|Photo Courtesy of Linda MacClanathan|
Linfield answered the bell on Saturday. In facing their 1st true adversity of the season YOUR Linfield Wildcats didn’t do anything crazy at halftime with the scheme or adjustments. Nope, the ‘Cats came out of the locker room and put it into another gear with playmaking on both sides of the ball. There were a few key plays that Linfield made that opened the dam as the ‘Cats would break off 28 consecutive points to put the game to bed before HSU could tack up a couple of meaningless touchdowns that made the game look closer than it actually was in that 2nd half.
A number of younger players were pushed into key spots on Saturday and I was impressed with the response. Mistakes were made, but overall, we had a number of younger ‘Cats making plays when we needed it and that bodes well as the season progresses.
However, it isn’t all flowery and back slapping for the ‘Cats. While this 2012 Linfield team had some tremendous growth this past Saturday there are still some areas this team will need to tighten up and show marked improvement if these ‘Cats want to achieve the goals they have in front of them. And the ‘Cats better make it quick as Linfield will be packing up the bags for a trip down to Thousand Oaks to play a talented California Lutheran squad this weekend.
The Good, The Bad, The Ugly
Team Response: HSU came into the game with full intentions of smacking Linfield in the mouth and upending the ‘Cats 3-year, 19 game home winning streak. With the defense on their heels, the offense responded with a critical TD to get the score back even at 21 before the half. I was curious to see how Linfield would respond with some key players on the shelf for the remainder of the game and this group of ‘Cats responded in a fantastic manner. The 'Cats kept their composure and raised their level of play. That was a great sign of what is possible for this team.
Josh Hill and the rushing attack continue to impress: Linfield’s Josh Hill was electric on Saturday in rushing for 149 yards on just 19 carries (7.8 yards per rush). That’s J-Hill’s second consecutive 100 yard rush game and #7 looks so strong running the ball. Along with Hill's production, Freshman John Shaffer again made waves with 46 yards on 4 carries, Quarterback Josh Yoder punched in two rush TD’s in Linfield’s Wildcat package, and Steven Nasca showed great pop as well.
‘Cats second half defense: Linfield’s defense actually played well in the early going of the game in limiting HSU to only 28 yards in their 1st four possessions but the Cowboys got on a roll with key 3rd down conversions and a big run after catch to reel off 3 consecutive TDs in the 2nd quarter. After that stumble, the ‘Cats defense was electric during the 3rd quarter in blocking a field goal, forcing short possessions, and creating monster turnovers. It was a great surge by the ‘Cats defense.
Mickey Inns/WR’s having a day: The Wildcat wide receivers showed their depth and explosiveness this past weekend as five different ‘Cats caught TD passes with Sophomore Charlie Poppen leading the way with 147 yards on 10 catches. Mickey Inns had fantastic decision making on the day with 4 TD passes and showed great patience in the pocket throughout the game. Second game in a row where I've been impressed with the 'Cats youthful offensive line.
Coverage Teams: Hardin-Simmons had some dangerous return players in the kick and punt team but I thought the ‘Cats coverage (especially on kickoff) was fantastic. Well, it was fantastic when they could return a kickoff that Josh Kay didn’t send through the back of the end zone. I was impressed with both of these special teams.
Giving up 35 points and 500 yards of offense: Not ideal at all. HSU had a nice scheme, savvy quarterback, a hardnosed running back, good skill people, and solid protection on the day. This is tough because Linfield showed HSU major mercy late in the 4th quarter from 1st and goal from the 8 by running four consecutive dives up the gut. The ‘Cats could have easily opened up the playbook and pushed the lead to 56-28 but went the classy route. HSU responded by running their 1st team back on the field and went hurry up for 96-yards for the meaningless TD in the last two minutes. That drive skewed the stats some but regardless Linfield allowed a running back to get 160 rush yards on them and allowed a number of big plays in the passing game.
Field Goal Team: I’m stating the obvious here but this unit needs to improve. Field goals were a huge weapon in 2011 and Linfield needs to get this current group back to that level. There isn’t a single doubt in my mind the talent is there, it’s just a matter of execution when the lights are on. Linfield is going to need this group’s productivity in order to reach this team's full potential.
QB pressure: Have to credit HSU’s quarterback as he didn’t hang onto the ball for very long and he also did a nice job in getting rid of it when he felt the rush get close but I’m sure the defensive line would be the first to tell you Saturday wasn’t their best game in the rush department. I’m not worried about these guys because the talent is proven and they’re hard working. Just not a great pressure day.
All-Purple Uniforms: Ok, here is my “Hey you kids, get off my lawn!” moment. I’ve been bagging on the all-purples since the 2005 team first rolled them out. Each time I see them it just reaffirms my thought that the all-purple look should be shelved for good. However, I know the players and younger alumni love the monochrome uniform. Guys will say they wish they could do it more often. Listen, the ‘Cats purple top/white pants look has become a trademark of Linfield football since they made the alteration in 1998. That look has matured beautifully over the years as its classic and players are able to make it fit the current times with bands, sleeves, gloves, etc. So it pains me to see that awesome uniform combo get put away once again for the pure purple look. Some guys pull it off well but others (looking at you big guys)…not so much. I understand the times are different with team doing uniform reveals like a fashion show and having 5 different helmets with 1,245 uniform combos. It’s the “thing” in college football. This is just a matter of personal preference, but to me, it’s still ugly every time I see purple on top of purple.