Monday, December 30, 2013

Introducing the 2013 Highlight Video Trailer: "Higher Ground"

Very excited to wrap up the new year with the release of our now annual highlight trailer video.  For those that don't know we make a long form highlight video that will run over an hour as we go game-by-game of the team's highlights with some games going past the 7 minute mark.  A few years ago Coach Smith and Hazenberg approached me and challenged me to try to create a short video to highlight the best of the long form highlight.  The result was the 2010 "Send Em Up" video and 2011's "Fear None".  I love these trailers and I'm excited to bring you the 2013 version.

The reason I choose "Higher Ground" by TNGHT is a few reasons.  1) The song is high energy and fun and that fits the 2013 team perfectly.  2) The song title, higher ground, also fits what Linfield College Football is all about.  This program is always trying to reach higher ground in everything the 'Cats do.  Even if the 2013 didn't reach that national championship goal this team did it while trying to reach higher ground and that's what the 2014 team will do and the 2015 team and so on. Always challenging itself, always trying to do better, always trying to reach higher ground. The song is fitting and I hope you enjoy our latest.  Go 'Cats!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

A Christmas Message from Coach Smith

Coach Smith has led the 'Cats to a 71-15 record since taking over the program in 2006.

On behalf of our entire staff and all of our players we want to wish all of YOU a very Merry Christmas!    I cannot express to all of you how much your support means to our players and to our staff.  It means so much to us and is a giant factor in this program’s success.   Please accept my thank you and sincere appreciation!

This season was quite a ride for all of us involved.   We knew we had a dominating defense returning and adding Tyler Steele back to that group made it downright lethal.    With that group on the field we knew opposing teams would have a hard time sustaining drives and putting points on the board.   Our defense lived up to its potential and became of one the finest defenses we have had here at Linfield.  We knew our offense had potential, but when Josh Yoder exploded on the scene as our starter, our offense began to fly at a rate we have not seen since Coach Elliott was at the helm.    Our special teams got better and better throughout the season, and late in the regular season they caught up to the offense and defense and we finally were able to attack in all three phases at once.   The ease and rapidity with which we dispatched most of our opponents this year was startling.

This team had a tremendous amount of fight in it.   It was cool and resolved, not getting too high and not getting too low, rather keeping a steady fire going throughout the entire game.   The sheer amount of injuries this team sustained before camp, during camp, and at the end of the season, would have crippled and hamstrung most teams.   I could not be more proud of this team for the way that we absorbed those and moved on with “the next guy up” filling the void.

We made no bones about “daring greatly” this year.   This team wanted it badly and more importantly they gladly paid the price to have the right to “dare greatly”.    This group worked and sacrificed as few Linfield Teams ever have.   From having played the elite level teams in D3 over the past 5 years such as Whitewater, UHMB, St. Thomas, Wesley, Oshkosh, and North Central, we knew what awaited us in Wisconsin.   We limped into that game a battered and bruised team, facing without question the best team we have seen in several seasons.    However, there was nothing wrong with our belief and spirit.    I will always remember with great pride the way this team “ran to the battle” and left everything we had out on that field.      As emotionally painful as that game was for all of us, that will go down in my memory of one of my proudest moments ever of Linfield Football.

We have begun recruiting in earnest, looking for young men of action and character that will continue our culture of excellence, young men that will carry on the Linfield Way of doing things and continue to make our program that shining city on the hill. 

Merry Christmas!
Coach Smith

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Linfield’s 2013 season comes to an end at Whitewater.

Through victory or loss our 'Cats stick together.
This past Saturday was a roller-coaster of a day from an emotional and physical standpoint for the 2013 Linfield Wildcats team.  The ‘Cats came into the 2013 quarterfinals beat up but determined to get back to the NCAA final four and get one step closer to playing for the ultimate prize, the National Championship.  It’s why these young men chose Linfield and put in the ridiculous amount of hours and time during the winter, spring, summer, and fall.   We all knew that Linfield was going to have to play a great game for four quarters to take down a tremendous Whitewater team in their home crib.  Yeah, the conditions were freezing cold but it wasn’t anything that affected the players on either sideline or the play on the field.  Linfield was ready and came out of the gates on fire in taking the opening possession all the way for an early 7-0 lead.  UWW’s kickoff team botched the following kickoff and Linfield was in prime position to take a 14-0 lead.  Linfield moved the ball within the 5 yard line and after a tough 3rd down spot on a Josh Yoder keeper put ball on the one inch line.  Linfield missed a great chance to punch it in on 4th down on a mishandled snap that gave the ball back to the Warhawks but the ‘Cats kept the pressure on with aggressive playing calling and great QB/WR play by Josh Yoder and his receivers. 

Early in the 2nd quarter Linfield stunned the UWW faithful after Yoder hooked up with Evan Peterson (who was brilliant on the day) for a 60-yard touchdown receptions.  However, Whitewater responded like you would expect a championship program would and came roaring back.  The Warhawks offense went to a tempo offensive attack that featured a number of bubble screens and short passing and then went up top in the red zone to a pair of big and athletic receivers to cut the Linfield lead to 17-14 going into the half.  

The teams traded some possession to start the second half and then Linfield made their move midway through the 3rd quarter.  The ‘Cats looked like their drive stalled around midfield and brought out the punt unit and hit a perfectly executed fake to keep the drive alive.  One offensive play later and the ‘Cats were sitting on a 2nd and 4 on the UWW 20 yard line.  Then the game changed.  UWW brought blitz and freed up a Warhawk LB off the edge and was able to blindside Yoder on a big hit that forced a huge fumble and turnover.  It was a critical sequence as UWW was able march 55 yards and take a 21-17 lead with 1:48 remaining in the 3rd.  At that point the Warhawk defense dug in and made it extremely hard on the ‘Cats offense for the remainder of the game.  The Warhawks would go on to push the lead to 11 on a 4th quarter touchdown but the ‘Cats didn’t roll over and battled for the remainder of the contest.  It just wasn’t meant to be that day as UWW would finish the day and Linfield’s season with a 28-17 win.  It was hard to witness and it hurt.  I think everyone associated with Linfield tipped their hat to Whitewater.  There was no fluky mud play or a last moment breakdown that lead to defeat.  UWW earned it over the course of the game and sometimes you just have to wear it.  The ‘Cats played so damn tough and hard but it wasn’t in the cards on Saturday.   

Seeing seasons end during the playoffs is always a hard thing to experience.  While the younger players on the roster have the hope and optimism of the next season the Seniors on that roster don’t have that luxury.  They all realize the finality of the situation and emotion pours out in the form of tears, covered faces, and the search for words to express to their brothers how much they love one another and share their appreciation for the wonderful journey they shared together over the past four seasons.

This team had another fantastic season.  It might be hard to feel that way right now but this team was great.  The rash of injuries Linfield battled before the season, in fall camp and during the season are well documented but you can’t let that be a woulda, coulda, shoulda.  That’s football and every program that makes it deep into the playoffs have to battle roster losses and having the depth tested.  You have to dance with the roster you have and these ‘Cats had a season performance that over 216 teams in division III would kill for.    We’ll breakdown the numbers, the season, and accolades in the coming weeks but wanted to wrap us this post on this thought.

I enjoy the Division III on-line community very much.  You can connect with fans from other parts of the country, talk some junk, become educated on the unique issues we face in Division III, and have fun talking football with like-minded folks.   When you’re Linfield and you fall short people are going to give it to you.  That’s the price you pay for being proud and successful.  A St. Thomas fan posted this thought about the ‘Cats after the loss.

Ron Doney, Dec 8th 10:14 pm: “If there is a team in the country that was anticipating a 'correnation' [sic] more than UST, it was those boys out west.  And once again......ouch”

Yeah, the 2013 Linfield Wildcats made no bones that this team was gunning and expecting to play for a National Championship.  Without a doubt.  It stings that this team won’t be loading up a plane tomorrow to held to Belton, Texas to play Mary-Hardin Baylor but that’s the reality.  But I do have to say I will NEVER apologize for Linfield being the type of program that dares greatly each and every season.  I will never feel badly or shy away from the staff, the players, and the fans thinking and gunning for the Bronze and Gold.  That’s what we do at Linfield.  There are no rings for conference titles (don’t get me wrong, I love winning NWC titles) because the NWC crown should be a marker on the road to something great and that’s a National Championship.  So fans from the NWC or around the country can take their jabs at the ‘Cats about coming up short when Linfield is so public with their goals but I know what Linfield is going to do.  This program will mourn the loss, then celebrate a tremendous season and an awesome senior class.Then, the 'Cats will dust themselves off and get back to work towards another run in 2014.  This program won’t go quietly in the dark and I feel so fortunate to be associated with coaches and players that are willing to put so much on the line year after year.  It feels damn good to be a Wildcat.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Tuesday's Truths and Quick Hits (Special Wednesday Edition)

#3 Josh Hill and the Wildcat offense is going to have a big day against a great UWW defense.
(Photo Courtesy of Linda MacClanathan)
-By Cory Edmonds

Saturday was nearly one of the worst days of my life. Halfway through what was potentially going to be the biggest upset of the playoffs, I received a despairing text from my wife. Right before halftime she had ventured back to my brother’s house in McMinnville to check on our dog, Zoe. The text read, “Zoe got out and I can’t find her! Help!” Immediately, I rushed back to the house to help her search. Zoe isn’t very resourceful- she’s quite the princess- and so I was incredibly worried about her wandering so far from anything familiar. Luckily, with some help from friends, we were able to locate the rascal and retrieve her safely. By then, the Cats were about to begin the fourth quarter of their contest with Hampden-Sydney. I arrived back at the Catdome to witness Linfield take a 24-21 lead over the Tigers in a game that had previously gone so poorly for the Cats. I share this story with you because at the time I immediately related my strenuous effort to recover my pup to Linfield’s struggle to defeat Hampden-Sydney. In the first half, Linfield, just like Zoe, was lost- giving up big plays and turning the ball over in momentous situations. However, as they entered the second half they began to find their footing and by the fourth (just as Zoe was found) had rediscovered their identity, shutting down the Tigers with dominant defensive play. A day that started out headed towards disaster, ultimately resulted in a satisfying victory for Linfield, along with the reassuring recovery of my pup. The win secured Linfield’s second trip the NCAA Division III quarterfinals in as many years. After last year’s overtime loss to UW-Oshkosh, the Cats get another chance to take down a WIAC team in the quarterfinals, as they will play four-time champion, UW-Whitewater.
Zoe made it home safe and sound.
Against Whitewater, Linfield can not afford a half, or a quarter for that matter, where they get lost. Instead the Cats will need to be dialed in from the opening kickoff to the final whistle. To get a better sense of the challenge that awaits the Wildcats we will explore two truths the stats tell us about Linfield and then one truth the stats tell us about Whitewater. Finally, we will finish with a couple of quick hits on the upcoming game.

The Truth: Linfield must secure the ball and avoid turnovers.
The Stats Breakdown: Linfield’s near loss against Hampden-Sydney featured some very uncommon mistakes from the Cats and none were as damaging as the team’s three turnovers. Before Saturday’s game, Linfield had only given up nine turnovers on the entire year (less than one per game). These turnovers were amplified by the fact that all three occurred when Linfield was in scoring position; giving away the ball is bad enough, but giving away the ball and forfeiting points is downright agonizing. Despite the miscues, Linfield was able to fight its way back against Hampden-Sydney. However, against an elite Whitewater team Linfield would find the task of overcoming turnovers far more difficult. The Warhawks boast a tenacious defense that has consistently snatched the ball away from their opponents. On the year the Warhawks have captured 35 takeaways (20 interceptions and 15 fumble recoveries), as well as scored five defensive touchdowns. They will certainly be looking to gain an upper hand by means of turnovers and it will be up to Linfield to cede them no such advantage. A zero in the turnover column gives the Wildcats their best chance this Saturday.
What To Watch For: Look for Linfield to stress ball security on the ground and accuracy in the passing game. Linfield will likely utilize some short passes early on to get Yoder in a rhythm and decrease the chances of inaccurate throws. Expect a heavy dose of the run game (although Whitewater is only relenting 71 yards per game) in an attempt to loosen up the Warhawk’s stout defense. Clearly last week’s game did not go the way Linfield wanted; fortunately, it’s unlikely the Cats have a repeat performance in the turnover category, considering the Cats have been an excellent +20 in their takeaway to turnover differential on the year.

The Truth: Linfield needs to have a quick start.
The Stats Breakdown: The game time temperature for Saturday is predicted to be around 18 degrees. Yet, the Cats are going to need to come out hot and get off to a swift start when they take the field at Perkins Stadium. Linfield has accomplished this task before, as the Cats have averaged 30 points in the first half of games on the year (15 in the first quarter alone). A fast start is imperative against a stalwart Warhawk’s defense that, like Linfield’s defense, has shown an expert ability to clamp down in the second half.  In the first half of games this year, UWW has yielded 63 points (5 per game) compared to 27 points (2 per game) surrendered in the second half. Only allowing five points per game in the first half is clearly not a weakness, but it does illustrate that the Warhawk’s defense can be more susceptible to scoring in the first half before they can make adjustments. Linfield will need to take advantage of any kink in Whitewater’s armor and a quick start will accomplish just that. It’s unlikely the Cats will match their 30 point per first half average, but they certainly need to do everything possible to grab an early score.
What To Watch For: By no means does this mean Linfield will come out swinging for the fences. Don’t expect the Cat’s to just chuck it downfield like Hampden-Sydney did last week. Instead, look for a methodical approach from Linfield’s offense. This game will not be won in one play but it could be won due to one effective drive. The Cats will seek to establish the run and use play-action to involve the passing game. Linfield simply must avoid early three and outs and turnovers, as well as display a fiery willpower from the minute they step on the field.

The Truth: Whitewater is going to be a stiff challenge.
The Stats Breakdown: Linfield has competed with a number of quality teams this year- PLU, Willamette, Pacific, Hampden-Sydney- but none of these teams exists on the same tier as Whitewater. The Warhawks have always garnered attention and respect due to their defensive expertise, but this Whitewater team has also displayed effectiveness on offense. The Hawk’s defense is allowing a meager 7.5 point per game while limiting opponents to 224 yards of total offense. Additionally, they have seized 35 takeaways and have been especially suffocating on third down; teams are only converting 25% of their third down attempts against the Warhawk’s defense. Incredibly, they have only allowed teams to drive into the red zone 12 times on the entire year- that equates to one red zone visit per game. On offense the Warhawk’s have been just as tough. They average the following statistics per game: 38 points, 175 rushing yards, 229 passing yards, 404 total offensive yards, and 43% third down conversion rate. At their core, Whitewater is a run-oriented offensive attack and claim three backs with over 300 yards rushing and multiple rushing touchdowns; however, their effectiveness in the passing game is difficult to deny. On the year, starting quarterback, Matt Behrendt, has completed 64 percent of his attempts for 32 touchdowns and only one interception. This is not a ball club that turns it over often; in fact, the Warhawks have only seven turnovers on the whole year. The Hawks are also more than capable on special teams as they average 10.3 yards per punt return and boast two return touchdowns. All in all, this week’s game will certainly be Linfield’s greatest challenge of the year thus far; yet, it is a challenge they are certainly capable of winning.
What To Watch For: Whitewater will work diligently to establish their running game- spearheaded by Jordan Ratliffe (5.7 yards per carry, five touchdowns) and supplemented by Ryan Givens (5.5 yards per carry, three touchdowns). However, don’t expect to see a dual threat quarterback this weekend. Behrendt has only gained 88 yards on the ground this year and certainly appears more at ease in the pocket. Yet, much of his success will be predicated on the run, as the Hawks employ a heavy dose of play-action pass plays. Don’t be surprised if some of these play-actions passes are shots downfield. Similar to the past two weeks for Linfield, this week’s opponent possesses a top-flight pass catcher who is used to stretch the field. For the Warhawks that player is 6’5” Jake Kumerow (87 yards per game, 17 yards per reception, 14 touchdown receptions). Linfield will have to bottle him up in similar fashion to the way they limited Holton Walker’s production last week in the second half. To accomplish this task the Cats will also need to apply constant pressure, so expect the Linfield front four to be busy against a sturdy Whitewater offensive line (14 sacks allowed).  This week Linfield will play a complete opponent with few weaknesses, however, don’t expect the Cats to be intimidated as they also boast a complete team. This game may just be the type of contest that fans on both sides will be talking about for years to come. 

Quick Hit #1: Whitewater has been efficient in red zone as they have converted 84% of their red zone trips into points. However, they have only scored touchdowns on 64% of those red zone drives.  Holding Whitewater to field goals in scoring position could be a major key towards gaining the victory for the Wildcats.
Quick Hit #2: Whitewater’s Justin Howard is a pure athlete. The 5’11” junior is averaging 10.4 yards per punt return, 29.2 yards per kickoff return, claims two return touchdowns, and has hauled in 53 receptions for 428 yards and four touchdowns. Linfield needs to have eyes on this guy whenever he’s on the field.
Quick Hit #3: I don’t know how many times I can write this before it seems repetitive but this game will likely be decided by third down performance. In their three closest victories, Whitewater averaged a 30% conversion rate on third down which is 13% lower than their cumulative year average. Linfield’s defense has been dynamite all year on third down limiting opponents to a 30% conversion rate. Whichever team wins third down, may just win this game.

Monday, December 2, 2013

‘Cats Win!!! Linfield roars back in 31-21 victory over Hampden-Sydney

#5 Dom Forrest and the Linfield defense were all smiles in the 4th quarter.
(Photo Courtesy of Brad Thompson: View Brad's 2013 Linfield Football photos here. )

Hampden-Sydney head football coach Marty Favret said his Tigers were going to come out to Maxwell Field to punch Linfield in the mouth.  He wasn’t wrong as H-SC stormed the ‘Catdome and dominated Linfield for the first 20 minutes of the game.  The Tigers did slug Linfield right in the mouth but H-SC didn’t know that this Linfield team has an iron jaw.  Down 21-3 at the 9:43 mark of the 2nd quarter, Linfield slowly took control of the game back from H-SC as the ‘Cats would score the next 28 points of the game to claim the 31-21 victory and advance to a regional finals for the 3rd time in the past 5 seasons.  There were a lot of tense moments during the game as H-SC was ready and threw everything at Linfield they could and came close to what looked like they could possibly score a mammoth upset in this year’s playoff.  But what can you say about Linfield?   For the majority of the season Linfield lit up the opposition but when push came to shove, this Wildcat team shoved back in a major way.

The game started to shift when Linfield’s defense was finally able to solve the Tiger’s offense.  In H-SC’s first five possessions the Tigers posted up 3 long touchdowns and 322 yards of offense (64.4 yards per possession).  After the ‘Cats gave up that 3rd and final score early in the 2nd quarter, Linfield put it together defensively in only allowing 120 yards of offense on H-SC’s next 10 offensive possessions (12 yards per possession).  The Linfield defense shutting down H-SC for the remainder of the game was key as it allowed a Linfield offense that had their issues converting drives for scores regain the lead to help secure the win. 

With the win, Linfield is able to advance to the regional final where the ‘Cats will be traveling out to the region's top seed UW-Whitwater.  We’ll talk more about UWW as the week moves along but what can you say about the Warhawks?  They’re a freaking great football program and Linfield is going to have to bring their “A” game this week in order to advance.  The Warhawk’s are led by an incredible defense that’s only yielding 7.5 points per game (71.1 yards rushing, 152.8 passing, 223.8 total per game) and an offense that’s putting up close to 40 points per game.  Linfield and UWW have history as the ‘Cats and Warhawks have squared off twice in the recent years with UWW getting both wins (2005 & ’09) and have the full respect from the Linfield faithful.  It’s a big week and a bigger game but this is why our guys come to Linfield, to get the opportunity to play the best of the best.  I’m excited to see how our ‘Cats respond.

The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

The Good

Resolve:  No doubt about it the ‘Cats were rocked but to see this team come together and figure out what needed to be fixed and put it into action was a thing of beauty.  The coaching staff was calm and cool at half and so where the players.  That belief and confidence trickled down throughout the roster and you could see as Linfield ripped the game away from H-SC.

3rd/4th down defense:  4 of 14 on 3rd down and 0 of 3 on 4th down.  Tremendous and those stops were huge.  The ‘Cats started to dial up the pressure as we moved into the 2nd quarter and that was a key element into getting those stops.

Special Teams:  What can you say. Huge. Huge. Huge.  Special teams had a great day for Linfield in coverage, kicking, the call to sniff out that fake punt was giant, and we all know the spark our returns teams added on Saturday.  People often overlook good special teams but you saw on Saturday in how big of an impact these groups can have.


Offense Reaching Deep:  It wasn’t the offenses best day in the office.  They’ll admit that to you but this group dug deep to take some of the pressure off the defense in the 2nd quarter in getting the score to 21-10 and came up huge in the 3rd in getting the go-ahead scores. 

The Bad

Bad Start/Giving up big plays:  I already mentioned some of the stats but Linfield got off to a horrendous start.  Credit H-SC for having a great early game plan in attacking Linfield and slowing down the ‘Cats offense but a lot of that was on the ‘Cats.   Obviously, Linfield can’t have that this upcoming week vs UWW.

Turnovers:  Josh Yoder has taken such great care of the football this year but Saturday wasn’t his day.  I don’t need to harp on it but the three picks either near or in the end zone hurt.  Yoder is a great player and competitor and I’m not worried about him moving forward.  The guy is a warrior and will be ready to go on Saturday.

Penalties:  8 penalties for 56 yards. 

The Ugly

Nothing ugly about winning a playoff game.  There are no style points in getting to advance in the playoffs.  Yeah, the ‘Cats took a few more injuries to spots that are already deeply depleted but this group of ‘Cats keep finding a way to step in and step up.  On to Wisconsin!

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Game Day at the 'Catdome!!!!

The official hashtag for the program is #Catdome. For those that use Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Vine using the Catdome hashtag is the way to express you passion for all things Linfield Football.  Be sure to use the division III football hashtag as well: #d3fb.

The game will be streamed for free today by Linfield Sports.  Here is the link:

Below is a Twitter widget that keeps a running tab on #Catdome.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Around The 'Catdome'Osphere

Thanksgiving weekend football at the 'Catdome?  You bet!

It's playoff game eve and I'm beyond excited to get to the 'Catdome to catch the action as Linfield and Hampden-Sydney will be hooking up for 2nd round playoff action.  Students are off on break so it's vital for Linfield fans that can to get out to the 'Catdome and give this team everything you can.  For those that can't make it out to the 'Catdome the game will be streamed live for free.

Here is the link: Linfield vs Hampden-Sydney live!

Linfield Sports: Linfield player and Coaches Interview Post-Game vs PLU

Linfield Sports: Coach Smith talks PLU and upcoming gave vs H-SC 'Cats start fast and then finish PLU in style Linfield's Dom Forrest is the man in th middle for the 'Cats

The News Tribune: Lutes season ends in McMinnville once again's Daily Dose Blog: Pics for 2nd round of the playoffs. For trip to Linfield, Tigers must adjust adjust to the fly (paywall): Roaring start to the playoffs for Linfield (paywall): 'Cats represent well in All-NWC awards Interview with Hampden-Sydney Head Coach: Marty Favret Hampden-Sydney earns historic NCAA Playoff win: HS-C's head coach is working the "Linfield's so great" take:

Wildcatville Blog: Linfield vs PLU slideshow

Wildcatville BLog: Linfield football hyphenatd opponents

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Playoff Round 2 Preview: Linfield (10-0) vs Hampden-Sydney (9-2)

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone in the ‘Catdome.  This is truly a magical time to be a Linfield Wildcat football fan.  Being in the playoffs during the week of Thanksgiving is not a birthright, but rather, this week is earned off the monumental amount of hard work put in year after year by the players and coaches of this program.  The fact that Linfield gets to host another playoff game is a thrill, and while I know our crowd this weekend might be smaller in numbers, I’ve always appreciated the passion this weekend brings out in the Wildcat faithful. 

Coming off a tremendous 42-21 opening round win over Pacific Lutheran, the ‘Cats get to turn their attention around to a first time opponent out of the Old Dominion Athletic Conference (ODAC), The Hampton-Sydney College Tigers.   Hampton-Sydney is located in Farmville, Virginia which is a small town (est. population of about 8,200) and sits West of the Richmond area.    The Tigers are the champions of the ODAC after defeating their rivals, Randolph-Macon, 28-26 in the defacto ODAC conference championship game.  H-SC defeated Maryville (Tn) in the first round 42-34 to secure the 1st playoff win in school history and broke a ODAC winless streak that dates back several years.

The Tigers are led by standout Junior QB, Nash Nance.  The 6’4” 205 lbs. quarterback has an impressive stat line in throwing for 3,117 yards and 25 touchdowns (247 out of 388, 63.7 completion percentage) as the Tigers are averaging 35.5 pointer per game.  Nance can also get it done with his legs has he’s accumulated 16 rushing touchdowns out of the Tigers multiple look offense.  The H-SC offense is far from a one man show as the Tigers possess one of the most impressive receivers in the country in Holton Walker (6’2”, 205 lbs).  The junior receiver has piled up 1,559 yards off of 103 receptions for 15 touchdowns (141.7 yards per game).  To go along with the sharp passing attack, the Tigers use two primary running backs (Brady Macko and Chris Shembo) who combine for 101.8 yards per game and have 11 rushing TDs between the pair.  The Tigers have a more than capable offense and will be a great test for the ‘Cats.

On the flip side, the Tigers showcase one of the better statistical defenses in the country.  H-SC is only allowing 18.2 points per game and yield a very respectable 279.7 yards per contest.  The Tigers run a 3-3-5 defense and are led by the ODAC defensive player of the year, Linebacker Tyler Ikwild.   The Tigers defense has been very tough against the pass in only allowing 141 passing yards per game and holding teams to a 46% completion rate.  The Tigers don’t have great sack numbers but do have 71 tackles for loss and seem to do a good job in keep everything in front of the defense. 

At this point we know what our Wildcat football team is and they’re built for situations like this.  I’m expecting H-SC to come out aggressive and try to jump out to an early lead.  I think their staff knows that in flying out across the country the last thing they can do is let Linfield take an early lead.  That will spell doom for H-SC.  The Tigers are going try to let Linfield know they’re in for the fight of their lives.  That’s great, but this Linfield team has been here before and understands what it takes to absorb someone’s best punch and continue to push through towards victory.  The Wildcat defense is going to see a ton of offensive formations as the H-SC offense is led by a skillful quarterback, while the ‘Cats offense is going to have to come out of the gates rolling against a stiff defense. 

Get To Know A Wildcat
#54 Kekuapono Kalua, Offensive Guard, Junior

 Favorite Movie: Probably have to be 50 first dates

Favorite Music: Hawaiian reggae is prime for pregame

Favorite TV show: I would say the walking dead. Teaches me how to prepare for zombies

Class I look forward to: I really like my sports management class because it teaches you a different side of sports

Mac or PC: I have to say Mac but I have a PC

CPU homepage: Yahoo!, keeps updated on anything and everything, even fantasy football

Car or Truck: Jacob Hanke's car

Xbox, PS3, Wii: Xbox 360

Favorite Coach Hire saying: "back in my day...."

You have to pick an offensive lineman to cook dinner for the group.  Who would it be?: I trust no one's cooking so it would be myself. hahaha

Favorite part about playing at Linfield: You get to be a part of a program with great history and really good coaching. It's the best decision I made for playing at this level of football

Post Linfield aspirations: I hope I can work for Nike someday and hopefully coach football at any level and use my knowledge of the sport to give back to my high school and community.

Wildcat11’s Keys To Victory

Be Ready to Play Linfield’s brand of football:  This Linfield team has shown a great level of maturity and a quiet confidence all season long and that needs to continue this weekend.  The Tigers have been a fast scoring team in scoring 260 of their 390 points in the 1st half.  The ‘Cats need to be prepared to have a strong effort from the opening kick and sustain that for the duration of the contest.

Establish the running game:  Linfield showed again last week that they are more than just a running team as the ‘Cats have a number for receiving weapons but the Linfield offense needs to establish the run game and put the pressure on the Tigers to commit more resources to the Linfield run game.  Do that and the ‘Cats offense will be in great shape.

Limit Hampden-Sydney’s running game:  Lots of talk this past week has been about H-SC’s Nance to Walker combo (understandable, it’s pretty darn good) but H-SC’s offense is more run focused than you would think.  (443 rushing attempts, 1,778 net rush yards, 4.0 average, 29 TDs).  Obviously, H-SC feels comfortable throwing the ball but Linfield’s defense needs to do what they do and that’s choke the opposition run game and turn their offense one-dimensional.

Adjust and Adapt: H-SC is going to throw the whole playbook at Linfield from the opening kick.  With a limited number of games the ‘Cats have of the Tigers, the ‘Cats need to be able to get on the sideline and work out the adjustments and process information at a high level. 

Red Zone Offense:  Linfield has been stellar in the Red Zone this season in scoring 92% of the time and 88% of those being touchdowns.  H-SC’s defense has been solid in only giving up Red Zone scores 67% of the time (63% being TD’s).  The ‘Cats will have to make their RZ trips count.

Make plays on the ball:  Once again this Wildcat is going to get challenged by the Tigers.  Holton Walker is the big target for Nance but H-SC has 7 other players on the roster with touchdown receptions.  I have a feeling the H-SC staff is going to try to spread it around and try to make Linfield cover as many receivers as possible.

Special Teams once again:  The Wildcat’s special teams started the season a little shaky but over the season as turned into a strength of this team.  One of the special teams units have the ability to make a huge play on Saturday.  If it’s returning a kick, pinning the Tigers deep, or making a block the skill and scheme is there to make it happen.


‘Cats by 14.  The more I look at this Hampden-Sydney team the more I’m impressed with their schemes and players.  The offense will take chances and the defense is very steady.  They have the ability to push Linfield to the limit.  However, I think Linfield is going to be the better team and will be sharp for what will be this group’s last game of the season in the ‘Catdome (most likely).  Go ‘Cats!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Tuesday's Truths and Quick Hits

#28 Michael MacClanathan and the 'Cats defensive line need to have a big pressure week for Linfield.
(Photo Courtesy of Linda MacClanathan)

-By Cory Edmonds

Familiarity often leads to complacency, and after playing PLU three times in the previous 14 months there was a possibility the Cats could display some complacency in their fourth contest against the Lutes. Instead, the Wildcats responded with a resonant first half that included momentous plays in all three phrases- two 70 yard drives, a strip-sack, and a blocked punt. The Cats did more than just get a victory on Saturday; they made a definite statement. Linfield seized control and didn’t let go until the clock read double zeros showcasing their championship potential and leaving no doubt about PLU’s status as the NWC’s runner up.

One could babble endlessly about the Cat’s effort on Saturday and the way in which they displayed tenacity and poise, but this is the playoffs and so it’s on to the next one. The next one happens to be the Hampden-Sydney Tigers from the eastern state of Virginia. The Wildcats have never played the Tigers; thus, the game will lack the familiarity of last week’s game but should contain just as much intrigue. Whereas PLU’s potency revolved around their defense, the Tigers depend heavily on the dynamic nature of their offense. Overall, this week’s game will give Linfield an opportunity to refine their game and demonstrate their ability to those outside the Northwest. If you’re a fan of quality football, make sure you get out to Catdome this Saturday and support your Cats.

In today’s installment of Tuesday Truths we will explore two truths the stats tell us about Linfield and then one truth the stats tell us about Hampden-Sydney. Finally, we will finish with a couple of quick hits on the upcoming game.

The Truth: Linfield needs to avoid a third quarter lull.
The Stats Breakdown: As I stated above, the Cats broke down the door early in their game against the Lutes, but Linfield did experience a break from their dominance during the third quarter. This respite allowed the Lutes to make the game momentarily interesting before the Cats restarted the engine and sped away to victory. In fact, the statistics illustrate that Linfield has a tendency to struggle after intermission, as they have only scored an average of 6.2 points in the third quarter compared to 16 points scored on average in every other quarter. It’s true, in some ways this can be attributed to the fact that they have often held massive leads at the break and haven’t required the same sense of urgency following halftime. However, regardless of the reason, this is a trend that needs to end. In the playoffs, every quarter is essential and the team must demonstrate the same sense of urgency from the opening kickoff to the final whistle.
What To Watch For: Expect Linfield to improve their third quarter play by coming out more aggressive, both in their play calling (more misdirection, screens, and play-action) and in their performance. The senior Cats know that win or lose this is likely their last home game and they are going to ensure they leave a lasting impression. This set of seniors is undefeated at the Catdome and I imagine they are set on keeping it that way- a solid third quarter will go a long way in accomplishing that goal.

The Truth: Linfield will get the victory if they lean on their rushing attack.
The Stats Breakdown: It’s no secret the Cats like to run the ball (49 rushing attempts per game) and so the Tigers will certainly scheme to stop Linfield’s rushing attack, but ultimately the Cats will win this game because of their efforts on the ground. Linfield has been dominant running the ball this year as they have gained an average of 262 rushing yards per contest which has culminated in 48 rushing touchdowns on the season. Furthermore, the Cats average a robust 5.4 yards per carry and boast four ball carriers with over 300 yards rushing. Luckily the Cat’s strength coincides with Hampden-Sydney’s defensive weakness. The Tigers have allowed 138 rushing per game, although they have managed to hold teams to 3.4 yards per rush. However, their schedule does not include many high caliber opponents and their latest games have painted a clearer picture of their defense’s struggles. In the last two contests against higher quality opponents, the Tigers have surrendered an average of 245 yards rushing at 4.8 yards per carry. If Linfield sets out to expose this weakness further, then expect a victory to follow.
What To Watch For: The read-option should be in full effect on Saturday; quarterback Josh Yoder and running back Josh Hill will get a number of opportunities to make momentous plays with their feet. I also expect Linfield to continue to utilize Tavon Willis and Spencer Payne in the fly sweep like what was witnessed on Saturday-when those two get in space they can make tacklers miss and explode for big gains. Linfield has been incredibly balanced offensively this year (261 rushing yards and 224 passing yards per game), but look for Linfield to make its most notable plays on the ground this coming weekend as they march down the field to victory.

The Truth: Hampden-Sydney’s offense is potent.
The Stats Breakdown: Statistically speaking, this offense can make it happen and the following stats make that clear: 35 points scored per game, 447 offensive yards per game, 161 yards rushing and 286 yards passing per game, 29 rushing and 25 passing touchdowns,  and 42% conversion rate on third downs. Yet, the offense’s production is vastly dependent on two individuals: quarterback Nash Nance (a D-1 transfer from Tennessee), and wide receiver Holton Walker. Nance has 41 combined touchdowns (25 passing and 16 rushing) and leads the team in rushing attempts, while Walker has 15 receiving touchdowns to go along with 103 receptions and 1559 yards receiving. Yes, you read that correctly: 103 receptions and 1559 yards receiving. The next closest receiver on the team has 24 receptions and 341 receiving yards. Beyond the rushing talents of Nance, the Tigers rely on two-headed backfield of Brady Macko (557 yards, 8 rushing touchdowns) and Chris Shembo (461 yards, 3 rushing touchdowns). The Tigers will keep the ball in these four players hands for the majority of the game but Nance’s and Walker’s play will likely determine whether or not the Tigers find offensive success or not.
What To Watch For: The Tigers do just about everything on offense and aren’t afraid to use trick plays or take shots down field (Walker alone has at least seven receiving touchdowns that spanned 30 yards or more). Expect Nance to attempt to make plays with his feet and focus his passing efforts on connecting with Walker. In order to stop this potent tandem, Linfield will need to bump Walker at the line, get pressure on Nance, and force turnovers- in their worse loss of the year, Nance threw five interceptions. Look for Linfield to possibly double team Walker, at 6’2” and 205 pounds he’s a large target, or at the very least shade the safety to whichever side he lines up on. Linfield has played teams with offensive talents that seemed formidable based off their stats before, think Keith Welch, Kyle Warner, or Josh Dean, and completely shut them down. I don’t know if Linfield can keep these two players from making any big plays but I know that Linfield has a plan and that the Cat’s defenders will do everything possible to limit them from being truly effective.

Quick Hit #1: Linfield’s Josh Yoder keeps inching closer to the 20/20 club (20 passing touchdowns to go along with 20 rushing touchdowns) as he has claimed 19 passing touchdowns and 16 rushing touchdowns on the year.
Quick Hit #2: Hampden-Sydney has attempted 43 fourth down attempts this year and has converted 22 of them (51% conversion rate). Expect the Tigers to dial up at least two fourth down attempts this Saturday.
Quick Hit #3: Linfield has seen an uptick in its sack production over the past four games (15 sacks). If this trend continues it will dramatically decrease Hampden-Sydney’s chances on Saturday.
Quick Hit #4: In the red zone Hampden-Sydney tends to run the ball with their quarterback. At least ten of Nance’s fifteen rushing touchdowns have come from within the ten yard line.
Quick Hit #5: The Tigers have been fairly effective on third down completing 42% of their third down attempts. With Linfield’s defense playing especially stout on this down (allowing only a 30% conversion rate), it appears yet another game may come down to third down play.

Monday, November 25, 2013

‘Cats Win!!! Linfield eliminates PLU with an opening round 42-21 dismissal at the ‘Catdome.

#55 Alex Hoff and the 'Cats defense feasted on the 'Lutes once again.
(Photo Courtesy of Brad Thompson: View Brad's 2013 Linfield Football photos here. )

It was a picture perfect late November day at the ‘Catdome that saw Linfield come out of the tunnel ready to play.  The ‘Cats wasted no time as the Wildcat offense took the game’s opening possession and drove 76 yards in 9 plays to take the early 7-0 lead.  That was just the beginning of the 1st half avalanche that saw the ‘Cats defense force a Dalton Ritchey fumble that resulted in a TD, Linfield going on another long TD drive (73 yards off of 10 plays), and a blocked punt that capped off the 1st half scoring as Josh Yoder found Evan Peterson from 6 yards out.  The crazy thing is that it could have been worse.  Linfield had a legitimate chance on going up 35-0 as PLU rolled the dice on a 4th and 1 from their own 30 that was stuffed by the ‘Cats defense.  The Lutes defense put that threat to bed with back-to-back sacks and PLU was able to mount last ditch drive that resulted in no points but gave PLU a little sliver of momentum.

At the start of the 2nd half, PLU turned that sliver into a 2x4 of momentum with a big TD to start the 2nd half.  The ‘Cats offense came up empty on their next few possessions and PLU once again struck early in the 4th quarter to cut to lead to 28-14.  This was a critical moment of the game.  Would Linfield have an answer to the run by PLU?  It was time to see the mindset of this Linfield team in a “gotta have it” moment.  Well, Linfield had the answer in the form of a 12 play, 76 yard touchdown drive.  The ‘Cats offense beautifully mixed the run and pass to push the score to 35-14.  Linfield’s defense turned off the lights on the next possession as Rover Mike Nardoni (who quietly had a monster game) picked off Ritchey to set up Linfield’s final score of the day.  The Lutes would tack on a garbage time TD to get a little close but it was too little, too late.  42-21. Ballgame.

That sums it up perfectly for college football fans in the state of Oregon this past weekend.

I think this win was especially satisfying for Linfield fans considering how close PLU played Linfield in both the regular season game and playoff game of 2012.  I think Coach Smith summed up the difference extremely well in talking about how in 2012 Linfield was content in absorbing what PLU was dishing out with regards to PLU’s defensive attack.  The Wildcat offense struggled in handling the PLU pressure style attack.  The difference is that Linfield turned into the aggressors this season in their style of play and the results were evident. In 2013, Linfield is flat better than PLU.  There’s no wiggle room for woulda, shoulda, coulda’s from the PLU camp.  While Linfield has won 14 straights games again PLU, this one has to hurt considering how good PLU is, to only find out twice, that Linfield is that much better.

Incredible that this program hasn't lost to PLU since 2001.

So Linfield is moving on to the 2nd round of the playoffs for the 5th consecutive years as the ‘Cats will host a team the ‘Cats have never played in Hampden-Sydney Tigers out of the Old Dominion Athletic Conference (Virginia area based).  I love playing new teams.  It’s so much fun to get to measure up against teams from the other side of the country.  We’ll dig more into the Tigers this week so let’s get to the breakdown.

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

The Good

Being ready to compete:  I wish every Wildcat fan could have come and sit in the corner of the locker room to truly feel what the pre-game atmosphere was like from our players.  This team has such a quiet confidence.  There’s no hooting or rah-rah but rather a bubbling intensity that circulates among the various position groups.  Coach Smith could sense it in his pre-game talk that his squad was ready. 

Balanced Offensive Attack:  This is probably the most balanced the Wildcat offense has been in a number of weeks between the pass and run.  The ‘Cats did rush the ball 44 times but opened up the passing game with 26 attempts.  The result was a handful of big offensive pass plays and 3 touchdown passes.  The ‘Cats offense did a great job in utilizing a number of their weapons.

3rd and 4th down defense:  Your key stat of the day. 

PLU’s 3rd down offense: 4 of 13 

PLU’s  4th down offense: 1 of 6

I mentioned last week I wasn’t worried about the Wildcat’s 3rd down defense and this group proved me right.  The Lutes threw everything at the Linfield defense but the ‘Cats turned PLU away time and again.

Red Zone perfect:  Six red zone trips for the Wildcat offense and six touchdowns.  You can’t do better than that and Linfield is going to be hard to beat if other teams can’t keep the ‘Cats from scoring TD’s in the red zone.

Defensive Physicality:  Man, I thought Linfield’s physicality on defense was fantastic.  PLU had two weeks to prepare of this game and threw a number of different looks at Linfield but the one thing they couldn’t change is how Linfield would take it to PLU at the point of attack.  That Linfield physicality is why that conversion rate for PLU was in the 20’s.

Linfield Linebacker, Dom Forrest, was all over the 'Catdome. In fact, he was handing out popcorn to fans at halftime.

Wildcat Receivers making plays:  I think the Linfield offense knew they needed some big plays out of the ‘Cats receivers on Saturday and they delivered.  Linfield has some key first down catches from the likes of Balsiger, Nelson, and Meng.  Then you had Evan Peterson abusing his one-on-one match-up in the red zone for two TD’s.  Lastly, Charlie Poppen was an animal.  Here’s your video proof.

Special Teams Impact:  I HATE the shield punt blocking scheme but I LOVE it when other teams run it against Linfield.  The ‘Cats coaches called a perfect time to go for the block in the 2nd quarter as Jordan Giza slid in for a clutch block to set up Linfield’s 4th TD of the game.

Response to PLU’s run:  I already talked about it above but that was a great response by Linfield in the 4th quarter to PLU’s big run.  Linfield is going to face more adversity against better teams in the near future but it’s nice to know that the ‘Cats have the ability to counter.

Our Fans:   It’s the start of Fall Break on campus which means Linfield is a ghost town but props to the core fans and the students that turned out on Saturday.  The small group of students in the south end zone was giving their best as was the entire Linfield fan base.   Linfield needs another big effort this Saturday.

The Bad

3rd quarter lull:  I would have rather seen Linfield come out of the half and finish off PLU right there in the 3rd quarter but it didn’t happen.  Tip of the hat to PLU for the fight and it worked out well enough for Linfield. 

The Ugly (for PLU)

Dalton Ritchey’s 15th turnover vs Linfield in 4 games.  PLU’s QB is a play maker, can be effective running the football, and has good chemistry with his receivers.  The problem for PLU is that Linfield’s defense feasts on Ritchey’s inability to make good decisions with the football.  Linfield stat guru, Tom McFadden, floated this tidbit to me this morning and I couldn’t believe that it’s been 15 turnovers over the past 4 games against the ‘Cats.  Wow. The Beaverton Bakery is jealous of that kind of turnover production.

We'll send you home with something from the "Made In Oregon" store for the trip back.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Linfield vs PLU playoff post-game interviews

Bang!  What a great day in the 'Catdome.  We'll have our game review posted up by tomorrow afternoon but that was a great 1st step in this 2013 playoff journey.  Another home game next week and another chance to see this team in action.  Go 'Cats!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Playoffs at the 'Catdome!

The official hashtag for the program is #Catdome. For those that use Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Vine using the Catdome hashtag is the way to express you passion for all things Linfield Football.  Be sure to use the division III football hashtag as well: #d3fb.  

The game will be streamed for free today by Linfield Sports.  Here is the link:

Below is a Twitter widget that keeps a running tab on #Catdome.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Around The 'Catdome'Osphere

It's going to be a perfect day for playoff football at the 'Catdome.  Don't miss it!
Oh man, I can't wait to get to the 'Catdome tomorrow.  Going to be a little chilly but looking like clear skies and you can't beat that for a home playoff game.  Lots of ground to cover in this edition of the round-up. went bonkers in their playoff coverage and breakdowns (they always do) so head over to the bible of Division 3 football to get caught up.

Whitworth's John Tully stepped down from the captain's chair at Whitworth.  19 years as the head rat is a heck of a run.  Coach Tully took a program in the dumps and made them a winner and a back-to-back conference champ during the 00's.  He had a heck of a run and should be saluted for making Whitworth a contending program.  Best of luck, Coach.

It's Thanksgiving break at Linfield so I'm not expecting a very large student showing tomorrow.  It's up to the Linfield core fans to make the difference tomorrow and I'm betting the Wildcat fans will be loud and proud tomorrow.  This should be a great college football game so don't miss out.  Go 'Cats!

Linfield Sports: Coach Smith talks about season finale and the playoffs Yoder hopes his one-year opportunity at QB ends with a championship run

thenewstribune: Lutes and Linfield to tangle once again's Around The West: Lutes are very, very excited to get another shot at Linfield Daily Dose: Predicting the winners of the 1st round Around The Nation's Playoff picks, surprises, disappointments The 2013 Playoff Team Capsules

LuteAthletics YouTube page: Scott Westering talks playoffs against Linfield in only 1 minute and 7 seconds.

Linfield Review: The 'Cats public address announcer, Craig Singletary, is leaving a legacy at Linfield (paywall site): Wildcats spoil Boxers day (paywall site): Ex-Linfield players sees Pacific game from both sides

Wildcatville Blog: Linfield vs Pacific Slideshow

Linfield Review: Wildcats claw Boxers, 28-22

The Mast (PLU Student Paper): PLU reflects on the legendary Frosty Westering's life Pacific "punched" Linfield "in the face". Maybe they should have worn brass knuckles YouTube Page: Pacific battles "Arch Rivals" Linfield Tully resigns as Whitworth Head Coach.  (Best of luck Tully, you had a heck of a run)

The Whitworthian (.pfd): Whitworth wraps up season with win over L&C (video): Tully speaks on stepping down from Whitworth

thenewstribune: UPS finishes 2013 season at 1-8 but is already back to work

The Puget Sound Trial: Football team ends rough season with a loss

The Willamette Collegian (.pdf): Willamette finishes the season on a positive note

Pioneer Log: Lewis and Clark finishes 1-8 but had a few standout performers

Thursday, November 21, 2013

2013 Playoffs Round One Preview: Linfield (9-0) vs Pacific Lutheran (8-1)

Lutes vs the 'Cats in the playoffs?  Let's do it!
And we meet again.  This weekend is what both PLU and Linfield have been expecting over the past few weeks as the national playoff picture started to get cleared up.  This is life out on the left coast when three teams from the far west make the playoffs.  One team gets to host or fly to a non-west coast team and the closer two programs will get paired up.  It has nothing to do with fairness and everything to do with the NCAA saving money on the non-scholarship level of play.  That’s the way it is and both PLU and Linfield are fine with it (as am I), and from the sounds of it, both are eager to get another crack at each other (as am I).  

This will be the fourth game between Linfield and PLU over the past two seasons as the ‘Cats and Lutes played twice in 2012 (regular season and 1st round playoffs) and this is the same deal in 2013.  These programs know each other about as well as any can.  There are a lot of the same names on the rosters for each team and these players know that the opponent that lines up across from them is capable of making plays.  Both teams will bring out the new adjustments and twists on the plans of attack (especially with PLU getting two weeks to prepare) but the bottom line is that game will come down to what the previous three games have come down to….which team can make the more plays in crunch time will win. 

Earlier this season, the ‘Cats defense was superb in shutting out PLU and the offense came on late in a 29-0 victory that wound up being the key game in the 2013 NWC title chase.   The PLU offense did have multiple chances to hit pay dirt but Linfield kept turning PLU away.  I’m sure that’s been a sore spot all season long for the Lutes and I’m expecting them to try to be more aggressive with Linfield this time around and look for the big home runs when they are presented.  On the other side of the ball, the ‘Cats offense showed they can move the ball on the PLU defense (5.1 yard per play) but the offense stalled out until late in the 3rd quarter when the ‘Cats marched 75 yards on 14 plays.  The drive was capped off on a Hill rushing TD to start the 4th quarter.  After that, the ‘Cats scored on their next three possessions to round out the 29-0 victory. 

The 2013 rematch should be a fascinating game to witness.  In the lead up articles this week, PLU sounds like they’re frothing at the mouth to get another crack at the ‘Cats, while Linfield’s camp has been quiet while they prepare for the 1st round showdown.  That fits the history of these programs.  PLU has always been the enthusiastic rah-rah program and Linfield is the one with quite confidence that expects to win.  These are historical programs that have both won their fair share of National Championships and have actually met six times before in the playoffs.  Linfield with three wins.  PLU with three wins.  An even split.  That’s the great thing about the playoffs…we get to find out on the field and not by a computer program.  It’s awesome.  So, if our ‘Cats play Linfield football for 60 minutes on Saturday then you should expect, as I am, Linfield putting out an effort worthy of moving on to the Sweet Sixteen of Division III football.  Can it be Saturday right now?

Get To Know A Wildcat

#5 Brian Balsiger, Receiver, Sophomore

Favorite place to in Mac: Tequila Grill

Favorite Movie: The Dark Knight Rises

Favorite Music: Country

Favorite TV show: Sportscenter

Class I Most Look Forward to:  Managerial Accounting

Mac or PC: PC

CPU Homepage: Google

Netflix or Cable: Cable

Xbox, PS3, or Wii: PS3

Favorite Coach Smith Saying: “Irregardless of..(Enter Phrase)”

Which receiver on the team has the most extensive glove collection: My brother/cousin/best friend Kyle Harris, all about his swag!

Favorite part of playing at Linfield: The camaraderie and family atmosphere

Post Linfield aspirations: Do something (Not sure what) in regards to the field of finance

Wildcat11’s Keys To Victory

Being the more physical team:  The Lutes have a number of excellent football players and PLU has increased their physical style of play over the more recent years.  That improved physicality is part of the reason why they’ve climbed back into contender status.  With that said, Linfield is one of the most physical teams in the country.  The ‘Cats need to be the aggressors from the opening kickoff and use that to their advantage. Hit or be hit.

Linfield Rushing Attack:  Linfield will be playing against the best defense they have faced for the 2nd time this season.  The Lutes have been a stingy group against the rush this season in only allowing 92.6 yard per game (2.9) and we all know this Linfield offense goes as the rushing game goes.  The ‘Cats offense needs a good early start to get points on the board and try to establish a hold onto the pace of the game.

Limit the PLU run game:  The Lutes' offense is a balanced attack, but like in the previous contest, the key in slowing PLU down is by putting the clamps on their QB run game and on tailback Niko Madison.  The degree of difficulty for doing so will be greater this time as the Lutes will have Va’a Logotala back as the Lutes default fullback.  The 5’ 7”, 245 lbs back is a physical player that was missed by PLU in their first ago around with the ‘Cats.  If the ‘Cats can throttle the run, Linfield will make PLU’s offense struggle.

‘Cats receivers getting it done: With all the attention on the Linfield running game the Wildcat’s offensive productivity could very well come down to our receivers making plays and being difference makers.  We have a fine group of receivers and they need to put those skills on display.

Don’t let Warner, Westering, and Sontra get going.  PLU QB Dalton Ritchey has three excellent targets to depend on and Linfield has been hurt by all three in the past.  Our defensive backs need to have another big Saturday of competing once the ball goes up in the air.  I love this Wildcat defensive backfield and know they’ll be excited for the challenge.

Pressure:  The ‘Cats defensive line has to figure out ways to get pressure without extra bodies on those passing downs.  If our front can get to Ritchey consistently, it will go a long ways to a Wildcat victory.

Play Smart Football: The ‘Cats have been a smart football team all season long in terms of their on-the-field decision making.  This Saturday is not the time to go away from that.  Make good choices, do your assignment, and play Linfield Football


‘Cats by 7.  This is going to be a great college football game.  PLU is a fine football team and a worthy opponent.  They are fully capable of beating this Linfield team if things go the Lutes way.   However, I have so much faith that Linfield will be the better team on Saturday.  The ‘Cats are so talented and trust in their coaching and in their fellow teammate.  PLU is going to bring it but I think Linfield will make the plays they need in order to win and advance.   It’s not about style points at this time of the season and I’m looking forward to seeing this Linfield team go to work.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Tuesday's Truths and Quick Hits (Wednesday Edition)

#78 Steven Schultz and the 'Cats offense line face a big challenge this weekend against PLU.
(Photo Courtesy of Linda MacClanathan)

-By Cory Edmonds

It took a few days, but I think my heart just regained its normal arrhythmia following Saturday’s intense game against the Pacific Boxers. After a whole season where they had never trailed at halftime, the Cats found themselves in that exact predicament out in Forest Grove last Saturday. The Boxers came out supercharged in an effort to honor their 39 graduating seniors (a group that was paramount in rebuilding the program) and snag a signature Northwest Conference win.  The atmosphere in Forest Grove was electric and at times the crowd of 3,200 felt more like 6,000 as they boisterously cheered on every Boxer third down conversion, tackle, and so on. Essentially, Saturday’s level of play and atmosphere were reminiscent of a playoff game and, thus, served as preview of what awaits Linfield over the next several weeks. Luckily for the Linfield faithful, the Cats displayed grit and resolve-quintessential characteristics of a playoff contender-in pursuit of the win. No one would claim Linfield played its best game of the year, but they did fight hard to gain the victory and that’s what excellent teams do; even when they struggle, great teams persevere and find a way. After claiming a fifth straight NWC title and finishing their third straight undefeated regular season, there remains little doubt about the prowess of this team. The following are a few statistics that stand as a testament to this team’s talent:

3 rushing touchdowns allowed.
1.8 yards per rush allowed.
238 yards per game allowed.
A +18 turnover margin.
A record tying 45 rushing touchdowns.
An average +44 margin of victory.
500 offensive yards gained per game.
16 different offensive players scored touchdowns.

However, Linfield has little time to reflect on its accomplishments this season as they open the playoffs with a difficult draw against rival Pacific Lutheran. It's always tough to beat a quality team twice in a year but Linfield will have to do exactly that this weekend. If past performance is any indicator of future success, then it seems Linfield will be up for the challenge.

In today’s installment of Tuesday Truths we will explore two truths the stats tell us about Linfield and then one truth the stats tell us about Pacific Lutheran. Finally, we will finish with a couple of quick hits on the upcoming game.

The Truth: Linfield’s offense needs to get rolling early.
The Stats Breakdown: This truth was definitely evident in last week’s game but it also plagued Linfield in their earlier matchup with PLU. In that matchup, Linfield held a mere seven point lead over PLU up until a 22 point explosion in the fourth led to 29-0 Linfield win. This week Linfield can not afford to get off to a slow start. PLU is an excellent second half team, as they have scored 148 points in the second half of games this year compared to 122 in the first half. The team has even posted two fourth quarter comebacks (vs. CLU and Pacific). Linfield’s offense hasn’t stalled often this year- remember, they do average 55 points and 500 yards per game- but the two games they have gotten off to slow starts in (vs. PLU and Pacific) have been by far the closest games of the year. Linfield needs to charge out of the gate and add to their impressive 292 first half points this week in an effort to put PLU away early.
What To Watch For: Look for Linfield to be focused from the get go and take hold of the game’s momentum. Linfield will rely heavily on the run, but don’t be surprised when they take a few shots down the field to loosen up PLU’s suffocating defense. After last week’s close call, look for Linfield to remind everyone of their status as the NWC’s best. In my brother’s words, I expect Linfield to leave no doubt by “burying them six feet deep, still breathing.”

The Truth: Takeaways will be the key for Linfield’s defense.
The Stats Breakdown: In many ways last week’s narrow victory depended on Linfield’s ability to create takeaways. A forced fumble on a punt return set Linfield up for their first score and two late interceptions sealed the win for the Cats. Linfield has relentlessly pursued takeaways this year and has gathered 26 on the year (17 interceptions and 9 fumble recoveries). Linfield has also scored four defensive touchdowns and will look to add to that total on Saturday. Luckily for the Cats, PLU has specialized in giving the ball away as they have surrendered the ball 29 times on the year or an average of three turnovers per game. In their previous meeting with Linfield, PLU turned the ball over five times (four interceptions and one fumble recovered). PLU's quarterback, Dalton Ritchey, has thrown more interceptions than touchdowns and the team fumbles the ball nearly four times per game with opponents recovering about half of those fumbles. PLU will almost certainly turn the ball over and Linfield will take advantage of their miscues.
What To Watch For: Linfield will do everything it can to force PLU into its tendency to turnover the ball. Look for players to gang tackle and rip at the ball in an effort to increase PLU's fumble total and add to their misery. If Linfield succeeds in limiting PLU's running game, then they should have ample opportunities to intercept Ritchey who has been a bit reckless with the ball this year. Expect at least one instance where this game turns on a costly PLU turnover.

The Truth: The game plan for stopping PLU hasn’t changed.
The Stats Breakdown: Even though it’s been six weeks since Linfield persevered to a 29-0 victory over PLU, it’s not like PLU has suddenly changed their scheme or has added new playmakers. Consequently, Linfield will look to replicate their actions from that previous game. The defensive recipe for success against PLU includes the following: contain quarterback Dalton Ritchey (leads PLU with 10 rushing touchdowns to go with 13 passing touchdowns), limit the run, and shut down dynamic wide receiver Kyle Warner (48 receptions, 804 yards, 8 touchdowns). Offensively, Linfield will look to establish the run, move the pocket to protect the quarterback, and utilize the screen game to diminish the impact of PLU’s front seven (3.6 sacks and 7.3 tackles for a loss per game).
What To Watch For: Last time I previewed this game I wrote the following in this section: “The Lutes will try to establish the run early as it opens up their down field passing game. Linfield will need to stay alert and not get caught looking into the backfield on PLU play-action; the Cats will also need to be disciplined as PLU will employ a number of option looks with Ritchey in order to give him opportunities to scamper. Expect PLU to make some plays on both sides of the ball but I believe Linfield will make more plays bottling up the Lute offense in crucial situations and making the necessary offensive plays to unsettle PLU’s defense.” I stand by my assessment, but would emphasize how crucial it is for Linfield to stop the run. In the previous matchup, Linfield held PLU to 40 yards rushing on 22 attempts which forced the Lutes to pass more than they would have wanted and generated four interceptions for the Cats. Look for Linfield to sell out on the run and reap the benefits in the secondary.

Quick Hit #1: Linfield continues to dominate in the red-zone, as they are scoring touchdowns on 86% of their red-zone trips. If Linfield gets into the red-zone look for them to score touchdowns and not simply settle for field goals.
Quick Hit #2: For all of his talent, PLU quarterback, Dalton Ritchey, has been a turnover machine this year. To go along with his 14 interceptions, the the junior signal caller has fumbled the ball 14 times and lost four of them. That's 18 turnovers attributed to Ritchey. If this trend continues it may be a tough day at the office for PLU's quarterback.
Quick Hit #3: With injuries depleting Linfield's defensive line, it will be important for someone to step up in that group. My money is on junior, defensive tackle Jeremy Girod who has seized 5 sacks and 12.5 tackles for a loss on the year.
Quick Hit #4: PLU's running back, Niko Madsen, is third on the team in receptions and yardage (22 receptions, 251 yards receiving). Look for the Lutes to throw the ball his way to produce opportunities for the speedy back to make plays in space.
Quick Hit #5: PLU is having trouble scoring touchdowns in the red-zone; they boast a 64% red-zone touchdown conversion rate. Against Linfield's stingy red-zone defense (allowing only 45% of red-zone trips to culminate in touchdowns) PLU's struggle will likely continue.
Quick Hit #6: Since they ended their season on a bye-week, PLU will have had two weeks to prepare for this game. Don't be surprised if they have inserted some different looks- triple option, wishbone, or otherwise- in an effort to confound Linfield's defense.