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.

Monday, October 17, 2016

‘Cats Win!!! Linfield leaves Willamette winded in 40-0 pasting of the Bearcats!

#64 Gabe Mojarro and the 'Cats offense had a big day for the Linfield Offense.

Batten down the hatches it was a good old beatdown by the ‘Cats this Saturday against longtime NWC foe Willamette.  Linfield used their shutdown passing defense and a ground based offense to punish the Bearcats by the tune of 40-0.  This is the first time Linfield has held Willamette scoreless since the 1984 season. Wow, in all the beatings Linfield has laid onto Willamette over the years it’s hard to imagine that it’s been 32 years since our ‘Cats held Willamette scoreless.

Let’s talk real quick about the weather.  While the rain didn’t come has hard as I thought it would, that wind was relentless for four quarters and some of the strongest winds I can remember at the ‘Catdome in my 22 year association with the program.  I thought that Linfield handled the conditions beautifully and while it did have a major impact on the strength of the offense (the passing game), Linfield was able to adapt and punch in four rushing TDs to control the game from its outset. Being able to adjust and produce in harsh conditions like that is a sign of a very good football team.

For the Bearcats. I think Willamette is a scrappy team but they not the program they once were during Speckman’s tenure.  When they dumped the fly, they lost what made them unique as a program and blended into the forest of division III football programs. Yes, they the nailed the ‘Cats with that huge upset in 2014, but besides that, there is nothing of note Willamette has done since Speck took the fly and left the Bearcats. 

So with that out of the way, we all know what time it is.  Linfield going up to Spokane for a HUGE NWC showdown with Whitworth.  It’s a playoff game in October.  As the winner has a major inside track to the NWC crown (aka the Pool A playoff auto-bid), while the loser will probably be relegated to the outside fringe of the Pool C bids. It’s the NWC game of the year (again) and will be one of the top games in Division III this weekend. Until then, here is this past Saturday’s “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly”.

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

The Good

Handling the Wind: While the rain didn’t come like I thought it would that wind was really something else and made the passing and kicking game difficult to manage for both Willamette and Linfield. What was super impressive to me was Linfield’s first two drives of the game was going right into the face of the wind and all the ‘Cats did was break out drives of 58 yards and 75 yards for touchdowns to take the commanding 14-0 lead early.  Along with that, I thought the Linfield staff was smart to use the unpredictable nature of the win in their first two kick off attempts where Cayman Conley boomed the kickoff sky high and let the wind play havoc and nearly created two turnovers. Also the staff was again wise to use the wind at their back to attempt the longest field goal of the season in Conley’s 47 yard boomer to put the ‘Cats up 33-0.  

Rushing Offense: Both teams knew it was a matter of who was going to do a better job rushing the football would wind up with the advantage and Linfield was that club. The ‘Cats rushed for 218 yards, 4.4 per rush, and 4 rushing TD’s (season high). Both Spencer Payne and Bryan Cassill chipped in with 56 and 52 yards off of 22 carries and the staff allowed Sam Riddle to get a little loose and Sam churned out 45 yards and two smooth looking TD runs on the day.  I thought the Linfield offense line played a great football game and this unit continues to build some chemistry.
3rd / 4th down defense: How do you shutout another football team.  You hold them to 1 of 13 on 3rd down attempts and 0 and 2 on 4th down.  Those 4th down stops were particularly huge as those came on both of Willamette’s most promising drives as the ‘Cats stacked up the Bearcats leading rusher Taylor Wyman in their Wildcat formation for emphatic stops for the Wildcats.

Special Teams: About dang time. Two big field goals of 33 and 47 yards, flipping field positon, good coverage, fielding the ball cleanly, etc. That was one to build off of for this group and I hope they keep it up.

Pass Defense: Yeah, the wind was tough on both passing games but this stat line is no mistake. Linfield held Willamette’s passing attack to 8 of 22, 79 yards, and 3 picks.  On the year now, the Linfield defense is hold the opposition to 65 of 146 for 139.8 yards per game, 6 touchdown passes to 9 interceptions.  That is easily the best pass defense in the conference up to this point in the season (We’ll find out how good it really is next weekend). 

The Bad

Missed chances to put the game to bed in the 1st half:  Being nitpicky here but I thought that Linfield missed a couple of chances to bury Willamette in that 2nd quarter in pinning the Bearcats deep but Linfield let Willamette off the hook with a redzone interception, and extending two Willamemtte drives with a roughing the passer penalty and then a facemask.  I’m being greedy but I thought Linfield could have gone in at the break up 30 to 35 points.

The Ugly

Willamette QB stat line: Poor Willamette Sophomore quarterback Enrique Pacheco. The Willamette staff inserted Pacheco in the lineup for spot duty throughout Saturday’s game and ask the kid to throw the ball deep in squall level winds.  The result was a line state line to forget…. 0 for 5 passing with 3 interceptions. That’s it. He completed three passes to the Wildcats and zero to the Bearcats. I’m not sure what the QB rating would be for that kind of stat line but I’m pretty sure Blane Gabbert would cringe at that one. Enrique is probably one hell of a good young man but that was one to throw away into the trash bin.

Bonus Ugly

This field goal attempt by Cody Mitchell: The offense line like to live out their skill player fantasies early in the pregame by playing a little skelly offense in the red zone by drawing up plays in the dirt and throwing the ball around. Sometimes they will even line up for some field goal attempts.  Most of the attempts are are typical low line drive misses and then you get Sophomore Center Cody Mitchell’s big boot that landed somewhere near the Theta Chi house.

Friday, October 14, 2016

2016 NWC Pick ‘Em Contest: Week 7

It's fall in the Pacific Northwest. Let's play some football!
We’re at the mid-way point of the season and once again it has been going by way too fast. In the pick ‘em contest, (509)Rat is still very much alive for this year’s NWC pick ‘em title while sitting in 3rd place and I’m purely playing for pride as I’m hanging out with the cellar dwellers. It’s too late in the night break out accuracy percentages but let’s just say that Rat is having a very good year and Wildcat11 is pulling presidential 3rd candidate level polling numbers.

For the NWC, last week didn’t do much for all but one team…PLU. With the convincing win at Willamette, the ‘Lute have quieted some of my concerns and started to build their case as the bounce back program of the year in the NWC. Both Wildcat11 and (509)Rat were onto PLU in the preseason but their low output offense put the breaks on thoughts they might be a conference title contender but the Lutes’ are making it work and have set up a massive showdown with Whitworth this weekend.

IMO, with the weather being predicted tomorrow, conventional wisdom regarding the conference isn’t safe. It could be an upside down day but I’m basing my picks tomorrow on if it was a 65 degrees and sunny day and let the weather do what is going to do.

Last word is to be safe if you’re planning on traveling tomorrow. Make good decisions and stay safe!

Northwest Conference Games of the Week

#8 Linfield (3-1) over Willamette (2-3) (at Linfield): (509)Rat says: I should have taken the Lutes last week, I even had my pick 'em post edited to reflect my lack of faith in Willamette and decided not to submit it. I'm glad I don't have to worry about the Bearcats this week, Linfield will roll despite the fact that they can't get out of their own way at times.

Pacific Lutheran (3-1) over Whitworth (4-1) (at PLU): My Oh My. PLU’s defense has been nails this season in only allowing 12.2 points per game and only allowing teams to convert 32% of 3rd downs and have been great in the red zone (offenses only convert 54% of the time in Red Zone) but the ‘Lutes offense has been dreadful in only putting up 19.2 points per game. Whitworth is just on the opposite side of the scale in putting up nearly 49 points per game but have trouble stopping anybody not named Whittier.  I just think the Rats are going to struggle mightily with PLU and it has all the makings of a huge win for the Lutes’. 

(509)Rat says Whitworth: I have a feeling this is a bad pick. I don't think PLU's defense can stop Whitworth on their own...but they'll have a lot of help this weekend from Mother Nature. The storm of the century is going to hit the Seattle-Tacoma area. Rain and 40 mph winds will do more to slow down the Whitworth attack than the guys PLU is going to put out on the field. PLU isn't a threat to throw the ball regardless of weather but everyone else has had success against a soft Whitworth D, the Lutes probably will too.

Pacific (1-4) over Lewis & Clark (0-4) (at Pacific): Good news for both of these teams is that they were both in their respective games at the half. The bad news is that each team still had to play the second half of their games and were blown out. Both of these teams have some fine talented players but just not enough to make an impact this season (especially L&C).  Like every Pacific Northwest team this weekend, the weather is going to turn this into something ugly but it’s going to be even uglier for the Pios.

(509)Rat says Pacific: Mcat (pick ‘em page administrator) should consider giving everyone 1 point for the L&C game, saving us the time and energy of picking whoever the Pioneers are playing against each week

George Fox (1-3) over Puget Sound (2-2) (at GFU):  Regardless if this was played on a dry sunny day or in what is waiting for everyone tomorrow, I would be taking George Fox regardless. Last season the Loggers gave up 27.2 points per game and through four games the Logger defense is allowing 47.5 points per game. That is the difference between a winning season and losing one right there. Fox and the 15,946 fans that braved the elements to battle their cross town rivals will be soaking up the W over UPS.

(509)Rat says GFU: Fox is the better team. This is a winnable game for the Loggers which, like I said last week, they desperately need. I will take some satisfaction in UPS dropping 6 of their last 7.

West Region Games of the Week:

Coe (6-0) over #21 Dubuque (6-0) (at DU):  I haven’t been sold on Dubuque since I watch their game vs Pacific. They just didn’t jump off the page as a top 25 team and I’m not a believer, even if they handled Central better than Coe did. For the Cohawks, I haven’t seen them play at all this year so I don’t feel very confident in this pick but what the hell.

(509)Rat says Dubuque: This is likely for the IIAC championship, though a Dubuque win and Coe loss could create a 3 way tie with Wartburg. I'm gonna take Dubuque in a very evenly matched game because they are at home and because teams have had some success throwing on the Coe D.

St. Scholastica (5-1) over Northwestern (5-1) (at St. Scholastica): This is a conference where your best teams would be like on a Puget Sound level. I know, right? St. Scholastica with the dub.

(509)Rat likes St. Scholastica:
St. Scholastica is the best team in a garbage conference. I can't imagine this will be an enjoyable game to watch, but it should be an easy 2 points for those of us in the pick 'em.

National Games of the Week:

#18 Stevenson (5-0) over Widener (4-1) (a Widener):  I’m 100% on Stevenson in this game.  The ‘Stangs have been impressive since they started their program back in 2011. Along with that, I’ll take any chance I can to pick against Widener.  Chip Kelly still isn’t in Philly anymore so the Pride’s head coach won’t have anyone to blame for their loss this weekend.

(509)Rat says Stevenson: my early season MAC sleeper (ok, you can't call the Mustangs a "sleeper" but it makes me feel smarter) goes on the road for a big conference test. I'm gonna let the early prediction ride and take Stevenson.

#3 Mary Hardin-Baylor (5-0) over East Texas Baptist (5-0) (at ETBU): Please. Next.

(509)Rats says UMHB: another week, another monkey stomp for the Cru

#6 North Central (5-0) over #11 Wheaton (6-0) (at North Central): Mega, massive, huge game in the CCIW.  Pretty much the title game for that conference as the Cardinals and Thunder hook up for almost an annual CCIW title showdown.  Even though Wheaton is undefeated the Thunder have slid from #7 in the nation to #11.  Why? Wheaton has had to survive against some subpar competition while North Central has rolled. I’m taking the Red Birds big.

(509)Rat says North Central: This will be the best opponent either team has played so far this season. These are the best two programs in the CCIW as of late, with Wheaton having bested the Cardinals the last two seasons. The Thunder have had one too many close calls this year for me to have a whole lot of confidence in them.

Wildcat11’s Week 7 NWC Power Rankings
1.    Linfield: ‘Cats turned it over 5 times and still beat Pacific by 38.
2.    Whitworth:  An electric offense with a defense that is gonna cost the ‘em.
3.    Pacific Lutheran: An electric defense with an offense that is gonna cost ‘em
4.    George Fox:  Should secure the 4th spot in facing off with UPS.
5.    Willamette: They may not be the best team but they play hard for four quarters.
6.    Pacific: Kobe Williams is the fastest player in the NWC but struggles catching the ball.
7.    Puget Sound:  Their defense is giving up 47 points a game.
8.    Lewis & Clark:  Just not enough Jimmy’s and Joe’s to hang in the NWC.