Saturday, November 30, 2013

Game Day at the 'Catdome!!!!

The official hashtag for the program is #Catdome. For those that use Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Vine using the Catdome hashtag is the way to express you passion for all things Linfield Football.  Be sure to use the division III football hashtag as well: #d3fb.

The game will be streamed for free today by Linfield Sports.  Here is the link:

Below is a Twitter widget that keeps a running tab on #Catdome.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Around The 'Catdome'Osphere

Thanksgiving weekend football at the 'Catdome?  You bet!

It's playoff game eve and I'm beyond excited to get to the 'Catdome to catch the action as Linfield and Hampden-Sydney will be hooking up for 2nd round playoff action.  Students are off on break so it's vital for Linfield fans that can to get out to the 'Catdome and give this team everything you can.  For those that can't make it out to the 'Catdome the game will be streamed live for free.

Here is the link: Linfield vs Hampden-Sydney live!

Linfield Sports: Linfield player and Coaches Interview Post-Game vs PLU

Linfield Sports: Coach Smith talks PLU and upcoming gave vs H-SC 'Cats start fast and then finish PLU in style Linfield's Dom Forrest is the man in th middle for the 'Cats

The News Tribune: Lutes season ends in McMinnville once again's Daily Dose Blog: Pics for 2nd round of the playoffs. For trip to Linfield, Tigers must adjust adjust to the fly (paywall): Roaring start to the playoffs for Linfield (paywall): 'Cats represent well in All-NWC awards Interview with Hampden-Sydney Head Coach: Marty Favret Hampden-Sydney earns historic NCAA Playoff win: HS-C's head coach is working the "Linfield's so great" take:

Wildcatville Blog: Linfield vs PLU slideshow

Wildcatville BLog: Linfield football hyphenatd opponents

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Playoff Round 2 Preview: Linfield (10-0) vs Hampden-Sydney (9-2)

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone in the ‘Catdome.  This is truly a magical time to be a Linfield Wildcat football fan.  Being in the playoffs during the week of Thanksgiving is not a birthright, but rather, this week is earned off the monumental amount of hard work put in year after year by the players and coaches of this program.  The fact that Linfield gets to host another playoff game is a thrill, and while I know our crowd this weekend might be smaller in numbers, I’ve always appreciated the passion this weekend brings out in the Wildcat faithful. 

Coming off a tremendous 42-21 opening round win over Pacific Lutheran, the ‘Cats get to turn their attention around to a first time opponent out of the Old Dominion Athletic Conference (ODAC), The Hampton-Sydney College Tigers.   Hampton-Sydney is located in Farmville, Virginia which is a small town (est. population of about 8,200) and sits West of the Richmond area.    The Tigers are the champions of the ODAC after defeating their rivals, Randolph-Macon, 28-26 in the defacto ODAC conference championship game.  H-SC defeated Maryville (Tn) in the first round 42-34 to secure the 1st playoff win in school history and broke a ODAC winless streak that dates back several years.

The Tigers are led by standout Junior QB, Nash Nance.  The 6’4” 205 lbs. quarterback has an impressive stat line in throwing for 3,117 yards and 25 touchdowns (247 out of 388, 63.7 completion percentage) as the Tigers are averaging 35.5 pointer per game.  Nance can also get it done with his legs has he’s accumulated 16 rushing touchdowns out of the Tigers multiple look offense.  The H-SC offense is far from a one man show as the Tigers possess one of the most impressive receivers in the country in Holton Walker (6’2”, 205 lbs).  The junior receiver has piled up 1,559 yards off of 103 receptions for 15 touchdowns (141.7 yards per game).  To go along with the sharp passing attack, the Tigers use two primary running backs (Brady Macko and Chris Shembo) who combine for 101.8 yards per game and have 11 rushing TDs between the pair.  The Tigers have a more than capable offense and will be a great test for the ‘Cats.

On the flip side, the Tigers showcase one of the better statistical defenses in the country.  H-SC is only allowing 18.2 points per game and yield a very respectable 279.7 yards per contest.  The Tigers run a 3-3-5 defense and are led by the ODAC defensive player of the year, Linebacker Tyler Ikwild.   The Tigers defense has been very tough against the pass in only allowing 141 passing yards per game and holding teams to a 46% completion rate.  The Tigers don’t have great sack numbers but do have 71 tackles for loss and seem to do a good job in keep everything in front of the defense. 

At this point we know what our Wildcat football team is and they’re built for situations like this.  I’m expecting H-SC to come out aggressive and try to jump out to an early lead.  I think their staff knows that in flying out across the country the last thing they can do is let Linfield take an early lead.  That will spell doom for H-SC.  The Tigers are going try to let Linfield know they’re in for the fight of their lives.  That’s great, but this Linfield team has been here before and understands what it takes to absorb someone’s best punch and continue to push through towards victory.  The Wildcat defense is going to see a ton of offensive formations as the H-SC offense is led by a skillful quarterback, while the ‘Cats offense is going to have to come out of the gates rolling against a stiff defense. 

Get To Know A Wildcat
#54 Kekuapono Kalua, Offensive Guard, Junior

 Favorite Movie: Probably have to be 50 first dates

Favorite Music: Hawaiian reggae is prime for pregame

Favorite TV show: I would say the walking dead. Teaches me how to prepare for zombies

Class I look forward to: I really like my sports management class because it teaches you a different side of sports

Mac or PC: I have to say Mac but I have a PC

CPU homepage: Yahoo!, keeps updated on anything and everything, even fantasy football

Car or Truck: Jacob Hanke's car

Xbox, PS3, Wii: Xbox 360

Favorite Coach Hire saying: "back in my day...."

You have to pick an offensive lineman to cook dinner for the group.  Who would it be?: I trust no one's cooking so it would be myself. hahaha

Favorite part about playing at Linfield: You get to be a part of a program with great history and really good coaching. It's the best decision I made for playing at this level of football

Post Linfield aspirations: I hope I can work for Nike someday and hopefully coach football at any level and use my knowledge of the sport to give back to my high school and community.

Wildcat11’s Keys To Victory

Be Ready to Play Linfield’s brand of football:  This Linfield team has shown a great level of maturity and a quiet confidence all season long and that needs to continue this weekend.  The Tigers have been a fast scoring team in scoring 260 of their 390 points in the 1st half.  The ‘Cats need to be prepared to have a strong effort from the opening kick and sustain that for the duration of the contest.

Establish the running game:  Linfield showed again last week that they are more than just a running team as the ‘Cats have a number for receiving weapons but the Linfield offense needs to establish the run game and put the pressure on the Tigers to commit more resources to the Linfield run game.  Do that and the ‘Cats offense will be in great shape.

Limit Hampden-Sydney’s running game:  Lots of talk this past week has been about H-SC’s Nance to Walker combo (understandable, it’s pretty darn good) but H-SC’s offense is more run focused than you would think.  (443 rushing attempts, 1,778 net rush yards, 4.0 average, 29 TDs).  Obviously, H-SC feels comfortable throwing the ball but Linfield’s defense needs to do what they do and that’s choke the opposition run game and turn their offense one-dimensional.

Adjust and Adapt: H-SC is going to throw the whole playbook at Linfield from the opening kick.  With a limited number of games the ‘Cats have of the Tigers, the ‘Cats need to be able to get on the sideline and work out the adjustments and process information at a high level. 

Red Zone Offense:  Linfield has been stellar in the Red Zone this season in scoring 92% of the time and 88% of those being touchdowns.  H-SC’s defense has been solid in only giving up Red Zone scores 67% of the time (63% being TD’s).  The ‘Cats will have to make their RZ trips count.

Make plays on the ball:  Once again this Wildcat is going to get challenged by the Tigers.  Holton Walker is the big target for Nance but H-SC has 7 other players on the roster with touchdown receptions.  I have a feeling the H-SC staff is going to try to spread it around and try to make Linfield cover as many receivers as possible.

Special Teams once again:  The Wildcat’s special teams started the season a little shaky but over the season as turned into a strength of this team.  One of the special teams units have the ability to make a huge play on Saturday.  If it’s returning a kick, pinning the Tigers deep, or making a block the skill and scheme is there to make it happen.


‘Cats by 14.  The more I look at this Hampden-Sydney team the more I’m impressed with their schemes and players.  The offense will take chances and the defense is very steady.  They have the ability to push Linfield to the limit.  However, I think Linfield is going to be the better team and will be sharp for what will be this group’s last game of the season in the ‘Catdome (most likely).  Go ‘Cats!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Tuesday's Truths and Quick Hits

#28 Michael MacClanathan and the 'Cats defensive line need to have a big pressure week for Linfield.
(Photo Courtesy of Linda MacClanathan)

-By Cory Edmonds

Familiarity often leads to complacency, and after playing PLU three times in the previous 14 months there was a possibility the Cats could display some complacency in their fourth contest against the Lutes. Instead, the Wildcats responded with a resonant first half that included momentous plays in all three phrases- two 70 yard drives, a strip-sack, and a blocked punt. The Cats did more than just get a victory on Saturday; they made a definite statement. Linfield seized control and didn’t let go until the clock read double zeros showcasing their championship potential and leaving no doubt about PLU’s status as the NWC’s runner up.

One could babble endlessly about the Cat’s effort on Saturday and the way in which they displayed tenacity and poise, but this is the playoffs and so it’s on to the next one. The next one happens to be the Hampden-Sydney Tigers from the eastern state of Virginia. The Wildcats have never played the Tigers; thus, the game will lack the familiarity of last week’s game but should contain just as much intrigue. Whereas PLU’s potency revolved around their defense, the Tigers depend heavily on the dynamic nature of their offense. Overall, this week’s game will give Linfield an opportunity to refine their game and demonstrate their ability to those outside the Northwest. If you’re a fan of quality football, make sure you get out to Catdome this Saturday and support your Cats.

In today’s installment of Tuesday Truths we will explore two truths the stats tell us about Linfield and then one truth the stats tell us about Hampden-Sydney. Finally, we will finish with a couple of quick hits on the upcoming game.

The Truth: Linfield needs to avoid a third quarter lull.
The Stats Breakdown: As I stated above, the Cats broke down the door early in their game against the Lutes, but Linfield did experience a break from their dominance during the third quarter. This respite allowed the Lutes to make the game momentarily interesting before the Cats restarted the engine and sped away to victory. In fact, the statistics illustrate that Linfield has a tendency to struggle after intermission, as they have only scored an average of 6.2 points in the third quarter compared to 16 points scored on average in every other quarter. It’s true, in some ways this can be attributed to the fact that they have often held massive leads at the break and haven’t required the same sense of urgency following halftime. However, regardless of the reason, this is a trend that needs to end. In the playoffs, every quarter is essential and the team must demonstrate the same sense of urgency from the opening kickoff to the final whistle.
What To Watch For: Expect Linfield to improve their third quarter play by coming out more aggressive, both in their play calling (more misdirection, screens, and play-action) and in their performance. The senior Cats know that win or lose this is likely their last home game and they are going to ensure they leave a lasting impression. This set of seniors is undefeated at the Catdome and I imagine they are set on keeping it that way- a solid third quarter will go a long way in accomplishing that goal.

The Truth: Linfield will get the victory if they lean on their rushing attack.
The Stats Breakdown: It’s no secret the Cats like to run the ball (49 rushing attempts per game) and so the Tigers will certainly scheme to stop Linfield’s rushing attack, but ultimately the Cats will win this game because of their efforts on the ground. Linfield has been dominant running the ball this year as they have gained an average of 262 rushing yards per contest which has culminated in 48 rushing touchdowns on the season. Furthermore, the Cats average a robust 5.4 yards per carry and boast four ball carriers with over 300 yards rushing. Luckily the Cat’s strength coincides with Hampden-Sydney’s defensive weakness. The Tigers have allowed 138 rushing per game, although they have managed to hold teams to 3.4 yards per rush. However, their schedule does not include many high caliber opponents and their latest games have painted a clearer picture of their defense’s struggles. In the last two contests against higher quality opponents, the Tigers have surrendered an average of 245 yards rushing at 4.8 yards per carry. If Linfield sets out to expose this weakness further, then expect a victory to follow.
What To Watch For: The read-option should be in full effect on Saturday; quarterback Josh Yoder and running back Josh Hill will get a number of opportunities to make momentous plays with their feet. I also expect Linfield to continue to utilize Tavon Willis and Spencer Payne in the fly sweep like what was witnessed on Saturday-when those two get in space they can make tacklers miss and explode for big gains. Linfield has been incredibly balanced offensively this year (261 rushing yards and 224 passing yards per game), but look for Linfield to make its most notable plays on the ground this coming weekend as they march down the field to victory.

The Truth: Hampden-Sydney’s offense is potent.
The Stats Breakdown: Statistically speaking, this offense can make it happen and the following stats make that clear: 35 points scored per game, 447 offensive yards per game, 161 yards rushing and 286 yards passing per game, 29 rushing and 25 passing touchdowns,  and 42% conversion rate on third downs. Yet, the offense’s production is vastly dependent on two individuals: quarterback Nash Nance (a D-1 transfer from Tennessee), and wide receiver Holton Walker. Nance has 41 combined touchdowns (25 passing and 16 rushing) and leads the team in rushing attempts, while Walker has 15 receiving touchdowns to go along with 103 receptions and 1559 yards receiving. Yes, you read that correctly: 103 receptions and 1559 yards receiving. The next closest receiver on the team has 24 receptions and 341 receiving yards. Beyond the rushing talents of Nance, the Tigers rely on two-headed backfield of Brady Macko (557 yards, 8 rushing touchdowns) and Chris Shembo (461 yards, 3 rushing touchdowns). The Tigers will keep the ball in these four players hands for the majority of the game but Nance’s and Walker’s play will likely determine whether or not the Tigers find offensive success or not.
What To Watch For: The Tigers do just about everything on offense and aren’t afraid to use trick plays or take shots down field (Walker alone has at least seven receiving touchdowns that spanned 30 yards or more). Expect Nance to attempt to make plays with his feet and focus his passing efforts on connecting with Walker. In order to stop this potent tandem, Linfield will need to bump Walker at the line, get pressure on Nance, and force turnovers- in their worse loss of the year, Nance threw five interceptions. Look for Linfield to possibly double team Walker, at 6’2” and 205 pounds he’s a large target, or at the very least shade the safety to whichever side he lines up on. Linfield has played teams with offensive talents that seemed formidable based off their stats before, think Keith Welch, Kyle Warner, or Josh Dean, and completely shut them down. I don’t know if Linfield can keep these two players from making any big plays but I know that Linfield has a plan and that the Cat’s defenders will do everything possible to limit them from being truly effective.

Quick Hit #1: Linfield’s Josh Yoder keeps inching closer to the 20/20 club (20 passing touchdowns to go along with 20 rushing touchdowns) as he has claimed 19 passing touchdowns and 16 rushing touchdowns on the year.
Quick Hit #2: Hampden-Sydney has attempted 43 fourth down attempts this year and has converted 22 of them (51% conversion rate). Expect the Tigers to dial up at least two fourth down attempts this Saturday.
Quick Hit #3: Linfield has seen an uptick in its sack production over the past four games (15 sacks). If this trend continues it will dramatically decrease Hampden-Sydney’s chances on Saturday.
Quick Hit #4: In the red zone Hampden-Sydney tends to run the ball with their quarterback. At least ten of Nance’s fifteen rushing touchdowns have come from within the ten yard line.
Quick Hit #5: The Tigers have been fairly effective on third down completing 42% of their third down attempts. With Linfield’s defense playing especially stout on this down (allowing only a 30% conversion rate), it appears yet another game may come down to third down play.

Monday, November 25, 2013

‘Cats Win!!! Linfield eliminates PLU with an opening round 42-21 dismissal at the ‘Catdome.

#55 Alex Hoff and the 'Cats defense feasted on the 'Lutes once again.
(Photo Courtesy of Brad Thompson: View Brad's 2013 Linfield Football photos here. )

It was a picture perfect late November day at the ‘Catdome that saw Linfield come out of the tunnel ready to play.  The ‘Cats wasted no time as the Wildcat offense took the game’s opening possession and drove 76 yards in 9 plays to take the early 7-0 lead.  That was just the beginning of the 1st half avalanche that saw the ‘Cats defense force a Dalton Ritchey fumble that resulted in a TD, Linfield going on another long TD drive (73 yards off of 10 plays), and a blocked punt that capped off the 1st half scoring as Josh Yoder found Evan Peterson from 6 yards out.  The crazy thing is that it could have been worse.  Linfield had a legitimate chance on going up 35-0 as PLU rolled the dice on a 4th and 1 from their own 30 that was stuffed by the ‘Cats defense.  The Lutes defense put that threat to bed with back-to-back sacks and PLU was able to mount last ditch drive that resulted in no points but gave PLU a little sliver of momentum.

At the start of the 2nd half, PLU turned that sliver into a 2x4 of momentum with a big TD to start the 2nd half.  The ‘Cats offense came up empty on their next few possessions and PLU once again struck early in the 4th quarter to cut to lead to 28-14.  This was a critical moment of the game.  Would Linfield have an answer to the run by PLU?  It was time to see the mindset of this Linfield team in a “gotta have it” moment.  Well, Linfield had the answer in the form of a 12 play, 76 yard touchdown drive.  The ‘Cats offense beautifully mixed the run and pass to push the score to 35-14.  Linfield’s defense turned off the lights on the next possession as Rover Mike Nardoni (who quietly had a monster game) picked off Ritchey to set up Linfield’s final score of the day.  The Lutes would tack on a garbage time TD to get a little close but it was too little, too late.  42-21. Ballgame.

That sums it up perfectly for college football fans in the state of Oregon this past weekend.

I think this win was especially satisfying for Linfield fans considering how close PLU played Linfield in both the regular season game and playoff game of 2012.  I think Coach Smith summed up the difference extremely well in talking about how in 2012 Linfield was content in absorbing what PLU was dishing out with regards to PLU’s defensive attack.  The Wildcat offense struggled in handling the PLU pressure style attack.  The difference is that Linfield turned into the aggressors this season in their style of play and the results were evident. In 2013, Linfield is flat better than PLU.  There’s no wiggle room for woulda, shoulda, coulda’s from the PLU camp.  While Linfield has won 14 straights games again PLU, this one has to hurt considering how good PLU is, to only find out twice, that Linfield is that much better.

Incredible that this program hasn't lost to PLU since 2001.

So Linfield is moving on to the 2nd round of the playoffs for the 5th consecutive years as the ‘Cats will host a team the ‘Cats have never played in Hampden-Sydney Tigers out of the Old Dominion Athletic Conference (Virginia area based).  I love playing new teams.  It’s so much fun to get to measure up against teams from the other side of the country.  We’ll dig more into the Tigers this week so let’s get to the breakdown.

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

The Good

Being ready to compete:  I wish every Wildcat fan could have come and sit in the corner of the locker room to truly feel what the pre-game atmosphere was like from our players.  This team has such a quiet confidence.  There’s no hooting or rah-rah but rather a bubbling intensity that circulates among the various position groups.  Coach Smith could sense it in his pre-game talk that his squad was ready. 

Balanced Offensive Attack:  This is probably the most balanced the Wildcat offense has been in a number of weeks between the pass and run.  The ‘Cats did rush the ball 44 times but opened up the passing game with 26 attempts.  The result was a handful of big offensive pass plays and 3 touchdown passes.  The ‘Cats offense did a great job in utilizing a number of their weapons.

3rd and 4th down defense:  Your key stat of the day. 

PLU’s 3rd down offense: 4 of 13 

PLU’s  4th down offense: 1 of 6

I mentioned last week I wasn’t worried about the Wildcat’s 3rd down defense and this group proved me right.  The Lutes threw everything at the Linfield defense but the ‘Cats turned PLU away time and again.

Red Zone perfect:  Six red zone trips for the Wildcat offense and six touchdowns.  You can’t do better than that and Linfield is going to be hard to beat if other teams can’t keep the ‘Cats from scoring TD’s in the red zone.

Defensive Physicality:  Man, I thought Linfield’s physicality on defense was fantastic.  PLU had two weeks to prepare of this game and threw a number of different looks at Linfield but the one thing they couldn’t change is how Linfield would take it to PLU at the point of attack.  That Linfield physicality is why that conversion rate for PLU was in the 20’s.

Linfield Linebacker, Dom Forrest, was all over the 'Catdome. In fact, he was handing out popcorn to fans at halftime.

Wildcat Receivers making plays:  I think the Linfield offense knew they needed some big plays out of the ‘Cats receivers on Saturday and they delivered.  Linfield has some key first down catches from the likes of Balsiger, Nelson, and Meng.  Then you had Evan Peterson abusing his one-on-one match-up in the red zone for two TD’s.  Lastly, Charlie Poppen was an animal.  Here’s your video proof.

Special Teams Impact:  I HATE the shield punt blocking scheme but I LOVE it when other teams run it against Linfield.  The ‘Cats coaches called a perfect time to go for the block in the 2nd quarter as Jordan Giza slid in for a clutch block to set up Linfield’s 4th TD of the game.

Response to PLU’s run:  I already talked about it above but that was a great response by Linfield in the 4th quarter to PLU’s big run.  Linfield is going to face more adversity against better teams in the near future but it’s nice to know that the ‘Cats have the ability to counter.

Our Fans:   It’s the start of Fall Break on campus which means Linfield is a ghost town but props to the core fans and the students that turned out on Saturday.  The small group of students in the south end zone was giving their best as was the entire Linfield fan base.   Linfield needs another big effort this Saturday.

The Bad

3rd quarter lull:  I would have rather seen Linfield come out of the half and finish off PLU right there in the 3rd quarter but it didn’t happen.  Tip of the hat to PLU for the fight and it worked out well enough for Linfield. 

The Ugly (for PLU)

Dalton Ritchey’s 15th turnover vs Linfield in 4 games.  PLU’s QB is a play maker, can be effective running the football, and has good chemistry with his receivers.  The problem for PLU is that Linfield’s defense feasts on Ritchey’s inability to make good decisions with the football.  Linfield stat guru, Tom McFadden, floated this tidbit to me this morning and I couldn’t believe that it’s been 15 turnovers over the past 4 games against the ‘Cats.  Wow. The Beaverton Bakery is jealous of that kind of turnover production.

We'll send you home with something from the "Made In Oregon" store for the trip back.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Linfield vs PLU playoff post-game interviews

Bang!  What a great day in the 'Catdome.  We'll have our game review posted up by tomorrow afternoon but that was a great 1st step in this 2013 playoff journey.  Another home game next week and another chance to see this team in action.  Go 'Cats!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Playoffs at the 'Catdome!

The official hashtag for the program is #Catdome. For those that use Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Vine using the Catdome hashtag is the way to express you passion for all things Linfield Football.  Be sure to use the division III football hashtag as well: #d3fb.  

The game will be streamed for free today by Linfield Sports.  Here is the link:

Below is a Twitter widget that keeps a running tab on #Catdome.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Around The 'Catdome'Osphere

It's going to be a perfect day for playoff football at the 'Catdome.  Don't miss it!
Oh man, I can't wait to get to the 'Catdome tomorrow.  Going to be a little chilly but looking like clear skies and you can't beat that for a home playoff game.  Lots of ground to cover in this edition of the round-up. went bonkers in their playoff coverage and breakdowns (they always do) so head over to the bible of Division 3 football to get caught up.

Whitworth's John Tully stepped down from the captain's chair at Whitworth.  19 years as the head rat is a heck of a run.  Coach Tully took a program in the dumps and made them a winner and a back-to-back conference champ during the 00's.  He had a heck of a run and should be saluted for making Whitworth a contending program.  Best of luck, Coach.

It's Thanksgiving break at Linfield so I'm not expecting a very large student showing tomorrow.  It's up to the Linfield core fans to make the difference tomorrow and I'm betting the Wildcat fans will be loud and proud tomorrow.  This should be a great college football game so don't miss out.  Go 'Cats!

Linfield Sports: Coach Smith talks about season finale and the playoffs Yoder hopes his one-year opportunity at QB ends with a championship run

thenewstribune: Lutes and Linfield to tangle once again's Around The West: Lutes are very, very excited to get another shot at Linfield Daily Dose: Predicting the winners of the 1st round Around The Nation's Playoff picks, surprises, disappointments The 2013 Playoff Team Capsules

LuteAthletics YouTube page: Scott Westering talks playoffs against Linfield in only 1 minute and 7 seconds.

Linfield Review: The 'Cats public address announcer, Craig Singletary, is leaving a legacy at Linfield (paywall site): Wildcats spoil Boxers day (paywall site): Ex-Linfield players sees Pacific game from both sides

Wildcatville Blog: Linfield vs Pacific Slideshow

Linfield Review: Wildcats claw Boxers, 28-22

The Mast (PLU Student Paper): PLU reflects on the legendary Frosty Westering's life Pacific "punched" Linfield "in the face". Maybe they should have worn brass knuckles YouTube Page: Pacific battles "Arch Rivals" Linfield Tully resigns as Whitworth Head Coach.  (Best of luck Tully, you had a heck of a run)

The Whitworthian (.pfd): Whitworth wraps up season with win over L&C (video): Tully speaks on stepping down from Whitworth

thenewstribune: UPS finishes 2013 season at 1-8 but is already back to work

The Puget Sound Trial: Football team ends rough season with a loss

The Willamette Collegian (.pdf): Willamette finishes the season on a positive note

Pioneer Log: Lewis and Clark finishes 1-8 but had a few standout performers

Thursday, November 21, 2013

2013 Playoffs Round One Preview: Linfield (9-0) vs Pacific Lutheran (8-1)

Lutes vs the 'Cats in the playoffs?  Let's do it!
And we meet again.  This weekend is what both PLU and Linfield have been expecting over the past few weeks as the national playoff picture started to get cleared up.  This is life out on the left coast when three teams from the far west make the playoffs.  One team gets to host or fly to a non-west coast team and the closer two programs will get paired up.  It has nothing to do with fairness and everything to do with the NCAA saving money on the non-scholarship level of play.  That’s the way it is and both PLU and Linfield are fine with it (as am I), and from the sounds of it, both are eager to get another crack at each other (as am I).  

This will be the fourth game between Linfield and PLU over the past two seasons as the ‘Cats and Lutes played twice in 2012 (regular season and 1st round playoffs) and this is the same deal in 2013.  These programs know each other about as well as any can.  There are a lot of the same names on the rosters for each team and these players know that the opponent that lines up across from them is capable of making plays.  Both teams will bring out the new adjustments and twists on the plans of attack (especially with PLU getting two weeks to prepare) but the bottom line is that game will come down to what the previous three games have come down to….which team can make the more plays in crunch time will win. 

Earlier this season, the ‘Cats defense was superb in shutting out PLU and the offense came on late in a 29-0 victory that wound up being the key game in the 2013 NWC title chase.   The PLU offense did have multiple chances to hit pay dirt but Linfield kept turning PLU away.  I’m sure that’s been a sore spot all season long for the Lutes and I’m expecting them to try to be more aggressive with Linfield this time around and look for the big home runs when they are presented.  On the other side of the ball, the ‘Cats offense showed they can move the ball on the PLU defense (5.1 yard per play) but the offense stalled out until late in the 3rd quarter when the ‘Cats marched 75 yards on 14 plays.  The drive was capped off on a Hill rushing TD to start the 4th quarter.  After that, the ‘Cats scored on their next three possessions to round out the 29-0 victory. 

The 2013 rematch should be a fascinating game to witness.  In the lead up articles this week, PLU sounds like they’re frothing at the mouth to get another crack at the ‘Cats, while Linfield’s camp has been quiet while they prepare for the 1st round showdown.  That fits the history of these programs.  PLU has always been the enthusiastic rah-rah program and Linfield is the one with quite confidence that expects to win.  These are historical programs that have both won their fair share of National Championships and have actually met six times before in the playoffs.  Linfield with three wins.  PLU with three wins.  An even split.  That’s the great thing about the playoffs…we get to find out on the field and not by a computer program.  It’s awesome.  So, if our ‘Cats play Linfield football for 60 minutes on Saturday then you should expect, as I am, Linfield putting out an effort worthy of moving on to the Sweet Sixteen of Division III football.  Can it be Saturday right now?

Get To Know A Wildcat

#5 Brian Balsiger, Receiver, Sophomore

Favorite place to in Mac: Tequila Grill

Favorite Movie: The Dark Knight Rises

Favorite Music: Country

Favorite TV show: Sportscenter

Class I Most Look Forward to:  Managerial Accounting

Mac or PC: PC

CPU Homepage: Google

Netflix or Cable: Cable

Xbox, PS3, or Wii: PS3

Favorite Coach Smith Saying: “Irregardless of..(Enter Phrase)”

Which receiver on the team has the most extensive glove collection: My brother/cousin/best friend Kyle Harris, all about his swag!

Favorite part of playing at Linfield: The camaraderie and family atmosphere

Post Linfield aspirations: Do something (Not sure what) in regards to the field of finance

Wildcat11’s Keys To Victory

Being the more physical team:  The Lutes have a number of excellent football players and PLU has increased their physical style of play over the more recent years.  That improved physicality is part of the reason why they’ve climbed back into contender status.  With that said, Linfield is one of the most physical teams in the country.  The ‘Cats need to be the aggressors from the opening kickoff and use that to their advantage. Hit or be hit.

Linfield Rushing Attack:  Linfield will be playing against the best defense they have faced for the 2nd time this season.  The Lutes have been a stingy group against the rush this season in only allowing 92.6 yard per game (2.9) and we all know this Linfield offense goes as the rushing game goes.  The ‘Cats offense needs a good early start to get points on the board and try to establish a hold onto the pace of the game.

Limit the PLU run game:  The Lutes' offense is a balanced attack, but like in the previous contest, the key in slowing PLU down is by putting the clamps on their QB run game and on tailback Niko Madison.  The degree of difficulty for doing so will be greater this time as the Lutes will have Va’a Logotala back as the Lutes default fullback.  The 5’ 7”, 245 lbs back is a physical player that was missed by PLU in their first ago around with the ‘Cats.  If the ‘Cats can throttle the run, Linfield will make PLU’s offense struggle.

‘Cats receivers getting it done: With all the attention on the Linfield running game the Wildcat’s offensive productivity could very well come down to our receivers making plays and being difference makers.  We have a fine group of receivers and they need to put those skills on display.

Don’t let Warner, Westering, and Sontra get going.  PLU QB Dalton Ritchey has three excellent targets to depend on and Linfield has been hurt by all three in the past.  Our defensive backs need to have another big Saturday of competing once the ball goes up in the air.  I love this Wildcat defensive backfield and know they’ll be excited for the challenge.

Pressure:  The ‘Cats defensive line has to figure out ways to get pressure without extra bodies on those passing downs.  If our front can get to Ritchey consistently, it will go a long ways to a Wildcat victory.

Play Smart Football: The ‘Cats have been a smart football team all season long in terms of their on-the-field decision making.  This Saturday is not the time to go away from that.  Make good choices, do your assignment, and play Linfield Football


‘Cats by 7.  This is going to be a great college football game.  PLU is a fine football team and a worthy opponent.  They are fully capable of beating this Linfield team if things go the Lutes way.   However, I have so much faith that Linfield will be the better team on Saturday.  The ‘Cats are so talented and trust in their coaching and in their fellow teammate.  PLU is going to bring it but I think Linfield will make the plays they need in order to win and advance.   It’s not about style points at this time of the season and I’m looking forward to seeing this Linfield team go to work.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Tuesday's Truths and Quick Hits (Wednesday Edition)

#78 Steven Schultz and the 'Cats offense line face a big challenge this weekend against PLU.
(Photo Courtesy of Linda MacClanathan)

-By Cory Edmonds

It took a few days, but I think my heart just regained its normal arrhythmia following Saturday’s intense game against the Pacific Boxers. After a whole season where they had never trailed at halftime, the Cats found themselves in that exact predicament out in Forest Grove last Saturday. The Boxers came out supercharged in an effort to honor their 39 graduating seniors (a group that was paramount in rebuilding the program) and snag a signature Northwest Conference win.  The atmosphere in Forest Grove was electric and at times the crowd of 3,200 felt more like 6,000 as they boisterously cheered on every Boxer third down conversion, tackle, and so on. Essentially, Saturday’s level of play and atmosphere were reminiscent of a playoff game and, thus, served as preview of what awaits Linfield over the next several weeks. Luckily for the Linfield faithful, the Cats displayed grit and resolve-quintessential characteristics of a playoff contender-in pursuit of the win. No one would claim Linfield played its best game of the year, but they did fight hard to gain the victory and that’s what excellent teams do; even when they struggle, great teams persevere and find a way. After claiming a fifth straight NWC title and finishing their third straight undefeated regular season, there remains little doubt about the prowess of this team. The following are a few statistics that stand as a testament to this team’s talent:

3 rushing touchdowns allowed.
1.8 yards per rush allowed.
238 yards per game allowed.
A +18 turnover margin.
A record tying 45 rushing touchdowns.
An average +44 margin of victory.
500 offensive yards gained per game.
16 different offensive players scored touchdowns.

However, Linfield has little time to reflect on its accomplishments this season as they open the playoffs with a difficult draw against rival Pacific Lutheran. It's always tough to beat a quality team twice in a year but Linfield will have to do exactly that this weekend. If past performance is any indicator of future success, then it seems Linfield will be up for the challenge.

In today’s installment of Tuesday Truths we will explore two truths the stats tell us about Linfield and then one truth the stats tell us about Pacific Lutheran. Finally, we will finish with a couple of quick hits on the upcoming game.

The Truth: Linfield’s offense needs to get rolling early.
The Stats Breakdown: This truth was definitely evident in last week’s game but it also plagued Linfield in their earlier matchup with PLU. In that matchup, Linfield held a mere seven point lead over PLU up until a 22 point explosion in the fourth led to 29-0 Linfield win. This week Linfield can not afford to get off to a slow start. PLU is an excellent second half team, as they have scored 148 points in the second half of games this year compared to 122 in the first half. The team has even posted two fourth quarter comebacks (vs. CLU and Pacific). Linfield’s offense hasn’t stalled often this year- remember, they do average 55 points and 500 yards per game- but the two games they have gotten off to slow starts in (vs. PLU and Pacific) have been by far the closest games of the year. Linfield needs to charge out of the gate and add to their impressive 292 first half points this week in an effort to put PLU away early.
What To Watch For: Look for Linfield to be focused from the get go and take hold of the game’s momentum. Linfield will rely heavily on the run, but don’t be surprised when they take a few shots down the field to loosen up PLU’s suffocating defense. After last week’s close call, look for Linfield to remind everyone of their status as the NWC’s best. In my brother’s words, I expect Linfield to leave no doubt by “burying them six feet deep, still breathing.”

The Truth: Takeaways will be the key for Linfield’s defense.
The Stats Breakdown: In many ways last week’s narrow victory depended on Linfield’s ability to create takeaways. A forced fumble on a punt return set Linfield up for their first score and two late interceptions sealed the win for the Cats. Linfield has relentlessly pursued takeaways this year and has gathered 26 on the year (17 interceptions and 9 fumble recoveries). Linfield has also scored four defensive touchdowns and will look to add to that total on Saturday. Luckily for the Cats, PLU has specialized in giving the ball away as they have surrendered the ball 29 times on the year or an average of three turnovers per game. In their previous meeting with Linfield, PLU turned the ball over five times (four interceptions and one fumble recovered). PLU's quarterback, Dalton Ritchey, has thrown more interceptions than touchdowns and the team fumbles the ball nearly four times per game with opponents recovering about half of those fumbles. PLU will almost certainly turn the ball over and Linfield will take advantage of their miscues.
What To Watch For: Linfield will do everything it can to force PLU into its tendency to turnover the ball. Look for players to gang tackle and rip at the ball in an effort to increase PLU's fumble total and add to their misery. If Linfield succeeds in limiting PLU's running game, then they should have ample opportunities to intercept Ritchey who has been a bit reckless with the ball this year. Expect at least one instance where this game turns on a costly PLU turnover.

The Truth: The game plan for stopping PLU hasn’t changed.
The Stats Breakdown: Even though it’s been six weeks since Linfield persevered to a 29-0 victory over PLU, it’s not like PLU has suddenly changed their scheme or has added new playmakers. Consequently, Linfield will look to replicate their actions from that previous game. The defensive recipe for success against PLU includes the following: contain quarterback Dalton Ritchey (leads PLU with 10 rushing touchdowns to go with 13 passing touchdowns), limit the run, and shut down dynamic wide receiver Kyle Warner (48 receptions, 804 yards, 8 touchdowns). Offensively, Linfield will look to establish the run, move the pocket to protect the quarterback, and utilize the screen game to diminish the impact of PLU’s front seven (3.6 sacks and 7.3 tackles for a loss per game).
What To Watch For: Last time I previewed this game I wrote the following in this section: “The Lutes will try to establish the run early as it opens up their down field passing game. Linfield will need to stay alert and not get caught looking into the backfield on PLU play-action; the Cats will also need to be disciplined as PLU will employ a number of option looks with Ritchey in order to give him opportunities to scamper. Expect PLU to make some plays on both sides of the ball but I believe Linfield will make more plays bottling up the Lute offense in crucial situations and making the necessary offensive plays to unsettle PLU’s defense.” I stand by my assessment, but would emphasize how crucial it is for Linfield to stop the run. In the previous matchup, Linfield held PLU to 40 yards rushing on 22 attempts which forced the Lutes to pass more than they would have wanted and generated four interceptions for the Cats. Look for Linfield to sell out on the run and reap the benefits in the secondary.

Quick Hit #1: Linfield continues to dominate in the red-zone, as they are scoring touchdowns on 86% of their red-zone trips. If Linfield gets into the red-zone look for them to score touchdowns and not simply settle for field goals.
Quick Hit #2: For all of his talent, PLU quarterback, Dalton Ritchey, has been a turnover machine this year. To go along with his 14 interceptions, the the junior signal caller has fumbled the ball 14 times and lost four of them. That's 18 turnovers attributed to Ritchey. If this trend continues it may be a tough day at the office for PLU's quarterback.
Quick Hit #3: With injuries depleting Linfield's defensive line, it will be important for someone to step up in that group. My money is on junior, defensive tackle Jeremy Girod who has seized 5 sacks and 12.5 tackles for a loss on the year.
Quick Hit #4: PLU's running back, Niko Madsen, is third on the team in receptions and yardage (22 receptions, 251 yards receiving). Look for the Lutes to throw the ball his way to produce opportunities for the speedy back to make plays in space.
Quick Hit #5: PLU is having trouble scoring touchdowns in the red-zone; they boast a 64% red-zone touchdown conversion rate. Against Linfield's stingy red-zone defense (allowing only 45% of red-zone trips to culminate in touchdowns) PLU's struggle will likely continue.
Quick Hit #6: Since they ended their season on a bye-week, PLU will have had two weeks to prepare for this game. Don't be surprised if they have inserted some different looks- triple option, wishbone, or otherwise- in an effort to confound Linfield's defense.

Monday, November 18, 2013

‘Cats Win!!! Linfield flips script in second half to bounce the Boxers 28-22.

#15 Josh Yoder and the 'Cats offense came through when it mattered most.
(Photo Courtesy of Brad Thompson: View Brad's 2013 Linfield Football photos here. )

That was a fun football game.  The ‘Cats had all they could handle from an emotional and well coached Pacific Boxer team this past weekend up in Forest Grove.  It was a story of the Linfield offense getting off to a slow start and Pacific controlling the ball by converting a number of 3rd downs that limited Linfield’s 1st half offensive opportunities.  It was a gut check for Linfield as Pacific grew their lead to 9 points early in the second half off a Boxer field goal. For Linfield, the 'Cats were at the point that if Linfield didn’t make their move, it might never come.  But the ‘Cats responded in the form of a 63 yard drive off of 8 plays in the span of 3 minutes and 20 seconds.  The game shifted at that point as Linfield’s defense would make keys stops and the ‘Cats tacked up two more scores to take a 28-16 lead with 6:35 left in the game.  Pacific didn’t go quietly into the off-season as the Boxers found the end zone one last time with 2:12 left to get the game within six.  Linfield would recover the on-sides attempt (two of them actually) and the offense picked up the game clinching first down to run out the clock.

With the win, Linfield moves to 9-0 and captures their 5th consecutive undisputed NWC title.  This is the first time in NWC history that this has been accomplished.  Linfield did peel off six straight NWC titles from 2000-2005 but shared the title with PLU and Whitworth in 2001.  The longest consecutive stretch of undisputed conference titles was held between Willamette (1934-37) and Linfield (2002-2005), but that has now been supplanted by this current run of Linfield’s (2009-13). Soak that in for a few minutes.

So with the NWC crown and Pool A bid secured the NCAA released their 2013 brackets last night and Linfield drew a #2 seed in the “Whitewater bracket”.  With three teams on the West Coast getting into the playoffs that led to what everyone already knew as Pacific Lutheran (8-1) will be getting on the bus and headed back play Linfield for the fourth time in the last two seasons.  After Saturday’s game I heard the comment that Pacific was the best team that Linfield played this season.  No disrespect towards Pacific (they played great this past Saturday) but that’s not the case.  Pacific is the team that played Linfield best so far this year but Pacific Lutheran is still the best team we will have faced (especially with that rush defense).  The Lutes season ended a week early so they’ve had the extra time to game plan the ‘Cats and I know PLU will be excited to try to avenge Linfield’s 29-0 win earlier this season.  Beating quality teams twice in the same year is tough but Linfield has experience in this department (ask CLU) so here’s to another magical time known as playoff football in the ‘Catdome!

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

The Good

Response to Adversity:  Linfield went into the locker room at halftime being down for the first time this season.  I was curious to see the response and the hallway/locker room vibe was true to this team’s makeup as the ‘Cats were calm and there was zero sense of any panic.  You could tell that Coach Smith was truly excited for the chance to see this team play from behind and he was correct about Linfield's second half counter to the Boxers.  The ‘Cats were gritty and showed some tremendous resiliency against a team playing with nothing to lose.

Rushing Attack:  The ‘Cats unleashed their rushing attack in the second half as Linfield racked up 224 net rushing yards on 44 carries (5.1 avg).  Josh Hill was tremendous in picking up an even 100 yards on 18 carries (5.6 yards per), Tavon Willis was critical in that late 3rd/early 4th quarter drive that saw Linfield recapture the lead, and what can you say about Josh Yoder?  Our QB tacked up 94 rushing yards and 3 touchdowns on the day.  A key part of those backs' success was the offensive line and receivers playing a great brand of physical football upfront. 

Special Teams:  The Special Teams unit was huge on Saturday.  The punt team forced a big turnover on a Mikey Arkans hit and Chad Coburn recovery.  Spencer Payne popped a key punt return for 23 yards to help set up the ‘Cats clinching offensive drive, and our hands team had to recover two on-sides kicks to help seal the victory.  Coverage, kicking, and blocking were all rock solid and key to climbing back and winning that game.

Critical Defensive Play Making:  The defense would probably like to have parts of this game back but when is started to get into crunch time the ‘Cats came through with some huge plays.  Pacific had a great shot at taking a 17-7 lead at half on a turnover deep in Linfield territory but the defense kept the damage to a field goal.  In the 2nd half, the ‘Cats D came up had a key stretch as Colin Forman knocked out what looked like a sure Boxer TD at the start of the half (wound up only being another field goal) and then coming up with two big picks, one by Forman and the other by Ian Zarosinski. 

Red Zone Offense:  While Linfield’s defense was making Pacific settle for field goals for most of the game the ‘Cats made hay with their opportunities.  Scoring touchdowns with those red zone trips was so crucial considering how Pacific was shorting the game by time eating drives.  There was nothing fancy in the red zone.  It was the ‘Cats sticking to their ground game and Pacific being unable to stop it.

The Bad

Slow offensive start: Very sluggish offensive start for Linfield as the 'Cats were having some issues getting their game plan established.  Thankfully, the offense started rolling in the 2nd half but I’m sure that 1st half was one the team will want to toss in the trashcan. 

3rd down defense:  I mentioned last week about Linfield’s 3rd down defense being key against the Boxers.  Pacific is not a hurry-up offense.  While the Boxers do take some shots down the field they are a ball control offense and allowing Pacific to go 11 of 19 on 3rd down is a big reason why Linfield found themselves in a tight game.  Props to Pacific because they were lights out that 1st half in getting the chains to move.  The ‘Cats 3rd down defense this season has been fantastic so I’m not worried about it moving into the playoffs.

Penalties:  9 for 64 yards.  The flags added a layer of unneeded complexity for the ‘Cats on Saturday.  Have to be better here next week.

The Ugly

Career ending injuries:  I don’t like talking about injuries on the blog in-season because it’s not my business to speculate on the injuries of players or program business.  There are a couple of ‘Cats on this team that had their seniors seasons and careers ended too short and it stinks because these are fantastic young men.  I appreciate what these guys have put into Linfield football.  One of our players was accused of “taking the easy route” this past Saturday during the game action.  That was said for his choice to go play for Linfield (because the ‘Cats win all the time) and that couldn’t be further from the truth.  It takes personal believe in yourself to come to this program because you’re going to have to compete with a lot of great football players for your time and role in this program.  Nothing is given and these guys have sacrificed so much over 4 years.  It's what makes Linfield truly special.  The players that had their last season cut way too short will want their teammates to move on but I wanted to thank them for all they have done.  You will be missed.

Friday, November 15, 2013

NWC Pick ‘Em Contest: Week 11

One more week of the Pick 'Em Contest?  Say it ain't so!
 We’re at the end of the road for another year of the Northwest Conference Pick ‘Em Contest.  This has probably been the most fun I’ve had writing this weekly post and that’s not based off my performance (I dropped toward the middle of the pack with a miserable week 10) but I’ve enjoy the heck out an additional voice in (509)Rat.  Like I mentioned at the start of the year, I don’t know (509)Rat at all.  No name, no idea where he lives, I have a general idea what he’s does for a living, but if he walked up to me right now he would be as unfamiliar to me as a Lewis & Clark football victory over Linfield.  But I want to thank (509)Rat for taking part in the pick ‘em this year.  He knows the Northwest Conference, knows the game of football, has a great sense of humor, and probably the 2nd person I know from Whitworth that I would have a beer with.

For the year, my hopes for a top 3 finished were dashed in my disaster week 10 as I missed 4 out of 7 games (season total is now 45 out of 58 = 77.5%).  It was my worst week of the year and dropped me down to 5th place.  (509)Rat had a much better week in going 5 out of 7 games (47 out of 58 = 81%) to solidify 3rd place but will not be able to catch “desertcat1” who looks like he’ll be going back-to-back as the NWC pick ‘em champ.  Rat and I only disagree on one game this week and that’s easily the National Game of the Week as John Carroll’s lights out defense gets to see if they have the goods against Mount Union.

Northwest Conference Games of the Week:

#2 Linfield (8-0) over Pacific (7-2) (at Pacific): (509)Rats Says Linfield: Wildcats -39

Whitworth (3-6) over Lewis & Clark (1-7) (on the Hill):  The Keith Welch era of Lewis and Clark Football comes to an end this Saturday as the Pios are on the verge of having their worst season since 2008.  It’s been funny because the L&C offense is capable of doing some positive things but the Pio defense has been downright brutal this season.  For Welch, his career peaked his Sophomore season when he was surrounded with some talent on both sides of the ball but that program has eroded ever since.  I’m not sure what happens to the Pioneers in 2014 but it doesn’t look good.  Rats “Tully Ball” all day for the win.

(509)Rats Says Whitworth: I didn't get to see the Whitworth game last week. I was surprised by the box score. PLU absolutely killed Whitworth in almost every stat column. We had -13 rushing yards...That's Al Borges bad! But somehow it was a 1 score game. Anyways, Lewis and Clark is the caliber of team that will allow Whitworth to move the ball with their innovative run, run, pass offense. Welch is a good player but he has absolutely no help. He alone won't be enough to upset the Pirates.

Willamette (6-2) over Puget Sound (1-7) (at the Mourge):  The Bearcats salvaged a top three NWC finished last week against Pacific and that sounds a lot better on the recruiting circuit than finishing in 4th place.  UPS’s Coach Thomas is wrapping up his 4th year at Puget Sound with what will be a 3-33 record.  I wonder how much more rope the Puget Sound administration will give before they go another direction?  Bearcats score a solid season ending win.

(509)Rat Says Willamette: It really just doesn't get any better for the Loggers does it? First, PLU runs up the score. Then Linfield does what Linfield does to people, hang almost 80 points. And now a high powered Willamette offense gets their turn. I'm proud of UPS for showing up and playing this game though.

West Region Game of the Week

#8 UW-Oshkosh (8-1) over #10 UW-Platteville (8-1) (at UWO):  A few weeks ago I called Platteville “fool’s gold” and Whitewater made that call hold up.  This week is no different to me.  Oshkosh is just as good as Whitewater and will put a physical beating on the over ranked Pioneers for a non-official post-season play in game. 

(509)Rat Says Oshkosh: I followed both games against UWW and Oshkosh is an all around better team than Plateville. I think Oshkosh has plenty of offense to keep up with Platteville, even in a bizarre scenario where Oshkosh doesn't play and D. But they will play defense and that defense will be the reason they win, all but locking up a pool C bid.

National Games of the Week

#1 Mount Union (9-0) over #9 John Carroll (9-0) (at Mount): Just a few weeks ago I wrote that “Mount Union is Mount Union until proven otherwise and I’m not picking against them in OAC play until further notice”  While that’s a good rule to follow I have to say that I thought long and hard about picking John Carroll this week.  I just can’t ignore what the Blue Streak did against Heidelberg last weekend in a 48-7 win.  That made most of the d3 pundits go “whoa.” Heidelberg came into that game averaging 54 points per game and took Mount Union deep before falling 44-34 to the Purple Raiders.  That fact that JCU ,who only gives up under 4 points per game, buried Heidelberg by 41 points makes you wonder if Mount Union is going to have enough to hang onto that OAC title.  I’m still going to take the Raiders because they’ve only lost 1 OAC game in the last 14 years so the odds say go with Mount Union.  We’ll see.

(509)Rat Says John Carroll: I don't believe my own pick for a minute. But I need this to make one last shot at desertcat1 (even though I'm pretty sure I have no shot). I also really really want this one to happen. John Carroll's defense is legit. And while I think Heidelberg was suffering from a rough loss to Mt Union the week before, the Brown Streaks really took ‘em to the woodshed. John Carroll looked plenty good enough to slow down a Mt. Union team without that NFL caliber big play WR. Down Goes Frazier...

Case Western Reserve (4-4) over Carnegie Mellon (3-6) (at CMU):  They call this “The Academic Bowl” because the young men on both of these teams are future world business leaders/breakthrough medical research caliber students who are also playing college football.  I know nothing about Carnegie Mellon so I’m picking CWRU on the fact they helped bail Linfield out of a scheduling crunch when George Fox left the entire conference high and dry when they pushed out their start date.

(509)Rat Says CWRU:  Fun fact: Carnegie Mellon last won a game in this series in 2006. Neither team is very good, but Case Western is the stronger program. Case Western easily has the more impressive group of "wins" (remember this is all relative to the competition) knocking off Chicago and Trinity (TX). I think they will be the more talented team and I think they've won these games that they're supposed to all season. Don't see em stopping now.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Game 9 preview: Linfield (8-0) at Pacific (7-2)

Another in-state opponent looks to knock off the 'Cats
Wow, I can’t believe another regular season is almost in the books.  This season has flown for this Wildcat fan and I’m thankful that the ‘Cats will get to extend the season beyond this Saturday.  But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves as Linfield has business to attend to this weekend. Currently, Linfield does own the Pool A playoff qualifier bid due to the fact that if Linfield lost this weekend to Pacific the ‘Cats still own the head-to-head victory against  PLU.  So regardless of the outcome on Saturday Linfield isn’t in danger of missing the post-season.  But let’s be real.  Linfield’s mindset is never “just making it”.  The ‘Cats want to finish the season strong and that means winning the Northwest Conference title outright and then see how the brackets set up for Linfield’s Road to Salem.  Standing in the way of that first goal is a physical and well coached Pacific Boxer team.

Cory wrote on Tuesday about the accomplishments of the Pacific program in their 4th year back of playing football.  They’ve had a quality season in starting off the year 6-0 before falling on a last second field goal to PLU and then losing a tough contest to Willamette in the final quarter that ended any hopes of playing for a NWC title or the 2013 post-season.  The Boxers’ 2013 season has been built upon almost 40 seniors that were part of the 2010 class of players that reintroduced the Pacific program and those players have developed into a competitive and physical group over the past four seasons.  In fact, Linfield will line up against a number of players that will have upwards of 37 starts under their belts.  This will be the most experienced team Linfield has faced this season.  Saturday is going to be an emotion charged day for this Boxer team and you have to know they will be looking to make one last statement about the viability of their program against one of the Nation’s best in Linfield.    

For Linfield, the Boxers are going to offer up a challenging game.  Linfield’s offense hasn’t seen as quality of defense since the Pacific Lutheran game and that Lutes defense was a riddle that took the ‘Cats three quarters to solve before being able to explode in that 4th quarter.  On the flip side, the ‘Cats defense is going to get a heavy dose of multiple formations and having to contend with a balanced attack that can move the sticks and have the ability to break off the big play.  This will be a challenging game and I’m excited to see Linfield’s response.  This Linfield team has shown a great maturity and focus since the season ended in 2012.  This group may have a lofty goal but they understand that each step in this season is a critical piece of the puzzle.  This Saturday will be no different. 

Get To Know A Wildcat

#28 Michael MacClanathan, Defensive End, Senior

Favorite place to in Mac: Alf’s

Favorite Movie: Dumb and Dumber

Favorite Music: Rock

Favorite TV show: Scrubs

Class I Most Look Forward to: Creative Writing

Mac or PC: PC 

CPU Homepage: Google

Netflix or Cable: Netflix

Car or Truck: Truck

Xbox, PS3, or Wii: Xbox

Favorite Coach Vaughan Saying: Get a ticket!

Which of your fellow defensive linemen is the best all-around athlete: Alex Hoff and his Spider-Man moves.

Favorite part of playing at Linfield: Being part of a brotherhood.

Post Linfield aspirations: Get married and find a job that I love doing. And play video games.

Wildcat11’s Keys To Victory:

60 Minutes Linfield football:  Saturday should be a fun environment.  The Pacific community is going to come out in force to honor and support their 1st senior class in over 20 seasons.  It should be a hostile crowd and that will be fun to soak in and battle against.  Team, Excellence, Attitude, Class.  Be ready to lean on those pillars for four quarters of what should be a smash mouth football game.

Limit the Boxer Run Game:  The Boxers run for 158.2 yards per game off of 34 rushing attempts per contest.  The Boxers are one of the most efficient passing teams around but much of that efficiency is based off the Boxers’ play action passing game and ability to run the football.  The ‘Cats have to be able to limit the Boxer rushing attack and force Pacific to be more one dimensional. 

Limit Negative Offensive Plays:  If Linfield’s offense gets slowed down it usually comes by the way of negative offensive plays that stall out Wildcat drives.  The Boxers have piled up 70 tackles for loss on the season (7.7 per game) so Linfield’s offensive line is going to need to rise to the challenge to keep Boxers from getting to our Catbacks before hitting the line of scrimmage and keep Yoder upright.  Big week for the Linfield offensive line.

3rd Down Defense:  The ‘Cats are only giving up 3rd down conversions at a 26% rate on the season while the Boxers are converting at a solid 47% percent.  This will be a key down in the outcome of Saturday's game.

Linfield wide receivers stepping up: Two out of the past three weeks the Wildcats receivers had had minimal work due to the nature of the L&C and UPS games (didn’t throw the ball once in the 2nd half) but that won’t be the case this weekend.  Pacific’s secondary have been ball hawks this season in picking off 12 passes on the year and only allowing 206 passing yards a game.  The Linfield receivers have to win their individual match ups this week in order for Linfield’s offense to be effective.

Pressure:  The ‘Cats defensive line and backers will have to have another big pressure day against a Boxer team that’s only yielded 16 sacks on season.  Linfield’s ability to break up the Boxers’ timing passing game will be critical.  We saw how effective it was against Willamette and if the ‘Cats can get after the quarterback this Saturday it will go a long way towards a victory.

Special Teams Coverage and Blocking:  The Wildcats’ special teams have grown so much over the season.  The coverage has continued to be impressive and Linfield’s developed the ability to pop big gains in the return game.  You don’t talk about this often but Linfield’s PAT/Field Goal unit need to be sharp.  The Boxers have shown the ability to block kicks up the middle all season long so the ‘Cats line needs to be stout.


‘Cats by 14.  I think Pacific is going to come out with both guns blazing and is going to give the ‘Cats all they can handle.  The Boxers are still looking for that Northwest Conference signature win and you know their coaching staff and players would love it to be against Linfield.  However, if this Linfield team continues to play to their maximum potential then I’m expecting to see Linfield eventually get the game under control and for Linfield to force their will to another 9-0 perfect regular season.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Tuesday's Truths and Quick Hits

#59 Tyler Steel and the 'Cats defense has been piling up the tackles for loss in 2013.
(Photo Courtesy of Brad Thompson: View Brad's 2013 Linfield Football photos here. )

-By Cory Edmonds
Last Saturday was Linfield’s Senior Day and the game result was truly indicative of how talented and determined this senior group has been throughout their four (five for a few) seasons at Linfield. Not only did the senior members of this team make plays all over the field but they also put on a display in cheering for their fellow teammates- particularly for the younger players. My favorite moment of the game came late in the fourth with the final result already decided. A third or fourth stringer for Linfield forced a fumble causing the Linfield sideline to erupt. Even though all of the senior starters had been removed around the second quarter they were still totally engaged and clearly enthused for their teammates. It’s that sense of brotherhood and that sense of passion that makes Linfield football so special and has made this group of players so much fun to watch over the past four years. Next Saturday, this group of seniors will play their last regular season game and with a victory would post a four-year, regular season record of 35-1 (that one loss coming in the first game of their freshman years). However, it is not time to reflect back on this group’s accomplishments just yet, as the regular season’s end signals the beginning of postseason possibilities. There is still plenty to be done and it starts this Saturday as the Cats look to secure their fifth outright NorthWest Conference Championship by defeating a resilient Pacific team. Beyond the Conference Championship, a win would send the Cats into the playoffs with some solid momentum.

In today’s installment of Tuesday Truths we will explore two truths the stats tell us about Linfield and then one truth the stats tell us about Pacific. Finally, we will finish with a couple of quick hits on the upcoming game and more.

The Truth: Linfield’s Josh Yoder is on fire.
The Stats Breakdown: Linfield’s senior signal caller has been on an absolute tear ever since the Lewis & Clark game. In the past three games, Yoder has passed for six touchdowns and rushed for seven touchdowns while only throwing one interception. That’s an average of four touchdowns per game attributed to the senior. Furthermore, in those three games has averaged 84 yards rushing and 160 yards passing in limited work-as Linfield has been putting opponents away early. Yoder’s dual threat ability, coupled with improved offensive line play has made him an exceptional weapon down the stretch. Yoder continually finds a way to extend passing plays with his legs or turn up field and power forward for yards. Linfield’s read-option rush offense would not be the same without Josh Yoder and the past three weeks have clearly demonstrated this as Linfield’s rushing game has been downright dominant (in the past three weeks Linfield has rushed for 351, 451, and 289 yards, respectively.) Yoder has also been deadly accurate these past three weeks; in that three game stretch, he has completed 73 percent of his passes. If quarterback play is any indication of a team’s future success, then Yoder’s recent showings have the Cats primed for the next step.
What To Watch For: Look for the Cats to utilize Yoder’s varied skill set, especially his ability to run, in order to neutralize a fierce Pacific defense. Pacific boasts two solid, pass-rushing defensive ends; thus, read-option runs will be critical in this game to force those defenders into making a read, which prevents them from just pinning back their ears and gunning for the quarterback. In order to further limit Pacific’s defense look for the Cats to roll the pocket and get Yoder out into space; thus, giving him the option to take off and run if the coverage prevents a pass. This Saturday, Yoder will once again be at the center of Linfield’s offensive assault.

The Truth: Linfield’s defense keeps getting better.
The Stats Breakdown: It’s no secret that Linfield boasts one of the nation’s best defenses (nationally ranked 3rd in yards allowed and 3rd in points allowed). However, the past four weeks have seen the Cats improve on their singular defensive weakness: getting to the quarterback. Over the past four weeks, Linfield has sacked the opposing quarterback 15 times, which is nearly double the number of sacks the Cats accumulated in the first four games.  Pair this stat with Linfield’s 10.3 tackles for a loss per game and it’s exciting to see what further damage this defense can do as it rounds into form. Linfield’s defense has simply not budged when defending the rush (allowing 1.7 yards per rush) and has become increasingly tough to thrown against (165 yards passing allowed per game). Simply put, there isn’t much this defense hasn’t been able to do.
What To Watch For: Against Pacific’s multiple offensive sets (spread, power, pro) it’s important to be disciplined so expect Linfield’s defense to be dialed in. The Boxers also allow a minimal 4.5 tackles for a loss per game; however, they have not faced a defense quite like Linfield’s and so I believe the Cats will find themselves making tackles in the backfield at a level more consistent with their average (10.3 tfl per game). The Boxers have really worked to improve their run game in order to make them less dependent on the pass and so far this season it’s worked for them. Yet, I expect Linfield to bottle up the running game and once again force a team to become one dimensional. Look for a relentless push up front which should lead to opportunities for success in the secondary.

The Truth: This is a quality Pacific team.
The Stats Breakdown: I know that after Pacific’s loss last week this game is no longer the de facto NWC Championship game, but make no mistake this is still a very talented Pacific squad. The Boxers are loaded with senior talent and those seniors will be playing in the last game (a pool C playoff bid is highly unlikely for them) of their careers. Clearly this team won’t lack any motivation. Add in the fact that their two losses this year have been by a combined five points and both were on the road against teams considered to be in the top 30 of the country and it’s clear that Linfield won’t be a playing Puget Sound again this week. In fact, Pacific ranks towards the top in a number of statistical categories at the national level: 10th in sacks, 39th in tackles for a loss, 13th in red zone offense, 17th in third down conversion rate, and 7th in team passing efficiency. They are balanced as an offensive rushing for 158 yards per game, while passing for 242. Furthermore, they have scored 18 times on the ground and 24 times via the air. This kind of balance is difficult to defend and, thus, present a significant challenge for the Cats. On the defensive side, Pacific has been more explosive. The team has sacked opposing quarterbacks 32 times and has snagged 12 interceptions; all while collecting 7 fumble recoveries. Linfield will need to pay extra attention to ball security on Saturday and work diligently to avoid costly turnovers against a team that has collected its fair share this year. Overall, this Pacific squad is certainly a potential threat to Linfield’s undefeated regular season.
What To Watch For: Does this all mean I think Linfield will lose this contest? Of course not; in fact, I think Linfield could still win quite handily. However, if Linfield expects an opponent that will roll over or be overwhelmed by the Cats’ talent, then Linfield will be sorely mistaken. In order to diminish the effectiveness of Pacific look for the Cats to run the ball early and often- the Boxers main defensive weakness seems to be its run defense as they are allowing 121 yards rushing per game. If Linfield can establish the run game, then it will allow the offense to open up and push the ball downfield. As I stated earlier, I also expect Linfield to move the pocket, run misdirection plays, and call screens to limit pressure from Pacific’s front four-especially their two defensive ends. To inhibit Pacific’s offense look for the Cat’s to stack the box and force the Boxers to win through the air. I also wouldn’t be surprised if we saw an uptick in the number of Linfield blitzes this game considering that last week Willamette sacked Pacific’s quarterback six times.

Quick Hit #1: Pacific will rotate between two quarterbacks: seniors PJ Minaya and T.C. Campbell. Minaya gets the majority of the work and is the more polished passer, whereas Campbell offers more mobility.
Quick Hit #2: Linfield has 41 rushing touchdowns on the season, which puts them four away from tying the single season record set in 2002.
Quick Hit #3: Linfield continues to hold opponents to a 26 percent conversion rate on third down. Pacific is converting a solid 46 percent of third downs. Third down could be especially critical in determining the game’s result this coming Saturday.
Quick Hit #4: Pacific’s top two runners boast impressive yard per carry numbers; junior Deven McKinney is gaining 7.4 yards per rush, while senior Gunther Schutlze is producing 5.1 yards per carry. Linfield will have to reduce those numbers significantly.
Quick Hit #5: Linfield’s secondary will need to focus its energy on senior Jordan Fukumoto (35 rec, 692 yards, 8 tds) who has been Pacific’s best player over the past four years.