Thursday, September 29, 2016

2016 NWC Pick 'Em Contest: Week 5

Fire it up!!!
Finally it’s time for Northwest Conference action. This NWC bye week has felt like forever but part of that is probably the way my guys went into the bye. But now it’s time to get down to business and for the race to the NWC title, and more importantly, the race to secure the automatic playoff bid is now afoot. There are already a lot of interesting match-ups this opening week as PLU and Pacific play what is pretty much a knock out game in week one of NWC play, UPS gets a chance to go 3-0 for the first time in what is probably too many years to count and to set up a showdown with Whitworth, and the Rats get GFU this week and that means since they gave up nearly 50 their last game, Whitworth should throw a shutout this weekend.

I’m also talking a lot about the NWC race because I don’t want to bring any attention to the fact that I’m continuing to suck eggs in the 2016 NWC pick ‘em race.  I’m still sitting in dead last 4 weeks into the season and I better get going.  Meanwhile, (509)Rat current sits in 2nd place and is crushing it so what I’m trying to tell you is that if I’m picking your team then you should be worried.

Enough chitchat, let’s get down to brass tax and talk games.

Northwest Conference Games of the Week:

#7 Linfield (1-1) over Lewis & Clark (0-2) (at Linfield): (509)Rat says Linfield: Lewis and Clark football and wildcat11's pick 'em picks this year have a lot in common. Now that I have that out of the way, my pick, in the form of a gif...

Pacific (1-2) over Pacific Lutheran (1-1) (at PLU): I was so high on PLU entering this season. I thought that they had a star QB in the making in Sophomore Cole Chandler and with so many offensive returners, I was sure the Lutes were going to have a huge bounce back year. Nope. Instead PLU is going with the duel QB’s in Jon Shaub and Chandler and it has been so blah (they total 3 picks to 2 TD passes as a pair).  I know Shaub has been a good solider but if you have two QB’s you really have none.  PLU is playing good defense but I think unless Pacific really pees down their leg, this is Pacific’s game for the taking.

(509)Rat says Pacific: The Cal lu win and the Trinity loss look a little worse after last week for the Lutes. The defense has played well but the offense has been worse than expected. I'm not sure who will play QB for the Lutes because I'm not sure the Lutes know who'll be under center for most of this game. Pacific's offense got a little confidence boost thanks to a matchup against a SCIAC team. Pimental and Williams probably won't have the same success against PLU, but the Lutes won't score enough to keep up.

Willamette (1-2) over Puget Sound (2-0) (at UPS): I’m just picking this game out of spite.  The odds of Willamette winning this game are low but I do think they’ll be in the game late and have a chance. Puget Sound has been on the double bye so they are either going to be the most prepared team in Division III this weekend or are going to have some serious ring rust early on this game. I’m sure the UPS coaching staff is already planning on their post-game victory party on the rock quarry that dubs as a Tacoma Beach.

(509)Rats says UPS:  the Solutes ran and threw for more yards than Willamette last week, but somehow the Bearcats found a way to win. I don't think the little bit of momentum they built up in the second half during their come-from-behind win is enough to carry over to the game this week. UPS's 2-0 record is only slightly surprising. Their chatter on Twitter will be insufferable after they move to 3-0. Luckily they get to bus over to Spokane for a loss the following week.

Whitworth (2-1) over George Fox (0-2) (at GFU): It’s homecoming for GFU so prepare to inflate that home gate by 2,500 fans instead of their usual 1,500 fans. Seriously, it’s beyond comical at this point and I would bet you a C-Note that GFU’s Whitworth game story leads off with the fake attendance number that either “packed” or “jammed” or “stuffed” their stadium while Whitworth opened up a can. Also, I wonder if it will be strange for Coach Tully to be sitting in GFU’s booth and see a Whitworth team that plays competent offense?  Regardless, this game will only be interesting depending on what Rat defense shoes up.

(509)Rat says Whitworth:   The 50% chance of rain is the only thing that will slow down the Whitworth offense on Saturday. George Fox will feel a little better about themselves after scoring a few too many times (for my taste) against a Whitworth D that hasn't stopped anyone this year. Ultimately though, the 8,000 George Fox fans at the stadium will be going home disappointed.

West Region Games of the Week:

#2 UW-Whitewater (3-0) over #8 UW-Platteville (3-0) (at Platte): Nope. Not going to even waste too much time thinking about this one.  UWW honks are worried about this pass defense and that’s what Platteville does…throw the ball. Regardless, it might be close but I just don’t pick against Whitewater.

(509)Rat says UW-Whitewater:  2004. That was the last time the Warhawks lost to Platteville. The Pioneers have had some very good teams as of late and have played UWW well the last 2 seasons. You just can't pick against Whitewater until they actually lose to somebody in their conference. They have 4 conference losses in the last 10 seasons, don't expect it to go to 5 on Saturday.

#24 Central (4-0) over Dubuque (4-0) (at Central): I watched pretty much the whole Pacific vs Dubuque and the Boxers blew that game more than Dubuque won it. I don’t think either team is a very strong undefeated team but it seems that it’s Central year to own the IIAC and that starts with knocking off Dubuque in his big IIAC showdown.

(509)Rat says Central: Obviously as a Whitworth fan I need Central to do well, so I'm probably not the person to listen to regarding this matchup. Dubuque's offense isn't as potent as Bethel made them look in week 1, but if Loras can put up 30+ on Central, anybody can. This should be a high scoring contest where the loser is within a score late in the game. Central is at home and I need them to win. The fine people of Pella also make fantastic windows and doors. Go Dutch.

National Games of the Week:

Case Western Reserve (3-0) over St. Vincent (3-0) (at Case):  First time in St. Vincent’s short history that they’ve started 3-0, so that’s pretty neat. Oh, they’re going to lost to Case Western this weekend.

(509)Rat says Case Western Reserve: A team from Ohio and another from Pennsylvania meet up for an important SOUTH region matchup...I don't get it either. Case killed the Bearcats last year and while St. Vincent is undefeated and may put up more of a fight, Case Western should pick up a W again. The difference will be defense in this one, in that I don't expect St. Vincent to play much of it.

Hendrix (3-0) over Centre (4-0) (at Hendrix):  Hendrix has been impressive in their short few year of playing football and have instantly become a challenger to Centre.  It was a wild one last year between these two and I expect more of the same this year with Hendirx getting it done.

(509)Rat says Hendrix: Hendrix has done nothing except improve since starting a football program 4 years ago. They made the playoffs last year after winning the SAA and in the process squeaking out a 51-48 win against Centre. I don't know a whole lot else about these two programs, so I'm gonna take the home team who gets better every year and seems to be playing a better defense so far this season.

Wildcat11 Week 5 NWC Power Rankings

1. Linfield – This weekend is a warm up to a huge game at Pacific next weekend
2. Whitworth – The offense should have a field day with the Bruins
3. Pacific – Even with the week off and I haven’t changed my mind. This is a good team.
4. Puget Sound – They are saying they’re a legit program. We’ll see.
5. George Fox – Big but slow upfront is not going to play into their favor this weekend.
6. Willamette – Been a 2nd half team but will need both halves to knock off UPS
7. PLU – If the offense is non-existent this weekend, it’s time to ring the alarm.
8. L&C – Looking more like a real football team but not enough Jimmy’s and Joe’s.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

2016 Game 3 Preview: Linfield (1-1) vs Lewis & Clark (0-2)

It's Homecoming weekend!
My gosh it has been a long two weeks. We all know the score right now with the ‘Cats coming off a gut wrenching 2nd half collapse against Mary Hardin-Baylor.  While it hurt that the ‘Cats lost and in that fashion it’s not the end of the world or even the end of the season.  This 2016 Linfield Wildcat football team is still in total control of their destiny.

The UMHB did expose a number of issues that might have never been fully brought to the light if the ‘Cats lambasted a lesser SCIAC team so the ‘Cats have two ways to go. This team can wallow in self-pity and think about how a winnable game turned into the blowup in Belton or Linfield can hone in on their deficiencies as a team and work towards being the best possible Linfield team they can.

For the Wildcat offense that comes down to being to be able to run the football. That starts up front with the Linfield offense line and winning with pad level and sustaining blocks. It also falls on the shoulders of backs to make that one cut and get up the football field and doing that over and over again. If Linfield can find a consistent running attack this offense will be lethal with their ability to throw the ball.

On the other side of the ball, we have to generate a better pass rush, make plays on the football, get teams off the field on 3rd down, and flat out be rock solid on assignments. The front line talent on this defense is there to be a dynamic group but someone on that side of the football needs to take the bulls by the horns and stake claim on what this groups identity is for 2016.

And lastly the special teams unit.  After the first two games, this has to be a matter of pride. Linfield has a long history of standout special teams play and I’m sure this current group will reach down deep and put in the work to get better and become a weapon for the program instead of a hindrance. 

Now don’t freak out after reading those last few paragraphs. 99.8% of Division III coaching staffs around the country would trade their roster for Linfield’s quicker than you can finish reading this sentence.  ALL of the talent is there for Linfield to do something special this season and we might one day look back at the UMHB as a blessing but that is not up to me….it’s up to what this coaching staff and players decided this past Monday, September 19th when this program went back to work.  This upcoming Saturday will be our first chance to see what this team decided to do.

For Lewis and Clark, this is another year where it’s going to be tough to come across wins. The Pioneers are a better football team this year than in last season and is putting out a product on the field where there are players on each side of the ball that actually belong on a college football field. The issue is that the Pioneers just don’t have enough of those guys yet, or have the experience, to start earning some wins on the field and push the conference’s traditional powers.

Get To Know A Wildcat

#1 Mitch Lewis, Rover, Senior
Hometown: Pleasant Hill, OR, High School: Sheldon High School

Favorite place to eat in Mac: Banners

Favorite Movie: Lion King

Favorite Music: Country

Favorite TV show:  The Office

Favorite Book: The Bible

Class I Most Look Forward to: Financial Theory

iPhone or Android:  iPhone

CPU Homepage: Yahoo!

Personal Mantra: Help those who are truly helpless

Social Media of choice:  Twitter

Car or Truck: Truck

Who's a better or Dylan: Depends on who you ask…but me.

What first inspired you to play football:  My Dad

Favorite Coach Smith Saying: Death and Taxes

Favorite part of playing at Linfield: I’ve met my best friends here and get to play football with my brother.

Describe Coach Vaughan in three words: Football Schematic Genius

Post Linfield aspirations: To pursue my degree in finance

Wildcat11’s Keys To Victory

Best the best Linfield team you can be:  This Saturday isn’t about taking out frustration on a Lewis and Clark team after UMHB.  I think that would be a terrible mindset and not productive to the long term goals of this season. This Saturday should be all about the ‘Cats in terms of striving to be the best team they can be in all aspects. I’m talking about beyond the playing field but on the sideline as well. If you’re on the clipboard crew, be the best damn clipboard crew you can, echo “run/pass” calls for the defense, get loud on 3rd down, provide feedback to your teammates, celebrate, be excited to play a college football game.

Run The Ball: Lewis and Clark runs a 3-4 base defense and tries to bring pressure from various combinations and angles. I’d love to see the ‘Cats rushing attack get North and South on Saturday and force their safeties to creep up to help support their rush defense. If Linfield get them in that situation, the ‘Cats will get their chances to open it up deep.

Be physical at the point of attack: Lewis and Clark's O-Line is not a band of shorties anymore that do nothing but cut block. The L&C offense line is checking in about 6’2” and 286 pounds per lineman. L&C is going to try to attack the ‘Cats between the “A” gaps with the running attack and see if they churn out some drives to own time of possession and see if they can soften up the outside edges of the Wildcat defense.  I want to see a physical Linfield defensive line ready to play some smash mouth defense.

Win field position with special teams: L&C doesn’t have very much depth as a program right now so here should be a decisive advantage for Linfield. Our special team’s unit needs to be clean in all aspects in terms of execution and assignments.  I would love to see our returners to be able to catch some punts clean and get some room to do some work.

Handle all the chaos: Like I mentioned above, the Pios are running a 3-4 defense but they are walking up linebackers to the line of scrimmage constantly and showing all sorts of looks that are trying to confuse and hopefully allow free tacklers to get to the ball carriers.  Linfield’s offensive line and Sam Riddle need to be in control of what’s in front of them and have great communication.
Finish tackles: Easy to say, harder to execute.  Get it done.


‘Cats by 24.  Linfield is going to win this football game but it’s just a matter of how. Are the ‘Cats going to come out slow and sloppy, like Linfield did last year at L&C, that slowly takes over or are we going to see the team that has all the promise in the world to be playing late into December. We’ll find out soon enough.  Happy Homecoming and Go ‘Cats!

Friday, September 23, 2016

2016 NWC Pick 'Em Contest: Week 4

We'll be back.....
Well, my game picking this year has been just about as good as the ‘Cats performance in the second half of the UMHB game.  I’m actually sitting in dead last right now.  Ugh.  So, I’m not actually sure why you’re even reading this game pick article.  If you were smart, you would look at my picks and instantly take the other team and bet the farm on it.

I didn’t post up last week’s picks because of the travel to Texas.  Speaking of Texas.  I know that Texans LOVE themselves some Texas but I don’t get it.  It’s miserable hot, flat, ugly, the access roads kill me. Whoever is in the road construction business in Texas has to make a killing.  I’ve never seen such intricate highway bridges located in the middle of nowhere.  I did like the Sonic we stopped at for a quick bit that didn’t have a front desk but just a phone you picked up to place your order in the back. Besides that, forget that place.

The NWC is shaping up to have a very interesting year.  Everyone is on the bye this week so let’s do a quick status check on the NWC. If the ‘Cats can get their issues worked out, Linfield should still be hands down the favorite in the conference race.  Linfield does have two big road games at Whitworth and Pacific that should be big hurdles. Whitworth’s offense has been electric but defense is all over the map. Pacific is better than their record would indicate. I think the Boxers could easily be 2-1 or 3-0 right now and have found their offense.  Credit to UPS for getting to a point there they are sitting at 2-0 but I’m just not sold….yet.  Fox is struggling to find their identity this season. I think their QB play has been unimpressive through two games and the don’t have much of a rushing attack. Willamette may not be the best team ever but they continue to play hard and it paid off with a big comeback win over CLU.  PLU’s offense just doesn’t have much punch and L&C is putting out guys on the field that look like actual football players but they don’t have enough of those guys yet.
I think the NWC race will come down to what Linfield decides to do.  We have all seen that if the ‘Cats play well and sharp, Linfield should win another NWC title but at this team’s worst the ‘Cats can be ripe for the taking.  It should make for a great year to follow the conference.  Onto the picks!

D3 Game of the Week: 

#4 St Thomas (3-0) over #6 St. Johns (at SJU):  Game of the week in all of division III is also the best rivalry in division III. The setting should be a sea of red and purple and I would love to be there for this annual showdown.  For a long time the Tommies were whipping boys for the Johnnies but recent history has been on the Toms side and I don’t think tomorrow is any different. My call is for UST be more physical and that will win the day for UST.

(509)Rat says: St Thomas - The Tommie-Johnnie game in Collegeville should a bucket list type game for any fan of division III football. St. Thomas has had the Johnnies number lately and I don't think that will change this year. The two teams' season stats are practically identical, though St. Thomas has probably played very slightly tougher competition, but this is a rivalry game and previous results go out the window. This will be a lot like my UMHB-Linfield pick last week where I take the team who I think is going to win, while I root for the other team (St. John's in this case) to prove me wrong.

Inter-Association battle of #2 Teams:

#2 UW-Whitewater (2-0) over NAIA #2 Morningside (2-0) (at UWW): This game last year was a thriller in the rain at Morningside as each teams traded body blows until Whitewater eventually outlasted the Warhawks. I’m expecting more of the same as this could really be consider a toss-up game but I’m just not one to pick against the Warhawks.

(509)Rat says UWW: Nobody really knows who's going to win this game. Morningside has absolutely pummeled a couple bad opponents and Whitewater had only some temporary struggles against Hal Mumme's Belhaven squad. UWW won last year in Iowa and get the Mustangs at home this year. I'll stick with the highly ranked d3 team over its equally high ranked NAIA counterpart every time. 

South-West Special:

Trinity (2-1) over Chapman (0-1) (at CU): Trinity should 100% have the advantage of being the more tested team with this being their 4th game of the season while Chapman is coming off the bye after getting hammer in the ‘Catdome in week 2.  Trinity has had ok results against just ok competition.  I did like some of Chapman’s personnel and I feel like the long flight with the additional week of preparation will work in the Chapman’s favor but I like the Tigers to knock off the Panthers.

(509)Rat says Chapman: I don't think I'm putting too much stock in Trinity's struggles against PLU. They want to run the football and if you have the players or the scheme to take that away then Trinity struggles to move the ball through the air. I didn't see the game against Linfield but you are kidding yourself if you don't think the Wildcats are sometimes sluggish out of the gate only to blow the doors off the opponent in the 2nd half (boy do they wish that would have been the case last week). I think Chapman will finish higher than folks expected in the SCIAC and win one at home against a Trinity team that has had ok games against average competition.

The winner of this game stays in or breaks into the top 25:

#23 Cortland (2-1) over Utica (3-0) (at Cort):  These two played a pretty tight ball game last season but I just like Cortland to bully past Utica after a letdown performance against St. John Fisher last weekend.

(509)Rat Says Cortland:  Speaking of slow starts...I think Cortland is the better team here and will learn from the hole they dug themselves into last week. Utica has a good win this season against Ohio Northern. But remember Ohio Northern is one of those "ranked because they are in the same conference as Mt Union even though they aren't nearly as good" type of teams. Here's to hoping Cortland, much like the Dallas Cowboys, play better on the road than at home.

Remember when these teams were contenders? 

St. Olaf (1-2) over Bethel (0-3)  (at St. Olaf): What in the blue blazes happened to Bethel the past two seasons? Bethel put together two 12 win seasons over the past 6 seasons, went to the National Semifinals twice, and won a few MIAC titles along the way, and now are sitting winless three games in the season. The Royals haven’t had a six loss season in a LOOOONNNNGGG time and with the Tommies and SJU left on the schedule they better get going or they are on the fast track to a losing season. St. Olaf has been terrible since 2013 and since I’m bringing up the rear I need to roll the dice here and take St. Olaf here.

(509)Rat says Bethel: Do I pick the team that lost to Luther or the one that gave up 70 points to Dubuque? The the opposite of whatever wildcat11 did. That's the real reason I'm taking the Royals here.

Somebody has to win: 

Ohio Wesleyan (0-2) over Oberlin (0-3) (at Oberlin): Both of these teams are terrible. Ohio Wesleyan wins.

(509)Rat says Ohio Wesleyan:  Ohio Wesleyan won last year. I know nothing about either team except that they aren't very good. 

Wildcat11 Week 4 NWC Power Rankings

1 Linfield – Even with the meltdown, the ‘Cats are the top of the NWC

2 Whitworth – Defense has given up 49, 0, and 42. Strange. Good news is the offense is averaging 52.3 points per game.

3. Pacific – I’ve watched some Boxer football games this season and I’m impressed.  Kobe Williams is a game breaker on the outside and Pimental has done a good job rushing the ball. Going to be a tough out in NWC play.

4. Puget Sound – Legit shot at starting 3-0 when they host Willamette next weekend.

5. George Fox – Going to get lit up like a Christmas tree next week vs Whitworth but at least they’ll score some points…I think.

6. Willamette -  Well look at that, the Bearcats went down to SoCal and knocked off CLU.  That has to feel pretty darn good going into the bye-week

7. PLU – So far it looks like I was really off the mark on PLU.  I thought their offense was going to take a huge step this season but so far, it’s been a bad group.

8. L&C – Missed their best chance to win this season last week against Pomona-Pitzer.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Linfield has a Texas sized meltdown against UMHB in 66-27 blowout.

Linfield Linebacker, #7 Jason Farlow, with one of his team high 13 tackles.
Saturday was rough. I’ve been around Linfield football since 1994 and this is one of the very few times that I’ve seen Linfield football get rolled out of a game. Yeah, We’ve lost games but it’s a rare bird for the ‘Cats to get blown out. Shoot, I don’t even have to look it up on the Linfield website to remember this short list these long Saturdays for the Linfield faithful: 1995 at Willamette, 1999 vs PLU, 2001 at SOU, 2008 vs Willamette, 2011 second half against Wesley, and now 2016 second half against UMHB. I think that (509)Rat, who was in attendance on Saturday night, summed up Linfield’s issues perfectly in a tweet: “definitely more of an execution problem than a talent problem…”.  Bingo.

There is not a single doubt in my mind that Linfield has the players and talent in the program to beat UMHB but that wouldn’t happen in 100 rematches if Linfield repeated their efforts in terms of execution.  There was no consistency for the Wildcats in all three phases of the football game. I think everyone associated with Linfield football owns Saturday’s loss.

However, I’m not going to question the effort or heart of the players because that was there for Linfield, all the way to the end, but Linfield went from feeling that the game was in reach at half to watching the wheels come flying off the car in the 4th quarter. Then the car tumbled down into a ravine…..and then exploded into a fireball.  And the events leading to this wasn’t about heart or want but about not doing the little things right and it blew up on our ‘Cats.

Don’t get me wrong, UMHB is a hell of a football team. They are one of the very best in the country and have a claim to say, that right now, they’re the top team in Division III.  However, Linfield made it way too easy on Saturday with unforced miscue after unforced miscue that eventually snowballed into the rare Linfield blowout loss.

Saturday’s game was about potential playoff matchups down the line, etc, etc but Coach Smith is right that more than anything that game was about pride so it hurts to see Linfield lose in that fashion.  I’m sure it hurts the players and coaching staff even more. But does that mean the season is over? Does that mean Linfield cannot accomplish the goals this 2016 team laid out before the season started? The answer to both of these questions is “no”.  This season isn’t over, in fact, it’s just getting started. Winning the NWC and making a run at Salem, VA. Is still very much obtainable by this Linfield football team but they’re going to have to own this and grow from it.

There is a laundry list of areas Linfield needs to address if they want to play football at the end of December but it is still very much achievable.  So our ‘Cats need to make the decision if this past Saturday vs UMHB is going to break them or if the ‘Cats are going to use Saturday’s loss as a launching pad to reach the potential that this team possesses. I’m looking forward to seeing what our men decide to do.

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

The Good

Passing Attack:  I thought Sam Riddle and the Wildcat receivers played their butts off on Saturday night. The lack of a rushing threat hurt the ‘Cats big as the game progressed because UMHB could just drop 7 in coverage and sit on the ‘Cats but I still think passing attack performed admirably considering the outcome.

Linebackers Play:  Yes, we gave up 335 rushing yards but nearly half of that was piled up towards the end of the game when the dam broke.  I think both Jason Farlow and Jake Reimer were outstanding for the Wildcats on defense and should continue to be a major asset for this Wildcat defense.

Sticking together: It would have been easy to point fingers and snipe at each other in that 4th quarter but I was encouraged by the team policing itself on the sideline and postgame about owning the performance and moving forward as a program.

The Bad

Not doing the little things right:  Linfield is a program that prides itself on doing the little things right. You do enough of the little things right and they will add up to big successes. Well, that didn’t happen in Belton for whatever reason and I know that has to bother the staff and players the most out of everything. Offense, defense, and special teams all had fundamental breakdowns at various points of Saturday’s game. If this team is going to move forward from here it’s going to have to come with a re-commitment to doing the little things correctly every single moment of practice all the way through game day.

Lack of running game: Just nothing was doing in the running game.  Take away the two botched snaps that cost the team -71 yards of rushing and Linfield’s four primary ball carriers (Payne, Choisser, Cassill, Riddle) still were only able to manage 55 yards on 30 carries (1.83 yards per rush). This offense HAS to be able to run the football in order to be as explosive as it can be in terms of the play action passing attack, which can be lethal if there is a real threat to rush the football. The inability to run the football killed the ‘Cats in that second half.

3rd and Long defense: As a defense you LOVE it when a team is in 3rd and long situations. The chances of getting their offense off the field increase dramatically in this situation but in that 1st half it seemed UMHB’s offense was at its best in 3rd and long.  The Cru converted in 3rd in long six times against the ‘Cats in that first half and 5 of those conversions occurred on scoring drives.   The ‘Cats defense did tighten up in the 3rd quarter before the 4th quarter team meltdown but it could have been a different game if Linfield would have been able to turn back the Cru more effectively on 3rd and long.

Turnovers:  Linfield gave up 28 points off of five turnovers.  Turning the ball over that much is a sure way to lose football games and a sure way to get blasted into next week against one of the top programs in the country.  Saturday was the old shoe on the other foot from the 2009 Linfield vs UMHB playoff game at the ‘Catdome when UMHB turned it over 7 times against the ‘Cats in a 53-21 Linfield beatdown victory.  All three of Linfield’s fumbles on Saturday were from botched snaps (all resulted in touchdowns) and are easily avoidable mistakes.

The Ugly

Special Teams:  Our special teams stunk in week 1 and they were man handled against UMHB on Saturday night.  PAT blocked, dropped a punt, wild snap, and that killer kick return for a TD to start the 2nd half.  That’s a list that you wouldn’t hope to see in a season on Special teams let alone a single game.  All three phases of the program all played their part in Saturday’s loss but our players on Special Teams need to execute consistently on a higher level ASAP.

***On a side note, I want to give a major shout out to all the UMHB facility and game day operation people.  UMHB first class facility is run by first class people.  They were welcoming and accommodating but the best example of that is when our starting Center, Will Heck, was injured in the second quarter of play. I was in the South End Zone area (The ‘Cats were driving in) shooting video, and when Will went down, a UMHB student, that was sitting in a packed grass area, started to heckle Will with calls of “RUB SOME DIRT ON IT, SISSY” and “WALK IT OFF”.  Within 5 seconds, an UMHB administrator that was on the sideline came running up to this fan section and demanded to know who was yelling at our Linfield player. The offending student raised his hand and the administrator said “We don’t do that here. It’s time for you to leave.” and booted the student from the game/facility.  Tip of the cap to you and the fine people at UMHB that make that game day experience go.***

Thursday, September 15, 2016

2016 Game 2 Preview: Linfield (1-0) at Mary Hardin-Baylor (2-0)

Let's go!

This Saturday evening in Belton Texas will be the non-conference game of the year in Division III football for 2016. It isn’t even close.  I don’t think it’s even a question as two National Championship contenders agreed to get together this past off-season to set up a major college football showdown. So many threads we could pull on with this 5th meeting between two of the elite of Division III football. The potential playoff implications, Linfield holding a 4-0 edge over UMHB, The Cru holding a 10 year regular season winning streak at home, and on it goes. There is so much potentially on the line in Belton this weekend, and yet, it’s so early in the season. Both teams still have to handle their business in conference play in order to get to the second season but it would be foolish to not understand just how big this game can be with regards to a potential path to Salem, Va.

Why play this game during non-conference play? Well…why not? For Linfield, the ‘Cats are not going to get what they want (a potential home path to Salem) by playing Cal Lutheran or La Verne. Nope, if Linfield wants a chance to host a potential Semi-Final football game the ‘Cats need to be able to point to something more than an NWC title and a couple of whitewashing of SCIAC scrubs. For UMHB, Linfield has been a thorn in the Cru’s side since 2004 and if the Crusaders are going to capture that elusive national title they need to vanquish a ghost that has haunted them in Linfield.
To say there is a lot on the line is an understatement.  That doesn’t mean the loser of this game still can’t accomplish the goal of the season (the bronze and gold) but the potential path to a trip to Salem, Va. becomes a bit clearer with a victory.

Linfield has a TALL task to get over on UMHB. Yes, Linfield is ranked higher than UMHB (#3 vs #5) but that doesn’t mean squat, IMO. The Cru has to be one, if not, the most talented programs in all of division three. Size, speed, skill, facilities, support, etc. UMHB has every reason to be a program to be in the title hunt season after season and all of that firepower is focused on Linfield this weekend. This is a program that has circled this game in big old permanent marker as soon as the schedule came out.  The Cru’ not only wants to beat Linfield, but they want to make a statement that the previous two season was a result of UMHB error instead of Linfield toughness.

But this Linfield team has the makeup and personnel to walk into the lion’s den and answer the challenge.  In many ways, this Linfield team wouldn’t want it any other way, than go into a hostile environment, against a highly skilled team, and see how they stack up.  Saturday night has the potential to be an electric environment and aren’t these opportunities the reason why you play the game?

Get To Know A Wildcat

#55 Will Heck, Junior, Center
Hometown: Corvallis, OR. High School: Crescent Valley High School

Favorite place to eat in Mac: Gem

Favorite Movie: Caddyshack

Favorite Music: Classic Rock

Favorite TV show: Entourage

Favorite Book: Johnny Tremain

Class I Most Look Forward to: Intermediate Accounting

iPhone or Android: iPhone

CPU Homepage: ESPN

Personal Mantra: Get it done, so you can have fun!

Social Media of choice: Twitter

Car or Truck: Truck

Xbox, PS3, or Wii: Xbox

What first inspired you to play football: Growing up watching football every weekend with my dad and grandpa and talking about it with them whenever I got the chance.

Favorite Coach Smith Saying: "There are two things that you deserve, death and taxes"

Favorite part of playing at Linfield: Working hard and winning on the field and still being able to be successful academically and involved in other student organizations. Also, the relationships built with teammates and coaches are very meaningful!

Describe Coach Hire in three words: Improvise, adapt, overcome

Post Linfield aspirations: Get my MBA and work into a job that combines my love for football and my interest in business.

Wildcat11’s Keys to Victory

Stay within yourself and play a full 60 minutes of Linfield Football: Saturday is going to be crazy.  It’s going to be a wild crowd, a great opponent, muggy, first road game of the year, etc, etc.  Even with all of that said, it’s still just a football game. 11 vs 11.  There are going to be ups and downs. Adversity will be thick for the ‘Cats against UMHB but our guys’ just need to keep grinding and stay within themselves and within the program's values. If every player focuses on doing their job to the best of their ability then Linfield will be in a positive position at the end of the game.

Protect the Quarterback: This new Linfield offensive line will be facing the most talented defensive line in division III football team this weekend.  It’s baptism by fire for the ‘Cats offensive line as Linfield’s front 5/6 (and running backs) will play a major role in the outcome of the game.  If Linfield's front line gives Sam Riddle time to step into this throws and deliver, the ‘Cats offense is going to be able be effective in moving the football and be in position to put points on the board.  It’s much easier to type than do in practice as the Cru features the best defensive end in DIII in Teidrick Smith and a murder’s row of beef up front including Haston Adams.

Limit the UMHB Big Play: Speed. The Cru has it in bunches.  Quarterback, running backs, and receivers are not lacking in the moving down the field very quickly category.  Linfield’s defense can’t play hesitant but it can’t be careless when it comes to allowing the Crusaders to hit big plays on offense. If UMHB is going to get theirs then make it sustained drives when they need to execute at a high level the whole way down the field and not with big hitters over the top of the defense.

Be fundamentally great tacklers: Rolling right into the big play aspect, Linfield’s defense has to be fantastic fundamentally solid tacklers on defense.  The number one guy they have to rally and wrap on is UMHB quarterback, Blake Jackson. The UMHB QB is electric with the football in his hand as he has averaged 128.0 yard rushing the football and is super elusive when he decides the pull the ball down and scramble. Linfield has to put a premium on being able to make solid tackles between the gaps and also in the open field.

Ball in the air? Go get it: Both teams are going to put the ball in the air and trust in their guys to make big plays on the football.  I love what our guys can do in these situation and their going to have to use fantastic timing and desire in what should be multiple big play occasions on Saturday evening.

Play fantastic special teams:  Linfield’s special teams need to have a ball game. The Cru has hurt Linfield in the past on special teams (especially in 2014) so Linfield needs to be especially aware of Baylor Mullins pulling it down in the punt formation and of Bryce Wilkerson in the punt return game.  Linfield isn’t too shabby in the return game with Kennedy Johnson and Bryan Cassill.  Special teams play could have a HUGE effect on the results on Saturday and Linfield needs to put in work.

Take care of the football:  When two high caliber teams get together turnovers play a major role in the outcome of the game.  That has been no different with the Linfield vs UMHB series as Linfield has capitalized on key Crusader turnovers to pull out some tight playoff victories.  Linfield needs to put a premium on the football, make good decisions, and see if they can turn over the Cru when the opportunities arise.

Rush the football: This is going to be a tough but not impossible task. If Linfield wants to get bodies off of Sam Riddle in the passing game, and have those UMHB safeties honor those run fakes, the ‘Cats HAVE to be effective in rushing the football.  Spencer Payne, Sutter Choisser, and the ‘Cats offensive line need to have a day and be a consistent thread in the rush game.


‘Cats by 1.  Two big time programs with big time players on a Saturday night in Texas. That sound pretty good to me and any fan of college football. I love that both programs are willing to put in on the line when both could have probably find paths of lesser resistances.  You have to love the storylines coming into the game with all of the downstream implications and historical relevancy.  I can’t remember the last time Linfield played this type of non-conference game with this big of a playoff feel to it. The challenge is going to be huge for Linfield but this team is BUILT to answer big challenges. It’s not going to be easy but Linfield plays their brand of football there is no reason why Linfield can’t once again find a path to victory against one of the very best in the country.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

‘Cats Win!!!! Linfield cages Panthers in 48-14 romp.

'Catdome baby! It was a solid first step of the 2016 Linfield College Football season as the ‘Cats dispatched the Chapman Panthers by a count of 48-14 on a hot one this past Saturday in the ‘Catdome. Linfield did have a bit of a slow start in not converting a nice first drive into points on a makeable field goal opportunity and then giving up an ugly 93-yard punt return for TD.  However, that punt return for TD was like a cold up of water that the ‘Cats needed as Linfield would go onto build a 34-14 halftime lead and never look back for a convincing 48-14 win.

What jumped out at me this first game was the connection that Sam Riddle and the Wildcat receivers had. You saw the chemistry develop as the 2015 season moved on and it seems to have done nothing but grow over this offseason and into this opening contest.  The Linfield rushing game had its moments on Saturday but it was passing attacked that looked to be in mid-season form right out of the gates.

The Linfield defense also showed some flashes of what could be a fantastic defensive unit. There was some tackling stuff that could be cleaned up but the group’s speed was on display as the 1st team unit only allowed less than 200 yards of total offense before Chapman put together an 88-yard final drive against the ‘Cats defensive 2’s and 3’s.

For Chapman, I think the Panthers should be just fine in the SCIAC.  It seems that conferenced is wide open for a number of teams and Chapman will probably be in the mix.  Who knows…maybe we’ll see this team again down the road.

Overall, I think any fan of the program would be pleased in what they saw this past Saturday in the ‘Catdome.  There is room to grow and that is a great thing but the bad news is that that growth needs to happen in a hurry as the ‘Cats are going to be walking into a madhouse this Saturday night in Belton, Texas.  Linfield is facing what is the most talented team in the country in Mary Hardin-Baylor and that is not just some hyperbole to pump up this contest.  Linfield know just what they’re getting into this weekend and I can’t wait to see it unfold.

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

The Good

Quick Strike Offense:  Holy Smokes the ‘Cats 2016 offense was fast and explosive. The ‘Cats offense averaged 2 minutes and 14 seconds in their seven touchdown drives.  Twice the ‘Cats offense answered Chapman touchdowns in the first half to squash any chance of Chapman gaining momentum. Linfield’s pace was dizzying and had the Panther’s defense on their heels the whole game.

‘Cats 3rd down defense: Linfield’s defense did a GREAT job on getting Chapman off the field on 3rd down.  The ‘Cats held the Panthers to only 3 of 12 on 3rd down attempts and was a huge key in keeping the pressure on Chapman in that first half.

Linfield passing attack: It seems that Sam Riddle and the Linfield receiving corps have a telepathic connection this season.  It was like Riddle and the receivers were an old married couple that were finishing each others sentences on the field this past Saturday.  Not only with the timing game but also when Riddle had to improv in the pocket.  Their crispness was impressive.

End game defensive stand: Yeah, it was no fun watching Chapman get that last drive but man what a tremendous goal line defensive stand to end the contest. Chapman had 4 cracks from the 5-yard line but Duke Mackle, Chris Stinchcomb, and Kyle Chandler all made fantastic plays to help end the game on a defensive high note.

Good first effort by new look offensive line: The ‘Cats had 40 pass attempts and gave up zero sacks on the day. There were a few free runs at Sam but he was able to use his feet to escape and buy time but I thought the offensive line showed why this could develop into a heck of a unit.

The Bad

Rocky Special Teams Play:  Not the best debut for a Linfield special team’s unit.  Giving up a 93-yard punt return for a TD, missing a very makeable field goal, and missing a PAT.  Linfield is going to be facing an explosive special team’s unit again UMHB so the ‘Cats need to see big growth this week.

Senior Injury: I hate injuries.  For either team. These young people work so hard to play the game and it’s gut wrenching to see injuries happen to take players off the field. Even worse is when it’s a senior player.  It’s the last ride and it stings when you’re a senior and you have to miss games.  It’s not my place to talk specifics on the player and injury, but you know who you are, and get back to us as soon as you can.

The Ugly

Nothing:  Yeah, it was about 10 degrees too hot for this guy but it was a great season debut for the Wildcats and the ‘Catdome looked freaking fantastic with the additional end zone banner, some new signage, and a vocal home crowd. Great way to start the year.

Friday, September 9, 2016

2016 NWC Pick 'Em Post: Week 2

Hello Beautiful.
Welcome back to our weekly NWC/D3 game picks and welcome back to Whitworth’s (509)Rat!  The pick ‘em posts are 100x more fun when he’s able to break away from work and put some thoughts down on the conference and our other picks.

Week 1 was an NWC disaster for the conference and for my picks as Pacific, Whitworth dropped winnable games, and Willamette and GFU both losing as well.  UPS did defeat the defending SCIAC champions in a tight contest and proceeded to brag how everyone in the NWC was sucky last weekend except for them.  Obviously the game I was most surprised with was the Whitworth game.  I had three games running at the same time this past Saturday (Whit/Fox/UPS) and it seemed that every time I turned my eyes back to the Whitworth game it seems that Central was a hot knife through the Rats defensive butter. That changes a huge dynamic this season for Whitworth as any hope for a pool C bid (if they’re unable to unseat Linfield) is now officially a razor’s edge.

With that said we almost have a full slate of NWC action this week except for Fox is on the bye.  Whitworth has a “get right” game in SoCal, L&C has a chance to show improvement in year two of their new staff, Pacific’s season could be in deep trouble after Saturday, UPS is looking to lay claim to legitimacy, and PLU has a chance to make a statement.  Let’s get to the picks!

Northwest Conference Games of the Week:

#3 Linfield (0-0) over Chapman (0-0) (at Linfield): (509)Rat says Linfield:  Go ahead and phone in another NWC win in what appears to be the first annual NWC v SCIAC Challenge weekend. wildcat11 did a fine job of talking about all the things that won't matter until UMHB next week. How will the o-line play? How productive is Hoff's replacement? Against Chapman...who cares. This will be a nice tune-up for Belton next week. See you boys down there.

Whitworth (0-1) over Whittier (0-0) (at Whitter): Man, I had no idea that Central was going to make Whitworth’s defense look that pedestrian. The Rats gave up 595 total yards of offense….595!  Whitworth’s DC Adam Richbart should have been forced to wear a brown paper bag all week on campus after a performance after that.  The silver lining for Whitworth?  They have a lot of guys that can make plays in the receiving crop. The Rats get a chance to wash that taste out of their mouth again the Poets this weekend but pretty much the playoffs start now for Whitworth. It has to be NWC title or the Rats are going to be sitting on the outside looking in when the playoffs are announced. 

(509)Rat says Whitworth: Nothing like scheduling a SCIAC push-over to get the train back on the tracks. I get that Central is a good program and may have enough to win the IIAC, but they aren't worthy of an OT loss if you are supposedly a top 25 team. Whitworth gave up 35 first downs and 602 yards of offense. Central probably won't do that against anybody else this year...think about that. It won't matter this week though as the Pirate offense will be way too much for the Poets.

Claremont-Mudd-Scripps (0-0) over Lewis & Clark (0-0) (at CMS): The Staggs are the SCIAC favorite this season as CMS is coming off a 7-2 season last year. I’m not sure if that means CMS is that good of a football team. 5 of their SCIAC wins last year were by 3 points or less and they only beat L&C 27-7 last season and lost to UPS by 2. So it’s not like CMS is some juggernaut of a team.  L&C has some kids that can play but not nearly enough or even nearly enough serviceable depth this year. I expect a comfortable Staggs win.

(509)Rat says Claremont-Mudd-Scripps: The first game for the coach-picked SCIAC champs should be a cakewalk. Whatever L&C is paying Locey, it isn't enough.

Pacific Lutheran (0-0) over California Lutheran (0-0) (at PLU): It’s time for the annual Lutheran Bowl and a chance to find out if I’m a total fool for thinking PLU is going to have a big bounce back season or if PLU is going to remain that plucky little team that just puts up a good fight. I have no idea what happened to CLU.  They went from running the SCIAC and looking like a team that might be able to overtake Linfield on the West Coast to an also ran in the SCIAC for the past 3 seasons.  No idea why because there is no reason why CLU should be the favorite year in and year out in that conference. Oh well, maybe they’ll come out and blast PLU but I like the Lutes at the high school community stadium that’s a 25 minute drive away from PLU’s campus on Saturday.

(509)Rat says Pacific Lutheran: I'm buying what wildcat11 is selling re: the Lutes. The Solutes have taken a big hit in the last few years, tumbling down from their perch atop the SCIAC. Hopefully PLU continues to mature and prove me right on this one. Because if we learned anything in week 1 (in all of college football) is that we aren't very good at predicting the outcomes in games played by a bunch of 18-22 year olds.

Dubuque (1-0) over Pacific (0-1) (at Pacific):  This will be interesting.  I didn’t think Adrian was a very good football team and if you look at the box score you would think there is no way Pacific should have lost that game…until you look at Pacific’s punt team. The Boxers punted 8 times for an average of 31.9 yards per punt.  That’s not great and those shorter fields cost the Boxers. The good news for the Boxers is their offense had more punch than I though.  Pacific did telegraph that 46 yard play action bomb to Kobe Williams (The Boxers lined up in that formation and I said, “Here comes the bomb”) but that kid is pretty darn fast.  The bad news is that Pacific is going to drop to 0-2 on the season with Dubuque coming to town.  Yeah, the Spartans didn’t play much defense in their 70-53 win over Bethel but Dubuque THREW for 634 yards and 8 TD’s against a traditionally very good MIAC team.  Pacific’s 1st year DC is going to have his hands full.

(509)Rat says Dubuque:  This game may tell us a lot about how the NWC race might shape up behind Linfield. Dubuque's week 1 box score resembles Whitworth's, though slightly less balanced offensively. Dubuque is going to light up the Pacific D through the air, if their defense can limit the Boxer offense then Whitworth fans should continue to be confident that the Pirates are the next best team in the NWC.
College of Idaho (0-1) over Willamette (0-1) (at Willamette):  I watched a lot of the Willamette/Rhodes game the Bearcats are still not a very good offensive team.  It think their QB, Knowlton, is improved this year but the Bearcats are pretty much a snap and throw it as fast you can offense.  I think the Bearcat defense is going to be ok.  They were carved up by a nice duel threat QB against Rhodes but Willamette still have some guys that can play of defense.  College of Idaho of the NAIA is coming to town and while I don’t think the ‘Yotes are anything special, I think they’ll beat the Bearcats up front and move the Bearcats to 0-2.

(509)Rat says College of Idaho:  Rhodes offensive coordinator has done a good job and Willamette isn't the same program. I took Rhodes last week in what felt like my only correct pick. Willamette is in for another rough game against a team who's talent is better than you'd expect in year 3 of its return to football.

Occidental (0-0) over Puget Sound (1-0) (at Oxy):  This is a game that UPS will probably pull off but I just enjoy picking against them.  I made fun of UPS this off-season in having a run game coordinator and they come out the first game of the year and have a guy, Austin Wagner, rush for over 180 on La Verne. Take THAT Wildcat11.  Wagner looked pretty slick and if he can bring that weekly for UPS that will be a huge boon for the Loggers.  At the same time I don’t think La Verne will be a very good team this year so a two point win at home doesn’t scream UPS is for real to me.

(509)Rat says Occidental: Just like many pre-season predictions, I think we all got ULV wrong. Or the SCIAC is even worse than everyone expected. Probably a little of both. ULV probably still should have won that game against the Loggers. I'll take the home team in this one, and I will stay off twitter if UPS starts the season 2-0.

West Region Game(s) of the Week:

Wartburg (0-0) over Monmouth (0-0) (at Monmouth): You just never pick a MWC team over a IIAC team. Nope and I’m not going to start here.

(509)Rat says Wartburg: Never pick against Wartburg until about the 2nd round of the playoffs.

St. Norbert’s (0-1) over Benedictine (0-1) (at Bene): Goodness this is a stinker of a game.  A second MWC in the pick ‘em? Ugh.  Both of these teams are terrible but I’m going to pick St. Norbert’s to be less terrible this Saturday.

(509)Rat says Benedictine: I can't get over how bad St. Norbert's conference is and how bad they always seem to fare when they get onto the national scene in the playoffs. Judging who's week 1 loss looked better probably isn't a great way of determining who will win this one. I'll take the home team that seems to have a little stiffer competition year in and year out.

National Games of the Week:

Albright (0-1) over Stevenson (1-0) (at Albright): Everything in my bones is telling me to take Stevenson but I’m not going to listen to my gut and I’m going to go with Albright.  Rat is right that is the team on the rise in the MAC but I’m looking for Albright to have a bounce back week in this budding rivalry.

(509)Rat says Stevenson: I think the Mustangs are slightly better than they were 1 year ago and I think Albright has taken a step back. Normally I wouldn't read too much into a team struggling with Salisbury's flexbone offense, but they've seen it before and don't have that excuse anymore. Stevenson is in year 6 of having a program and they are ready to break through and win a MAC title. You heard it here first.

Hampden Sydney (0-1) over Christopher Newport (1-0) (at HSU): Again, I’m not super confident in this pick. HSU lost to a terrible team in the opening week and CNU knocked off a decent Kean program.  I think the result for me is going to be disappointing.

(509)Rat says Christopher Newport: I wanted to go with the Tigers, they are at home and won the match-up last year. Then I decided to put a bunch of stock in their loss to Averett. I'd never heard of Averett and after a little digging I figured out why...they stink. Hampden-Sydney may very well win, but if you are picking them because of what you remember from their game in McMinnville a few years back, you're going to be very disappointed.

Wildcat11’s NWC Week 2 Power Rankings
1.    Linfield – until proven otherwise
2.    Whitworth – Last Saturday had to hurt.
3.    PLU – Has a chance to start 2016 off on the right foot
4.    UPS – I don’t think La Verne is very good but a win is a win
5.    Pacific – Offense looked better than I thought but giving up 30 to Adrian? Yikes.
6.    George Fox – They have some big bodies up front but slow big bodies.
7.    Willamette – The offense is still bad. They have no game breakers.
8.    L&C – Less than 60 players on the roster could really hurt if injuries pile up.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

2016 Linfield Game 1 Preview: Linfield (0-0) vs Chapman (0-0)

Welcome BACK to the ‘Catdome! It’s been a long offseason of waiting but the hay is in the barn and we are just days from kicking off Linfield’s 2016 season.

What do we know about Linfield this year? Yes, we know the ‘Cats are highly ranked and have made the National Semifinals in back-to-back seasons. But why are D3 pundits expecting more of the same from the ‘Cats this season?  Well, you can start at the quarterback.  Sam Riddle is back for his senior season and the father of two is primed and ready to lead this program once again.  Saying Riddle is going to have options is an understatement. 4 of Riddle’s top 5 receivers from 2015 are back on the roster this year as Erick Douglas III, Zach Kuzens, Johnny Carroll, and Eric Igbinoba are all back for Riddle.  Also, Sam Robinson is back for his Senior season after spending most of 2015 on the sideline with injury, and Reed Peterson is going to be a key contributor as well. 

Taking handoff this year will once again be 1 team All-NWC running back Spencer Payne.  Payne is one of the most dynamic running backs in the country with his allusiveness, power, speed, and ability to catch the ball out of the backfield.  Spencer is in line to have a monster 2016.  But the ‘Cats are far than just a one-man show in the backfield.  Offering up some power will be Sutter Choisser who was a great change up to Payne in 2015, and a huge bonus is the return of a fully healthy Bryan Cassill. Cassill will be a dynamic back for Linfield this season.  These three will offer up huge flexibility for the offense in 2016.

Now the big question for the offense….the offensive line.  Linfield loses three starters off of last year’s offensive line that was critical to the success of the previous two seasons. The good news is that the ‘Cats have a lot of talent on the offensive line but it’s unproven talent. How quickly the group can gel will be a major factor for Linfield this season.  Returning starters for the ‘Cats are Guard/Tackle Stephen Nnabue and guard Kela Grace.  Ryne Furmark, who did start multiple games last year, returns as well.  There is a laundry list of big bodies the ‘Cats could roll out there this season and there should be plenty of opportunities to find the unit that clicks.

#3 Eric Igbinoba and the Wildcats receivers are looking to light up the scoreboard in 2016.
Photo Courtesy from Brad Thompson: See Brad's 2015 photos here.

The second biggest question for the Linfield offense is Tight End.  Linfield had the luxury of having Levi Altringer the past two years as he was a fantastic outlet for Riddle and hauled in six touchdowns in 2015.  An area of concern this offseason for the coaching staff has turned into a spot of optimism during fall camp.  Linfield has a number of young and talent options at Tight End with Sophomore Byron Greenlee leading the charge along with freshman Jacob Calo expecting to see lots of action.

Flipping to the other side of the ball, Linfield’s defense should once again be a fantastic group.  Yes, the defense losses three All-Americans in defensive end Alex Hoff, Keanu Yamamoto, and Kyle Belcher, but Linfield returns a bevy of talent that should form another darn good defensive unit.  Manning the corners this year will be seniors Kennedy Johnson and Dylan Lewis.  Both of them are multiple year starters for the ‘Cats and should have great senior campaigns.  Also look for junior Cory Stowell to have a huge impact for the ‘Cats at cornerback.  At the safety spots, Linfield has the luxury in returning two 1st team All-NWC defenders in Mikey Arkans and Skylor Elgarico. Nate Sample, Duke Mackle, and Tala Teaupa should also see time for Linfield.  Rounding out the ‘Cats defensive backfield is Mitch Lewis who will be taking up the mantle from Yamamoto at the Rover position.  Wade Ransom will factor in at Rover as well as Niles Tuihalangingie and Austen Dahl.

Headed up the Linebackers is a group that represent speed and toughness. Preseason All-American Jake Reimer headlines a dynamic group of backers.  Both Mitchell Kekel and Jason Farlow also put in outstanding sophomore campaigns, with Kekel making a number of huge plays and Farlow being named a 1st team All-NWC Linebacker, and these two will once again have a huge impact for the Wildcat defense this year.  The heartbeat for the LBC this season will be senior Kyle Chandler who I’m expecting to have a big impact in his final campaign. Kyle’s toughness will be a great addition in the middle of this defense as well as sophomore Patrick Pipitone’s talent.

One of the biggest changes for the ‘Cats defense this year is the departure of Alex Hoff from the defensive line. Hoff is one of the best players in program history so that’s tough to make up for but ‘Cat fans should be optimistic about this group.  Defensive End Marcus McGovern is an All-American in waiting in my humble opinion. Maybe that’s unfair to put those types of expectation on McGovern but I think he’s going to have a huge junior season.  Lining up on the opposite side will be junior Jake Handran.  The 6’ 4” 265 lbs defensive end will be a load for teams to handle and I like Jake’s motor.  Eli Fults is going to see plenty of action in the rotation and don’t be surprised to see Frosh Tony Kraus in the mix as well.  In the middle, Linfield will be led by returning 1st team All-NWC defensive tackle Zach Grate.  The junior did a fantastic job in chewing up space in the middle of the Linfield defense and should have a great junior season.  Lining up next to Grate is senior Ty Farber.  Farber is a powerhouse with some great quickness and should cause havoc during his senior season.  Dakota Church is going to be a factor in the middle for Linfield as well as Chris Stinchcomb, and freshman Hayden Bell.

Last but never least the ‘Cats kicking game.   Linfield is in fantastic hands with their punting duties as Kevin McClean is back for one more season. McClean is a talent and huge weapon for the ‘Cats.  Kick off duties once again fall to the foot of Cayman Conley. Conley has a huge leg and has looked fantastic in fall camp.  The biggest question mark is who is going to be handling Linfield’s field goal/PAT’s opportunist.  In camp, those duties have been split between Conley and transfer Willy Warne. That should be ongoing in the early part of the season.

As for the ‘Cats opening opponent, Chapman?  Linfield fans are very familiar with Chapman at this point as this will be Linfield’s 4th meeting with the Panthers in three seasons.  The Panthers took it a bit on the chin in 2015 after their 2014 SCIAC title. The Panthers are a bit of a mystery to me coming into Saturday’s game.  There has been almost zero press, video, heck not even a write up on their sports page. What I do know is that they will be well prepared for Linfield. I think the Chapman coaching staff does a heck of a job in scheme and game day coaching so you know they’ll want to bring their best shot back to the ‘Catdome.

Get To Know A Wildcat

#45 Jake Handran, Junior, Defensive End
Hometown: Woodburn, Or, High School: Blanchet Catholic

Favorite place to eat in Mac: Tequila Grill

Favorite Movie
: Benchwarmers

Favorite Music: Country/Classic Rock

Favorite TV show: American Ninja Warrior

Favorite Book: America: Imagine the World Without Her

Class I Most Look Forward to: International Business

iPhone or Android: iPhone

Personal Mantra: Inner Fire

Social Media of choice: LinkedIn

Car or Truck: Car

Xbox or PS3: PS3

What first inspired you to play football: My inner fire

Favorite Coach Smith Saying: It's all about the little things

Favorite part of playing at Linfield: Being apart of something greater than myself and being blessed with the opportuity to get better everyday.

Describe Coach Vaughan in three words: Defensive Schematic Genius

Post Linfield aspirations: Just keep livin' the dream!

Wildcat11’s Keys To Victory

Don’t change who you are:  I don’t think any Linfield fan needs to worry about Linfield trying to reinvent the wheel in 2016.  The ‘Cats are going to be who the ‘Cats have been for a long time and that’s a team that plays fast and with controlled aggression. The first game always has that element of the unknown and that’s when programs need to turn to their core values to preserve through unknown times.  Chapman will have looks on both sides of the ball the ‘Cats haven’t seen, so the ‘Cats will have to adjust on the fly.  If the ‘Cats can do this then I expect Linfield to start showing flashes of why many think this is one of the teams to beat in Division III.

Establish the rush: How far this Linfield offense will go this season will be determined by if the ‘Cats can move the ball on the ground. Yes, we have the offense and players that can throw it 50 times a game and win football games, but rushing the football effectively will be the key if this team and program can take that other step forward. We’re young on the offensive line but talented.  I’m looking forward if we can establish a rushing attack.

#46 Marcus McGovern should be meeting plenty of QB's like this in 2016.
Photo Courtesy from Brad Thompson: See Brad's Photos here.

Turn Chapman into a one dimensional offense:  Chapman has been more of a rush first team in recent years and in 2015 the Panthers rushed the ball 63% of the time.  Part of that reason is Chapman’s best offensive player in 2015 was a running back that has now graduated.  So what does that mean for Saturday?  I’m not sure. Maybe Chapman goes Air Raid on the ‘Cats, or maybe they go ground or pound?  That’s the beauty of the first game…the unknown.  Either way, Linfield’s defense will need to figure it out and if the ‘Cats can turn Chapman into a one dimensional offense, then Linfield can turn it loose.

Special Teams Pressure:  Linfield has been fantastic with their Special Teams on this run since 2009. The ‘Cats have dangerous returners, fantastic coverage units, and some great legs.  This group can be huge to turn momentum into Linfield’s favor against the Panthers with flipping field position. 

Pressure the Chapman backfield: Chapman will have a new starting QB under center this year as the probable starter is Junior, Mac Vail.  The 5’ 11”, 180 lbs. signal caller had solid numbers in limited time last year in going 35 of 58 throwing ball (60.5%) and tossed 7 TD’s to only 1 pick. Vail’s throws a nice ball, and it will be critical for the ‘Cats front four to make him uncomfortable in the pocket and hopefully force some poor decision making.

Make Plays on the Ball:  No doubt both the Linfield offense and defense is going to have opportunities this weekend to make plays on the football.  Linfield’s offense isn’t all the sudden going to change into a dink and dunk passing attack so you know Sam Riddle is going to get it up in the air and challenge Chapman deep, and I’m suspecting Chapman is going to also see if they can take some chunks in the air as well.  We have experience and talent with our receivers and secondary and it’s up to them to want it when those opportunities come.


‘Cats by 17.  All the wait is finally over for Linfield. While the ‘Cats do have some questions that need to be answered, there is no denying on the potential of this year’s team. I do respect Chapman and what their coaching staff has done for that program, but if Linfield comes out with a purpose and executes there is no reason why this game will be close. Can’t wait to see it.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

2016 NWC Pick 'Em Contest: Week 1

Every NWC defensive coordinators headache, #8 Spencer Payne

Football is here once again.  Oh, how I’ve missed you football season.  If you are not familiar with the blog.  Welcome and feel free to check in on us often during the season.  Yeah, I don’t post much at all during the off-season anymore. Chalk that up to the ease of social media (follow me on Twitter, IG, and Facebook) to get out information quickly and the fact running a blog can be a major pain in the backside. Regardless, football is here and that means this blog is back with more of my ramblings, shoddy grammar, but hopefully some insight on YOUR Linfield Wildcats, the NWC, and Division III football in general. Oh, how I love me some small college football.

Every Thursday for the remainder of the season, we’ll be posting up our week Division III game pick. These game picks originate from’s posting board: You can talk everything D3 in what is a great community of like-minded sports fans. Once you have registered, head over to the NWC pick ‘em post and join in the action. It’s fun, and besides, how cool would it be to brag to your friends that you took out Speedybigboy and HSCTiger74 in this year’s pick ‘em contest? I know, right?

Hopefully joining me this year once again is former Whitworth football player and current swing shift manager of a Spokane area GameStop, (509)Rat.  (509)Rat is a long time contributor to this pick ‘em post, has a deep hate for Pacific, and misses Tully Ball at his alma mater. So strap in and let’s get this year started on a hot streak.  PICKS!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Northwest Conference Games of the Week:

Pacific (0-0) over Adrian (0-0) (at Pacific):  The Boxers kick off as they host Adrian College out of Michigan. This isn’t the first time these two have faced off and the Bulldogs are actually the favorite to win the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.  But being the top dog of the MIAC doesn’t really mean much.   The Boxers offense is the big question this year but it looks like they have weapons, it’s just a matter of how fast they come together.  A win over Adrian would be a good start in helping that process.

UW-Platteville (0-0) over George Fox (0-0) (at GFU): Platteville has been that upper 2nd tier WIAC team that has just been on the outside looking in on the WIAC title.  I think Platteville is a solid program and would be looking at annual playoff trips if they were not in the same conference as Whitewater and Oshkosh.  This should be an interesting contest.  Fox’s QB is in his 4th year in the program (a year 0 player) and he does have targets to work with. GFU will be more physical this year due to the roster maturing and you have to take the travel for Platte into consideration as well. That should make this a fun little match up. Do expect Platteville to go over on GFU.  But I'm sure Fox will still brag about their juiced up attendance numbers.

 La Verne (0-0) over Puget Sound (0-0) (at UPS): Very hard call here.  La Verne lost the heart of their team with their All-American RB and QB graduating and UPS returns their QB and top receiver but I’m not sure if their interior play is going to be up to snuff. I think this could be a down to the wire game that could go either way but the Loggers do have the advantage of having EXTREAM DESIRE!!!!!!!!!!!!  Still, I’m going to take La Verne in a tight one while the UPS coaching staff goes over to their rocky beach 5 MINUTES away from campus to catch up on email and ponder their season.

Random Tangent:  Man, I love that video with Jeff Thomas at that gravel slope near the water. I do have a major question that I need an answer to. At the :41 second mark, Coach Thomas throws the ball out of the frame to what you think would be someone catching the ball. However, in the next shot it shows Coach Thomas walking back with the ball from the direction he just threw it.  So did he throw it to someone?  Did he just throw it in the gravel to nobody 20 yards away?  Does Coach Thomas like going to gravel like slopes near the water to play catch by himself? The Loggers have like 30 receivers on the roster, he couldn’t get one of them to go with him to catch the ball? These are questions that need to be answered!

Whitworth (0-0) over Central (0-0) (at Whit): Solid little match up for the Rats to get sharp in week one of the 2016 season.  Central is a solid program but not a great one anymore.  The Rats return a ton of talent but I’m curious to see how their pass protection pans out this year now that their fantastic left tackle has graduated. Regardless, Central will offer up some resistance but I’m expecting the Rats to open up the season in style.

Willamette (0-0) over Rhodes (0-0) (at Rhodes): Is it too early to call this a must win game? No? Well, I think this is a must win game for Willamette.  In looking at their schedule if the Bearcat offense doesn’t come out and show some major improvement the Bearcats season might be done before it even starts.  Rhodes stink and if the Bearcats can’t go to Tennessee and take care of business then Willamette fan will just have to start looking forward to basketball season…, wait…um… season….nope, not that either……Willamette fan will just have to start looking forward to 2017.

West region game of the week:

West region games stink this week…moving on.

National Game(s) of the Week (2 pts):

No. 15 Johns Hopkins (0-0) over No. 20 Washington and Lee (0-0) (at JHU):  These two teams face off for the first time since 2003 as both JHU and Wash & Lee are coming off fantastic 2015 seasons as Johns Hopkins continues their domination of the Centennial Conference and W&L won the always competitive Old Dominion Athletic Conference.  The Blue Jays have to replace pretty much their entire offensive line from last season and W&L returns the bulk of their starters. Even with that in mind, I’m going with the historically stronger program at home.

No. 7 Wesley (0-0) over No. 25 Delaware Valley (0-0) (at Wesley):  The Aggies are a solid program out of the Mid Atlantic Conference but Wesley is one of the top tier programs in division III for a reason. Yeah, the Wolverines have to replace All-American QB Joe Callahan (who has looked damn good for Green Bay in the preseason) but Wesley is dripping with talent and have everything running back Jamar Baynard to take pressure on whoever the new Wesley QB will be. Wolverines in a route.

No. 23 Salisbury (0-0) over No. 16 Albright (0-0) (at SU): Yeah, I could make a crappy steak joke right now but I’ll pass. I would be higher on Salisbury but I can’t shake the fact they were handled by Cortland State last year in the first round of the playoffs.  However, these two did battle in a 1-point game last year (Albright win) and you have to consider the fact that Albright is going to have 6 new defensive starters facing a triple option team right out of the gates.  I’ll take the Seagulls in an upset

No. 6 UW-Oshkosh over No. 18 John Carroll (0-0): Please, John Carroll is one of those teams that is in the rotation to be the second best OAC team so they get way more credit than they deserve for getting thumped every year by Mount Union. Oshkosh is a legit badass program and should run through the Blue Streaks like a light night burrito supreme from Taco Bell.

Wildcat11’s NWC Preseason Power Rankings:

1. Linfield: The heavy favorite but that game in Spokane looms large for the ‘Cats.

2. Whitworth: The clear cut number two and the Rats building into a yearly contender.

3. PLU: The NWC coaches disagree but I’m expecting a big rebound year for the Lutes. I think PLU has a star QB in making and return 19 of 22 starters for team that played their schedule tough in 2015.

4. Pacific: The Boxers lost 9 of 11 starters on offense including all their skills starters.  The Boxer defense should be good, especially at Linebacker. However, the Boxers’ are on their 3rd defensive coordinator in three seasons. Staff stability with their top assistances hasn’t been a strong suite for Pacific.

5. Fox: George Fox has a number of 4th year juniors starting and leading their program. The Bruins should take another step forward but have to replace Shaffer at running back. GFU gets a big boost with the return of Charles Riga at LB (I think the kid is a player). If the breaks go their way, GFU could challenge for the 3rd/4th spot. If not, they’ll have to be happy in the middle of the pack.

6. Willamette: The Bearcats returns much of their offense but it was a terrible offense last year. So I’m not sure what that means.  I like what Willamette does on defense but I’m having doubts they’ll have enough firepower to contend in 2016.

7. UPS: It’s back to the lower rung for Loggers even though they return their QB and top receiver. I’m basing the fall back on what UPS returns on the interior on both sides of the ball.  The Loggers only return 2 of 5 offensive linemen all three d-line starters are gone.  Add to the mix that two of three of the Logs top receivers are gone and I think it’s a backslide season.

8. L&C:  The Pioneers are going to start showing signs of improvement and will push more teams but I don't see many wins on the schedule.  I think their best bet will be on Sept 17th vs Pomona-Pitzer.  If they don’t get it done then, it could be another 0-9 year on the hill.