team with no visible weakness. Linfield can run the ball, throw the ball, defend the run, defend the pass, and kick the tar out of the football.  With that said this team still isn’t a finished product and has a number of players that are still growing into their roles and scheme.  Make no mistake that this Linfield Wildcat football team has skill, depth, speed, a physical nature, and an unmistakable cohesion.  At this point, the pieces are all there and it’s up to the players in terms of either being satisfied for what they have or continue to push every day to get better and realize that full potential as a team. All indications are this is a hard working group of young men so I’m betting they’re not going to stop pushing their limits.

This week the ‘Cats are opening up their year with 1st year playing/2nd year in existence, George Fox.  When Fox initially announced they were starting their football program they made all indications that they would be playing in 2013 but changed course late in the game and moved the date out to 2014.  Fox wanted more time to install their staff, fundraise, etc.  While that’s all and good it left everyone else in the NWC scrambling to fill Fox’s slot in 2013 and a number of programs had to shell out the extra cash to find games.  But at this point, that’s water under the bridge. Fox is currently 0-3 in their 1st season and 0-1 in NWC play after dropping to Willamette last week. 


Fox is not a 1st year program like Pacific was in 2010.  The Boxers 2010 roster and 2-deep was composed of almost all first year true freshmen.  The Boxers took their lumps with all those freshmen and grew them up over the next four years. With Fox having a “zero” year in 2013 they were able to bring in a number of players and spend last season installing their systems and having another year to mature in the weight room and then supplement that with a large number of transfers in their 2014 fall camp.  In fact, the starting defense for Fox only has 2 first year freshman lining up while the rest of their players are in their 2nd to 4th year out of high school. Fox does feature mostly first year freshman on their offensive line but all their offensive skill players have been out of high school for 2 to 4 years. What I’m getting at is this is a very different approach to a first year playing football by Fox than what Pacific did 5 seasons ago.

George Fox has some nice pieces and players and the Bruins wants to play a tough brand of football. I’m sure the opportunity they have this weekend is exciting and they’re going to try their best to make a splash against Linfield. 

Get To Know A Wildcat

#15 Keanu Yamamoto, Rover, Junior
Hometown: Waikola, Hawaii, High School: Hawaii Prep

Favorite place to in Mac: Tequila Grill Taco Stand.

Favorite Movie: Tough one. "Old Yeller" or "Draft Day"

Favorite Music: Hawaiian/Reggae

Favorite TV show: The League

Favorite Book: Angels and Demons, David and Goliath

Class I Most Look Forward to: Sports Philosophy

Iphone or Android: iPhone

CPU Homepage: Bing.com

Personal Mantra: "Get tackled for -3, fall forward for 5" &  Joshua:1:9

Social Media of choice: Instagram

Car or Truck: Mini Van (highschool car)

Xbox, PS3, or Wii: Xbox

What first inspired you to play football: Watching Randy Moss and playing catch with family.

Favorite Coach Smith Saying: "Alright" after a nice play in 1 on 1s.

Favorite part of the practice week at Linfield: Wednesday's, when the music comes on during practice. There's something about music.

Post Linfield aspirations: Move to Cali, find a steady job and play an excessive amount of beach volleyball.

Wildcat11’s keys to victory:

Continue to Strive for improvement: After playing three tough road games and finding a lot of success it might be easy to relax and enjoy the fact you’re playing at home. But taking it easy should be the furthest thing from your mind. Get ready to play four quarters of Linfield football and put the hammer down on the gas pedal.  There will be a lot of fans getting their first live look at this 2014 Linfield team so show them what you’ve got.

Balanced Aggressive Offense: The Bruins rank 2nd to last in the NWC in points allowed (38.3), last in yards allowed per game (486.0), and last in rushing yards allowed per game (231.7).  I want to see the Wildcat attack this Bruin defense from the jump and continue to pressure them with Linfield’s up-tempo balanced offense.

Contain the Fox rushing attack: George Fox’s offense will give you a number of looks from a stack I formation all the way back to a spread. GFU features junior transfer running back John Shaffer. He's averaging 25 carries a game for 107 YPG (4.2 per carry).  Linfield fans know he's a hard runner and the guy GFU wants to feed the ball. Linfield needs to make it a priority to contain, keep leverage on the cut backs lanes, and close.

Taking care of the football: The easiest way to give over matched opponent life is by turning the ball over.  For the most part, Linfield does a good job in this department but have had at least one turnover in their first 3 games.  I’d love to see a zero turnover affair by the ‘Cats.

Limit big pass plays and contain the quarterback: Fox QB Grant Schroeder has some nice playmaking ability from the pocket and he has the ability to break contain and use his legs. He’s a pretty accurate passer and has good pocket awareness. Linfield needs to make sure they don’t fall asleep on the play action and lose a Fox receiver for a big play.  Along with that, there are going to be opportunities to put Schroeder down for sacks but he can be elusive. The ‘Cats defensive front need continue be good athletes and getting a wrap on the GFU QB.

Have Fun: Play Linfield football and have a blast while doing it. You only get some many chances to play a football game so make sure you’re making the most of it.

Overall

‘Cats by a lot. Last week a number of players were giving me a major ration of it for only picking Linfield to beat PLU by 3 last week. I tend to keep it conservative because other teams read this page (thank you, by the way) so I will continue to keep my winning number low for the most part. This Saturday, if Linfield plays to their potential and ability, there is no reason not to expect the ‘Cats to win big over their Yamhill County neighbor.

Monday, October 6, 2014

‘Cats Win! Linfield lambastes the Lutes in a 41-14 victory.

The 'Cats 15th victory in a row over PLU was a loud one by Linfield.
Photo Courtesy of Linfield SID Kelly Bird: Purchase Linfield Football Photos Here.

Now that’s a win over P-L-U!   The cowbells went quiet at Sparks Stadium as YOUR Linfield Wildcats bullied and rolled up the Pacific Lutheran Lutes in a statement win by the ‘Cats.  For those that hadn’t had a chance to see the ‘Cats live until this past Saturday, you all were able to see firsthand why I’ve sounded so excited about where this Linfield team might be headed.  The Wildcats are developing a lethal multifaceted offensive attack and showcase an aggressive fast defense that may have started slow at Chapman but have swallowed up two worthy opponents in Redlands and PLU.  This is a fun football team to watch and man….did they put on a show up in Puyallup.


It was not a happy homecoming for the Lutes as PLU’s experience and explosive offense was missing receiver Kellen Westering, but as Linfield is fully aware off, overcoming injuries are part of the deal with football.  With or without one of the ‘Lutes receivers it wouldn’t have mattered much as Fred Astaire would have been impressed with PLU QB Dalton Ritche’s happy feet in the pocket as the Lutes QB never looked comfortable throwing against the ‘Cats.  The pressure and coverage the ‘Cats defense applied led to PLU totaling less than 100 yards passing and 3 picks. I have a lot of typos on this blog but that last stat line wasn’t one of them.

The Lutes won the coin toss and thought it would be a good idea to give the ‘Cats the ball first. They might want to rethink that next time as the Linfield offense set the tone for the ballgame on the 1st drive as the ‘Cats used an 11 play, 75 yard drive to take the 7-0 lead.  Nine of those plays were rushing attempts and that theme continued during the entire game as Linfield hammered away at the PLU defensive front and then went over the top as the Lutes started to get sucked up.  It was great play calling and great execution by Linfield’s offense.

I have to say that win ranks up there with as year’s dismantling of Willamette in terms of Linfield dominating a quality football team.  For the Wildcat defense, it isn’t just one person who carries the water as so many ‘Cat defenders make contributions and step up when the opportunity is presented.  I’m not overstating that this is a fast defense that closes fast to the ball.  The scary thing is this is a group that’s only going to improve as players get more comfortable with the defensive play calling and adjustments on the fly.  Same goes to the offense as the pieces are coming together and this offense is going to make the remaining NWC teams scratch their head as they try to figure out which of the Wildcat poisons will do the least damage. 

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

The Good

Team Performance:  I can’t say it enough…that was about as a pure team win that you’ll find. Both sides of the ball making plays, special teams getting it done, vets and new faces making major contributions, teammates going to battle for each other.  It was a joy to watch.

Rushing Attack: 51 rushes, 221 yards, at 4.3 per carry.  That is flat getting after it as the ‘Cats effectively used the combination of a dominate offensive line with running backs Tavon Willis, Sam Robinson, and Spencer Payne to pound away at the PLU defensive front. Linfield wore the Lutes out and it set the table for Sam Riddle to kill PLU in the play action passing game.

The Linfield Wildcat Defense:  Another great performance from this Linfield Wildcat defense. Seriously, that was a great effort against an experienced and effective offense. The ‘Cats made PLU into a one dimensional offense and left PLU trying to gash Linfield rushing the ball. At the end of it, PLU limped off the field with zero second half point, only 11 first downs, and 202 yards of total offense.

Big plays in the passing attack:  You have to love the rhythm that the Wildcat receiving corps are getting in with Sam Riddle. Charlie Poppen, Evan Peterson, and Brian Balsiger torched PLU’s secondary for long passing strikes, made plays in the open field, or dominated the football once it was in the air.   That was fun to watch.

Pressure and pass coverage:  PLU wanted nothing to do with a drop back passing game. And I don’t blame them as the ‘Cats were able to pressure and hit Ritchey at a consistent level.  But even when the PLU QB had a clean pocket, the Linfield defensive backs and LB’s were blanketing the PLU route running.  Only 87 yards of passing by PLU.  That has to be up there as an all-time low water mark for PLU’s passing game.

The Bad

Allowing PLU to go 3 for 3 on 4th down:   The only sore spot for the Linfield defensive staff has to be the fact that PLU went Riverboat gambler three times on 4th down and managed to convert on all three attempts.  PLU’s first two 4th down conversions led to their only scores of the game, including a tough 4th and 15 yard attempt. 

Injuries:  I hate seeing quality people get hurt on either side of the sideline. Football is a tough and violent game but seeing people who work so hard to play the game they love get hurt is tough to see. I wish nothing but the best and speedy recoveries for any Wildcat or Lute who had to leave the game on Saturday due to injury.

The Ugly

PLU’s cheerleading Public Address Announcer

“AND THAT’S ANOTHER P-L-U FIRST DOOOWWWNNN!!!!!”

Seriously, if you’re a PAA guy and reading this blog…don’t be this guy.  The last PAA I’ve heard that was this bad was at Puget Sound so I’m not sure if he just transferred over to PLU.  I just want the PAA to call it in the middle and give me the details.  If you want to give a little extra when the home team scores a touchdown, that’s cool, but leave the cheerleading pom-pom’s outside of the booth.  If this went on at Linfield, I would feel the same darn way and would be embarrassed. The good news is that he was only able to do his “First Down” screech 11 times on Saturday.

Bonus Ugly: 

$8 to park across the street from Sparks: This isn’t on PLU because they don’t own the stadium or parking lot but paying $8 to attend a division III football game is ridiculous.  Yeah, $8 isn’t the $140.00 that some moronic Seahawk fans shell out but there is only one other time I’ve ever seen anyone have to pay to park and that was at Menlo.....in the Bay Area…and it was only $4.  So Boo on you City of Puyallup. Booooooo!!!!!!

Friday, October 3, 2014

2014 NWC Pick ‘Em Contest: Week 5

The 'Cats offense line needs to have a big day tomorrow!
Welcome to a Friday edition of our game picks. Week 4 was a wild week and not all of the wildness was on the field.  Pacific’s game against Chicago was scrubbed when a fire in a control tower caused massive cancellations and delays across the country and the Boxers were one of the casualties as the flight, and consequently, their game was canceled.

So that left us with 6 games on last week’s pick ‘em slate to choose from.  Wildcat11 wound up going 4 wins against 2 losses, while (509)Rat was even with 3 wins against 3 losses.  Both WC11 and Rat are a combined 0-4 in picking St. John’s games this year, and we were both off by a country mile with the Milsaps over East Texas Baptist pick. ETBU took a Shillelagh to the Majors in a 68-15 undressing.  So that brings our year-to-date totals to: WC11 22 out of 30 (73.3%) and (509)Rat 20 out of 30 (66.6%).

Northwest Conference Action kicks off this week so let’s get to the action!

Northwest Conference Game of the Week

#5 Linfield (2-0) over #14 Pacific Lutheran (2-0) (at PLU): (509)Rat says Linfield : I don't think this game will be close if Linfield plays like they did against Redlands. Even PLU's offense will have trouble moving the ball. I would love to see an upset, but it ain't happening.

Willamette (2-0) over George Fox (0-2) (at Willamette): It’s a Friday night special to kick off NWC season play as George Fox will play their very 1st NWC game on the road against Willamette.  George Fox has shown some offensive punch in the early season and have had two weeks off to prepare for Willamette.  I’m not sure if two weeks off is a good thing or not but it won’t matter as Willamette is going to route George Fox under the lights.

(509)Rat says Willamette: I'm not going to type much because not much needs to be said. I know Coach Casey pretty well so I'll be rooting for him, but no amount of chrome on Fox's helmets is going to help them get this W.


Puget Sound (1-1) over Lewis and Clark (0-3) (at UPS):  Quick Trivia time…what year was it the last time Puget Sound was over .500 at any point during the month of October?  The answer would be 2008.  That’s a long time of a lot of bad football.  I’m not saying the Loggers are now a world beater but they do have the look of a program that’s taken a small step forward.  Speaking of 2008, that’s the last time UPS has beaten Lewis & Clark. Yeah, that’s how bad the Loggers have been.  Loggers score a solid victory over L&C.

(509)Rat says Puget Sound:  Next…..

Whitworth (2-1) over Pacific (0-2) (at Pacific): This is the pick I’m going to regret but it’s my gut feeling. There is no doubt that Whitworth has an offense that can move the ball and score in bunches. Defensive coordinators around the NWC no longer get a freebie preparing for Tully Ball with regards to the Rats.  However, Whitworth stinks on defense.  Pacific has to be stewing with a bad taste in their mouths in starting the year at 0-2. Week one, the Boxers showed some offensive punch with week two being a stellar effort by the Boxer defense to only turn up empty handed. If Pacific puts both together they’ll beat Whitworth but I’m feeling a sneaky win for the Rats on Saturday.

(509)Rat says Whitworth: I promise you won't get burned on this one. Whitworth wins because Pacific can't score points. They will against the Pirates because everyone minus L&C has, but there is no way they stop or turnover the Whitworth offense enough times to win. I shouldn't have put Whitworth 3rd in the conference, they'll finish 4th behind Willamette, but the 'pickers' drinking the Pacific kool-aid are worse off...Pacific is lucky the Chicago game was cancelled, 0-4 sounds worse than 0-3

West Region Game of the Week:

#12 Bethel (2-1) over #22 Concordia-Moorhead (at Bethel):  In what seems is a weekly major showdown in the MIAC, the Royals and Cobbers are currently sitting in a 3-way tie atop the MIAC standings.  Concordia-Moorhead has been excellent in the early season with some convincing wins but Bethel has owned this series over the past 6 seasons and I think Bethel’s defense is going to be the difference in a Royal’s victory.

(509)Rat says Concordia-Moorhead: How good is Wartburg? That's the question you have to answer to pick this game. They handled Bethel at home a couple weeks ago and they are the only good opponent Bethel has seen so far. The Cobbers beat a strong St. John's team, but otherwise haven't played a real game. Long story short, my picks can't get much worse this year so I'm gambling on a team who ironically is not from Iowa yet has an ear of corn as its mascot.

National Game of the Week:

#20 Thomas More (3-1) over Washington and Jefferson (3-0) (at W&J): A big game in the President’s Athletic Conference.  Usually, if a PAC team takes a loss they wouldn't be sitting in the Top 25 but that loss was a 35-20 loss to the current #4 team in the country, Wesley.  That performance paired with waxing their next 3 opponents has been good enough for the voters to give a top 25 nod to Thomas More and that’s good enough for me in picking against Washington and Jeff.

(509)Rats says Thomas More: From what I can gather last year's W&J win was a little bit of a fluke. Thomas Moore should win this game. They are supposed to win. Just like St. Thomas last week...lighting ain't striking twice. The PAC favorite gets a win on the road.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Game 3 Preview: Linfield (2-0) at Pacific Lutheran (2-0)

Old Friends meet up once again!
For the 3rd year in row the ‘Cats and Lutes open up the Northwest Conference season in a match-up of highly ranked teams with a lot of implications on the line.  The NWC coaches once again selected Linfield and PLU as their top two teams in the Northwest Conference and early season returns so far has proved that to be a smart choice.  PLU has opened up their 2014 season by landing solid victories over Cal Lutheran at home (35-28) and smothering Trinity (Tx) on the road last weekend (38-14).  The ‘Cats meanwhile dispatched the current top two SCIAC programs in scoring a comeback road win over Chapman to open the season (21-14) and then getting on track in pasting Redlands on the road in a 36-3 victory.  Both teams have played stretches of fantastic defense and explosive offense and that leads you to believe that this Saturday’s game should be another fantastic pairing.

There is nobody currently in the NWC that are more familiar with each other right now than PLU and Linfield.  This will be the 5 game between the two programs in a little over 2 seasons of play.  This is due to absurdity that is the 500 mile rule set before the D3 playoff committee by the NCAA as the Wildcats and Lutes have been paired as 1st round foes the previous two seasons. Yeah, it saves the NCAA some money but two high quality teams meet way too early in the playoffs. It stinks but it's life for the NWC and has led to these programs to know each at even greater depths.  And these are coaching staffs that have been competing in the the PacNW for decades to begin with but I don’t see any fatigue from either side in the Linfield/PLU game.  No, I get the sense this still is a big game for the players, coaches, and fan bases.  I don’t blame them either as Linfield and PLU are two of the most respected and well run programs in the country.

For PLU, this could be their best shot yet at dethroning Linfield from the top spot in the NWC.  The Lutes two-deep features over 25 seniors that have been on the short end of the stick against the ‘Cats for the previous 3 seasons and I know there is nothing more than this group of PLU seniors would like better than to be the group that ended Linfield’s hold on the throne.  The players on this PLU roster have been in the trenches against the ‘Cats and taken Linfield to the limit and beyond over the past two seasons and I’m expecting nothing but their best effort on Saturday.

For our ‘Cats, this is a huge opportunity for this mixture of vets and new faces to come together and make a statement of what might be in store for the 2014 Linfield Wildcats.  Over the first two games you can see the weapons slowing getting on the same page and their identity bubbling up and taking shape.  I have a great feeling for what this team could be but Linfield is going to have to realize it this weekend.  Chapman and Redlands was just the warm-up to what Linfield will be facing against PLU.  I can’t say it enough that this Linfield team has a great chance to be a special group and will have to reach that potential up in Puyallup in order to win.

Get To Know A Wildcat

#99 Trey Farber, Defensive Tackle, Senior
Hometown: Wasilla, Alaska,  High School: Colony High

Favorite place to eat in Mac: I like going to the Deluxe with the boys after a win and getting a burger. (Wildcat11 Note: The Deluxe has the best burger in town and it's not even close.)

Favorite Movie: The Predator, or anything else with Arnold!

Favorite Music: I like a little bit of everything, though classic rock and rap make the majority of my iPod

Favorite TV show: Sons of Anarchy and Entourage

Favorite Book: When the Game Stands Tall

Class I most look forward to: Biomechanics

iPhone or Android: iPhone

CPU Homepage: Google

Personal Mantra: GAINZZZ

Social Media of Choice: Instagram, so I can post pics of my Gainz.

Car or Truck: Being from Alaska, you have to have a Truck, I call her Goldilocks.

Xbox, PS3, or Wii: As long as I can play Madden/NCAA football, I am perfectly content.

What first inspired you to play football: My father played in college and I have always looked up to my dad, and wanted to be just like him.

Favorite Coach Vaughan quote: Even a blind squirrel finds an acorn every once in a while. (referring to a DT doing something athletic)

Favorite part about playing at Linfield: I love the brotherhood I'm a part of, we're all best bros and have each other's backs. Also, I love being a winner.

Post Linfield aspirations: I want to go to Physical Therapy school, or become a bodybuilder. haha

Wildcat11’s Keys To Victory:

Enjoy the moment and stick together:  As a football player and competitor this weekend is the reason why you put in all of those unseen hours during the winter, spring, and summer. Games like this weekend is what makes sports fun and that shouldn’t get lost in the intensity of the buildup.  There are going to be ups and downs during the game and how Linfield handles both will say a lot about the outcome of Saturday’s game.  It's going to be PLU's homecoming game so Sparks will be rocking. Stick together through thick and thin and let’s see what the scoreboard says at the end of the game.

Limit the PLU Run Game: If you go back and read my previous PLU game previews from the past few years, you’ll see this as the number one item and still holds true today.  PLU has a tremendous group of receivers that have hurt Linfield in the past but if you let PLU run the ball on you consistently you’re putting yourself behind the eight ball. Linfield has to put a premium on limiting Madison (tailback – 127 yards per game, 2 TDs) and Richey (QB – 58.5 yards per game, 4 TDs) in the PLU rushing game.

Rush the football at PLU: The Linfield rushing attack showed improvement from week 1 to week 2 and the ‘Cats MUST be able to effectively run the ball against the Lutes.  A team that becomes a one-dimensional passing offense against PLU is playing right into the Lutes hands with their exotic blitzing schemes out of their 3-3-5 defense.

Pass rush pressure:  The ‘Cats pass rush has been strong in the opening two games of the season in piling up 10 sacks while applying consistent pressure and harassment on the opposition quarterbacks.  The need for that pressure will be vital for the Wildcat defensive success as Linfield will face their most formidable offensive line this year with Pacific Lutheran.  If the ‘Cats can get to Ritchie, the defense will be a disruptive force.

Offensive execution: There is no denying the growth the Linfield offense had between the Chapman and Redlands game and it will be critical for the Wildcat offense even take another step forward as the ‘Cats face a heavy pressure defense in PLU.   If the Wildcat offense can consistently execute the ‘Cats are going to have opportunities to put points on the board.

Solid Special Teams:   The ‘Cats have had two weeks to put some shine on the Wildcat special teams unit as they face what is always an aggressive PLU special teams group.  The Linfield kicking trio has been impactful so far in the early season and they need to continue to boom the pigskin and it’s time for our coverage and return units to break through with a solid performance.

Compete for the football:  There are going to be a number of opportunities for both the Linfield offense and defense to make plays on the football.  Linfield has to be the aggressor on Saturday when the ball is up in the air. A few of these 50/50 balls might be key moments in the game.

Great decision making:  When two excellent teams face off, games can be decided on a handful of plays where decision making becomes critical.  The ‘Cats have to protect possessions and the football and stay away from the silly mistakes that can extend or kill a drive.  The cleaner a game the ‘Cats can play the more likely the outcome will be favorable for Linfield.

Overall

‘Cats by 3. I have a ton of respect for this group of Lutes players and their track record over the past three seasons.   You can expect nothing but haymaker after haymaker by Pacific Lutheran on Saturday and we’re going to find out what kind of chin this 2014 Linfield Wildcat team has.  I’m betting the ‘Cats have an iron jaw and come out with a hard-fought and thrilling victory.