Monday, September 10, 2018

‘Cats let the Saints slip away in Helena.

Senior Linebacker Patrick Pipitone was named NWC Defensive Player of the Week
This past Saturday was a tough one for the ‘Cats.  I’m not going to sugarcoat it, or try to spin it, I’ll call it like I saw it. The outcome out in Helena was a terrible loss for Linfield.  Probably the worst loss since the 2014 Willamette game.  Yeah, there were a few factors that slid the hurdles up a little higher for Linfield to clear going into this contest, but the ‘Cats were well aware of these when they signed up for this game.  The program knew it was going to be a long two day bus ride to get the Helena, the program knew that Carroll would have more time to get their stuff together having two games under their belt. We could go on and on, but at the end of the day, our ‘Cats should have handled Carroll on Saturday and flat out didn’t.  I think everyone was disappointed in the end result.

With that said, there is a huge amount of talent on this roster.  You saw that with Nnoli showing flashes of his 2017 form, Ruhl being outrageously good out of the backfield, Mackle coming up with picks and laying the hammer, the ‘Cats defensive front having periods of complete control at the line of scrimmage, etc, etc.  However, the ‘Cats just couldn’t get into a sustained positive flow where strong play from one side of the ball would transition into the other.  It was an up and down game from both the offense and defense and ‘Cats couldn’t take control. It was frustrating because it’s obvious this roster is capable of much more.

This loss isn’t a death sentence for the 2018 season. The ‘Cats need to turn it around and improve in a number of areas if Linfield wants to be in the NWC title hunt and beyond.  You noticed that I didn’t write “be in the NCAA D3 title hunt” in that last sentence?  Yeah, that was on purpose.  That is how poorly I felt our guys executed against the Saints. Again, I’m not trying to be harsh but real. If the Carroll trend continues, it’s going to be a short season. 

However, if the ‘Cats can quickly improve, do their jobs, win those keys individual battles, and execute there is no reason this team can’t be a major player out in the far west and make a huge playoff run.  The potential is there for this to be a standout football team but it’s 100% up to the players on the roster to turn potential into performance.  I know our guys are going to get it done and we should see a much crisper brand of Linfield football this Saturday.

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

The Good

Not giving up the fight:  To me, this was a huge take away and what gives me the most confidence that the players and staff will right the ship and get this roster moving in the right direction.  When the ‘Cats went down 14-0 in that 3rd quarter, it sort of felt like 35-0 with how flat the offense looked for the majority of the game.  But the ‘Cats didn’t shrink from the pressure and keep plugging away and eventually started to show some moments of what could be possible for this program.  The will and flight was strong and that is something to build on.

Defensive line play:  The two rush touchdowns allowed were not great, but overall, I think that Linfield has a chance to be an incredibly disruptive front. Multiple players showed flashes of ability to make plays behind the line of scrimmage (Stinchcomb, Eteaki, Gomez) with newcomer Travis Swanson made a big impact in his first time suiting up for the ‘Cats. I think the NWC is going to have a hard time with this group in 2018.

Pip: Linfield senior Linebacker, Patrick Pipitone played freaking great for his first career start.  Pip has obviously put in the time and effort to be the guy at Linebacker and it showed with 10 total tackles, 1.5 for loss, and a huge interception on a QB hurry/deflection.

Pass Pro: I thought the pass protection on the whole was strong for the Linfield offense. The ‘Cats chucked it up 54 times on the day and while the Saints were credited with 3 sacks, there was only one real time that the Saints rush immediately got to Smith.

Punting: Flipping the field is going to be a strength for this team all year long and Linfield did a great job of this especially in the 2nd half.

The Bad

Coming up empty early in the Red Zone: As I mentioned above, the ‘Cats left 10 points on the field in that first half and who knows where the game might have gone if Linfield could have capitalized. The ‘Cats have to be killers in this area of the field.

Passing attack rhythm: The Linfield passing could be VERY good but on Saturday it wasn’t the case as the ‘Cats threw for under 50% on the day and just seemed off.  In order for the ‘Cats to get where they need to be, this is a key area that Linfield has to have improvement on in the upcoming week.

Giving up 21 to that Carroll offense: Linfield mostly held Carroll in check but that was a bad offense.  Even if Linfield scored 45 points, giving up 21 to that offense isn’t a great look.  However, most of the game, the Linfield defense dominated the Saints but had three bad series where we allowed Carroll to convert long 3rd downs and then the blown coverage at the end of the game.  If the ‘Cats could have cleaned some of that up, they really could have blanked that Saints offense.

The penalties: There’s no play-by-play in the stats so it’s hard to go back and look at an exact number but Linfield had multiple promising offensive series get stalled with one ill-timed penalty after the next. It killed offense and created way too many 3rd and long situations.

The Ugly

The Final Sequence: That was tough.  The ‘Cats had all the momentum and looked like they were in prime position to either end it in regulation or take the game to overtime and the underthrown deep ball that was picked and the defense turned around and had a miscommunication in the backfield that led to Carroll sticking the dagger in the heart of the ‘Cats. That was just a tough way to end a game that was in total control by Linfield. Hope it was a valuable lesson learned and the team can use it as a launching pad to great things!  Go ‘Cats!

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