Monday, November 19, 2012

‘Cats Win!!! Linfield finds a way in 27-24 1st round playoff win over PLU.

It was funny listening to scores during the game from the other 1 seed games around the country. Those other teams had a line-up of cupcakes and weak conference AQ’s to feast on.  The 'Cats? They had their hands full with a darn good PLU team. I knew this wasn't going to be a pasting or a blowout headed into Saturday. These two teams know each other too well and are too skilled to roll the other one out of the building. However, I knew that Linfield would figure it out and move on and that’s exactly what the ‘Cats did on Saturday. They found ways to force takeaways get enough out of the offense and make the plays they needed in the final moments to bring home a hard fought 27-24 game over PLU.

I’m not going to sugarcoat the fact that the offense didn’t have a great day. PLU’s defense did a commendable job in taking away the rushing game which led to a ton of 2nd and 3rd and long situations that frustrated and stymied the ‘Cats offense. But what GREAT teams do is when one aspect of the team is having a rough game the other side of the ball picks it up and carries the day. That’s what the Wildcat defense did on Saturday in making plays to help Linfield overcome PLU. There’s been games this season where it was the offense that pulled the Wildcat defense along in a hard fought win (at CLU, vs Hardin-Simmons) but this past Saturday it was the defense that hadn’t been a turnover forcing group that came up big with 5 of them. Tip of the cap to PLU for playing a heck of a ball game. Linfield might have beaten the ‘Lutes 12 times in-a-row (I had to throw that in there!) but that was the biggest nail biter in the string. The Lutes are going to be a team to be reckoned with in 2013.

The ‘Cats know they need to have a better complete effort next Saturday as a tough and explosive North Central College team will be invading the ‘Catdome. NCC blew the stinking doors off of California Lutheran (41-21) down in Thousand Oaks and that should tell you all you need to know about the quality of the opponent that our ‘Cats will see next weekend. With that said, I LOVE our chances to advance and keep playing. This Linfield team has a strong quality of rising up with people start doubting if they have the goods to meet the expectations. NCC is no joke but Linfield has the players, skill, and schemes to get it done. I’m looking forward to what should be a highly competitive playoff football game.

The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

The Good

Winning and moving on: This time of the year the only thing that matters is winning and moving onto the next round. Linfield had to dig deep but the ‘Cats made enough plays to earn the win and move on to host a tough North Central College. There are aspects of this game that I know the ‘Cats will not be happy with and will do their best to address this next week but the bottom line is Linfield is only one of 16 teams left alive in the country playing for the ultimate DIII prize. Huge congrats to this team and program for continuing to be the standard in the Northwest Conference and out on the West Coast in Division III.

Forcing takeaways: There’s a difference between putting the ball on the turf on simple tackles and aggressively raking at the ball going for the strip. The Wildcats did the latter during the entire course of the game and it proved to be a key difference as the ‘Cats created opportunities in three forced fumbles and also had two critical interceptions that helped pushed Linfield over the top. Coming into the game, Linfield’s defense has been outstanding but had not forced that many turnovers (18 through 9 games) so it was great to see Linfield’s defense so active in making those plays.

QB Pressure: PLU did all they could to limit the ‘Cats pressure with rollouts, option pass looks, and keeping two backs in the backfield to keep bodies off of their quarterback, Dalton Richey. While Richey did a nice job in taking some massive hits while still delivering the ball, the pressure eventually help deliver the win for Linfield with two critical sacks on PLU’s last drive.

Kicking Game: Linfield punter Josh Repp and place kicker Josh Kay came through big yesterday for Linfield. The FG/PAT has had well documented issues off and on during the season but Coach Smith hadn’t lost his confidence in Kay. Coach didn’t hesitate in sending Kay onto the field early in the game to attempt a 47-yard and 42-yard field goal attempts. Kay nailed both in no doubter fashion to get the ‘Cats going early. Linfield punter Josh Repp was huge in helping Linfield keep field position in Linfield’s favor during a good chunk of the game. The pressure was on Repp and he responded with a great day in averaging 45 yards on 5 punts and one within the 20. Repp had a huge game for Linfield.

Limited the Run: PLU netted only 55 rushing yards on 36 PLU attempts (1.5 ave) on the day. While the Lutes did gain 107 rushing yards most were on the legs of Dalton keepers (PLU lost 52 yards). The ‘Cats turned the PLU running backs into extra offensive linemen because they were useless rushing the ball for PLU.

Making plays when it mattered most: It came down to one last drive for PLU and ‘Cats made the plays they needed into win the game. The ‘Cats had two HUGE sacks by Defensive Tackle Mike Maierhofer and then another huge sack by Linebacker Brian Dundas on a 2nd and 10 that forced PLU to spike the ball on 3rd down to stop the clock and eventually led to the game ending incomplete pass on 4th and 16. Linfield made the plays in the truth telling moments to bring home the victory.

The Bad:

Lack of Running Game: Not good. 39 net yards on 26 attempts (1.5 avg). The ‘Cats were operating in 2nd and long the entire game because of the lack of productivity in the rushing game and being in those situations are a death sentence against a defense like PLU’s. Going to need to find a way to spark this if the ‘Cats are going to advance past next Saturday.

Fourth Down Defense: The ‘Cats defense gave up 3 of 4 fourth down conversions on the day. Thankfully the one time the ‘Cats stopped PLU on 4th down was the game winner but Linfield’s defense didn’t have the best day in turning away the Lutes on 4th down.

Ball Security: Linfield put the ball on the ground 3 times and lost it twice in big situations. Taking care of the football will be critical next week.

Kick coverage: Probably a little unfair to put the kick coverage in the “bad” but the coverage wasn’t at the level it has been over the past two seasons. Some solid returns gave PLU good field position to work off of during the game. This group is much better than they showed against PLU.

The Ugly:

Winning ugly. I don’t care if we win ugly or if it’s a masterpiece. As long as the ‘Cats find a way to win and keep advancing I’ll taking winning ugly all day long. PLU might say they “ran out of time” but if you can’t force overtime you only get 60 minutes to win and Linfield was better for those 60. That’s what matters most.


Chris said...

OK, two negative comments from me (these do NOT go towards our players!):

1. I was SO frustrated to keep looking up at the grand stands and see everyone sitting down during most of the 4th quarter until the last few plays of the game. Come on fans! That grandstand roars when you roar! We were on the sideline screaming until we were hoarse.
2. Can we get a new intro song for our players? The star wars theme is lost on me and I'm sure it doesn't intimidate the other team at all. How about Pillar 'Throw-Down'.

Can't keep Mickey and Dre and the boys down for long. Cat's need to come out with a chip on their shoulders on Saturday.

WaCatFan said...

The puzzling insistence on leaving your best and most experienced tailback (37) on the sidelines is a major factor in the Cat's anemic running game. Need North-South not East-West

Jeff Roberts said...

I would add two frustrating personal foul calls that seem to keep hampering the Cats in critical situations. The first with the ball toss after the turnover didn't cost us in gaining possession, but losing 15 yards after taking possession certainly took some of the steam out of the engine. As i'm sure someone has said to them time and time again, act like you have been there before. Although from the stands it was tough to see the conditions under which the face mask penalty was committed, it came at perhaps the most inopportune time in the game. I know you've talked penalties before, but the personal fouls are the ones that seem to plague this team and they are inexcusable.