Monday, October 31, 2016

‘Cats Win!!!! Linfield spanks George Fox 50-14 to move one step closer to the NWC title.

#8 Spencer Payne took to sky to punch in this 2nd quarter touchdown.
Photo Courtesy from Brad Thompson: View Brad's Photos here

KA-BOOM! That was an old fashioned, take ‘em out behind the woodshed whooping that the ‘Cats put on George Fox this past Saturday in the ‘Catdome.  My goodness, if this game was a UFC fight, the game would have been called in under 1 minute in the 1st round due to TKO. Linfield used all three phases to blow apart any hope Fox had in hanging around the football and give the young program a good look at what the difference is between being a pretender and an actual contender for the Northwest Conference Title.

For Linfield fans, that had to feel good to finally see this football team free from all the baggage that has tripped up, slow down, and bogged up what is a tremendous football team. We dove into it in this past week’s game preview that when this Linfield football team finally cleaned up the unforced turnovers, cleaned up the kick coverage, and got out of their own way with the silly drive extending/killed penalties, this was a monster of a football team lurking under the blemishes. What we all saw against George Fox is what this football team can be when these areas are put to rest. It’s such a lethal mix physicality and skill that very few teams in Division III can match but this trend of clean play has to be an every week thing for the remainder of the season if this football wants to get to where they are going.

Linfield is in 100% control of their playoff destiny at this point.  All that Linfield has to do is win one of the last two games and the ‘Cats clinch a share of the NWC title and own the autobid (due to tie breakers) but this Linfield program isn’t too hip to sharing anything with anyone in the NWC. So the ‘Cats can’t rest now but have to keep building on this last week’s effort as Linfield continues their march to the 2016 postseason.

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

The Good

Playing up to this team’s potential: About dang time. As we talked about this above, that first half is the team that’s been there the whole time. The ‘Cats finally cleaned up the areas that have bogged this team down by winning the turnover game, cleaned up the kick coverage, and rid itself of the ill-timed penalties that kept drives alive of the other team.  The Linfield team that I saw this past Saturday looked like a true national championship contender and I hope it just wasn’t a one game deal.

Offensive line play: The key to this whole deal has been the development of the ‘Cats starting offensive line. It took some time after Center Will Heck’s season ending injury at UMHB, but this group of Dakota Smith, Steven Nnabue, Kela Grace, Ryne Fuhrmark, have grown tremendously with center Gabe Majarro over the past five games and haven’t allowed a sack against Sam Riddle in over 3 games, and has paved the way for the ‘Cats to average 254.4 yards of rushing in 5 NWC games. Keep it up big fellas, this team will go as far as you can take us.

Balanced offensive attack: The ‘Cats plan of attack all season is to run the football with a trio of running backs (Payne, Cassill, Choisser), make backers and safeties respect the run and then let their gang of receivers cut you to shreds with Sam Riddle directing traffic. The ‘Cats ran executed their plan perfectly against what was a respect starved George Fox defense in scoring on their first seven possessions of the game with four of the drives being 75 yards or longer and two others being 60 yards or longer. Linfield piled up 573 total yards and could have been much worse if Coach Smith didn’t call off the dogs in that 3rd quarter.

Kickoff Coverage: About damn time. The ‘Cats kick coverage was so much better this game and while it wasn’t lights out good, it was a huge improvement over the previous weeks.  They even came up with a clutch forced fumble in that avalanche of a 1st quarter that help put the Bruins away early.  I hope it was a lesson to our young ‘Cats in just how big of an impact they can make on the game.

Linebackers #5 Mitchell Kekel and #9 Kyle Chandler celebrate snuffing out another GFU drive.
Photo Courtesy from Brad Thompson: View Brad's Photos here

Pass Defense: The Linfield secondary ate GFU QB Grant Schroeder alive…again.  The ‘Cats defense held the Bruin QB to a woeful game of 7 of 18 passing for 124 yards, 0 touchdowns, and 1 interception for touchdown (should have been two picks but we’ll talk about that later). For his career, Schroeder is now a combined 21 of 54, for 234 yards, 0 touchdowns, and 6 interceptions in 3 games against the ‘Cats defense.

Receiver playmaking:  Sam Riddle used 9 different receivers to shred the GFU defense for 323 yards and 3 touchdowns on the day and the Wildcat receivers were magnificent in making tough catches in traffic, and finishing plays including this beautiful throw/catch/run on a Riddle to Reed Peterson 67 yard 1st quarter touchdown. This group is like a Swiss Army knife of receiving corps.

The Bad

PAT team: When you kick the holy heck out of a team, going 5 out 7 on PAT isn’t that big of deal but the ‘Cats are better than missing a PAT and getting one blocked. It’s knit picking a great performance but this special teams unit needs to be automatic as we get closer to the second season.

Blown PI Call: Look, I try not to make excuses by placing blame on officials. It’s not my style but sometimes you just need to say what something is. And that something is what should have been a Cory Stowell interception in the 1st quarter that was flagged as a Pass Interference call.  This might just be the WORST pass interference call in the history of pass interference call. If this is where football’s headed we might as well just start playing with only 7 players on each side of the ball and play two hand touch.

The Ugly

Temporary Soccer Lines on Maxwell Field: Look. I get it. Linfield soccer field is a complete mess with the heavy rain this fall and so in order to allow the teams to have a playable surface they moved the remaining home soccer games to the ‘Catdome.  I totally understand the move and I’m thankful that the football facility could pitch in and help out the soccer programs. However, the soccer lines defacing the football are U-G-L-Y and it’s like drawing a mustache with a sharpie on the Mona Lisa. Here’s hoping that the college will do the right thing and provide the soccer and Lacrosse programs with a brand new sparking field turf facility this summer. 

Friday, October 28, 2016

2016 NWC Pick Em Contest: Week 9

Team, Excellence, Attitude, Class
Wild to think that we’re rounding the bend on the 2016 season. The dust is starting to clear in the 2016 Pick ‘Em Contest and in the Northwest Conference. I’m pretty much sitting in the basement, ala Puget Sound, just trying to find some nuggets that I can post on social media to distract potential recruits from the dumpster fire of a year I’m having…… (509)Rat had a chance, and still might, to make a wild last gasp at the time when the preseason conference standing points get added to the total score but he’s at an arm’s length from the top spot. We’ll just have to see how it goes but this week seems pretty elementary until you get into the National Games.  We’ll see.

As for the race in the NWC, there is still a lot of different scenarios that could play out if Linfield goes into the tank the last three weeks of the season. But the most reasonable possibilities are Linfield winning it outright in going 7-0 or we could have a three way tie between Linfield/Fox/Whitworth if either Fox or PLU can knock off Linfield in the final weeks or there are other possibilities if Pacific knocks off Whitworth or George Fox stumbles.

Speaking of George Fox, they have to been feeling pretty good regardless of the outcome this weekend. To be in their 3rd year of playing (4th overall) the Bruins are playing solid football and it reminds me of the Pacific team from 2002-2003 when they had their first class of players starting to develop and mature and have now you have a core group of players with over 20 starts under their belt. It’s very similar but Fox also had that zero year to help accelerate the process. If anything, GFU will be even better next season and then we’ll really see where they are at in 2018 when that first core group graduates. That’s when the proof is in the pudding for a “new” program, IMO. 

Let’s get to the action!

Northwest Conference Games of the Week

#7 Linfield (5-1) over George Fox (3-3) (at Lin): (509)Rat says Linfield. Wake me up when Linfield gets to their second round playoff game and I actually have to think about whether they will win or not.

Whitworth (5-2) over Pacific (3-4) (at Pac): This has the potential to be an interesting football game. That Whitworth defense gets lit up more than Kieffer Sutherland at a buy one get one free happy hour.  Pacific’s offense can be very hit or miss as they have some explosive players but are unreliable ball catchers paired with an erratic QB. This will come down to if the Boxers defense can slow the Rats offense down enough to move on Whitworth’s offensive defense. However, I think the Rats will do enough to pull it out on the road.

(509)Rat Says Whitworth:  There were glimpses of a capable Whitworth defense last week against Linfield, though the secondary is still bad and they refuse to attempt to apply any pressure. Luckily, I don't think Pacific has enough firepower to exploit the glaring deficiencies in this Pirate defense. As a program, Pacific may have peaked a little early, they just aren't as talented as they were a couple years ago and I don't think they can store enough to keep up with Whitworth

Willamette (2-5) over Lewis & Clark (0-6) (at L&C): Even though the Pioneers lost last weekend as least they were in the ball game in the 4th quarter. That has to be something the Pios will try to build on. Willamette’s not a very good football team but they should get a feel good win over Lewis & Clark.

(509)Rat Says Willamette: Lewis and Clark put up a good fight last week and that deserves some recognition. Unfortunately, the fact that they haven't won a game since October 5th of 2013 also deserves some recognition. The Pios aren't gonna break that streak this week.

Pacific Lutheran (3-3) over Puget Sound (3-3) (at PLU): Man, the Lutes have had consecutive gut-punch losses. PLU went from the possibility of setting up a winner takes all showdown with Linfield at the end of the season to just playing out the string. Should be an interesting game as PLU plays pretty good defense and bad offense and UPS plays high tempo offense and zero defense. I think the Lutes will win by a comfortable margin and all hold hands afterwards to sing their favorite Michael Bolton songs.

(509)Rat says PLU:  The Lutes continue to rain on my pick 'em parade. UPS won for the last time this season against L&C last week. Hope they took my advice and enjoyed themselves. Of course, now that I'm picking PLU in a game they should win...

West Region Games of the Week

Redlands (5-1) over Pomoa-Pitzer (5-1) (at PP): Wow.  When was the last time that Pomona-Pitzer was playing meaningful football this late in October? Good on the ‘Hens to be in the thick of the SCIAC title this season but while Redlands isn’t that great, they’re good enough to knock off Pomona and move one step closer to getting shelled by the ‘Cats in the first round.

(509)Rat Says Redlands: Just like we all predicted at the beginning of the season...Redlands and PP are playing for 1st place in the SCIAC. Seriously though, Pomona Pitzer struggled with Lewis and Clark in Portland and I think they shocked some folks by beating Cal Lu, but you have to remember the Solutes lost to PLU and Willamette (meaning they aren't that good). I have to imagine Redlands is bigger, stronger and faster than the hens and that they win this one pretty easily.

UW-Stevens Point (4-3) over UW-La Crosse (5-2) (At UWL): After a while all these WIAC games look the same. Highly competitive, good athletes on both sides of the ball, high drama, playoff implications each week, blah, blah, blah.  Pointers just because.

(509)Rat says Stevens Point. The Pointers' last 3 games have been against Platteville, Oshkosh and Whitewater. They understandably lost all 3 which I'm hoping does not lead to a beaten down and demoralized UWSP team that comes out flat and loses to an inferior team.  The Pointers have been a good team the last few years, but when you are in a conference that has 3 of the top 10-15 teams in the country, you're always going to be forgotten. UWSP gets back on track this week with a win.

National Games of the Week

Rose-Hulman (5-1) over Bluffton (6-1) (at RHU): Going to keep this short and sweet (mainly because I have zero clue about either team) and say go Rose-Hulman!

(509)Rat says Rose-Hulman: Huge win last week over Franklin for the Engineers. They have a capable QB and an opportunistic defense in a must win game at home. They beat Bluffton by 1 on the road last season, returning the same QB and 10 of 11 starters on defense. I'm just hoping the moment isn't too big for a program that's never really been in this position before.

Case Western Reserve (7-0) over Washington University (6-1) (at UW): No, Case isn’t playing the Washington Huskies this Saturday and as Oregon Duck fans can tell you, that’s a good thing. CWRU is the better defensive team and that’s will be the roadmap to victory this weekend for the Spartans.

(509)Rat says Washington: I'll take Wash U because they are at home. Not to mention CWR's undefeated record has come against a whole lot of garbage teams. The most recent of which (Geneva) nearly beat the Spartans. What I'm trying to say is that I don't know anything about these teams and I need something to justify my pick.

Trinity (Conn) (5-0) over Middlebury (5-0) (at Trinity): Is this game between schools in that conference who think they're too esteemed to participate in the playoffs because it might effect the focus of their student-athletes? It is? Then hope they both lose tomorrow.

(509)Rat says Trinity: These are the teams that play 8 conference games and don't participate in the playoffs right? My vote is to boycott the NESCAC by never including them in the pick 'em again (I want to say this is the second time we've had a Trinity game in the last few years). That'll show em! Seriously though, I couldn't care less about two programs that play zero out of conference games and can't make the playoffs. Trinity wins because their mascot is a nicer name for a rooster than the one Pacific fans are...nevermind

Wildcat11’s Week 8 NWC Power Rankings
1.    Linfield: Another week, another challenger
2.    Whitworth: If they had even a decent defense, they would be a playoff worthy team.
3.    George Fox:  All of those starts the past three seasons is paying off for Fox
4.    Pacific Lutheran: Had a chance to make this a big comeback year but blew it.
5.    Pacific: Good, but not good enough.
6.    Willamette: Wonder what they would be like if Speckman was still around?
7.    Puget Sound: From a distance, and if you squint, they might look pretty good, until you get up close and then you can see how ugly this team really is.
8.    Lewis & Clark: Played their best ball of the year in a loss but that’s is something.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

2016 Game Seven Preview: Linfield (5-1) vs George Fox (3-3)

According the GFU's marketing people this would be a crowd of 11,313.

Another big week for your Linfield Wildcats.  As I’ve stated before, the playoffs for this year’s team started back in September when the ‘Cats dropped that non-conference road game to Mary Hardin-Baylor. The only way for Linfield to make it back to the second season and accomplish the goals this team laid out last December is to clearly win the NWC title and earn the Pool A automatic bid. Even with the ‘Cats long history of championships and deep playoff successes there is little to no room for error for Linfield. Anything less than the sole ownership of the 2016 NWC title and you’re placing your fate in the hands of a playoff selection committee that has a who’s who of Division III power vying for only six at-large berths across the country for the runner’s up of auto bid conferences (Pool C). Linfield controls their own destiny going into this game with George Fox but as quickly as Linfield can have both hands on the wheel of destiny, the car can easily swerve into the ditch if the ‘Cats are not keeping their eyes on the obstacles on the road ahead.  

As the season moves along, the stats this Linfield team have piled up are becoming more and more impressive. Right now, the ‘Cats offense is right below the 2004 team in terms of average yards per pass with 10.1 (2004 – 10.2), 3rd in passing yards per game with 330.5, 3rd in total offense per play (6.9 yards), and 1st in average yards per game with 529.7 yards.  But even with all of those flashy stats, it doesn’t feel to me that this team has played their best football game yet.  IMO, The biggest reason for that is the turnover ratio. Linfield currently sits at a -3 which isn’t a place Linfield typically sits. In fact, since the year 2000, the ‘Cats average turnover ratio per season is a +10.9, with their best season being +26 in 2009 (12-1, National Semifinalist) and their worst was -3 in 2008 (6-3, 2nd place in NWC). If you look back at the 2016 season so far and the turnovers have played a huge part in this team’s only loss and being a key factor for not being able to put NWC foes on ice sooner in the game. I know there are only three games left but if this team can take better care of the ball while creating takeaways, you see this group take their game to another level.

The team hoping to create a gaggle of Linfield turnovers this weekend is the George Fox Bruins. George Fox football is in their 4th year of existences/3rd year of competing and right now are playing the best football they have since reinstating the program. The Bruins sit 3-3 overall and 3-1 in Northwest Conference play with their only loss being in the last moments to Whitworth. Since then, Fox has rolled past the NWC basement in Lewis & Clark and Puget Sound and then landed their biggest win since bring back football when they knocked off PLU 22-18 at home. The calling card for the 2016 Bruins is their Defense. GFU is currently only giving up 22.5 points per game and lead the NWC in rushing defense in only surrendering 96.2 yards per contest.  Leading the charge on GFU’s 3-4 defense is outstanding Linebacker Charles Riga who has piled up 55 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 7 TFL’s, 3 pass breakups, and 1 forced fumble. The Bruin’s play a physical brand of football up front and will be a big challenge to the ‘Cats.

On the other side of the ball, Fox runs a balanced offensive attack that leans a little more on the rush but are certainly capable of putting the ball in the air off the arm of 3rd/4th year QB Grant Schroeder but love pounding the rock behind their lengthy offensive line with RB Wesley Riddell and have no issues in designed runs or veer plays for Schroeder (54 rushes, 359 yards, and 5 rush TDs).  Fox is going to give Linfield a lot of different looks and try to attack Linfield North & South running the ball, quick game throwing the ball, and will go for the occasional home run.

Make no mistake this is a big football game on many different levels. Fox is probably the most confident they have been since restarting their program and have an opportunity to come in the ‘Catdome and play for a share of the NWC lead in late October. You know they’ll be jacked and ready to stand toe-to-toe with Linfield. The ‘Cats have to be ready for the challenge and not just assume that GFU will falter under the weight of the game. That’s not going to happen so I hope the ‘Cats have been getting their mind right this week. 

Get To Know A Wildcat

#71 Ryne Furhmark, Offensive Tackle, Junior
Hometown: Gilbert, AZ., High School: Williams Field High School

Favorite Place to Eat: 1882 Grill on 3rd St.

Favorite movie: Saving Private Ryan

Favorite Music: Hip-Hop

Favorite TV show: Game of Thrones

Favorite Book: The Long Walk by Stephen King

Favorite class: I haven't taken a lot of history classes here at Linfield but history is easily my favorite subject, and I always enjoy going to those classes the most.

iPhone or Android: iPhone

CPU Homepage: Google

Personal Mantra: Try not to suck.

Social Media of Choice: Instagram

Car or Truck: Due to my lack of a vehicle, I can't have a preference since I would be okay with either.

When did you know Linfield was the right choice: When I came on my visit and I met Coach Hire and Smith I knew that I had to come play here. The distance didn't bother me and the culture was very similar to my HS so I knew it was right.

What inspired you to first play football: I really just started since everyone played it, but after actually playing the game, I enjoyed football and all of the lessons it taught.
Coach Smith saying: Pace...O-Line...Pace!

Best part of playing for Linfield: Being part of the family and being with a group of guys who want the same goals as myself. Also that drive to improve every week that is shared by everyone. Also the group of O-Linemen have really become my boys.

Post Linfield aspirations: I want to go to Grad school at Arizona State and pursue a career of making prosthetics, designing them or researching new models

Wildcat11’s Keys To Victory:

Accept the physical challenge for four quarters: The Bruins are going to come right at Linfield in all three phases of the game and pride their young program on playing a physical brand of football. Linfield is not afraid of that type of football game so the ‘Cats better button up the chin straps from the first kickoff and not unbuckle until the final horn goes off.

Be effective rushing the football: The Bruins do a very nice job in stuffing the rush and that’s where Linfield needs to attack GFU. There could some offensive series where the ‘Cats don’t go anywhere but Linfield needs to keep pounding. We all know what happens with this offense when they start popping some yardage on the ground. Our offensive line has to be up for the challenge.

Stand out special teams: Linfield has to control field position and one of the ways to do that is to be outstanding with your coverage units. Linfield’s kickoff team’s struggles are well documented this season so this group needs to have a step up game vs the Bruins. The other areas of Linfield’s special teams need to be clean and execute at a high level.

Bottle up the Bruin rushing attack:  Linfield is going to see a lot of different looks out of GFU’s offense this weekend. Pistol, single back, no back, with a mix of zone rushing, power plays, veers, QB designed runs, etc. The Bruins really try to mix it up and keep defenses guessing. Bottling up Riddle and Schroder in the run game will be a major storyline in just where this game goes.

Taking care of the football: I already went football nerd up top talking about Linfield’s historical turnover ratio rates, etc.  Ball security has to be a top priority this Saturday.

Close ‘em out on 3rd down: Both Linfield and GFU’s defenses have been owning 3rd down this season. Linfield is sitting at allowing teams to convert 24% of the time while Fox is at 33%. Those are both very impressive so this game could hinge on which team executes better on 3rd down. This will be one of the first stats I look at after the game.

Connect on the home run ball: At some point during this game, a Linfield wide receiver will be behind the GFU defense. It’s inevitable.  When those opportunities come for the Linfield offense, the ‘Cats have to take full advantage and own that football once it’s in the air.


‘Cats by 14.  If Linfield comes out and plays an “Linfield A” level of football then there is no doubt that the ‘Cats will prevail and do so in style. But if the ‘Cats scuffle, have a slow start, more self-inflicted wounds then the ‘Cats are going to be in a 4 quarter tussle with the upstart wannabe neighbors from across the county. Linfield better bring their big boys boots to the ‘Catdome this weekend and be ready for a fight.

Monday, October 24, 2016

‘Cats Win!!!! Linfield streak on past Whitworth in a 45-31 victory.

#7 Johnny Carroll hauled in 3 first half touchdowns for Linfield.
Photo by: Tyler Tjomsland of the Spoksman-Review
Heck yeah, that was a very good road win at a place where Linfield traditionally has had to gut out some hard fought wins. Whitworth came into the game playing for their playoff and NWC title lives (as was Linfield) and the ‘Cats answered the challenge by pushing the Rats around for over three quarters in building a 28 point lead before letting the game get a little murky when the Rats went on a bit of run late when Linfield put in the backups probably a few series too early (how’s that for some Monday morning quarterbacking).  Regardless, that was a HUGE win as the ‘Cats dominated both sides of the line of scrimmage to punish Whitworth up front with a big yardage output, sack numbers, tight coverage, and stuffing the Rats rushing attack.

Yeah, some of the season long issues that have been nipping at this team were still there with the brutal kickoff coverage, giving the ball away more than taking it away, and at times with some dumb penalties. However, those Linfield warts were just little blemishes that were just mere bumps in the roads of this Linfield steamroller. It was apparent early in the game that while Whitworth has some very good football players, Linfield was the superior club on both sides of the ball. 

For Whitworth, that might just be about it for their 2016 playoff hopes. There was some talk about a potential 1st round rematch if both clubs win out but I just don’t see a pool C bid being floated to Whitworth.  The competition for those six at-large berths is just too great for a 2 loss team with no real signature win. Hell, I could be wrong but I’m not seeing it.

And for the ‘Cats….as an orange faced Presidential candidate would say…YUGE! That was a big win for Linfield as the ‘Cats now move to 5-1 on the season and more importantly, the ‘Cats push their conference record to 4-0 as Linfield comes down the stretch with two of the remaining three games at the ‘Catdome. Up next for Linfield is the surging George Fox Bruins who have won three games in a row and currently sit tied for 2nd place in the NWC with Whitworth at 3-1.  Again, Linfield will be tested by the 3rd/4th year Bruin team as George Fox is playing for a share of the NWC lead and would own the rights to the autobid if they could knock off Linfield this weekend and win out.  This is another DO OR DIE weekend for Linfield as the ‘Cats square off against this cross county foe.

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly


We’re going STREAKING!!!

I try not to make it a big deal each year but dang….how cool is the streak?  With the win, Linfield locked up the programs’ 61st consecutive winning season as the ‘Cats continue to extend their own college football record and just make history season after season. It’s strange to think that the freshmen on this current roster were newborns when Linfield broke Notre Dame’s and Harvard’s winning streak record with Linfield’s 43 winning season in 1998.

A special shout-out for it happening at Whitworth as the Rats have their own streak history as well.


The Good

First Half of Football: Tremendous half of football for the ‘Cats with being on the road and against a formidable opponent.  Five out of Linfield’s first seven offensive possessions the ‘Cats moved the ball at-will vs. Whitworth and if it wasn’t for a fumble at the Rats’ 2 yard line the ‘Cats should have put up 35 points in that half. On the flip side, the ‘Cats defense was fantastic in limiting what was the number one offense in Division 3 coming into the game. Linfield forced Whitworth into 6 punts (four 3 and outs) and only allowed one true drive for score.  Overall, a very good half of Linfield football. 

Rush Defense: We talked about it in the game preview, Whitworth is going to get theirs in the air no matter what but you cannot allow them to effectively rush the football or it will be nearly impossible to contain them.  The ‘Cats defense was more than up for the task in holding Whitworth to a season low 25 yards of rushing on 33 attempts (0.8 rushing yards).  For the second week in a row, Linfield’s defense held the then NWC leading rusher to their season low.  This time, it was Duke DeGaetano who rushed for 37 yards on 16 carries (2.3 yards per rush).

Total Offensive Production: Linfield posted the 7th best single game offensive total in program history with 664 total yards (the record is 793 yards vs L&C in 2001) as Linfield averaged 8.0 yards per play with 253 rushing yards and 411 passing yards. I thought the ‘Cats offensive line was the catalyst in allowing Sam Riddle PLENTY of time to operate and provide space for the rushing attacked to get off.  At times, Riddle could have ordered room service and still get another 20 yard passing strike off. 

Sam Riddle, wearing Parker's number 35, was electric all afternoon for the Wildcats.
Photo by: Tyler Tjomsland of the Spoksman-Review
Kicking Game: Kevin McClean and Willy Warne both had a darn good day booting the football for the ‘Cats. McClean punted the ball 6 times for a 36.8 average with a long of 40 yards, and Warne did a great job with his kickoff placement (we’ll talk about the coverage of those kicks below) and nailed a 41-yard field goal in the 4th quarter.  Good day for the legs.

3rd down defense: Whitworth was 4 of 18 on 3rd down. That’s how you win football games. The ‘Cats defense was suffocating the explosive Whitworth offense through 3 and ½ quarters and kept Rat QB Ian Kolste uncomfortable in the pocket with a combination of pressure and making him hold onto the football due to tight pass coverage by Linfield.

#2 Dylan Lewis and the 'Cats secondary did a great job in slowing down Whitworth.
Photo by: Tyler Tjomsland of the Spoksman-Review

Offensive Playmaking: Linfield just had dudes making plays on Saturday. From Sam Riddle throwing bombs, Johnny Carroll grabbing TD’s at will, Eric Igbinoba getting lose deep, Reed Peterson once again being lethal after the catch, Zack Kuzens being clutch, extending drives and setting up scores, and Cassill/Payne/Choisser banging and clanging behind the offensive line. There were a lot of ‘Cats getting into the act and that is when this offense is at its best.

Pressure: Linfield almost doubled their sack today on the season in racking up 5 sacks for 45 yards and making Kolste move off his spot many times over the course of the game.  Sacks are critical drive stoppers and played a big roll in Linfield’s defense bogging down the high powered Rats.

The Bad

Penalties: Maybe it’s in the water but Linfield and the Eastern Washington officials just don’t see eye-to-eye when it comes to infractions. The ‘Cats were penalized 11 times for 120 yards and that’s just way too much.  However, that’s not the first time Linfield was penalized 11 times in Spokane as Linfield was penalized 11 times for 95 yards in 2013, 11 times for 104 yards in 2011, and 11 times for 110 yards in 2005 in the Pine Bowl.  Strange, man….strange.

The Ugly

Kickoff Team: Our coverage on kickoff team this year has been poor and this weekend was no different.  It doesn’t matter if you cover 5 kickoffs great but then allow 3 or 4 more to break for huge returns.  That still sucks and our kickoff coverage against Whitworth was terrible. Allowing big returns directly led to 10 of Whitworth’s 17 points while the ‘Cats were still trying to ice the game away.  Linfield better get this corrected or this is going to burn this team when it matters most.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

2016 NWC Pick Em Contest: Week 8

Stand Tall 'Cats!
Welcome to a Saturday morning edition of the NWC pick ‘em contest.  I’m currently typing this in a hotel room in downtown Spokane and I gotta say that the view of downtown Spokane isn’t too shabby.  Since I have about 436 things to do such as get my camera gear ready, shower, shave, drink coffee, get in my 500 push-ups, breakfast, etc, I have to keep the intro short and not pontificate about the current shape of the conference.  So grab a pumpkin spiced latte, slip off your Uggs, and curl up with your smartphone for this week’s game picks!

Northwest Conference Game Picks

#8 Linfield (4-1) over Whitworth (5-1) (at Whitworth): (509)Rat says: The Cats might score 100 this week. This one is going to be a blowout and I'm ok with that, despite the fact that Whitworth doesn't field a defense, the program is still moving in the right direction if you ask me. As long as someone hides the gun from Linfield's offense, preventing the self-inflicted wounds that have slowed them down previously, they'll likely have subs in for most of the 4th quarter. That's how bad the rest of the NWC is because I still believe Whitworth is the second best team in the conference.

Pacific Lutheran (3-2) over George Fox (2-3) (at Fox): Man, this had to be a tough week to be a Lute. They had that Whitworth game in the bag but couldn’t finish the job and give the Rats their due for never stop believing and coming back for a big win but that had to be a hard afterglow. I think (509) and I have been proven right that PLU is a legit team this year but Fox has been quietly playing good football this season. If the Lutes don’t have their head in the game this weekend, the Bruins are capable of knocking off PLU but I think the Lutes are the better team and that will show at the end.

(509)Rat says PLU: In games against Whitworth, PLU impressed me more. I should probably take Fox though since I've whiffed on every even PLU matchup to date. The Lutes offense should have gotten a nice morale boost last week and hopefully that carries over this week against the Bruins. I worry that crowd noise may be a factor...Lutes in a close one

Pacific (2-4) over Willamette (2-4) (at Willamette): I’ve seen these two teams up close and personal the past two weeks and Pacific is easily the more talented team on both sides of the ball. That Willamette offense is still terrible and in many ways the Bearcats were fortunate to leave the ‘Catdome 40 down instead of much more. The Boxers will hit some home runs and put away the Bearcats.

(509)Rat says Pacific: I blame Puget Sound and Cal lu for allowing me to ever believe Willamette was a good team. Pacific doesn't breed much confidence either but I like the Boxers on both sides of the ball compared to the Bearcats. Pacific has also had 2 weeks to prepare for this one while Willamette probably spent most of last week in ice baths after a beatdown in McMinnville.

Puget Sound (2-3) over Lewis & Clark (0-5) (at UPS):  I hate to tell you I told you so about Puget Sound…actually that’s a lie.  I told you that Puget Sound was going right back to the bottom tier this season and that is being proven over the course of the season. The Loggers just don’t have the dudes up front and throwing 85 shallow drags a game isn’t the solution either. Thankfully, the Loggers get a slight reprieve this week as they are playing a Lewis & Clark team with no offensive punch and no defensive backbone.  You had to figure Coach Locey knew it was going to be a big job but I wonder if he thought it was going to be this big?

(509)Rat says UPS: I hope Loggers fans realize this is UPS's last win of the season and celebrate accordingly.

West Region Games of the Week

Redlands (4-1) over Claremont-Mudd-Scripts (4-1) (At UofR): For all the braging about being right about PLU and UPS, I have to eat a fat bowl of crow for picking CMS as my fancy little pick to win the SCIAC title this year. The Stags had a nice run and good non-confernece win over Washington and Jefferson but that fun little story hit a brick wall last Saturday in a 34-0 beatdown by Cal Lutheran. Yikes. Redlands has been taking care of business in the SCIAC this year and I look for that to continue against the Stags.

(509)Rat says Redlands: Redlands still has a long ways to go to get back to Bulldogs teams of old, but they at least appear to be back on top of the SCIAC. As much as I enjoy seeing Maynard lose, I don't think the Stags will win after last week proved to me that they were pretenders.

#4 UW-Oshkosh (5-1) over #9 UW-Platteville (5-1) (at UWO):  Platteville is a very good football team but I feel like they just always fall short to Whitewater and Oshkosh and this weekend will be no different.  I expect a highly competitive game but in the end it will be the Titans making a few more plays to pull out the win.

(509)Rat says Oshkosh: The Titans are very comfortable in low scoring games, because they have that much faith in a talented and well coached defense. That does not mean that they aren't capable of putting points on the board. This game probably resembles the score of the UWW v Platteville game, more so than UWW's game with Oshkosh, meaning both teams will score some points. But these types of games typically come down to "stops" and I trust the Titans to get one or two more of those throughout the game.

National Games of the Week: 

#3 Mary Hardin-Baylor (6-0) over #11 Hardin-Simmons (6-0) (at UMHB): I’m one of the top 25 voters who has UMHB ranked number 1 in the country. Hardin-Simmons knocked off UMHB last year and played the Cru’ well in the playoff game but this version of UMHB is a better version and that means Hardin-Simmons will be going head first into the waters of Pool C.

(509)Rats says UMHB: Does Justin Feaster have eligibility left for Hardin Simmons? If not, the Cru will roll.

#15 Stevenson (6-0) over #25 Delaware Valley (5-1) (at Stevenson): Stevenson hasn’t let me down yet.

(509)Rat says Stevenson: I don't think Delaware Valley's loss to Albright should affect who you pick in this one. You either believe Stevenson is ready to take the crown from the Aggies or you don't. I hitched myself to that wagon early in the season and I'm gonna stick with the Mustangs at home.

#21 Rowan (5-1) over Wesley (4-2): Tough call but this just isn’t the Wesley teams of past years and while the Wolverines have been laying the wood the past three weeks I’m smelling a Profs win.

(509)Rat says Wesley: Wesley isn't as good as they have been in recent years, but they are playing better as of late. Probably because they are playing worse competition, and I probably shouldn't pick them because of it, but I'm going to. Literally anyone can get into Wesley, so I'm sure they still have the talent. I'm banking on the assumption they got off to a slow start early this season due to some big personnel losses and that they are finally starting to run on all cylinders.

Wildcat11’s Week 8 NWC Power Rankings

1. Linfield: This is the week we find out if this Linfield is for real.
2. Whitworth:  This weekend is what Sandburg has been building towards for three years.
3. Pacific Lutheran: They had Whitworth BUT THEY LET THEM OFF THE HOOK!!!!
4. George Fox:  Defense has been good against the run this year.
5. Pacific: Still could play spoiler but it’s a lost year for the Boxers.
6. Willamette: Their talent is slipping.
7. Puget Sound: The Loggers’ defense is offensive.
8. Lewis & Clark:  At the end of season two, Coach Locey will have as many losses as he did in ten years at Linfield. Whoa.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

2016 Game 6 Preview: Linfield (4-1) at Whitworth (5-1)

Let's do it.
So Linfield is playing in a big football game this weekend. The ‘Cats make the long bus trip out to Spokane to play what might just be the NWC game of the year as the two conference favorites has a showdown for what could for the NWC title (Linfield still has to face PLU) and the only way to truly lock up an invitation to the post-season tournament, the Pool A automatic bid rewarded to the NWC champion. The loser of the game still has a shot at an at-large Pool C bid but the competition for those six at-large selections is going to be fierce across the country as the WIAC, MIAC, OAC, CCIW, ASC, and more are all going to have 2nd place teams that will certainly be playoff worthy. No, the only sure fire way for Linfield or Whitworth to get a shot at the post-season is by victory this Saturday at the Pine Bowl. The team that falls, will undoubtedly be on the bubble and that bubble is one that the playoff selection committee has burst many of times for teams around the NWC.  

What’s waiting for Linfield is one of the top offenses in the country in the Whitworth Pirates.  The Rats boast the 4th highest scoring team in division III in averaging 47.7 points per game, and whose offense is currently 5th in the country in total offense (550.0 yards per game).  The trigger man for that offense is Junior Quarerback, Ian Kolste, who leads D3 in total offensive yards 406.2 yards per game, and leads D3 in passing yards per game (395.2 yards per game with 16 TDs to only 3 picks.). But Whitworth’s offense is far from just Kolste, as the Rats have a fleet of receivers as Whitworth has over four different receivers with over 20 catches for the season and running back Duke DaGaetano has 35 receptions as well.  The Whitworth offense is diversified and going to be a monster challenge for the Wildcat defense to try to slow down.

This football game might just come down to how good the Linfield offense can perform. The Wildcat offense has been no slouches this season in averaging 44.4 points per game while putting up 502.8 yards of offense per game but at times have missed some critical opportunities to salt games away with a knockout blow by either turning the ball over or not converting critical 3rd downs for one reason or another.  For as explosive as this offense has been, it’s felt like this group still hasn’t put everything together on the same page for a full four quarters. If the ‘Cats can finally do that this upcoming Saturday, it will be the catalyst to a Wildcat victory.

Get To Know A Wildcat
#1 Sam Robinson, Senior, Receiver
Home Town: Northridge, Ca. High School: Notre Dame Preparatory School

Favorite place to eat in Mac: 1882

Favorite Movie: Training Day

Favorite Music: Rap + R&B

Favorite TV show: Currently, my favorite show is 'Empire'. All-time favorite 'Chappelle's Show'

Favorite Book: The Outsiders

Class I Most Look Forward to: Strategic's my only class

iPhone or Android: iPhone

CPU Homepage: A picture of me and my brothers + cousins

Personal Mantra: "No one is going to do YOUR work but get it done!"

Social Media of choice: Facebook

Car or Truck: Car

When did you know Linfield was the right choice for you: My sophomore year when I red-shirted. I was forced to explore new things because football was temporarily taken away from me.

What first inspired you to play football: Playing pick up games in my grandma's backyard with my cousins and uncle.

Favorite Coach Smith Saying: "Cut the fluff! Your body is the team's body, Got it?!"

Favorite part of playing at Linfield: Being able to be a part of a great program and grow as a person. Also, the friendships I've made with all my teammates throughout my time here.

Post Linfield aspirations: Make money baby!

Wildcat11’s Keys to Victory

Four Quarters of Linfield Football: Whitworth is a team that starts a game strong and finishes a game strong as they’ve outscored the opposition 178 – 64 when you combine the first and fourth quarter. The ‘Cats are going to have to put in a complete game of sharp and sustained play in order to knock off the Pirates on their home turf.

Take away the Pirate rush game:  It’s seems silly to say that taking the running game away from one of the most explosive and efficient passing games in the country is critical in slowing down the Whitworth offense but if you let Duke DeGaetano get into a groove rushing the ball, it’s going to be a loooong day in the ball park for your defense. DeGaetano is leading the NWC in rushing with 99.2 yards per game and a beefy 14 rushing TD’s (2nd in Division III). The ‘Cats have to try to cast a net around DeGaetano and limit his yardage and make the Whitworth offense one-dimensional.

Have the run game clicking: Linfield HAS to have a strong rushing game against the Whitworth defense.  On the season, the Whitworth defense has allowed 222.3 rushing yards a game (5.3) yards per rush.  If the ‘Cats offense wants to be as effective as possible, Linfield has to dictate the pace of the game with the big boys up front leading the charge with Payne/Cassill/Choisser putting in a big day in the office. If the ‘Cats run game gets going, it will only allow Sam Riddle and the play action passing game to have multiple opportunist to hit home runs.

Get Whitworth off the field on 3rd down: The Rats are currently converting 55% of their 3rd down conversions on the season (52 of 94 attempts).  This down will be where the Linfield defense butters their bread and will go a long way in just who wins this football game.

Take great care of the football:  This could really be the tale of the game.  These are two fantastic football teams and when you get into these games the turnover factor could be a primary factor in victory or defeat. Linfield needs make wise decisions with the football on offense and with the ‘Cats special teams unit.  IMO, turnovers has been the biggest hurdle from this Linfield football team reaching their full potential.  If the ‘Cats can keep this under wraps, this is a national championship caliber group.


'Cats by 3. Going and winning at the Pine Bowl is no easy feat.  This is the game Whitworth has been waiting for since the end of their 2015 season….to finally get Linfield on their home field and finally knock the ‘Cats off the NWC throne.  The Rats have all the firepower, coaching, and talent to make that happen but this Linfield team was built for challenges like this and I know will be well prepared for the challenge.