Monday, November 26, 2007

Breaking down the All-NWC Team:

The All-NWC Conference team has been out for a few weeks now and you can find it here at Linfield placed 11 players on the first team offense/defense and 22 overall players on All-NWC team.

Now I do have a beef with this team/overall process. The NWC team has always leaned towards having excess in terms of the number of players on the 1st team than rather making the team more exclusive. For example this years 1st team has 18 offensive players listed and 19 players made the 1st team defense. I just don’t get how you can have 2 place kickers on your 1st team offense. Both Willamette’s Matt Bicocca and Linfield’s Scott Birkhofer are excellent kickers but are you telling me that they couldn’t say one was better than the other? (BTW…I don’t know how anyone is on the same category as Birkhofer, the kid should be an All-American this year.)

I understand the coaches wanting to make sure those talented and deserving players are recognized for their performance but it just makes the team loss some credibility when it’s so overloaded with numbers.

In terms of the 2007 team there are only a few spots that I have issue with. The first item I was surprised with is that Linfield punter Stan Fisher was only an Honorable Mention member. Stan was nails all year long and performed at a high level but when you look at the stats he did sit 3rd in the NWC in terms of avg. per kick at 38.7 behind 2nd teammer Doug Rickabaugh (PLU) 39.3 avg and 1st teammer Clint Moran (Willamette) 39.8 avg. Stan also punted about 20 less than the players above him. That is a tough deal but after digging into the stats the punters above Stan did have great numbers. I think it’s clear that the NWC had great kicking talent throughout the whole conference. Stan had a 1st team performance this season but Moran and Rickabaugh are deserving.

The second issue was the co-defensive players of the year honor. This isn’t a dig at Andrew Eisentrout (DE, PLU) or Tully’s kid but personally I thought the best defensive player in the NWC this season was Linfield’s Brian Mehl (Saftey).

I really believe part of the reason why Mehl gets overlooked is that Brian is about the least flashy player you would see in terms of his on-field demeanor. He just gets the job done and from game one through game nine he was the best player on the best defense in the NWC. Mehl had an incredible stat line this season. He was number 2 in the NWC in total tackles (74), and had 7 tackles for loss, 1 sack, 3 Ints, and 2 pass break ups in nine games this season. If the NWC just went with Tully’s kid I could live with it but since they went with Co-POY’s I really have a beef with Mehl not being the second half of that honor.

I think the rest of the list is fine but I did notice a few things. Chris Ahsing is really a 1st team NWC running back? I guess the NWC is long removed from the days of Russell, Binger, Haberberger, and Reed. I would have been just fine if we would have stopped after Adam Anderson.

Also, Travis Masters was a 1st team as a slot which is wild considering he only played one conference game as a slot. Without a doubt Masters and Whitworth’s Anderson were the best two offensive players in the NWC this season and will be next year but that shows you how much respect Travis carried this year when the coaches basically said “We know you were moved to RB mid-season but you’re so good that you would have been our 1st team player at the slot if you played there the whole season.” Our little number 5 is going to be lights out next year.

Congratulations to our ‘Cats for being on the NWC team!

1st team offense:
QB- Trevor Scharer
WR- Josh Vierra
WR- Tyler Kaluza
Slot- Travis Masters
OL- Jared Hinkle
PK- Scott Birkhofer

1st team defense:
DL- Taylor Summers
DB- Keone Tawata
DB- Brian Mehl
DB- Andrew Woods
KR- Travis Masters

2nd team defense:
DL- Nate Arnold
DB- Andrew Bean
LB- Jaymin Jackson
DB- Bubba Lemon

Honorable Mention Offense:
RB- Pete Cruickshank
WR- Tyson Banker
OL- John Kemper
OL- Danny Kleiber
P- Stan Fisher

Honorable Mention Defense:
DL- Jeff Denney
LB- Drew Ragan

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Bas Rutten's Thanksgiving Defense

Let's face facts: Thanksgiving day can be a rough time with family getting together and the mix of beer, food and football can lead to conflicts with family members. So my boy, Bas Rutten is nice enough to offer up some tips in how to get that Turkey drumstick away from Uncle Tony. Never underestimate the kick to the balls.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Video: NCAA trucking the Rats 20007 Playoff Bid

OK the video below is not of the backroom of the NCAA Playoff selection committee but it is of Hawaii quarterback Colt Brennan getting absolutely trucked. This is kind of what happened to Whitworth. They felt they were controlling their own fate (Hawaii up late in the game) but out of nowhere came the NCAA selection committee to smash the Rats playoff hopes (Fresno State Safety).

Monday, November 12, 2007

That’s a wrap. Linfield give L&C an atomic monkey stomp*

With the ‘Cats playoff hopes dashed with last week’s lost to Whitworth (10-6) the ‘Cats wrapped up our 2007 campaign with a 66-0 rolling of Lewis and Clark at Linfield’s Maxwell Field. It was a picture perfect late fall day at the ‘Catdome and it was great to see just about everyone in a Linfield uniform get between the lines and for our 24 seniors to go out in style.

I feel for the Pios in their early stages of trying to rebuild their program. The NWC needs L&C to get back to respectability and they have a long way to get there. Linfield tried their best to take the foot off the gas because the ‘Cats could have easily hung triple digits on L&C.

This is a scary time for the Pios. The NWC wasn’t easy on our Portland neighbors this season and I’m sure some in the L&C community are shaking their heads saying “Why are we even bothering?” These people need to keep in mind that it will not be easy to get their program back to a competitive level. The NWC is a tough road to hoe…just ask Puget Sound and Menlo. My wish is that the administration at L&C continues to support the program and see to it that other departments in the L&C community promote a positive relationship with the program (i.e. admissions).

For the ‘Cat there was some real mixed emotions for me during the game. We were “this close” to being 8-1 and headed to post-season play but fell short with the Willamette debacle and not being able to covert all those chances vs Whitworth. That part of the year was just downright painful. On the flipside I’m so proud of the way the team and seniors responded after Willamette. There were two ways the players could have gone. They could have either said “forget it” and just mailed in the rest of the year or they could have step up the level of play and move on. To rebound and play with a great amount of effort and pride does speak volumes about the character of this group.

I’m not ready yet to start talking 2008 because I’d still like to reflect on the season and talk about some of the great performances of 2007. Over the next couple of weeks we’ll name “’s players of the year” along with some other talk about the 2007 ‘Cats and NWC, the conference’s playoff snub, and some other items about 2007.

* A “monkey stomp” is a term coined by the Liberty League post pattern community members of the posting board. A “monkey stomp” is a victory of 21-points or more, and the higher the victory total the different degrees of a “stomp”. I would think a 66-point win would equate an “atomic monkey stomp”

Monday, November 5, 2007

Missed Opportunities

In what felt like a carbon copy game from 2006 Linfield had a number of opportunities to win Saturday’s game vs Whitworth but the bottom line is that we just didn’t get it done. I’m VERY proud of the tremendous effort on both sides of the ball and with the special teams. It was a battle of two very fine teams in an old fashion defensive thriller. It’s also disappointing to be eliminated from playoff contention for the second straight year and to not be able to bring home another NWC title.

It would be very easy to sit here start coming up with a laundry list of excuses for why we lost. I could point to not having our best offensive threat in RB Travis Masters, or a few terrible calls in the running into the kicker/roughing call, or the fumble recovery that was overturned by the back judge. However when you are a great program you have to be able to put that aside and find a way to overcome the injuries, bad calls, and bad hops to come out with a win. For the second straight year we didn’t and that’s a bitter pill to swallow.

To credit Whitworth they stuck to a very good game plan in being conservative on offense, not making any crippling mistakes with turnovers, and the Rats defensive backfield was able to make the plays during the game to bring home the victory.

So let’s get into our weekly wrap of the good, the bad, and the ugly

The Good

Defensive effort
Once again the defense was fantastic. Whitworth was going to try to bully Linfield up front but Linfield didn't budge much in holding the Rats running attack to half their average (127 total rushing yards), denied Whitworth any points when they started a drive on the Linfield 10, and held the Rats to 5 consecutive 3 and outs at the end of the game.

Pass Protection
We threw the ball 49 times and Whitworth brought pressure during the entire contest. There was only a couple of times that Whitworth was able to get at Trevor but as a whole the O-Line did a fine job in providing plenty of time to get rid of the ball.

Punter Stan Fisher and Scott Birkhofer
Stan punted 6 six times for a 38.7 avg and Scott booted a 47 and 37 yard field goal on the day. Both have been huge weapons throughout the entire 2007 campaign.

The Bad

Missed Opportunities
A 4th and inches, a blocked field goal, and the 4th quarter we had 5 drives that started around mid-field or in Rat territory to get it done. Convert any of these and that game may have had a different outcome.

The Ugly

Linfield 5 turnovers, Whitworth 0. Everybody knew coming into the game that turnovers would play a huge key and they did. The game’s lone touchdown was on an early interception return by Whitworth and it proved to be the deciding factor. You have to give Whitworth’s DBs a lion’s share of the credit. They made some great breaks and made the plays in the end that brought home another NWC title to Spokane.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Rat Race! Linfield at Whitworth

This is for all the marbles and I didn’t want it any other way. Any Linfield fan has the terrible taste of last year’s defeat to Whitworth still dangling on their pallet. It was a painful experience as a clearly more talented Linfield squad squandered scoring opportunity after scoring opportunity and most ‘Cat fans, including myself, felt we gave away the NWC crown.

Some might say that Linfield fans say that anytime we lose but that’s not always true. As sad as it was to see the great 2005 squad drop that heartbreaker to Whitewater it sat well with me that it was two great teams giving everything they had. The Warhawks survived and everyone knew they witnessed a game for the ages. But this example is about as far away from the 2006 Whitworth game as possible.

So here we are one year later and the ‘Cats are heading into another game against the Rats that not only has NWC title ramifications but essentially is a play-in game for a post-season birth. This is why kids come to Linfield….to play in big games.

We’re going to skip this week’s know your foe due to time constraints so let’s drop right into Wildcat’s 11 keys to victory.

Limit the Whitworth Run Game

The Rats are a zone running team and they have done it very well this year in leading the NWC in rushing yards at 246 yard per game. The Rats are lead by sophomore transfer (Idaho) running back Adam Anderson at 103 yards a contest. The Rats don’t have very many rushing plays they just run them out of multiple formations and I’m sure we’ll see QB Kory Kemp running the zone keeper out of the empty set. Linfield has to control this aspect of Whitworth’s game and I believe we match up well here with our front seven.

Linfield passing game has to make plays

Linfield has been focused on being a more balanced offense and has done a very nice job of that over the past few weeks but Linfield is going to make their hey with the passing game this weekend. The Rats rushing defense is stout so I don’t expect Linfield to run wild in the Pine Bowl so Trevor Scharer and company needs to bring their “A” game this Saturday.

Cash in on Scoring Opportunities

This was a big key in last year’s lost. Linfield blew multiple scoring chances last year with either drops in the end zone or just awful turnovers. Linfield HAS to make good when they sniff the end zone. Scoring could be at a premium so the ‘Cats have to convert when the opportunity presents itself.

Continued Solid Special Teams Play

Linfield has been great in coverage this year and our kicking team of Stan Fisher and Scott Birkhofer has been stellar all year long. The ‘Cats special teamers need to have their eyes wide open because the Rats are not afraid to run fakes and other hi-jinks. We could put ourselves in a good spot if we’re able to snuff out a potential fake special teams play.

Securing the Ball

Not much to say here besides we all know Whitworth loves striping the ball. Let’s be the team that forces turnovers and not the other way around.


Let’s make Whitworth beat us on Kory Kemp’s arm and not his legs. If the ‘Cats can limit their rushing attack and force Whitworth into a passing mode then Linfield will be in great shape. Both teams will be up and excited for the contest but I have a strong belief that this Linfield team has been hitting its stride and is ready to breakthrough in a game like this. I’m calling it right now that Linfield will win by 10. Go ‘Cats!