Wednesday, November 16, 2011

2011 NCAA Playoff Round 1 Preview: Linfield (9-0) vs California Lutheran (8-1)

Once again we meet with our good friends from California Lutheran. For the 3rd year in a row the ‘Cats will line up against the Kingsmen for the right to advance in the NCAA Division III playoffs. For those that follow both programs know this is actually the ‘Cats 5th meeting with CLU in Linfield’s past 22 games (past 21 for CLU) and at this point I think each teams' players and staff know each other so well they could recite the others playbook by heart.

Even though the frequency of this game is almost at a nauseating level, it’s still intriguing to me on a number of levels. I think there’s zero doubt that both of these teams are in an elite class of Division III football teams this season and while it’s too bad we have to face off in the 1st round, it’s just our reality in DIII out in the far west. It would be easy for me to go on a tirade about the brackets being unbalanced and how the seeding is ridiculous but it’s pointless. Both of these teams say they’ll play anybody, anytime, anywhere, so we might as well buckle it up and get down to business against a top flight team now instead of getting a sacrificial lamb from the weak auto qualifiers from the Midwest. Hell, why not? Send ‘Em Up!

For California Lutheran, the season opening 24-14 loss to Linfield can to a surprise to the CLU fan base and even to their Head Coach Ben McEnore who told the Ventura County Star “…in all honesty, I am surprised we lost this football game. Give Linfield credit, they took advantage when they had chances. But for the most part, this was a winnable football game for us.” The loss at the ‘Catdome wasn’t in the plans for the Kingsmen and they looked a little uneven the next week in defeating PLU 28 – 17 at Moorepark College but then came a pivotal moment in CLU’s season. On the opening night of play at CLU’s brand new stadium, the SCIAC title was eventually on the line as Redlands came to town. It looked like the wheels were falling off as Redlands raced out to a 24-0 halftime lead but CLU turned the tables on Redlands and stormed back by putting up 28 consecutive 2nd half points to take the big 28-24 win. Since that half of football CLU has been on a major roll in defeating Whittier, La Verne, Pomona-Pitzer, CMS, Chapman, and Oxy by an average score of 59 to 13. Supporters and fans around the CLU program are saying this is the best CLU team ever and they have been playing up to their potential over the last 2/3rds of the season. Needless to say, the CLU confidence is at an all-time high as they head into this weekend.

Get To Know A Wildcat
#65 Hayden Mace, Senior, Center

Favorite Place in Mac to Eat: I don’t have a favorite, but I get into a pretty good weekend routine, so I’ll share it with everyone: Friday O-line meeting: Bento from 76. Post-game dinner: GVB. Saturday night: Muchas. Sunday afternoon: Carl’s Jr.

Favorite Movie: I go back and forth on this a lot, but the movie that’s always in the running is The Dark Knight.

Favorite Music: Alternative rock (Panic! At The Disco, Fall Out Boy) and the blues, acoustic and jazz genre (The Jack Johnson, John Mayer and Colbie Caillats of the world).

Favorite TV Show: I have a plethora, but The Office is hands down my #1.

Favorite Pro Football team: GO HAWKS!

Class I Most Look Forward to: The best class on campus is Economics of College Sports by Randy Grant.

Mac or PC: PC

Cpu Homepage: ESPN

Twitter or Facebook: Can I say both? No? Well then, Twitter.

Car or Truck: I drive a 1992 Ford Taurus. If anyone is looking for a classy car, let me know.

Xbox, PS3, or WII: Xbox

Favorite Coach Hire Saying: Oh, wow! There are so many to choose from. His two favorites this year have been, “Just take him on the angle” and “We wear our swag on our helmets and facemasks.”

Favorite Movie Director: You’re killing me with all of these favorite questions, you know? Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight & Inception) has two of my top-five favorites, so he has to be the guy.

All you can eat buffet at Izzy's. Which O-lineman could do the most damage in one evening: Barnes can put the food away, it’ll just take him all day to do it.

Your Favorite Part About Playing at Linfield is: The coaches and the players make the difference. The guys that choose to play here at Linfield are great guys, both on and off the field. The combination of the brotherhood that this team has along with the best coaching staff in the nation makes for a winning culture.

Post Linfield aspirations: Hopefully get a job with Nike or a finance company in the Portland area and become an offensive coordinator or head coach for a high school team.

Wildcat11’s Keys To Victory

Nothing else but a full 4 quarters of Linfield Football: In order to win this game the ‘Cats need to take the approach that has worked for this group all season long. Be 100% focused on being in the moment and doing your job to the very best of your ability. There are going to be high’s and low’s on Saturday and if the ‘Cats are able to handle both adversity and success for the duration of the contest then I like our chances to slug out a win.

Have to limit the CLU run game: This is no disrespect to the Kingsmen ability to strike in the air (because they’re dangerous throwing the ball) but if you let Daniel Mosier loose on the ground you’re going to make it awfully hard to slow down the CLU offense. Linfield’s defense has to limit the CLU run game in order to take away their balance and give the ‘Cats defense a shot to make plays when CLU is put in positions to throw the ball. That’s easy for WC11 to type because the Kingsmen line is pretty darn big but the ‘Cats have to find a way to beat blocks and put on a tackling clinic on Saturday.

Keep bodies off of Mickey Inns: During the 1st game of the season against CLU, Mickey Inns took way too many hits on the day. Inns and the ‘Cats passing game has grown tremendously over the course of the season and it will be a major key this Saturday to keep Inns on his feet and Kingsmen out of his face.

Have to win field position game: The Kingsmen offense is too explosive to give them opportunities to work with short fields. Good field position isn’t just about special teams but it’s about all three phases of the ‘Cats game keeping the action on CLU’s side of the field. If the ‘Cats can make CLU work long fields and get the offense chances to work with short porches the ‘Cats will be in a great position to win the game.

Keep CLU’s big play strikes down: The CLU passing game features a fine group of receivers led by their All-American candidate Eric Rodgers. While Rodgers has hurt Linfield in the past, the ‘Cats still need to be mindful of the other big play threats on the field and not allow CLU to get behind the ‘Cats defense. I know I’m asking a lot to both stop their run game and also don’t allow big plays downfield but I have faith the defense will give it their best effort to do both.

Run the darn football: Linfield’s saving offensive grace in the season opener was rushing for 256 yards against CLU. I’m sure that isn’t a fact that’s loss on CLU’s coaching staff as they put together their defensive game plan. Regardless, of the extra attention CLU will probably put on the ‘Cats run game, Linfield has to be a balanced offense on Saturday and that starts by running the ball.

Special Teams having a day: CLU has explosive returners and play solid special teams so this will be a good challenge for what has been a stand-out year for Linfield’s special teams unit. Linfield needs to have a great day in covering returns to help win that field position battle.


‘Cats by 7. This has the potential to be a whale of a game. I respect the heck out of CLU’s ability and talent but I love what this Wildcat team brings to the table. There many CLU supporters that think the Kingsmen will break through against Linfield on Saturday. That just plays into the overall feeling I get that CLU believes they shouldn’t have lost that season opener and that’s fine. However, there is a reason Linfield has and will continue to be an elite team in Division III and I’m looking forward to those reasons being on display this Saturday. Go ‘Cats!

1 comment:

doc said...

"the overall feeling I get that CLU believes they shouldn’t have lost that season opener and that’s fine."
...because many of us believe we should not have ended up on the short end September 10, 2010.