Wednesday, September 11, 2013

2013 Game 1 Preview: Linfield at Hardin-Simmons

Off to West Texas we go.
It’s here.  In what has seemed like an eternity to Wildcat fans the 2013 Linfield College Football season is upon us.  There is so much excitement around the Linfield program right now and understandably so.  The ‘Cats have a deep roster of talent that could do some special things this season but that doesn’t mean high level success is guaranteed.  Linfield has their own questions that they’ll have to answer during another stretch of games that feature high quality opponents and brutal travel. 

Who fills Mickey Inns shoes at quarterback?  The staff hasn’t made a formal announcement (it hasn’t been reported yet either) but I’m sure Hardin-Simmons has Linfield’s two-deep at this point and knows the answer.  You’re always are a little unsure how the offense is going to react with a new QB running the show.  Heck, there were folks wondering how the offense would be when Brett Elliott transferred in before the 2004 season.  Quarterbacks get a lot of attention and rightfully so.  However, whoever is the ‘Cats starting QB this season doesn’t have to be a superstar in this offense but they will need to get the job done in order for Linfield to be productive.  It’s a question that will have to be answered right away in a big first test.

On the other side of the coin, the ‘Cats defense has a huge upside but also some questions to answer as well.   The defense is loaded with talent and experience but have taken their share of dings and a few injuries that will impact the depth of this unit, especially early in the season.  I love the makeup, speed, skill of the ‘Cats 2013 defense but they’re going to be tested out of the gate and might have to carry the load if the offense needs a little time to get on the tracks. 

I feel really good about this 2013 Linfield team.  The Senior leadership has been strong all during camp and it’s evident the roster is talent rich.  This team hasn’t been afraid to put it out that they want to win a national championship and I salute them for being willing to state that publicly.  But the road is going to be grueling and full of adversity.  I have my seatbelt buckled tight and I’m ready to for this 2013 Linfield team to take us Wildcat fans on a crazy ride.

Last Friday night, Hardin-Simmons traveled to Willamette where a terrible start for the Cowboys doomed any hope for victory as the Bearcats up-tempo offense and special teams to race to a 29-0 1st quarter lead.  If you just glance at the score you probably dismiss the Cowboys but that would be a mistake.

After the brutal start, Hardin-Simmons went on to slowly climb back into the game during the next 2 and ½ quarters and had the score at 49-34 before Willamette was able to put it away late.  Along the way, HSU outgained Willamette by putting up 534 total yards and RUSHED for 344 yards (5.8 per carry).   The Cowboys have the best running back tandem Linfield will see during the regular season in Bryce Johnson and Tevin Mitchell, a bruising well-coached offensive line, and some playmakers on the outside.  The offense is not to be overlooked and a number of these same guys put 500 yards of offense and 35 point on Linfield in the ‘Catdome last season.  I’m sure the HSU coaching staff is spending this week fixing issues from game one and will be a much better prepared squad to open up their home season.

0-2.  No matter what happened to Hardin-Simmons last week that’s the only number Linfield needs to remember in preparation this week.  Linfield has gone in twice to Abiliene and come out on the wrong site of the outcome.  This is a serious road trip that is going to set the tone for the 2013 campaign that’s loaded with high expectations.  You can bet your bottom dollar that HSU is going to bring their best effort and would love nothing more to knock off Linfield and move their season back in the right direction. 

Get To Know A Wildcat

#8 Colin Nelson, Wide Receiver, Junior

Favorite Place in Mac to Eat: Sandwich Express is always my go to.

Favorite Movie: Any of the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Favorite Music: I like pretty much anything but some classic rock is definitely my favorite. My Hendrix pandora station gets a lot of airtime.

Favorite TV Show: This one is close between Breaking Bad and Sons of Anarchy, but right now it would have to be BB. Can't wait for the final episodes.

Favorite Pro Football team: Seattle Seahawks all the way! 12th Man.

Class I Most Look Forward to: Management of Sport with Professor Farag

Mac or Pc: Mac

Cpu Homepage: ESPN

Netflix or standard cable: I have my Netflix binges but I probably watch more cable overall.

Car or Truck: I will never love another car more than my 78' Chevy Cheyenne truck.

Xbox, PS3, or WII: Xbox

Favorite Coach Smith Saying: "Snap the eyes"

Which Linfield DB talks the most junk: They have quite a few talkers, but Link and I have a pretty good rivalry going so I get a lot from him.

Your Favorite Part About Playing at Linfield is: Being able to build relationships with my teammates and coaches. I know these are guys who I will be able to call friends for the rest of my life.

Post Linfield aspirations? I'm not 100% sure yet but I'll probably go to grad school to get my MBA if I don't have a job I like after I graduate.

Wildcat11's Keys to Victory

4 full quarters of Linfield Football:  I’m assuming that HSU is going to want to take the action to Linfield and try to wear down a travel squad roster of ‘Cats over the duration of the game.  The ‘Cats are going to have to dig deep for 4 quarters to secure a victory.  Have that mindset of playing a full game of Linfield style football.

Limit the effectiveness of the HSU’s rushing attack:  No doubt this is the strength of the Hardin-Simmons team.  They have two very good running backs and Tevin Mitchell posted up a 162 yard rushing effort vs the ‘Cats last season.  I’m expecting HSU to mix it up but if Linfield can limit the rush it will help take the steam out of this explosive offense.

Find a rhythm on offense and put points on the board:  Linfield will have a number of returning faces on offense mixed in with some new ones and they all need to get it rolling in order to get points on the board and get out of Texas with a victory.   The potential is there for this group to be a dynamic offense and Linfield is going to need that in the 1st game.

Limit mistakes and turnovers:  I don’t need to go crazy here.  You all know the deal.  Limit the assignment mistakes, penalties, and turnovers and your odds in winning increase significantly.

Keep our QB upright:  The offensive line is going to have a mighty good challenge as HSU is going to take chances to try to make big plays on defense this Saturday.  If we can keep our QB upright and deliver to what I think could be a very good group of receivers, the ‘Cats will be in good shape.

Do Your Job:  Sometimes during the 1st game there is a tendency to think you have to do it all on the field.  That’s false.  In trying to do more than your job on the field leads to assignment mistakes and breakdowns on the field.  The players have to focus on their role and executing it consistently and effectively.

Overall:  ‘Cats by 7.  This isn’t a “must” win but let’s be real.  This is a must win for this season on different levels.  You’re going to see a much improved HSU team playing on their home turf.  No doubt about it.  If Linfield plays their game for four quarters the ‘Cats have the talent to gut out a big road win to start the 2013 season on the right foot.  Go ‘Cats!