Wednesday, December 9, 2009

NCAA Playoff Semi-Finals Preview: #5 Linfield @ #2 UW-Whitewater

KABOOM!!! Down to the final four of the division III playoffs and what a crew of semi-finalists we have. On one end you have Mt. Union pairing off against a fine Wesley team but there is only one game that matters for the Catdome and that’s when our ‘Cats head out to Wisconsin and play the #2 ranked UW-Whitewater Warhawks (Kickoff 10am PST). Wildcat11 will be headed out on Friday and will be on hand at Perkins Stadium when Linfield tries to overcome a Warhawk program that has made 4 consecutive trips to the Stagg Bowl. It’s no coincidence why the ‘Hawks have reached this level in Division III. They are just flat out a great program. UWW has great talent, great coaching, and great execution on game day. Whitewater is a goliath on the DIII landscape and it just very well may take a biblical effort by the ‘Cats to overcome this team.

We’ve already established that UWW has been great the past 5 seasons but many surrounding that program are saying the 2009 version just might be the best team UWW has fielded yet. That’s a scary thought but for good reason. The ‘Hawks are just stomping the competition this season by a tune of 44 to 8.5 points per contest. Dig further and UWW rushes for about 6 yards a pop while only yielding 2.4 yards a carry. Along with the rushing stats, UWW QB Jeff Donovan has thrown for over 3,000 yards and 27 TDs. But the biggest beast for UWW is running back, Levell Coppage. Don’t let the stats fool you (1,887 yards, 30 TDs) as those could probably be deeper in the 2,000 yards range and many more TDs racked up if Coppage wasn’t shut down by the ‘Hawks coaching staff when UWW had games in hand. He might very well be the best back the Linfield program has faced since Southern Oregon’s Dusty McGrorty (2000-03). You just don’t find the kid’s skill set at the Division III level.

On the other sideline this Saturday you have our Wildcats who just made it out of a stacked West Region bracket after beating #22 Cal Lutheran, #8 Mary Hardin-Baylor, and #10 University of St. Thomas. Not too shabby at all as our ‘Cats just keep rolling along. Obviously, Linfield is an under“cat” this weekend but Linfield positively has a chance to get it done. The ‘Cats have both offensive and defensive playmakers that have the ability to make enough plays to turn the tide in any ball game. Collectively, the ‘Cats will need to bring their “A” game to the Perk but as I’ve said before…I’m a believer in this team and so should you.

Wildcat11’s Keys To Victory:

Find a way to run the ball: The ‘Cats HAVE to have a run game this weekend. Just got to have it. If Linfield can make UWW respect the run then the ‘Cats can open up the other aspect of the offense. Whitewater is a great run stopping defense but Linfield just can’t throw in the towel and not try to rush the ball. The ‘Cats don’t have to put up 200 rushing yards but they have to make UWW respect it. IMO, this is priority number one on Saturday.

Wide Receiver Corp step up: The ‘Cats wide receivers are going to need to be razor sharp this weekend and grab every opportunity to make plays that comes their way. It just can’t be one WR this weekend to get it done…every WR that steps on the field this Saturday needs to be a playmaker or find a way to contribute.

Linfield defense has to win 3rd down: The ‘Hawks are converting 3rd down at a clip of 55%. If the ‘Cats can drop that to the low 40’s/high 30’s then Linfield will be able to keep the game close. First, Linfield has to put UWW in 3rd down situations but that’s another story.

Have to Start Fast: UWW is outscoring their opponents 132 to 7 (10 to .5) in the first quarter this season. The ‘Cats have to continue to be a strong starting team and not allow UWW to gain the momentum early. The longer the ‘Cats can stay within striking distance the better Linfield’s chances will be late in the game.

Make Coppage earn it: I’m not going to write “Stop Coppage” because that probably won’t be the case but we can certainly make him earn every yard he gets by putting a hat on him each time he carries the rock. Linfield’s defense has to maintain leverage and limit his cut back ability and be great tacklers. For Linfield/Oregon residents, Coppage is going to remind you of Oregon State’s Quizz Rogers. Not big but has great power and ability to exploit small gaps between the tackles. Coppage may very well break off a couple of big runs but if we can frustrate him the rest of the time then I’ll be a happy camper.

Continue to be defensive playmakers: Linfield has done it all year long and the ‘Cats will need that again this Saturday. I don’t want our DB’s to take unnecessary gambles on throwing downs but continue to be in the right spot at the right time.

Put on the Road Warrior gear one more time: It seemed like a lifetime ago that this team methodically won four very long road games in a row but I believe the lessons the ‘Cats learned about the overnight travel and being on the road could be a factor this weekend.

Not too tight, not too loose: Linfield has nothing to lose this weekend. All the pundits and DIII experts are going to pick UWW to win this weekend and head back to the Stagg Bowl. That’s fine because UWW has earned that type of respect but the ‘Cats have to remember that you don’t get to 12-0 by accident. You don’t beat 6 ranked teams by mistake and you don’t get a chance to play for a National Title because a computer or writers say you should. Just remember, that if the ‘Cats go and play up to this Linfield team’s potential and ability then there is no reason this team can’t win this game. All the pressure is on UWW to make another trip to the Stagg and for Linfield it’s a chance to turn everyone’s head.


‘Cats by 3. Yeah, Linfield is going to have to play an exceptional game but I 100% believe this Wildcat squad has the ability to come up with that type of effort. Without a doubt, there’s going to be adversity to overcome during the course of the game and how Linfield deals with the adversity is going to lead to the end result of the contest. All year long, this team has dealt with the peaks and valleys of these types of games with a steady and confident demeanor and that’s not going to change this weekend. UWW may be a great team but so are our Linfield Wildcats. Catdome!


MacQuiz said...

You're on the money again 11.

I agree with all said and would like to add this...with caution comment; and I know some will say it shouldn't have been said.
The lads are consistantly cool under fire and focused on the task.
This weekend, they may face the challange of maintaining that focus from the un-enviable position of clawing back into a game from the 2nd qtr on. As you point out...UWW has an impressive 1st qtr record.
I know the guys have been coached for the mission and that they will be prepared for inevitabilities that may present.
This is the test of the "Mettle of the Men". They can get it done!

d1shima said...

I hope they avoid any weather issues and can at least get a walk-thru in the stadium.
Can't quite get an accurate capacity but I guess it's somewhere between 11 and 13,000.

It's not like none of the players have seen a bigger stadium before and I know the game is played between the sidelines but just the same, it would be good for the team to get a look at the venue beforehand.

d1shima said...

Oops, forgot to add....


d1shima said...

I wonder how this affected their practice today?

"Governor Jim Doyle Wednesday morning announced the official closure of all state government and University of Wisconsin system campuses. All UW-Whitewater classes, day and night, are canceled.
The Governor's order states that employees should not report to work Wednesday unless their job duties include emergency response, public health or public safety."

Troy Boy said...

also the williams center (the only viable indoor facility they could have practiced in has been closed...who knows where they practiced