Monday, September 16, 2013
'Cats Win!!! Linfield beats HSU like an oil drum in West Texas
That was a positive way to start the 2013 season. I loved the way that Linfield took care of business on the road against a program that’s in a bit of a spiral. I mentioned it all last week in how Linfield was 0-2 in Abilene and that the ‘Cats needed to bring a great effort this past Saturday. The ‘Cats were happy to oblige in sudden fashion.
HSU did threaten right off the bat with a great kickoff return and quickly moving ball to set up a 1st and goal on the 2 yard line. Linfield’s defense stuffed HSU 4 consecutive plays in a huge stand and it only took two plays before Josh Yoder found Charlie Poppen on a blown coverage for an 84-yard TD reception. The shift in momentum was huge and Linfield never looked back. Linfield had great performances from returning vets and we had a number of young ‘Cats make a major impact.
It’s apparent that Linfield has a lot of talent on both sides of the ball and when they’re executing they have the ability to make plays. The bad news is Hardin-Simmons isn’t the program it once was and Linfield is going to face much greater challenges in short order. It was a great way to start the year but this program can’t kick up their feet and be happy. Cal Lu is coming to the ‘Catdome this Saturday and they are big, physical, and have a ton of skill. Linfield has their work cut out this upcoming weekend.
The Good, The Bad, The Ugly
-Handling Business: The mindset of this team was spot-on from Friday’s practice to the game itself. You can tell the level of maturity is there with this team in terms of not being too loose but not gripping the wheel too tight before the game. It turns out that Hardin-Simmons might not be a good football team this year but Linfield did what they should to inferior competition and that’s run them off the field.
-Crisp Offense: You never know how an offense is going to react with a new QB at the controls but Josh Yoder and the offense looked sharp in their 1st time out. The offense has a lot of people that can make plays and Coach Smith spread it around yard and it kept HSU’s head spinning. Yoder’s ability to pull the ball down and run should be a great asset this season.
-Rushing Defense: Hardin-Simmons had one chance in making this a game and that was to run the ball at the Linfield Defense. It didn’t happen. After rushing for 344 yards vs Willamette the week prior, Linfield held HSU to 60 total rushing yards (2.1 per rush) including an early back breaking goal line stand.
-3rd down offense: Linfield’s offense was fantastic on 3rd down in going 12 of 16 and kept the chains moving. A lot of good execution on 3rd down by the offense and that’s going to be needed in the upcoming stretch of games.
-Defensive Playmaking: Linfield piled up 13 tackles for loss against the Cowboys’ offense and it wasn’t always coming off of blitzes. Linfield’s defensive front and LB’s have a great combination of physicality and quickness. It was good to see not only vets but some newer faces showing their ability to make plays.
-Lack of mistakes: 0 turnovers and 3 penalties for 30 yards. Penalties killed the 2012 Wildcats at times and seeing the lack of mental errors for a first time out is promising.
-Offensive Line: Good 1st effort from the ‘Cats offensive line. The challenges will be bigger and faster but this has the potential to be a very strong group as the season rolls along.
-Confirmation of doing the little things right: After the game, one of the HSU chain-gang members, who has worked HSU games for the past 10 years, told Coach Smith in all of his time working the visiting sideline at HSU, the ‘Cats were the nicest and classiest group of players he’s ever dealt with. It’s a little thing but speaks volumes about Linfield’s culture.
-Game day operations: HUGE tip of the cap to a few groups. Have to thank Texas Christian University Athletic Director, Chris Del Conte, for allowing the ‘Cats to hold their Friday practice at TCU’s indoor facility and the stadium locker rooms in Fort Worth. It was a neat experience and a cool (temperature wise and experience wise) environment on the week’s final preparations. Also, a major salute to Linfield’s equipment coordinator, Mack Farag, for creating a great cool zone on the Linfield sideline. Mack strung together 4 or 5 Linfield canopy tents and brought in two large Port-A-Cool systems and created a sideline to battle the heat. A few HSU players were laughing at the ‘Cats’ setup during the pre-game but not much to laugh at later on. Mack does so much for the program and we’re lucky to have him.
Instead of “Bad”, I’m going to say “can do better” because these areas on Saturday were not bad but we can sharpen up on for sure.
-Tackling: Overall the tackling on Saturday was strong but a few times the ‘Cats lost their feet and didn’t wrap at the point of contact. That HAS to get better this next Saturday.
-Special teams clean up: The Special teams had a lot of work on Saturday and had some GREAT moments (Arkans Punt Block, 40-yard FG by Repp, and great kickoff return) but they did have a couple of 1st game breakdowns against a dynamic returner. Also, our PAT/FG team (which I think will be consistently good) have a few things to iron out. Nothing alarming but need to improve upon.
If you have watched any college football over the past three weeks then you know a major new emphasis this season the targeting rule. It’s been highly controversial because the call if highly subjective due to the speed and nature the game is played at.
The targeting rule is as follows:
• No player shall target and initiate contact vs. opponent with the crown of his helmet.
• No player shall target and initiate contact to the head or neck area of a defenseless opponent.
You break the rule and you get ejected from the game and might face further suspension the next contest. There have been a number of calls already this season that are close on if the call was correct. However, I think we had a CLEAR cut example of a violation of both prongs of the targeting rule when an HSU offensive guard absolutely blasted Linfield corner Brandon Funk in the 1st quarter of play. The guy got ejected and rightfully so. Yikes man.