Wednesday, August 29, 2012

2012 Game 1 Preview: Linfield (0-0) vs Menlo College (1-0)

Linfield and Menlo hook up for one last time .

The 2012 Linfield College Wildcat football season is officially upon us this Saturday at 12:30 pacific standard time. I’m always excited for Linfield football and my anticipation level is as strong as ever. Coming off a great 10-1 season the ‘Cats have a fine core of experienced returners in impact positions once again donning the Purple, Red, and White. There are questions that will need to be answered as the 2012 ‘Cats are nowhere near a finished product.

Those that have been following Linfield for anytime understand this 2012 season has sky high expectations.  Those expectations come along with being a Linfield football player but 2012 has the 'Catdome as eager as ever. Each season, the ‘Cats not only expect and work towards winning the auto-bid out of the NWC but are also gunning to get back to the Stagg Bowl. The road to Salem, Va. will not be easy. Linfield’s first three non-conference games are against programs that can beat Linfield if the ‘Cats don’t play to their expected level of execution.

Being around this team during fall camp you can sense that this team is on the verge of doing something great. There are some spots that Linfield needs to iron out and polish, but it has a long time since I can remember seeing a Linfield roster this deep with veteran and young talent.

Waiting for Linfield will be a worthy 1st game opponent in Menlo College as the Oaks make their way up to the ‘Catdome for what could be the last time ever. Coming along with the Oaks is long-time Willamette head coach Mark Speckman who assumed the head coaching duties at Menlo this past Spring.  Speckman is looking to infuse a talented Menlo roster with cohesion that has sometimes lacked in the Oaks previous seasons.

This will not be the Oaks of past years, where at times, Linfield bullied and battered the Oaks in the ‘Catdome. Menlo is returning a bulk of their defensive talent that bottled up the Wildcats most of the game last year down in Atherton. The Oaks offense should be much more potent under Speckman’s tutelage and Menlo is always a dangerous on special teams. Bottom line is that Linfield better understand that they are facing a challenger that knows this series is ending between the two programs after this Saturday. This is Menlo’s last chance to get in the win column against Linfield and that 0 for 13 mark has to be a big topic of conversation at Menlo this week. Beating Linfield would be a launching pad for a Oaks program looking to reboot and make a run at the NAIA playoffs.

Get To Know A Wildcat:
Big #78 will be a key member of the 'Cats offensive line
#78 Steven Schultz, Sophomore, Offensive Tackle

Favorite Place in Mac to Eat: Golden Valley Brewery

Favorite Movie: The Dark Knight

Favorite Music: Hip Hop or R&B

Favorite TV Show: I don't watch a lot of TV so its hard to say

Favorite Pro Football team: Seahawks

Class I Most Look Forward to: Any business classes

Mac or PC: PC

Cpu Homepage: Google

What do you use more, Smart Phone or CPU: CPU

Twitter or Facebook: Twitter!

Car or Truck: I drive an Acura TL when I'm home

Xbox, PS3, or WII: Xbox

Favorite Coach Hire Saying: HBR (Heart Break Ridge)

Which offensive line could close down Izzy’s buffet if given the chance: Wert. He can throw down

Do you have a hidden talent that folks would be surprised by: I used to be into architecture and have actually drawn up a set of plans including floor plans, elevations, and 3D rendering

Your Favorite Part About Playing at Linfield is: The atmosphere and how close you become with your teammates. Also, it is pretty special knowing that you are playing for something much greater than yourself.

Post Linfield aspirations: Becoming an accountant for one of the Big Four Accounting Firms.

Wildcat11’s Keys to Victory:

Execute and Adjust: Linfield is coming into this game blind. They have zero tape on this retooled Speckman led Menlo squad (The ‘Cats didn’t get Menlo’s video from their win over U of British Columbia last week.) The ‘Cats are going to have to play a generic brand of football to start the game on both offense and defense and see what Menlo does. The Oaks hold the tactical advantage as Speckman can draw on his years battling the ‘Cats and the fact Linfield hasn’t made any radical changes to their schemes. The ‘Cats have to withstand the early waves of the game and get on the grease boards and make the adjustments.

Balanced Offense: Last season the Menlo defense held Linfield down to a season low 98 yards of rushing offense at a 1.7 yard per rush attempt. That’s not good. Linfield needs to be much more effective running the football on Saturday in order to make Menlo respect the running attack. Linfield rushing the ball will only allow the passing game more time to develop routes if the Oaks aren’t pinning their ears back. If the ‘Cats are able to run the ball then expect a big day from the offense.

Make Menlo’s offense one-dimensional: First thing that most people think of when it comes to the Fly offense is rushing. It’s understandable as the Fly is a run based offense that tries to stretch you sideline-to-sideline and get defenders in position where they have to make tackles in space. If that first defender misses then it’s usually a big play offense. However, the fly has always been most lethal when that offense has an effective passing game (see Willamette 2008). Menlo has a fine receiver in Robert Adan and flanker Michael Alexander is capable of being that duel threat back Speckman always covets. Menlo knows the ‘Cats are going to be explosive and fast on the defense front so I wouldn’t be surprised if the Oaks tested an unproven Wildcat secondary early and often. If Linfield is able to limit the Menlo passing game it’s going to force them into the teeth of the ‘Cats defense.

Special Teams emerge and perform: Last season the ‘Cats Special Teams were off the charts good. Money. However a number of those key contributors from last season’s special teams are assuming a greater roll in the defensive and offensive units.  It’s time for a new crop of Wildcats to make an impact. For years Menlo has been the best returning unit the ‘Cats face on a yearly basis. I’m not sure what to expect out of the ‘Cats coverage and return units as of yet, but look for big moments of this game to materialize during special teams.

Take care of the football and create opportunities: Turnovers and creating turnovers have always been a big part of football but this statistic has become paramount when two quality teams line up. Linfield had a fantastic season in 2011 but one stat that was somewhat disappointing was the turnover margin ratio. Linfield was only a +7 on the season. In 2010, the ‘Cats were slightly better at +9.  2009 was off the charts with Linfield being +26.  If Linfield wins the turnover/takeaway battle then the ‘Cats usually win the game. Saturday is no different.

Keep Inns upright in the pocket: Linfield’s offensive line has a bit of a new look and a big challenge on Saturday. Menlo loves to be physical and plays with an aggressive style. The ‘Cats have a fleet of fine receivers and keeping bodies off of Inns will be a major storyline in this game. Give Mickey and the receivers time and they’re going to get it done.


‘Cats by 13. Menlo has a game under their belt and will be highly motivated on Saturday. You know they want this game badly. With that said, Linfield has a chance to be freaking good in 2012. I expect the early part of the game to have some feeling out by the Wildcat side of the ball.  As the game progresses, I’m fully expecting Linfield to control the game and slowly build a lead and secure the game and move the 'Cats to 1-0 on the early season.

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