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Lewis & Clark brought a knife to a gun fight as the ‘Cats put the game away before the horn went off to signal the end of the 1st half. Honestly, it could have been a much worse score than 34-0 but regardless it was total and complete domination of a team that was a nice little story headed into their last games of the season. Linfield was sharp, focused, and once again proved they are the cream of the Northwest Conference crop. In victory, the ‘Cats sealed the NCAA playoff automatic birth, the program’s 3rd consecutive NWC title, and the Linfield’s 35th overall conference championship. Since the Northwest Conference was reinstated in 1996 the ‘Cats have now captured the NWC title 9 times over the past 16 years. Since the 2000 season, the ‘Cats have run their NWC record to an astonishing 60 wins against 5 losses. Just flat out dominate.
This 2011 Wildcat team has been on the same level of those conference champions of year's past in winning their NWC games with a margin of victory of 32 points per game (avg score of 46-14). The ‘Cats have done it in all phases this season in mauling teams with a suffocating defense, stand out special teams play, and a more balanced offensive attack that has shown tremendous growth during the season. I’ve heard some coaches around the NWC state that while Linfield is a great team they don’t have the 2 or 3 stars to carry them. I’d argue with them on that point but where this team stands out to me compared to the rosters of previous years is the depth. To me, this is one of the deepest Linfield rosters I’ve seen in terms of speed and talent. This Linfield team comes at you with wave after wave of fast and tough minded football players. They’ve been an honor to cover and watch.
But let’s round back to Saturday. The big question people had was if the ‘Cats would be able to limit mistakes and hold down the Pioneer offense. The ‘Cats answered with an emphatic “yes” to both of those questions and it was apparent early on the 'Cats were ready to roll. Both the ‘Cats offense and defense dominated Lewis and Clark in out gaining the Pios 381 yards to 90 yards in the 1st half of play. It was so one-sided that the student section bailed at halftime and one Wildcat fan in the North End Zone said to me “I’m kind of disappointed. I was hoping to see a game today.” Myself….I was fine with how the game turned out.
The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
The ‘Cats played Linfield Football: After a rocky performance at Whitworth the week before I was curious to see how the ‘Cats would respond. I’ve stated before that when this team is on their game they’re going to be hard to beat and the ‘Cats were hitting on all cylinders this past weekend. That just doesn’t happen on Saturday but that comes from a great week of preparation, the Scout Team busting backside, and the whole team zeroing in on playing Linfield football. The ‘Cats were not afraid of the moment and came out and rolled physically and emotionally.
Defensive Domination: The Wildcat’s once again faced a highly touted NWC offensive player and did what the ‘Cats seem to do with regularity in this situation: suffocate and dominate. The Pioneers had 90 total yards of 1st half offense but if you take out their single drive of 65 yards, the ‘Cats defense only allowed 14 yards on L&C’s other 7 first half possessions. The ‘Cats shark tank was in a feeding frenzy.
Offensive Explosion: At times it looked like the ‘Cats were play a summer pick up 7-on-7 skelly session as Linfield raced up and down the ‘Catdome surface in posting up 34 1st half points. Linfield knew coming into the game they would be able to score points but it was almost surgical in how Linfield took apart Lewis and Clark’s defense.
Tackling: Against a team that spreads you out sideline to sideline you have to be able to tackle well and that’s just what the ‘Cats did. Fantastic job in wrapping ball carries and being smart along the sideline in getting carries out of play but without a chance of getting any late hit flags tossed. Very solid fundamental contest by Linfield.
Josh Kay going 4 for 4 in Field Goal attempts: Josh Kay and the Field Goal/PAT team has been locked in all season long and yesterday was another great example. Great protection, great snaps, great holds, and Josh was automatic on all 4 attempts. Outstanding.
‘Cats rushing game: The passing game was there all day long but so was the rushing attack. The ‘Cats out rushed Lewis & Clark on the day 181 to 128 as the ‘Cats Josh Hill led all rushers with 111 yards on 18 carries (6.2 ypc). The whole offensive unit was busting tail blocking and J-Hill was electric. It was also great to see Aaron Williams back and regaining that All-Conference form with 32 rushing yards in only 5 attempts. Josh Hill, Stephen Nasca, and Aaron Williams are a darn good trio of backs headed into the playoffs.
3rd down defense: L&C came into Saturday with almost a 50% conversion rate on 3rd down but Linfield’s defense was up for the task in only allowing the Pios to convert on 25% of 3rd down chances (3 of 12).
‘Cats passing attack: Mickey Inns and the offense competed 67% of Inns passes on 20 of 30 attempts for 286 yards, 4 touchdowns, and zero picks. 8 different ‘Cats caught passes and the receivers were impressive in accumulating the yards after catch. The Linfield passing game was very sharp.
Giving up 5 sacks: Honestly, I was pretty surprised at this number as Inns hardly seemed under duress through the game but in looking back L&C had a sack to close out the half and got to Inns on back-to-back plays early in the 3rd. Yoder took two more sacks late in the game but this offensive line knows keeping Inns upright is a major priority headed into next weekend. I think the 5 sacks is a little deceptive but the ‘Cats still need to button this up.
Lewis and Clark player mean-mugging Linfield before the game: As the ‘Cats headed into the locker room after warm-ups, L&C was still on the field going through their routine. One L&C player that wasn’t participating in the Pios O vs D walk through was standing at midfield near the Linfield sideline and was in full out mean-mugging mode. If you don’t know what “mean-mugging” is here is a definition “To glare at another person with a scowl, or other antagonistic facial expression, with malicious intent, hoping to provoke a response from the intended recipient. I.E. glare, smirk, leer, or stare.”
Yes, this L&C player was about ten feet away was trying his best to intimidate the ‘Cats as they entered the locker room. It was rather comical and the ‘Cats thought so to as I heard some chuckling and head shaking. Listen, this team and program has seen the Whitewaters, Hardin-Simmons, Mary Hardin-Baylors, USTs, and the Cal Lutheran’s of Division III. Those teams actually don’t do any of that nonsense because they already know they’re good. The point is that display was like a little leaguer trying to brush back Albert Pujols. Save that for Pomona-Pitzer and just worry about playing football when you finally get to see an elite team.