|Photo Courtesy of Brad Thompson. View Brad's CLU/Linfield Photo Gallery Here.|
What a gutty, tough, and I’ll say it…what a ballsy performance by the ‘Cats. The game started out terribly for Linfield. The offense was sputtering and the Kingsmen marched down the field to put up an easy 7 points. Things were not looking that great but in a situation so similar to the Mary Hardin-Baylor playoff game in 2009, CLU sensed the momentum and tried to go for an early kill shot by going for a 4th and 1 deep in Linfield territory. The ‘Cats turned them away and that was the moment the game started to turn and then the emotional dam flood gates opened when Linfield’s staff went riverboat gambler on their own 39 and hit a huge fake punt. At that point the ‘Cats started working things out on the sideline, made adjustments, and took control of the game.
I’m not going to call it an “ugly” win but it was a hard fought victory over a very talented and athletic CLU team. They’re a very good team with a lot of weapons but Linfield is just Linfield: fearless, tough, and pretty darn talented too. So where do the ‘Cats go from here? For one, they have a lot of areas to improve upon and plenty of room to grow. This 2011 team isn’t a finished product yet but if the players keep their mind’s right, stay grounded, keep putting in the perpetration, and doing things the Linfield way there is a chance for this team to be stinking good by the end of the season.
The Good, The Bad, The Ugly
Team Toughness (Response To Adversity): Like I wrote above the start of the game was brutal but before the game Coach Smith told his players that they could come out great or come out poorly. He stated that he didn’t care about the start but how the players responded and performed though out the contest. As we saw, the team responded with toughness in truckloads. It was fun to watch.
Defense, Defense, Defense: California Lutheran has offensive weapons coming out of their ears. But it didn’t matter as the ‘Cats defense limited the CLU rushing attack to 3.3 yards a rush and Daniel Mosier 55 yards on 16 carries. All three levels of the defense did a great job throughout the day. CLU threw a ton of pre-snap shifting at our young LB’s and I’m sure there were some communication breakdowns but the ‘Cats defensive speed was able to make up the difference and close any gaps in the ‘Cats defense. A heck of an effort to hold that team to 14.
Linfield Rushing Attack: 44 rushing attempts, 256 yards for 5.8 a carry. The best part the running game didn’t really get going until the 2nd quarter. Love the physical nature of the offensive line AND the wide receivers were busting backside all game too. Josh Hill was dynamic in rolling up 164 yards and showed that pop the players and staff has been talking about since last spring. Also, Steven Nasca did a great job in getting his 61 yards on 10 carries. It was a brilliant day running the ball for the ‘Cats
Special Teams Coverage: A flat out great job by our kicking teams. My father commented to me after the game “Those kids on our kickoff team were reminding me of that group from the 2004 Occidental game”. Those of you that know what Father Wildcat11 is talking about being reminded of that 2004 kickoff team is a most positive memory. Also, Punter Josh Repp and Kicker Jordan Walker had great efforts punting and kicking off on Saturday.
Mickey Inns: If you’re going to judge Mickey just based off the stats alone from Saturday then you’re going to say he had a bad game. If you do then I’m going to say you’re dead wrong. Mickey had every reason to fail on Saturday: replacing a Linfield hall-of-fame bound quarterback, his 1st start going up against tough opponent, seeing the best pair of corner backs we’ll probably see all year, and all the weight of being “the guy”. Most people would understand if he buckled under the pressure but it didn’t happen. Instead, Inns took shot after shot from the CLU defense and Inns stayed in-control, poised, and he delivered. I think Mickey is going to get better each game out and will be what the Linfield offense needs this season.
Coaching Staff’s Effort: WC11 could write pages on what I think about this football staff. They did a brilliant job in getting this team schematically and emotionally ready to play. They're in tune to what this team needs and provide the very best environment to learn the game of football. I don’t think any of us, me included, will understand the amount of sheer time and personal sacrifice this staff pours into Linfield football.
Red Zone Turnovers: Linfield missed two golden opportunities to put points up on the board. Both interceptions were due to pressure as Inns was hit from behind while throwing on one pick and had a DT in his face on the other. Red Zone turnovers are incredible frustrating and Linfield has to improve on this aspect next time out of the gate.
Defense Not Finishing in the Backfield: CLU QB Jacob Laudenslayer is a good sized QB that moves pretty well but Linfield missed 4 or 5 golden opportunities to put him on his back. Linfield did finish with 5 sacks but that number could have been closer to 9 if we finished better.
Too many hits on Inns: The ‘Cats offensive line and running backs wouldn’t disagree with me here. Inns just took way too much punishment on Saturday. Our O-Line is very proud and I know Inns getting hit that much isn’t going to sit well with them. I expect the protection to improve greatly.
Injured ‘Cats: Lost in the victory was seeing ‘Cats running back Aaron Williams come out the game after the 2nd play from scrimmage with an injury and seeing Sparky Gonzalez get hurt late. Not my place to speculate on the depth or severity of the injuries but WC11 is very fond of both of these seniors and I’m hoping they can bounce back fast because we’re going to need their firepower.
The Heat: That’s the hottest I’ve ever been at the ‘Catdome. It’s just a good thing our young men up here in the Pacific Northwest did such a great job in handling the heat. In fact, I don’t think I saw one ‘Cats come out due to cramps or anything heat related. The heat probably did help Linfield a little in snatching up the victory but that’s what the home field advantage should be about. Regardless of the heat, it was a great day in the valley and a great day to be a Wildcat! Send ‘Em Up!
Click here for BRAD THOMPSON 2011 GAME PHOTOS