Monday, September 21, 2009
'Cats Win! Linfield grabs a Tiger by its tail for the 31-26 victory.
Winning in a hostile environment: You know that you have a group with character when you take a long road trip, things are not going well, but the team rallies to take control of the game and still has enough left in the tank to hold off one last rally. There was a major serving of momentum that Oxy was carrying into the half and I was very curious to see how the ‘Cats responded. Well, we know how that went. It was a great job by the staff and players and getting together and getting back in the game.
Rush Defense: The ‘Cats defense held Oxy’s All-SCIAC running back, Jason Haller, to 6 net yards on 11 rushes. Oxy’s quarterback, Scott Saunders, did manage to pick up 49 rushing yards but most of that came off the scramble. It was no dice when Oxy lined up Tiger for ‘Cat and tried to impose their running will. I don’t have a Tiger record book in front of me but I’m sure it’s not too often when Occidental is held to 55 total rushing yards.
Rushing Offense: Excellent. Oxy had some legit speed up front and could cover pretty well sideline to sideline but as the game went on the big fellas up front and hard running of Simon Lamson, Aaron Williams, and a dash of Aaron Bohme started to stretch into some big runs. At the end of the day, Linfield almost rushed it for a 5 yard a pop average and piled up 191 net rush yards. I loved that Linfield stuck with the run as it paid huge dividends.
Kicker Maika Kunioka: The smallest Wildcat on the roster had a big impact on the game Saturday. The 5-5, 120 lbs Freshman from Mililani, Hawaii booted home a pivotal 27 yard field goal early in the 3rd quarter and 3 of 4 on PATS (the one PAT miss was a bad snap). In a situation where Coach Smith could have easily kept the offense on the field on 4th and goal but instead his faith in Kunioka was rewarded by a shot down the middle that inched the ‘Cats closer to Oxy.
Punter Tommy George: In only his second game action, Tommy George, came though all game long with long punt after long punt. The Senior had 6 punts during the evening with a 31.8 average with a key punt within the 10 that pinned Oxy. For only his second game punting it was a fine effort effort from our older/new ‘Cat.
3rd down stops: Monrovia Cat from the D3boards beat me to the punch here but Oxy was able to keep their night alive by converting some long and key 3rd down conversions. I don’t want to say this was “bad” but this one falls into the “could do better” category because the ‘Cats did slam the door on 3rd down a number of times but it just seemed like the ‘Cats were “this close” to wrapping up Saunders in the backfield but he was able to slip away and keep plays alive.
Pressure leaks: Again, this falls into the “could do better” than the “bad” category. I don’t know the game plan but it seemed like Oxy gave the ‘Cats a different look early on in the game because there seemed to be some misreads with the Oxy blitz and they were able to hammer away at Boehme. As the game went along those leaks were sealed up and allowed the passing game to start clicking.
First Half Flats: I don’t know if this was more of a case of Oxy’s game plan, Linfield’s readiness, or a combination of both but it took a half to really get the ‘Cats going and that cannot be something that forms into a habit. Linfield really has to flush that first half because coming out flat in future games is the preverbal playing with fire and the ‘Cats will eventually get burned if the slow starts continue.
The Lamson Injury: As all of the Linfield faithful knows by now our starting running back, Simon Lamson, broke his clavicle on what Lamson said was a clean hard hit. Early estimation said 4-6 weeks on the shelf before the possibility of a return. The crazy part it was one of the last stinking plays of the game when it happened. Simon took a good amount of crap last year for putting the ball on the turf a little too much but instead of shrinking from it the kid took the challenge, earned the starting job this fall, and had really shown some great improvement and hardnosed running before getting hurt. That tells me all I need to know about Simon as I’m sure he’s going to put in the work needed to get healthy and back for the ‘Cats. Like last week with Hardin-Simmons, you hate seeing these kids get injured especially after how hard they have worked but that is part of the game of football. I’m looking forward to seeing which ‘Cat Back takes this opportunity and runs with it. (pun intended)