Monday, October 29, 2007

'Cats climb all over Trees

Our Linfield Wildcats dominated the host Menlo Oaks in a workman like game for the ‘Cats as they pounded out the 37-6 win. The victory secured the ‘Cats 52 straight consecutive winning seasons on the same day UC-Davis streak of 37 consecutive winning seasons came to a stop as the Aggies fell to 3-6 on the season with a 28-21 loss to South Dakota State.

The Victory sets up a major showdown/NWC game of the year as our ‘Cats will head up to Spokane and the Pine Bowl to lock up with the Whitworth Rats. I’m already in knots about this game because I’m stuck out of state with work and will not be able to attend. I curse the fiscal end-of-year gods for having 2007 fall on this weekend.

We’ll talk later about the Rats and all the thoughts racing around my mind. First let’s touch on the good, the bad, and the ugly of this past weekends beat down.

The Good

Another Defensive Gem

How this defense has grown over the course of the year. Defensive coordinator Jackson Vaughan and his staff deserve kudos for taking a group that had a rough start and then shaped them to into a force. The defense is just a physical group of kids that love to crack heads. They should have had their 3rd shutout in 4 games but a turnover set up the Oaks at the 1-yard line to allow Menlo to save a little face. Their growth has been key in Linfield ripping off 4 straight.

Running Game

A season high 228 yards rushing with three backs getting 15, 14, and 13 touches a piece. Menlo was dropping 8 and daring the ‘Cats to run the ball all day long. Linfield was more than happy to take the Oaks up on the dare and pound away. The better we rush the better this team will be.

Focus

I’m going to touch on this in a second but playing at Menlo would be very tough to get up for. There isn’t much if any excitement in playing at Atherton. Linfield knew what they had to do on Saturday and never gave Menlo a chance to hang around. That speaks to the maturity of these players.

The Bad

Missed Opportunities

I’m reaching a little because there isn’t much you can find wrong in a 31-point win so I’m going to knit pick a little. Linfield could have added to the point total but had a few missed chances in really digging Menlo’s grave deeper. A few times the execution could have been a little sharper when the ‘Cats were within striking distance.

Paying $5 for parking

I understand that space at Menlo is very limited but that is the first time I’ve ever paid for parking at small college game. Hell, I don’t even remember having to pay for parking at the freaking Stagg Bowl. I’m rather tight with a buck so that had me all sideways as I pulled up on campus.

The Ugly

The Facilities

This was my first trip down to Menlo and it may have been my last. What a dog of a facility. I thought that UPS was a morgue but that takes the cake. Seriously it was hard to even get excited to film this game. I can’t imagine what it would be like to be a player going into that environment.

Now I realize that Menlo has a few disadvantages going against them. They have to share their field with a middle and high school so the turf was down right brutal. And it’s not like Menlo can go and purchase land in the area to build a new facility. Menlo is located right off the main drag in the Silicon Valley/Bay Area and land is the rarest of resources in that part of the country. It would cost more than an arm and a leg to expand that campus in terms of owning land, let alone start laying brick and mortar. However, that is no excuse with what Menlo is currently working with.

No locker rooms anywhere near the field, a scissor lift acting as the coaching box, an ankle busting turf, speakers that looks like they came from the Theta Chi basement acting as their PA system, just a lack luster football field. I don’t blame the Menlo coaching staff because this is a reflection of the administrative support of athletics and they should be embarrassed.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

We're going streaking!!!!!!

Congrats to the 'Cats as they locked up consecutive winning season number 52 with a 37-6 victory over Menlo.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Going back to Cali. Cats vs. Trees

After coming off a tremendous team effort vs PLU our Linfield Wildcats (4-2) will take a crew of 52 and head on down to the Silicon Valley to battle NWC football-only member, The Menlo College Oaks (1-5).

On paper this looks like a game Linfield should take with authority but we have seen in the past that Menlo has caused the ‘Cats major problems in previous contests. This group of ‘Cats has to remember the lessons they learned with the Willamette debacle in that they need to bring the “A” game every week. Now is not the time to regress as a group.

Know Your Foe

Oak Trees….I think that’s self explanatory. However the oak tree has a significant place in Linfield’s heart as our Oak Grove is the location of countless commencement ceremonies, weddings, and various gatherings of the Linfield and McMinnville community. In fact the oak grove is where Mrs. 11 and I tied the knot and we couldn’t have picked a better spot.

It’s my favorite part of campus and the anchor of the Oak Grove is the 250 year old “Old Oak”. However not is all well for the 80 foot tall majestic white oak. A main symbol of Linfield is slowly dying of an infestation of carpenter worms. The news-register wrote an article about the efforts to extend the tree’s life and to better its current support system. It’s very sad news as I always take a moment and take in the raw beauty of this tree when I pass by the oak grove.

So as much as I want to say “Cut down the Oaks this weekend” I think Linfield’ers need to maintain our Oak Karma.

Keys To Victory

Focus

That sounds easy enough but road games that include flight can distract even the most focused group. Menlo has had many injuries and is playing a huge number of youngsters but the more the young kids play the better they will be. So our ‘Cats need to take this game very seriously and do what a good team does to an outmatched opponent and that’s put them away early and don’t let up.

Running Game

I’d like to see Linfield continue to forge that identity of a balanced physical offense and pound away at the Oak defense. Running the ball is going to be key down the stretch so I’d like to see a heavy dose of #5, #20, and #27.

Overall
We have seen tremendous growth over the past three weeks and my challenge to this team is to continue to improve. When all parts of this team are clicking as a unit Linfield can beat anybody in Division III. However those words will ring hallow if we trip up on Saturday. I believe this Linfield team has something to prove to themselves, their fans, the NWC, and Division III. I look for Linfield to drop the hammer this weekend and win by at least 4 scores if not more.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

'Cats Deliver The Salt

Waking up Saturday morning to a monsoon the first thing I though of was the weather we had for last year’s Whitworth game but as the day moved along it turned out to be a beautiful day in the valley. This wasn’t just due to the fact that the Catdome only experienced some limited showers during the PLU/Linfield game but for the fact the ‘Cats shutout our long time rival 24-0. Any long time fan of Linfield football would have loved the way the ‘Cats played ball on Saturday with a swarming pressing defense and a grind it out offense that would salt away the game late.

It was a huge game for Linfield and they answered the call and now control their destiny for the remainder of the season. It’s not time for Linfield to ease up on the gas peddle but let’s enjoy yesterday for what it was: an old school Wildcat victory. Now let’s review our weekly “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly”

The Good

Linfield Defense

What more can you say than this was the first time PLU has been shut out since 19 freakin’ 79. That is a rather remarkable run by the ‘Lutes but yesterday was a defensive clinic by the ‘Cats. We pressured the quarterback, play great on the option, super efficient tackling, filled gaps, threw blankets on receivers, created turnovers, big stops on 4th down, etc. It was a great game plan by the defensive staff that the players executed very well. It was a total team effort with players just playing to their responsibilities and not trying to do more than their job. A+ effort.

2nd half offensive effort

I mentioned last week that I don’t recall Linfield playing a good 3rd quarter this season. That trend came to a stop yesterday as the Linfield offense controlled and cashed in on 10 points in the 3rd frame and set the tempo for the remainder of the contest. PLU’s defense lived up to their billing as athletic and speedy at the defensive end and linebacker positions. Linfield had some opportunities in the first half but the Lutes defense did a nice job in getting to Linfield QB Trevor Scharer and causing Linfield to sputter. However, the offense needs to be praised for showing some tremendous toughness and desire for their performance in the 2nd half. Most of the praise needs to be given to the big fellas up front as they naturalized the rush and did a fantastic job in the running game. I see a mean streak with this group and I love it.

Stan Fisher/Special Teams

Linfield punter Stan Fisher doesn’t get very much pub for being a punter but he was a huge field position weapon yesterday. He averaged below his typical punt yards per game but when Linfield was twice pinned deep in their own territory Stan and the punt team came up with a 48 yard punt and solid 38 yarder. Stan has been great all year long and the punt team needed a shout out today for their solid play.

Overall Attitude

This team is finding an identity and has had some great growth since the Willamette disaster. If this group can continue to take the attitude of trying to improve each day they will have an opportunity to reach their pre-season goals but they cannot feel like they’ve made it just because we rattled off a few wins. Enjoy the win but let’s get ready for next week.

The Bad

Not being able to pay my respects to Frosty

(Editor's note: I didn't look hard enough for the Frosty one but thanks to a few PLU fans for letting me know he was in attendance in yesterday's game. Very happy that he was able to make the trip down and hope he has been doing well.)

I love a win over PLU more than just about anything. Linfield has rivalries but any Wildcat would tell you that PLU is enemy number 1. However, I respect and appreciate what legend Frosty Westering did for the NWC and for Small College Football. He showed that you don’t have to be a screaming, cussing, tyrant to be a winner in football and he is what is right about college athletics. That’s why I was disappointed that I did not get the chance to pay my respects to Frosty and his yellow sweats.

The Ugly

PLU Warm-Up

For the past two weeks we have seen two extreme examples of pre-game warm ups. Last week down in Ashland we had the taunting mean muggers and this week we had the happy go-lucky goof balls. This is nothing new for PLU as they do just about everything different and I really don’t know how to properly communicate their routine. The team roving jumping jacks was just bizarre. This is a note to Menlo: Please leave the Haka at home next week. I don’t know how much more I can take.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Linfield Fans Says...

Recently I grabbed a couple of fixtures of Linfield football to ask them what they enjoyed most about Linfield football.

video

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Lute Week!!

VS.

KEY POSITIONS TO DEFEND
Running Back

Quarterback

Wide Receiver

Head Coach

Monday, October 15, 2007

Linfield Wins Slugfest

It was a tale of two halves in Ashland, Oregon on Saturday night but our Linfield Wildcats prevailed with a ball hawking defense and an offense made the plays when it counted to overcome the host Southern Oregon Raiders 30-22. It was a roller coaster of emotions in witnessing the Wildcats storm out to a commanding 24-3 half time lead and then watch SOU climb right back into the game and get with 2 points midway in the 4th. However, when it all looked to be going SOU’s way Linfield made the big plays down the stretch to seal the victory.

It felt like “that” game. You know the game that exposes what a team is really made of and where their season might go from that point. We made some errors that allowed SOU to get back in the game but this ‘Cat team seemed to find the way to reach deep and make the plays to put the Raiders away. It was gritty hard-fought win. So let’s review The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly of Saturday’s victory.

The Good:

Defensive Pressure:
The ‘Cats were living in the SOU backfield the whole 1st half and were able to put heat on during the critical 4th quarter stands. The defensive line and linebackers were very physical and I think they found their calling card in terms of their style of play. That pressure set up two takeaways that put the offense on the front door of the end zone. It was an outstanding performance up front.

Defensive Coverage:
SOU quarterback, Bryan Lee-Lauduski did throw for 3 TD’s on the night but was only 16-36 and threw 4 interceptions. The Wildcat secondary did a very solid job in breaking up plays when it mattered and in the playmaking department with the interceptions. SOU was only 4 for 16 in 3rd down conversions and the defensive backfield had a large hand in that.

Red-Zone Offense:
4 for 4 in the Red Zone. It was an outstanding job on a night where the Linfield offense could have had a better performance in some areas. But the point is when the ‘Cats had the ball in the RZ they got the job done and I’d rather have that then a team that races between the 20’s and can’t punch it in.

Clutch offense:
The SOU defense was very physical and did a nice job vs the ‘Cats. However, when the game was on the line our offense made the plays it needed to extend the lead and then ice the game. Nice play calling and great execution.

Special Teams Coverage:
I though the coverage teams did a great job on Saturday. SOU had a very fast weapon that shook loose for one decent return but the rest of the night the Purple Pain crew had a great night.

The Bad:

Turnovers:
4 turnovers were not an ideal number. I don’t need to keep hammering this but we know this will be a very key component next week.

3rd Quarter:
I knew that SOU was going to come out with guns blazing but we really helped them out in the 3rd quarter. In fact, I don’t think we’ve played a very good 3rd quarter this season.

Getting home at about 4 AM:
All that leads to was a very unproductive Sunday.

The Ugly:

SOU’s pre-game Chant/Stare Down:
Right before kickoff Linfield has the tradition of gathering on the sideline at the 50 and reciting the Lord ’s Prayer on bended knee. I’m not a very religious person but out of respect to the players on the team and my Linfield family I always took part and would look forward to that moment. Saturday was no exception but right before the team gathered the SOU players were gathered on their sideline at the 50 yard line and started jumping up and down while chanting “WILDCATS”. That wouldn’t be super tacky but half of their team turned towards our sideline and proceed to mean mug the ‘Cats while hooting and hollering.

Look Linfield has been around numerous big games and have played many excellent teams. That kind of junk isn’t scaring or intimidating anybody or winning you a game. All it did was make Linfield fans watching this go down chuckle and say “Looks like they won pre-game again.”

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Linfield over SOU: One Highlight

Now since there were many 'Cat fans that couldn't make it down to Ashland for the 'Cats 30-22 victory over Southern Oregon I thought I'd offer up one highlight clip from last night. The clip below is of Soph. Linebacker Paul Partlow's sack and strip that set up the 'Cats second TD of the night.

video

I'll break down my thoughts of the trip to Ashland and of the 'Cats gutty victory that sets up this weekend's huge NWC tilt.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Showdown! Linfield @ Southern Oregon

A gigantic game for both the Wildcats (2-2) and Raiders (3-2) will kickoff this Saturday night (6pm) at the beautiful setting of Raider Stadium in Ashland. Linfield is coming off a bounce back pasting of Puget Sound 37-0 and Southern Oregon just wrapped up a 3 game roadie with a very impressive 14-13 victory over NAIA Independent rival Azusa Pacific. Both Linfield and SOU are fighting for their playoff lives and this game has greater implications than just this season. SOU is slowing bouncing back as a program and there’s nothing more the SOU staff would like to do than go into recruits home and hold up a victory over Linfield as a reason why the Raiders are up and coming.

Some D3 followers might say “Wildcat11 a win or loss vs a non-DIII doesn’t matter in regards to playoffs” but let’s be real. An overall record of 7-2 looks much more qualified than a 6-3 record. Linfield fans from 2001 know what I’m talking about.

I can’t stress this enough…SOU is probably the 2nd most talented team we’ve face this season behind WOU. This is a very winnable game for Linfield but our ‘Cats must bring their “A” game to get it done. If we show up with our “Willamette” game then our ‘Cats are in for a long night. No "Know your Foe" this week because I'm slammed with other work and all you need to know is that a Raider is also known as Pirate scum.

Wildcat11’s key to victory:

Time of Possession:
SOU has a very strong passing game but they also have a physical offensive front that can run the ball. We need to find that balance in our offense that will allow the ‘Cats to obtain scoring chances while we eat up on the clock. The longer we can keep the Raider offense off the field the more effective our defense will be.

Defensive 3rd and long:
As a defense we have to deny SOU in 3rd and long situations. It’s back breaking when you play great the first two downs and then give up a chain’s route 1st down. This is an area our defense must keep improving on and will be key this Saturday.

Turnovers:
I’ve been hammering this every week and I’ll keep on hammering it. We hang onto the ball and we’re going to win this game.

Little Things:
When I mean little things I’m talking about the little things that add up over the course of a game. That is missing a PAT in the 1st quarter or a converted 1st down gets called back because of a penalty. The more we clean these issues up the tougher it will be for SOU to overcome us.

Overall:
Big challenge in a hostile environment. This will really tell if our team has bounced back from Willamette. SOU has to be feeling great about this week. They were able to fend off Willamette in Salem and they know that Linfield wasn’t able to. If we play quality Linfield football then we’re coming home with a win and I like our chances in doing that. ‘Cats by 7.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

‘Cats brought the doughnuts

Our Linfield Wildcats were able to put together a solid effort this past Saturday as the ‘Cats shut out NWC opponent Puget Sound 37-0. Linfield found the run game for a day and the benefits were great as it allow a rested defense to shut down the Loggers during the afternoon. One week doesn’t make a season as the ‘Cats have a huge challenge this Saturday in Ashland but let’s take a look back at this weeks “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly”

The Good:

The Running Game
Linfield made a big move and shifted Jr. slot receiver Travis Masters to the starting tailback spot. For the first week the moved paid off big as Travis racked up 149 rushing yards on the day. It was the largest rushing total by a player since 2003 when Thomas Ford piled up 237 yards in a first round playoff win over Redlands. Linfield used a nice mix of Jr. Dan Lever in short yardage and vet Pete Cruickshank to round out the rushing attack. Really enjoyed the way the Oline was physical and the WR corp did a great job in working their blocks downfield.

Brian Mehl
The Senior safety had a standout day in recording 11 tackles, 1 sack, and 1 interception as Brian spearheaded the defense in their first shutout of the year. Mehl has played very well all year long and was rewarded with his play as being named the NWC defensive player of the week.

Scott Birkhofer
53-yard field goal and that broke a record he set 3 weeks prior of 52-yards. The junior kicker is damn good.

The overall sense of urgency
There was such a distinct difference in the emotional level of the team this week. They had a sense of urgency and level of readiness. They were not so wound up where they were emotionally exhausted after the first snap but they were just ready to roll. That attitude is what this team needs every day. Blue collar, hard work at practice and then it will carry over on Saturday.

The Bad:

PAT Crew.
Can we please go one game without having a stinking PAT blocked? Please?

Two Turnovers:
They didn’t really hurt but in a close game those turnovers could have. We still need to clean up our ball security. Our ability to hang on the ball is going to be very large the next two weeks.

Attendance:
2,500 people is just ok but I have greater expectations than just 2,500. The crowd that was there did a great job in backing the ‘Cats but when you are used to seeing 3,500-4,000 people at the ‘Catdome the drop off is noticeable.

The Ugly:

Willamette had the bye week and they play UPS next Saturday so it was ugly that their team was there sporting their Bearcat gear. The funny thing is that for the past 7 years I’m sure there were bearcat players that showed up at Linfield games during their bye week but you wouldn’t know because they would never wear anything that tied them to Willamette for fear of people smirking at them for being a Willamette football player. Enjoy it this year because that’s as far as it will go.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Timber! Puget Sound at Linfield

Week 5 is here and the playoffs have already started for our Linfield Wildcats. Yes, we are coming off a loss at Willamette that had a suck factor of 10. I guess we lost our lease on “Catdome South” until we get another chance to rent out McCullough Stadium in 2009.

With that debacle in rearview mirror our boys need to turn their full attention to a Puget Sound Logger team that took one on this chin last Saturday to the revived Lutes 37-8. With Linfield sitting on an uncomfortable 1-2 record I don’t think there is a reason to dive deep in the reasons why victory this weekend is a huge must. What I think we’ll find out on Saturday is if Linfield is going to have a huge say about the NWC title or if Linfield Nation will be smashing the panic button at about 4:30 PM (PST).

Here are the schools official game previews: Opportunity for Redemption/Taking on the 'Cats

Know Your Foe

Loggers: Everyone knows what a Logger is but our friends over at Wikipedia provided some golden nuggets about our wood chopping opponents that my have you saying “Who Knew?”

-The difference between a Lumberjack and a Logger is that the term Lumberjack is typically referring to a Logger from an earlier time. So a Logger is basically a modern day Paul Bunyan. However, another slightly used term for a Logger back on east coast is a woodhick. I like it! Say it with me…”Puget Sound Woodhicks” Has a good ring to it.

-American Loggers were first centered in the northeastern states and moved along the upper Midwest until they hit the PacNW where the area glommed on the identity of the tough, hard working woodhick culture and we’ve been wearing flannel shirts every since.

---The term “skid row” can trace its origins to Loggers. Fallen trees were “skidded” down hill sides or on a corduroy road. One such street was in Seattle and held the name of “Skid Road”. As time moved along Skid Road was occupied by folks that were down on their luck and that morphed into the term “skid row”.

---The Wall Street Journal named being a logger as the worst job in America in 2004 due to the instability of the work, the pure danger, and low income from the job. I still contend the head football coach of Lewis and Clark is the worse job in America but I’m not the WSJ.

---The last fun fact I’ll provide is that Loggers like to have beards and wear suspenders. Maybe UPS should incorporate the suspender look onto their uniforms?

Wildcat11’s key to victory:

TURNOVERS:

The Turnovers this season and last year have been 100% killer to this team. It happened again last week with the fumble at the one-inch line at the start of the 3rd quarter and when we had a blown assignment in pass protection that lead to Trevor getting stripped when he was steamed rolled. It has to stop if we are going to beat teams. You can look at Linfield’s last three losses (Willamette, WOU and Whitworth) and our turnovers all had a major, major say in the outcome.

Limit Kavin Williams:

The UPS quarterback (Kavin Williams) will be sharper this week than last after sitting out the beginning of the season with a bum right shoulder and was finally inserted back into the lineup vs PLU. Williams hurt Linfield last year with his legs but missed some golden chances to make some big strikes in the air. This year I suspect he’s probably matured as a passer and will be looking for the big air strike vs the ‘Cats. Before the season I felt he was one of the conference’s most dangerous players but was hampered by the tweaked wing. No Doubt, he will be looking to pull the ball down and run this weekend if he doesn’t see his primary target open. If we can control/limit Williams then we will control/limit UPS.

Overall: I could keep going and going about each little aspect that I believe will impact Saturday’s game but I truly think the above will be two highlighted keys of the game. If we don’t turn the stinking thing over and kill ourselves with stupid penalties then I love our offense. Teams cannot cover all of our weapons. Our Defense played great for 90% of the game last week but that 10% of being out of possession and players trying to do too much just murder us. If the defense plays on the same page and just focus on their jobs the full 60 minutes then we should be in good shape.

I don’t care how much we win by but I want to see an improved effort to play smart, limit the turnovers, and try to play a complete game. I like Linfield by 14 or more. Now let’s go out and win the damn thing!

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Alumni/JV game was a great success!

It hurts to type this but I figure I should pound out this blog about the alumni/jv game last night at the ‘Catdome. We had about 30 alumni players that were able to make it last night but the old guys gave it their all last night and played a heck of a game versus the young ‘Cats and ran away with the 54-16 win. For me, the hours leading up to the game were pretty stressful. I was very worried about the weather (we already played one alumni game in a monsoon) and players not being able to make it during the final hours.

I arrived at the Catdome around 3pm and open up the visitor’s locker room. About 4 pm guys slowly started to trickle in. One of the fun parts of the event is over in the equipment room where guys search out their old number and find out if they can still even get the jersey to fit. You could see the memories wash over the alumni players as they start searching out for a certain style of shoulder pads and debate to try to fit in the large pants or move up the XL. My old numbers 11 fit very snugly around my mid-section but screw it; there was no jersey that was going to turn the clock back 10 years so I just went for it.

Another funny thing about the alumni game that I’ve noticed over the past few years is that it seems that the defensive players are typically the first ones to show up. I don’t know why and don’t know if it’s just a coincidence but it always seem that D-Line and LBs make up the bulk of the first arrivals. You could probably guess the last guys to typically show up….the O-Line guys.

As for the game itself, the weather turned out to be absolutely perfect and there was a decent turnout to support the new and old ‘Cats. The young kids took the early lead on an offensive turnover but after that the offense rolled up and down the field turf at the ‘Catdome. The defense guys were a little disappointed we gave up a TD but we felt pretty good about our old guy effort.

As much as I would like to write a paragraph about every player there I’ll just give a shout to all the boys: Drew Kehoe, Peter Gerber, Dwight Donaldson, Jeff York, Bryan Swanson, James Holan, Luke Buchheit, Brett Elliott, Carl Haberberger, Morty Kotler, Thomas Ford, Andy Jamison, Joe O’Neil, Brad McKechnie, George Carter, Brandon Hazenberg, Casey Allen, Mitch Chadwick, Mark Culbertson, Mike Ketler, Robert Acevedo, Nik Soo, Brandon Olson, Ryan Boatsman, Phil Rombach, Chris Boock, Phil Marr, JP Kloninger, and Ray Lions.

Allen Moody from the News-Register was very gracious to give the game pre and post coverage. Here is the link to the game article: Linfield alumni impressive one more time. Thanks Allen for the ink!

OK that is about all for me because I’m hurting more and more by the minute and I need to put my feet up and relax. I'll be getting my hands on some pictures in the near future and I'll be linking those up soon.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Good Luck Old Guys!

Show the pups how it's done tonight...and keep the flaxseed oil handy!