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Wow, if Linfield was a steamroller they would have rolled right over PLU. It was somewhat surprising because I think PLU is a solid team. However, Linfield was playing at a higher level in about every phase of the game. Granted, there are few things that were not great for Linfield on the day and I’m sure the coaches are finding all sorts of areas in the ‘Cats game that will need to be improved upon going forward. But let’s step back for a second and talk about the ‘Cats domination of PLU. Like I mentioned in my game preview, for me and other ‘Cats of my age, PLU will always be our “rival”. However, how could the more recent generation of Wildcats feel that way? It’s a little crazy to think that back in the “leave no doubt” season of 2002 is when this run of 10 consecutive wins over PLU started. A full decade of owning a program that once time battled the ‘Cats year-in and year-out for conference, and at times, national dominance. If I look at it from the current player’s perspective I understand how PLU is still respected but is just another game on the schedule to the ‘Cats.
For the game itself, Linfield’s defense turned PLU into a one-dimensional offense and that played right into the speed and pressure packages that the ‘Cats have in bunches. I felt that if Linfield was emotionally sharp and didn't hurt themselves the 'Cats would be in control for most of the game but I was surprised with just how dominate the 'Cats were from the opening kickoff. Like I wrote above you can see the talent and play-makers PLU has on their roster but like we've seen from this Wildcat team when they get on a roll it's going to be difficult for most teams to hold up under the constant pressure the 'Cats put on you in all phases of the game.
The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
The ‘Cats were focused and ready: Luckily, I had the camera rolling about 8 minutes before kickoff in the ‘Cats locker room. The place was so quiet that Northrup Library would have been jealous. However, the air was filled with a palpable tension. You could just feel it in the air. About a good 20-30 seconds into me filming this silent room filled with over 100 players and all it took was for Eric Biege and Drew Fisher to light the fuse by forcibly asking the ‘Cats if they were ready to play and I though the room was going to explode. Needless to say, our ‘Cats were ready physically and emotionally to play the on Saturday.
Linfield Defense: Outstanding. The ‘Lutes could only manage 98 total yards in the 1st half of the game and if it wasn’t for that very late 80 yard TD drive the ‘Cats would have held PLU to 103 yards of offense on the day. Just a great job all around by the players, staff, and scout team players for putting in a great week of work to get ready for the week.
Great offensive balance: If it wasn’t for those crappy 59 loss sack yards (we’ll get to those later) Linfield’s offense would have put up 193 yards rushing and 326 passing the ball. That is the balance I’m talking about right there that will make this offense so difficult to deal with over these last 3 regular season games and beyond. 44 rush attempts and 37 pass attempts. Those are numbers that Wildcat11 can live with.
WR Corp making plays: The WR corp took some well deserved heat early in the season for too many drops but there was none of that this weekend. In fact, what we had was a WR crew making play after play on the ball and it was a joy to watch. I loved the way they played on Saturday in getting dirty down the field in the run and screen game and just being difference makers on the ball. Great job by Coach Yen’s crew.
Owning 3rd down: The ‘Cats stuffed PLU on 11 of 14 3rd down attempts while the Wildcat offense (check the paw prints) went 10 out of 17 on the day. That is about as telling of a stat you’ll find on the day. 3rd down is so important in the game of football and Linfield dominated this down on Saturday.
8 Tackles for Loss and 5 Sacks: Linfield’s defense front did a great job throughout the day in getting pressure in PLU’s backfield. PLU’s Zack Halverson literally looked like he was auditioning for Happy Feet 2 midway through the 2nd quarter due to the ‘Cats constant harassment and pressure on the PLU signal caller.
3rd week in a row Special Teams TD: This has to be a Linfield record. 3rd week in a row the Linfield Special Team’s has scored a touchdown. This week the honor went to ‘Cats placeholder Taylor Skore who busted out a 23 yard Fake Field goal for the TD. This group is just impressive. Also, a big shout out to the ‘Cats staff for being willing to continually roll the dice this season and take chances. There is always risk/reward but this added element just forces other teams to burn precious time during the week on all the different possibilities where the ‘Cats could attack during special teams. We have the athletes and it’s great to see the staff go for it.
‘Cats Defensive Backs: Just a banner day in the office for the Linfield DB’s. What else could you say about this group? Great run stopping support, 3 picks, a forced fumble, 3 pass break-ups, and constant blanket coverage on PLU. If you didn’t love watching this group perform then you don’t like football.
Not fishing the ‘Lutes off in the 1st half: This is a bit of a knit-pick but I really felt Linfield missed a golden chance to dump the dirt on PLU’s grave in that first half. Granted, the fake field goal TD was a pretty big dagger but it felt like Linfield had other chances to put PLU down even further and extinguish and hope for a comeback. Again, I’m picking on the edges a little but against teams of great resolve the ‘Cats need to strike on those opportunities.
8 Penalties: 2nd week in a row where the penalties are getting up there. Most of the hankies were silly mistakes that Linfield can easily clean up and will need to moving forward. It didn’t burn the ‘Cats on Saturday but it needs to be addressed.
Giving up 6 Sacks: Coming into the game the ‘Cats had only give up 2 sacks (only 1 sack on Mickey Inns). Linfield left the game on Saturday giving up 8 sacks on the year. I don’t think I’m offending any of the ‘Cats offensive players when I put this in the Ugly category because it was ugly. It was a mixed bag of sacks coming off a blown assignment, holding onto the ball too long, to getting beat one-on-one (O-line and RB). Linfield’s O-Line and RB’s have shown major growth over the early part of the season in keeping bodies of Mickey Inns but Saturday was just a bad day in the office. I’m stating the obvious when I write that needs to get fixed sooner rather than later because Menlo’s defense have made a habit of getting to know the other team’s quarterbacks this season.