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"We've played three Linfields, basically, maybe some better than them,"
Willamette defensive end Walter Robinson
The Oregonian, Sep 28, 2010
Not so fast my friend. While Willamette played a challenging non-conference schedule there is only one Linfield on their schedule and as the Bearcats found out this past Saturday this Linfield is pretty damn good. It was a perfect fall day at a jam packed 'Catdome and the 'Cats played great Linfield football in all three phases of the contest. Linfield had a number of questions headed into this game and the 'Cats answered each of them with either a resounding sack or punching in another TD after a long offensive drive. It wasn't like Linfield played out of their minds, there were some mistakes, but the 'Cats did play up to the potential of the talent that is on this roster and it was a beautiful thing to witness.
Linfield should feel pretty dang good about that performance but what does this really mean? Right now, all that means is the 'Cats are 1-0 in NWC play and still have to play a UPS team that Linfield hasn't played a great game against since 2005 (granted Linfield's won them all but it hasn't been pretty). Then the 'Cats still have to play an undefeated PLU, a standout defense in Whitworth, and a L&C team that has an offense. There is still much work to be done and many barriers in the way of this team to capture another NWC title and see where the chips fall.
For Willamette, they are a very good team that just met their match on Saturday. Are their playoff hopes in the grave? No, but they are on life support and have to finish out the season 8-2 to have any shot at what looks like is going to be a cluttered Pool C playoff bid.
Let's get to the meat of this review and talk about The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly from this past Saturday's butt whooping.
Full 60 Minutes of Linfield Football: After the La Verne game, Coach Smith said to me that the 'Cats have played 4 quarters of good football but it's wasn't good it took 8 quarters to get there. It was going to take a full 60 minutes of being sharp and executing to win this contest and that's just what the 'Cats did on Saturday. It was great to see the team emotionally and schematically prepared and ready for the long haul.
Offensive Line was gettin' it done: Linfield outrushed Willamette 151 - 136 and ran for 4.2 yards a pop. On top of that they allowed 0 sacks (RBs did a great job in pass pro too) on the day and gave AB plenty of time to set his feet and fire down field. Keep working big fellas.
Salty Defense: The 'Cats held Willamette to their lowest point total since 2007 and the mean machine was just awesome in their efforts all game long. The 1st quarter stands where huge in setting the tone for the rest of the afternoon. That defensive performance had a number of heroes including the defensive staff for putting together that game plan and the Scout Team 'Cats for getting the defense ready. Just a high level performance.
Special Teams solid as a rock: I gave Josh Repp a hard time last week for some shanks but he gave me the WC11 is "number 1" on Saturday with a great job punting the ball and our coverage teams were fantastic in flying down the field and pinning Willamette deep on just about every kickoff. Just a steady and great effort by this phase of the game. 5 all rights to Josh Kay for a great effort on kickoffs and Maika Kunioka being his steady upright splitting self with PAT duty.
WR physicality: Big Shout out to the Linfield Wide Receivers for not only making plays on the ball but for straight getting after it in the blocking department. This crew was getting the dirty work done in mixing it up. Love this group's swagger and I hope they continue to work on getting better each week.
Pass Rush Pressure: What can WC11 say? As a former defensive end I teared up a few times watching the havoc and chaos the defensive line was causing along with the linebackers. The whole group was just monsters all day in passing situations in putting down Willamette quarterbacks 6 times and turning up the heat on a number of other occasions. The pressure they put on Willamette hampered the Bearcats attack all afternoon and was a big reason the Bearcats could only muster up 7.
Three turnovers: The 'Cats still need to get this cleaned up in order to get to where they want this season. I'm not going to harp on this further but luckily Linfield was able to ride out the 1st quarter TO's and minimize the impact of giving up the rock.
Serious injuries to players on both sidelines. Linfield wants to beat Willamette badly and Willamette wants to do the same to Linfield but what nobody wants is for these young men to get seriously injuries while playing this game. Both Willamette and Linfield had players go down with what looked like was bad injuries. It's not WC11's place to speculate on depth of the injuries but I just want to wish those players a speedy recovery and they can bounce back to 100% health sooner rather than later.