Thursday, November 29, 2012

Regional Finals Preview: Linfield (11-0) vs UW-Oshkosh (12-0)

This is stating the obvious but Linfield is playing a huge football game this weekend at the ‘Catdome. Regional Finals/National Quarterfinals/Elite 8…whatever you want to call it, it’s playoff football in December and that should warm the heart of any fan with a team left in the playoffs. Coming out to the ‘Catdome on Saturday is the champion of the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WIAC), University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. The WIAC is widely considered the home of the top football conference in Division III for not only their top end teams but the overall quality of the conference. I won’t argue with the claim because I agree that the WIAC is a heck of a conference. As anyone who follows the division knows that conference and Division III has been dominated by UW-Whitewater over the past seasons. UWW was coming off their 3rd consecutive NCAA Division III National Championship and looked to continue that run in 2012. But a funny thing happened this season. UWW came back to the pack and UW-Oshkosh started making waves in the WIAC and on the national scene.

The seminal moment for UWO came in back-to-back weeks in mid-October as the Titans knocked off a top-15 UW-Platteville and then planted their flag as the WIAC top dog in knocking off Whitewater 28-13 and doing so on the road. At that point, the top 25 voters launched UWO to a well-earned number 5 ranking in the Top 25 and the Titans haven’t looked back. This is new ground for Oshkosh as this is their first appearance in the NCAA playoffs, first time advancing to a regional finals, and first time getting on a plane for a trip of this magnitude. But I don’t think any of those things are going to affect Oshkosh this weekend. They’re a very good football team that has all the tools to win a National Championship and I’m not expected any of these “firsts” to have an impact on their performance this weekend. The ‘Cats are going to have their hands full with Oshkosh’s balanced offense lead by their Gagliardi Trophy finalist quarterback, Nate Wara, and a big and athletic defense that yields very little rush yards and can pressure the heck out of a quarterback. With that said, what else would you expect at this point in the season? There are only 8 teams in the country left standing so everybody is a darn good football team.

Linfield would be one of those darn good football teams too. The ‘Cats had a great 2nd round victory over a tough North Central team (30-14) that has moved this program back to another regional final. I thought Linfield played smart but attacking football last weekend that forced NCC into positions they didn’t feel comfortable in and it paid huge dividends. That is the type of football the ‘Cats are going to have to continue to play if this team wishes to advance past this weekend against their stiffest test yet. Oshkosh is going to challenge Linfield across the board with UWO’s multiple formation rushing attack that can also light you up for big passing plays. The ‘Cats offense is going to be needed to have another day of precision passing and I believe the ‘Cats will need something out of the running game in order to keep Oshkosh’s blitzing game in check. It’s going to have to be a team win with all three phases executing at a high level over the duration of the game.

Get To Know A Wildcat

#7 Josh Kay, Senior, Kicker

Favorite Place in Mac to Eat: Los Molcajetes no doubt!

Favorite Movie: Definitely The Goonies!

Favorite Music: Anything with a good beat I can jive to...

Favorite TV Show: I don't even own a TV, but Domo and I have been enjoying Law & Order SVU on rare occasions.

Favorite Pro Football team: San Diego Chargers

Class I Most Look Forward to: Top Level Management Leadership

Mac or PC: Mac

Cpu Homepage: Linfield Mail, gotta stay on-top of things!

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

Twitter or Facebook: Twitter to express all of my whims. Facebook to stay connected!

Car or Truck: Jeep baby!

Xbox, PS3, or WII: I don't play video games, no time for that!

Favorite Coach Haze Saying: "Just kick it Kay"

You're a good golfer, what's the best course you've played on: Arnold Palmer Private down at PGA West in Palm Springs

If you hang out with the Linfield kickers for a week, what would we learn: We take our business real real seriously!

Do you have a hidden talent that folks would be surprised by: I can sing!

Your Favorite Part About Playing at Linfield is: The Family!

Post Linfield aspirations: To continue to play football if I have the opportunity. Then get to working for the company I'm currently interning for.

Wildcat11’s Keys To Victory:

Be in the moment: Saturday is why the young men on this team came to Linfield. This team needs to enjoy the experience of playing December playoff football. Linfield football talks often about being in the moment and not wrapped up in the pressure of the game or the consequences of the results. This is a great group of guys that has worked side-by-side with for weeks, months, and years. Linfield needs to go out and play to the best of their ability, focus on their jobs, have a blast doing it, and we’ll see where Linfield is at when the clock strikes 00:00.

Limit the UWO ground game: UWO has a fantastic balanced offense but this offense will go where their rushing game goes (605 rush attempts, 3,159 rush yards, 263.2 rush yards per game, 5.2 avg per rush, and 34 rush touchdowns). Linfield’s defense is going to see lots of formats (pistol, wing T, no back, two back, etc). The ‘Cats defense has to be stellar in making sure they’re lined up correctly, sharp on assignments, be physical at the point of attack, and be great tacklers. If Linfield can do these things I’m looking for the ‘Cats to cause UWO’s offense some problems.

Great day in pass protection: It’s no secret that the ‘Cats are going to lean on the passing game to carry the offense. Oshkosh might just try to rush 3 or 4 defenders or they could try to create turnovers and bring the house at Mickey all game long. The offense line and running backs are going to have a big challenge but this group has been excellent in pass protection during the year and I'm betting they can get it done on Saturday.

Don’t give up the big passing plays: I’ve already mentioned that UWO’s QB, Nata Wara, is a stud but the Titans have a number of big offensive weapons. Much is made about the Titans run game but where they can kill you is hitting the big pass plays from anywhere on the field. Wara has some excellent targets to choose from (Voss – 1,107 yards and 12 TD’s & Kasuboski – 574 yards and 4 TD’s) and our defensive backs are going to have to make plays on the football when the Titans go for the big strike.

Great Special Teams: Linfield’s kickers have been red hot this post-season and that trend will need to continue. The ‘Cats coverage units are also going to be needed to help Linfield win the field position game.

Pressure: Wara has only been sacked 16 times over 13 games so the challenge is going to be large for the NCAA leader in sacks to get pressure on the Titan gunslinger. Not only is Wara an accurate QB (195 out of 302 attempts, 64.6%) but he’s allusive. Not only will the ‘Cats need to get pressure on Wara, Linfield is going to use great technique in making sure they can get Wara down when the opportunities present themselves.

Play smart, yet aggressive: Linfield has walked that fine line all season long between being physically aggressive, yet not out of control. Any champion out of the WIAC is going to be a physical group and Linfield will need to match that aggression but be good decision makers. The ‘Cats need to be a smart football team in how they take care of the football and Linfield goes about laying the wood to people (no drive extending penalties).

Make Oshkosh honor the run: I’m not asking the ‘Cats to go 50/50 with the offense but I think the ‘Cats will need to pick their spots in hurt Oshkosh with a running game. If Linfield can get the running track going it’s going to make the ‘Cats passing game so much more dangerous.


‘Cats by 3. Oshkosh is good. Really good. In looking at the different aspects of their team they have no weaknesses and will be the best team the ‘Cats have faced to date. Linfield doesn’t have to be perfect in order to win but the ‘Cats will need to be sharp and execute at a high level for the full duration of the game in order to move on once again. I love what this Linfield team has been about this season and know if they play up to their potential that they’re going to find a way to win this ballgame. Do whatever you can to make it to the game and back the ‘Cats!


kurtbradwill said...

I work Saturday mornings, I knew I could get one of them off in this playoff run so I banked on winning round one and went to last weeks game. So exciting to be in that atmosphere again ('11 grad).

It should be 3x as loud and intense with the students and others back from break. I can't make it but I think the biggest key is stopping the run. If they run gimmick sets where they fake fake hand off (much like the Willamette sweep) the Cats will have to be sound and stick to assignments. That also makes it key for DBs not to bite on fakes and keep the eyes out of the backfield.

Despite the game from Kukoc last game, there were plenty of plays that got -2 0 -4 -1 yards. That D needs to be there. Speaking of Kukoc, his worst runs were toward the edge, stretching the D out and going no where. There were several vital plays and they needed a couple yards and they went wide. It was unbelievable because up the middle he had 5-8 every play.

Chris said...

I will be there! Go Cats! My feeling is the Offense needs to show up and be great. The D has been solid all year. The big risk is if the D gets stuck on the field and the Offense goes 3 and out.
I'm looking for the same solid D, the same great special teams and the best offensive performance of the playoffs to beat this great team!