Monday, October 1, 2012

'Cats Win! Linfield finds a way in a 31-24 victory over PLU

John Shaffer 32-yard dash put Linfield out in front for good.

Linfield flat got it done on Saturday. After digging 14-point holes twice the ‘Cats responded time and again. It shouldn’t be surprising at this point to find out that the 2012 Linfield Wildcat football team has not only the ability to shine on the field but the guts and courage to match it. I don’t want to sugarcoat the entire game as that start was forgettable and that’s being nice. We talked about being smart with the football, not giving up the big play, and being great tacklers last Wednesday and what happens? The ‘Cats go out and make a couple of bad decisions, don’t tackle very well, and gave up a few big plays

When PLU tacked up that 3rd TD to go up 21-7, it was a Bruce Lee “Enter The Dragon” moment when the bad guy cuts Lee with a nasty blow and the bleeding Lee dabs a little of his own blood on his finger, gives it a taste with a “Oh, it’s on!” look on his face before opening up a can on the bad guy.  That’s pretty much the same thing from this past Saturday except without the high flying kick to the face. At that moment, Linfield worked a few items out, stuck to their game plan, and started to execute. Sounds so simple but that’s all it was and the next thing you know Aaron Hire hauls in a short TD pass and the game is all tied up at 21-21. New ballgame.

From there Linfield controlled the action and pace of the game for the remainder and made the plays when it mattered most to win this critical NWC opener. With the victory the ‘Cats move their season mark to 4-0 and 1-0 in NWC play. The unfortunate news is the ‘Cats are back on other bye week before hosting Whitworth on Oct 13. There is still a laundry list of items for the ‘Cats to address before they can fully realize their potential. I’ll touch on the biggest problem areas in this week’s “ugly”. Even with the “ugly” I walked away from Sparks Stadium with a huge amount of wins in the ‘Cats performance this weekend. We have a group of guys that believe and are playing for something bigger than their own individual glory. This is a group of young people all pulling in the same direction and it’s an honor to be a part of it. Go ‘Cats!

The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

The Good:

Not folding up the tents when PLU came out strong: You could feel the surge from the PLU sideline and crowd when they went up 14-0 and then 21-7. It was a large wave of momentum the ‘Lutes were riding in the early stages of the game. The Linfield sideline looked stunned but not panicked. The ‘Cats methodically took control of the game as the defense settled down and the offense used a balanced attack to get the game back even before half. It was remarkable how bad it looked at the beginning to see Linfield get back in the game and settle in. This group just has something I can’t explain…they’re not afraid of the moment of truth.

Offensive Line: It seems like I’ve been putting these guys on the good list all season long and here they are again. This group has been fantastic this season and continues to impress in providing Mickey Inns with buckets of time and moving people off the ball. They’ve been great to watch and should continue to improve.

After that 21 spot the defense was great: PLU had a couple of nice young playmakers that shook loose early but after PLU tacked up that 3rd TD the ‘Cats handcuffed PLU’s offense for the remainder of the game to the tune of: 3 and out, 3 and out, End of Half, 3 and out, Punt, Punt, FG, Turnover on Downs, and INT.

QB Pressure: Through PLU’s first two games the Lutes offense only gave up 4 sacks. Linfield almost doubled that total with 7 on the day. Once the ‘Cats started turning up the pressure Linfield was able to put a number of hits on PLU’s QB and put him down 7 times. Fantastic day in the office for the ‘Cats pass rush.

Making Plays When it mattered: 4th and short, 32-yard go-ahead TD run, game ending pick, huge sack on PLU deep in Linfield territory, knockdown in the EZ, big first down rushes. Those are plays the ‘Cats made in the 4th quarter when the game was on the line. When it mattered the most Linfield made the plays they had to in order to win the game.

Special Teams: Another damn good day for Special Teams. Coverage was on the ball, Josh Repp continues to be fantastic in the punting department, had a big punt return, and as far as I’m concerned Josh Kay was 2 for 2 on the day in field goals. The ‘Cats special teams have just improved each week.

Rushing Defense: I thought this was a mismatch headed into Saturday and the ‘Cats showed why. The Lutes grossed 67 rushing yards but netted only 19 on the game. PLU flat couldn’t line up toe-to-toe against the ‘Cats front 7 and get much of anything. Dominate.

Guys stepping up when their number was called: Seeing starters get injured sucks. I won’t go too far into depth on that until after the season (that's the coach's call or the newspapers/reporting sites responsibility to break those types of news items). It’s crappy but you have to continue to move forward and see who is going to step up and take on the responsibility. On Saturday a number of guys stepped into a bigger playing roll. Stephen Nasca, John Shaffer, Jermey Girod, Marq Randall, and Trey Farber had big shoes to fill and got after it on Saturday. When the opportunity arrives what are you going to do with it? On Saturday, those guys helped deliver a win for the ‘Cats.

The Bad:

Terrible start: That was about as bad as start as you could get out of the gates. All it took was a single bad tackle, a poor decision with the ball, and next thing you know it’s 14-0. Not the way you want to start a football game, ever, but especially against a strong opponent.

Not making plays on the ball: When a 50/50 ball went up in the air the ‘Cats made a few plays but also missed on some opportunities for knockdowns or catches.

The Ugly:

Turnovers and Penalties: Linfield came into the game averaging a little more than 10 penalties a game and left Saturdays with 11 penalties for 92 yards. It’s killing the potential of this team. Coach Smith was spot on when he told his ‘Cats that if this continues it will cost this team huge at some point during the season. He’s 100% right. All three phases of the ‘Cat attack was flagged at some point on Saturday and at critical moments of the game. Along with that Linfield again lost the turnover battle (3-2) but found a way to win. It’s tremendous that Linfield overcame the turnovers (again) but it’s holding this group back from reaching their full ability. The coaches will continue to pound on this but at some point it’s up to the players to decide they’ve had enough and start to clean this up.

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