Huge game this Saturday...I mean a huge game. Linfield is "this close" to securing the program's 12th perfect 9-0 regular season in the 'Cats 110+ year history, an outright NWC conference title, and trying to secure a possible 1st round home playoff game. There is MUCH to play for this Saturday and Linfield needs to be sharp and continue to build momentum into the 2nd season.
Now for the opponent; Pacific Lutheran has been a very interesting team this season. Their first two games of season were downright disasters as they were crushed at home vs St. Olaf 46-7 and then pasted on the road by Cal Lutheran 49-7. Then, an off the field move by PLU Head Coach Scott Westering paid immediate dividends for the 'Lutes as he left the sidelines and started calling the 'Lute offense from back in the booth. Since the move, PLU's offense has improved dramatically in putting up 43, 33, 17, 35, 21, and 35 points over the past 6 games. The Lutes have gone 3-3 over that stretch and really they were just a few plays away from running off 6 straight including a game where they had Willamette on the ropes.
Even though the record says 3-5, a very worthy and competitive team is headed down to the 'Catdome this weekend. So I'm throwing away the 'Lutes first two weeks of the season and their past two performances vs Linfield to try to get a better idea in just what Linfield needs to do to control and win this contest.
Wildcat11's Keys To Victory:
Offense comes out strong: In their last 6 games PLU has outscored their opponents in the 1st quarter by a combined score of 62-0. During the second quarter of play over the past 6 games PLU has outscored teams 41-28. Quick math will tell you that PLU has been great in the 1st half 103-28 (17.2 to 4.7). If we take the same sample of game for the 'Cats you'll see that Linfield hasn't been slouches in the 1st frame either by outscoring teams 82-7 over the that time. For the first halves of games Linfield has averaged 24.7 to 9.7 during the last 6 contests. Linfield would be doing themselves a huge service by being able to jump the Lutes early in this game.
Tackle well in the short passing game: I'd bet my bottom dollar that PLU has been wearing out the Linfield/UPS game film in putting together a plan to attack the 'Cats. PLU is a passing team that is going to try to protect their QB, Joradn Rasmussen, with quick timing/underneath routes and let their WRs make plays after the catch. Linfield needs to do a better job of tackling once those short completions have been made. Let's keep their Yards After Catch to a minimum.
Force PLU to start drives deep: We need our Kickers to step up and have a day on Saturday along with the coverage team getting it done. Let's eliminate starting position from their own 40 yard line or worse. The deeper we can pin PLU the better the advantage for our defense.
Defensive Line getting after Rasmussen: I'm putting it out there to my boys on the defensive line. If Linfield can get after Rasmussen with just the front 4 then Linfield is going to control this game. PLU is not going to out physical Linfield and run it downhill so the defensive front needs to let Coach Vaughan keep the blitzes down and allow his LBs to stay under the zone. STRONGEST LINK BABY!
Balancing Act: Let's soften up that PLU blitz game and zone with a steady dose of our physical run game. The more we can pound PLU up front the more chances we'll have for the homerun ball and one-on-one chances on the outside. I'd love to see a 55-45 run to pass ratio on Saturday.
Forget the past and welcome the challenge: I hope the players on this team have flushed the previous two games with PLU and understand this is a much improved PLU team. Coach Westering has his groove back in terms of calling plays and PLU has some mature and explosive play makers on each side of the ball. Along with that our team should continue to have that swagger and confidence in knowing they are one of the top damn team in the country in division III and have it in their minds to come out this weekend and reconfirm that with a thunderous performance.
'Cats by 14. If our defensive line can get constant pressure up front and we do a good job in making plays in the defensive backfield then there is no reason why Linfield shouldn't control this game. The 'Cats offense has looked stellar and unless we pee down our legs I don't know if PLU can stop the 'Cats Offense. This Linfield team in so close to greatness but they just need to own it and have a trademark performance this weekend. I have the utmost faith in these young men that they will rise to the challenge.