Monday, October 22, 2012

‘Cats Win! Linfield blasts Lewis & Clark back to May 21st, 1804 in a 63 - 0 victory

Linfield's Defense getting ready to feast.
That is what you would call “taking care of business”. A tremendous victory by YOUR Linfield Wildcats this past Saturday up on the Hill as the ‘Cats had their highest scoring output on the year, while locking up their first shutout of the season too. I felt this game was going to be a runaway, but it hinged on if Linfield came out early and put the pressure on L&C. The answer was pressure early and often as Linfield cut up the Pioneers on defense, offense, and special teams. The defense was efficient in holding L&C to seven three-and-out possessions. The continual short fields turned a bad situation worse for the Pioneers as Linfield converted time and again. That first half could have even been more lopsided if the ‘Cats didn’t squander two other opportunities by putting the ball on the turf.

What I like the most from Saturday was the attitude and focus of this team. The past two weeks they’ve taken two decent programs and made them look completely inept. Coming into these Linfield games, the combined record of Whitworth and L&C was 9-3. The ‘Cats made these teams look like a pairing with a 3-9 combined record instead. Linfield’s been that dominate over the past two weeks.

However, if Linfield is starting to feel fat and happy they need to put that to rest ASAP. Coming down the road this Saturday is the year’s biggest game of the season and possibly the biggest test in Willamette’s explosive offense. The Bearcats did lose this past weekend to a tough PLU squad, and in a strange way, that makes Saturday’s contest even more vital to the ‘Cats post-season aspirations. This Linfield team needs to keep working and striving every waking moment on improving and in preparation. The ‘Cats have proven once and again they’re one of the nation’s elite, and this Saturday is another opportunity to prove it all over again.

The Good, The Bad, The Ugly…and The Great:

The Great:

Taking a moment out and making a great memory: Wanted to share this little moment about what a standout impact a Wildcat made at halftime. L&Cs visitor's locker room sits in the back of their athletic complex. There’s a long walkway to a pair of doors where you enter a hallway and about 10 feet away from the doors are a flight of stairs that take you down to the stadium's lower parking lot.

The game moved to halftime and the teams were back in their locker rooms and I started to make my way in that direction. Getting near my destination I was about 10 feet behind a group of 4 adults and two small children (a young baby and a toddler). The adults in this group were about to make their way down the stairs when the toddler (a boy probably between 3 and 4 years old) froze on a dime and was staring into the ‘Cats locker room. His mom leaned over and he tells his mother there are football players in the hallway. His mom asks him if he wants to go see them.  You can tell he wanted to badly, but he was unsure about waltzing into a hallway with these giant men (when you’re that little everyone is big but football players look like giants.). I walked up to the family and asked if he wanted to meet a player and he shook his head “yes”. With that, I opened the door and the first player I saw is sophomore Tight End Wes Meng (#44). I tapped Wes on the shoulder pad and asked him if we would be willing to go outside and say hello to the little guy that wanted to meet a player. Without hesitation or further explanation, Wes turned on his heels and marched on outside.

It was so cool to see Wes lean over to get down on the little boy’s level and have a conversation with him. You should have seen this boy’s face light up as Wes asked him if he’s going to be a football player and share a few words with him. The short encounter concluded with Wes breaking off some of his halftime snack (a giant rice crispy treat) and sharing it with the future Wildcat. It may not seemed like such a big deal but I followed the family down the stairs and the little guy and his mom were sky high talking about their encounter with the football player. I was beyond proud of how Wes represented Linfield at that moment, as he gave a little one a great memory of what Linfield football is all about.

The Good:

Put the game away early/team focus: I wanted to see how this group would respond to the blow out win the week prior. Linfield knew they had a major advantage headed into this game so it was all about attitude. What I saw was a team looking for more as the ‘Cats came out and put a big exclamation point on the victory early. The ‘Cats exhibited sharp play from all three phases of the Wildcat attack as they raced out to a huge halftime advantage. No messing around by this group and I loved it.

Defensive front domination: The big key of the game defensively was the play of the Linfield defensive line and linebackers. They didn’t disappoint as they swarmed and bashed the Pio rushing attack utterly useless and harassed L&C quarterbacks for the entirety of the contest. The ‘Cats front six accumulated 7 total sacks, 15 tackles for loss, and forced a number of rushed throws. L&C could have put 7 offensive linemen out there and it wouldn’t have mattered.

Passing Attack was sharp: Mickey Inns and the ‘Cats receivers were once again sharp on the day. Inns made great decision and spread the ball around to 7 different receivers before retiring from the game at the end of the half. The ‘Cats receivers looked sharp in catching some passes in tight windows and did a great job in making plays on the football.

DB’s making plays: L&C can throw the ball around the yard and have been an efficient passing team coming into today’s game. However, the ‘Cats defensive backfield was fantastic for the 2nd week in a row. This group seems to continue to gain confidence and the timing couldn’t be better as their biggest challenge to date is this coming Saturday.

3rd and 4th down offense: Early in the season, the ‘Cats 3rd and 4th down offense was only converting in the mid-30% range and needed to improve. Linfield has turned that number around over the past two games in converting these downs at a sharp 54% (15 out of 28 tries). That improvement has been critical to the ‘Cats productivity in recent games.

Red Zone Sharpness: Linfield was successful in 7 of 8 red zone trips with that 7 coming in touchdown form. Besides the one fumble early in the game, Linfield was dominating in this section of the field.

Beyond the starting units making plays: A number of guys in this program had the opportunity to cash in extensive time on Saturday and the ‘Cats made the most of it. Coach Smith has talked in the past about the starting units being the “tip of the spear” but they wouldn’t have their success with the entirety of the roster working their brains out on a weekly basis. This program has so much depth right now and it’s great to see a large number of guys in the program not taking their chance to play for granted.

Special Teams….again: What can you say about this group? The coverage was once again tight and add a Kyle Wright 75-yard punt return for TD (ELECTRIC!) and this group continues to do what they do.

The Bad:

Ball Handling: The ‘Cats had 3 fumbles on the day. My first instinct is to lessen the blame on the punt fielding issues on the harsh rain, and I know the conditions made it more difficult, but we play ball in Oregon. It cannot be an excuse. Flat out, Linfield needs to take better care of the ball in those types of conditions.

Penalties: 12 yellow hankies on the day. We could get away with that on Saturday due to the nature of the game but if Linfield goes double digits in this category next Saturday it will narrow the ‘Cats margin of victory. Get sharper here boys.

The Ugly:

Not a thing: 63 points on the board for the ‘Cats while cashing in a shut out on the other side of the ball? Not a dang thing ugly about that. Keep it rolling ‘Cats!

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