(Photo by Brad Thompson: View Brad's 2009 Linfield football photos here)
Now that's what I'm talking about! Besides the 4th quarter when PLU was able to put up a gaggle against our young bucks the Wildcats absolutely double barrel blasted a PLU team that has been playing some pretty good football. By the time Linfield lifted the bulk of the starting units the 'Cats had built a 48-14 lead late in the 3rd quarter and wrapped up the 'Cats 1st NWC title since 2005 (7th this decade, 34th overall conference title). That means the 'Cats will host in the 1st round of the NCAA playoffs against the winner of the SCIAC, Cal Lutheran.
In regards to the game on Saturday you had to be impressed with the sense of urgency the 'Cats displayed. Linfield knew they had to come out early and execute and that they did on both sides of the ball. The Wildcat defense did a great job in covering down field and did the job up front (6 sacks) while the 'Cats offense was just unstoppable once again. This team is poised and ready for the playoffs and if they play to their potential there is no reason why they can't make a deep run during the 2nd season. Let's get to the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.
1st Unit Defense: A great effort from the Wildcat defense coming in that 1st half and 3rd quarter against a team that had really been putting up some impressive 1st half numbers over the past 6 games. The 'Cats defense held PLU to 85 1st half yards and made huge plays including Linebacker Alex Tkachuck's 22 yard INT return for TD and then Paul Nishizaki's forced fumble that led to the 'Cats really breaking the game wide open on a Patterson TD with :02 left in the half as Linfield took a commanding 41-7 halftime lead. Fantastic effort.
The Offense: I don't know what else to write besides they were fantastic on Saturday. Linfield scored TD's on 6 consecutive offensive possessions and if it wasn't for a tipped INT on the goal line it might have been TDs in the 'Cats first 7 tries on the day. I don't want these guys to get a big head but they looked as smooth as the silk shirt I wore to my high school MORP in 1995. Trust me, it was tight.
Offensive Line Domination: Once again the big fellas did the job up front and help set the stage for Aaron Boehme to have another HUGE day and the offense to pile up video game type numbers. Coming into the season there were many questions about how this offensive line would perform and I think the group has answered them with an emphatic "We're going to be just fine."
Team Sharpness: I loved the vibe that I picked up lurking around the locker room before the game. Guys were not too amped up or too mellow. The players that are more serious were deep in thought, the players that are a little looser were cracking some smiles and overall the tone was that the team was prepared and ready to take the fight to PLU. Nobody looked nervous or complacent...just ready.
Kickoff depth: I really like our kickers but we're still not getting the ball deep enough on kickoffs. The coverage was good but PLU still had prime starting field position all game long (37, 32, 45, 32, 43, 40, 42, 41). Way too many 40's for my liking. We need someone to step it up and get the ball deep.
PLU's 4th quarter 2 point conversions/DB rushing the line during knee down: Now, I have a ton of respect for PLU, always have and always will, but I don't get why they started going for 2 point conversions that late in the game (under 5 minutes left). Mrs 11, a self confessed PLU hater, told me to quit being a baby about PLU try to score as much as possible, but I still contend that was out of bounds and un-PLU like. All of that put Linfield's staff in a bad position. If they kept the 1st team in and poured it on, folks would have been questions Linfield's character by "running it up" on PLU but instead Linfield was in an awkward position of PLU going for 2 with little time left. It was just a weird situation.
But what really was stupid was the PLU defensive back that was charging the line TWICE when Linfield was taking knees at the end of the game. Totally unnecessary and someone was just asking to get hurt. With that said, it's now water under the bridge and I'm done talking about it as Linfield has better and greater things ahead.
Linfield Student Body Support: Excuse my language here but what the hell is wrong with our student body? Our stadium is within 200 yards of the bulk of on-campus housing, the games are free for students and at the start of the game you could have lobbed live grenades into the south end zone bleachers and not hurt a single person. By the middle of the 1st quarter there were people filling up the South End Zone but it was a mix of alumni, fans, and some students. Does the student body know that they have one of the best teams in the country playing on their campus right now? It was a Lewis and Clark type of effort by the student body and they should be ashamed by their showing. I'll be curious to see if they come out for the playoff game but it looks like the Alumni base is going to have to get it done for this awesome group of Wildcats.