A huge challenge faces our Linfield Wildcats this Saturday in what looks like will be a rainy day at the ‘Catdome. Western Oregon is coming to town to play their final game of the season while the ‘Cats get ready to defend their home turf for the last time in 2008. Western Oregon is easily the most talented team Linfield will face this season…and it’s not even close. Don’t let WOU’s four losses fool you. They’ve dropped a game to I-AA Portland State, lost two close games to DII top ten Central Washington, and lost another close game to a sound Western Washington squad. The Wolves are a very explosive team that’s been close all year to duplicating last year’s 9-2 overall record.
That doesn’t mean Linfield should just roll over but the ‘Cats have to correct the wrongs from the past few weeks if our Linfield team is going to snuff the Wolves. I know for a fact that Linfield has the talent to get it done. The ‘Cats only losses on the year are against two top ten DIII teams (Hardin-Simmons and Willamette) and I think there is little doubt in the mind of ‘Cat fans if a few moments went the ‘Cats way, Linfield could be rolling into this contest with a 7-0 record
Know Your Foe
Wolves- Do I really need to describe what wolves are? If you are curious here is a link to the Wikipedia page on the Grey Wolves. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wolves
Western Oregon University (WOU) is a public liberal arts college located in Monmouth, Oregon, and has gone through more name changes that Puff Daddy. Originally established in 1856 by Oregon pioneers as Monmouth University, a private college, and later merged with another private institution, Bethel College, to become Christian College. It became a state college called Oregon State Normal School in 1882. Subsequent names include Oregon Normal School, Oregon College of Education, and Western Oregon State College. Talk about an identity crisis.
One cool think that WOU has done recently is to promise students that enroll will have the same tuition rate for four academic years starting at the time they enroll. I have to say that is a sweet deal and I’m sure is a nice recruiting point.
Athletically the Wolves were a long time NAIA member where their big highlight was a couple of NAIA National Titles in Women hoops. As a DII member, the Wolves floundered around at the beginning of their affiliation but have recently been making some headway in Division II with the play of their football, baseball, and softball teams.
Wildcat11’s Keys To Victory:
-Finding ways to score: The Western Defense is giving up 25 points a game but they’ve faced some high powered offenses and have been very stingy vs. the run this season where WOU is only allowing 2.3 yards a rush on the season. Linfield’s offensive is going to have to be able to be productive in the air and not allow the Wolves defense to tee off on the run game. The Linfield receiving corp. has to rise to the challenge this weekend.
-Solid Fundamentals: Look, the ‘Cats are going to have to do more than just have solid fundamentals to best WOU but without doing the little things right the ‘Cats are not going give themselves a chance to have success. What I mean by solid fundamentals is tackling well, good snaps, not fumbling the ball on exchanges, all the little things that can make or break a team. Last Saturday vs. UPS, the ‘Cats didn’t do the fundamentals well and the result was giving up big plays to the Loggers. If Linfield doesn’t clean up these areas this week the Wolves are going to exploit it 10x worse than UPS.
-Getting pressure on WOU QB Josh Riddell: The Wolves have a very talented signal caller in Junior transfer Josh Riddell. The Wolves have leaned more and more on the explosive passing game because Riddell has a small army of rangy and playmaking receivers and Riddle likes to share the wealth (3 WR’s with over 30 catches each on the year). The ‘Cats cannot afford to let Riddell just sit back and sling the ball around the yard so it’s up to the Linfield defensive front to try to make Riddell as uncomfortable as possible.
-Don’t let Ben Kuenzi get rolling: While the WOU offense has been an air attack this year the Wolves are more than capable than running the ball. Junior Ben Kuenzi is a bowling ball type of RB that loves to pound away. It the ‘Cats let both the run and passing game get going it could be a long day. Linfield’s defense is typically strong versus traditional running attacks and I hope that pattern holds up this Saturday.
-Strong First Half: The common theme in both losses this season where less than desirable 1st halves for Linfield and in order to win this Saturday the ‘Cats need to come out the gate with their best foot forward. You know that WOU is going to try to put the hammer down early and if the ‘Cats are able to counter then it's going to be a game.
Of course I’m picking Linfield to win by a field goal. No doubt this is going to be a challenge. Even if Linfield would have been able to win the conference and go deep in the DIII playoffs I don’t think there are many Division III teams that would have as much talent as Western. However, I still don’t’ think this Linfield team understands just how talented and good they can be. The 'Cats haven’t played a peak type game yet and if they can rally and reach that potential then there is no reason why Linfield can’t cap off their season with a giant statement. Go ‘Cats!