For a Linfield football player (and for the fans too), this is the type of game that you live for. The ‘Cats are playing a strong opponent, walking into a hostile environment, and a lot of implications for your season on the line. It’s just another huge game week in the Northwest Conference.
Your Linfield Wildcats will be traveling over to Salem to face off against a tough Willamette Bearcats team in McCulloch Stadium with a 1:30 PM kickoff. The ‘Cats are sitting with a 3-0 Northwest Conference record while Willamette dropped their first game of the season last week to Pacific Lutheran 35-24. With the loss, the Bearcats 2013 season is on the razor’s edge. If they drop this weekend’s game against Linfield then their NWC title hopes are done and so are any chances on securing a playoff bid. With a win, the Bearcats would throw the NWC title chase into a four-way tie between Linfield, PLU, Pacific, and Willamette with two weeks remaining. Linfield has to realize they’re going to be playing a team that’s up against it, and is going to come out with all guns blazing.
The Bearcats are led by duel threat quarterback Josh Dean who is having another fantastic year as the main man of Willamette’s breakneck speed offense. Dean is surrounded by trio of fine running backs in Dylan Jones, Taylor Wyman, and Terrell Malley. Each of those RB’s can get you tough yards or hit a home run. On the outside, Dean has favored two main targets in Derek Traeger (51 catches, 644 yards, 9 TDs) and freshman De’Zhon Grace (36 catches, 486 yards, 4 TDs). On defense, the Bearcats are still a 3-4 look team that’s built on great secondary and linebacker play. Linebacker Jack Nelson is the tackling machine for the Bearcats while Tyson Giza is the main playmaker in the secondary. This is a team with a lot of skill and speed.
Linfield is coming off a record setting game against Lewis & Clark but everyone in the ‘Catdome knows they are dealing with a different animal this week. I think there are still some people around the nation waiting for the ‘Cats to trip up and have this game circled as the time where it’s going to happen. To me, this Linfield team has proven time and again that they have a gear that I think only a few teams in the country can match, but they’ve yet to be tested in a tight road game against a talented team . Linfield is going to get that this weekend and I’m looking forward to seeing how they respond to the challenge.
Get To Know A Wildcat
#1 David Sigler, WR, Junior
Favorite place to eat in Mac: Great Harvest. I could eat their BBQ chicken panini with a salted carmel chocolate chip cookie for lunch every day.
Favorite Movie: Oh, that's a tough one. I'm going to have to give a few. Shawshank Redemption and Remember the Titans. I'll also admit that I'm a pretty big Harry Potter nerd.
Favorite Music: Being from a small town I got to say country, but it's really how I feel at the time. Hip Hop, 80s rock, and of course a little Reggae now that I have the Hawaiian influence.
Favorite TV show: I'm atrocious at keeping up with a TV show on a week to week basis, but right now there's not much better than Duck Dynasty.
Class I Most Look Forward to: I'm going to have to go with "Prevention and Care of Athletic Injuries" taught by Laura Kenow because that is the class I took Freshman year that put me on the Athletic Training route and where I am right now.
Mac or PC: Mac
CPU Homepage: ESPN
Netflix or Cable: Cable
Car or Truck: Well, I currently roll in a Jetta but that's more because it was passed down to me. If I had the choice I would definitely be cruising in a pick up.
Xbox, PS3, or Wii: I'm not really much of gamer at all. Just ask my roommate, Jordy, he's been trying to convert me for years.
Favorite Coach Smith Saying: "The proof is in the (pause) pudding"
Which WR on the team will be on a reality TV show one day and why: I'm going to have to go with Reid Sullivan. I don't know if I could give you a one sentence answer other than if you've been around Reid for any significant amount of time and have got to know him then you would agree with this 100%.
Favorite part of playing at Linfield: I absolutely love the relationships that I've gained from being here. Everyone talks about being a family when you come on your recruiting trip and you don't quite understand what that means until you get here. Especially this group of Seniors that we have, I think that we are one of the closest groups that we have had around here for a while. Also, why would you not want to come to a winning tradition like this? Knowing that you are going to have a shot year in and year out to be in the title hunt is something that I think everyone would want.
Post Linfield aspirations: Initially I want to take the certification exam for Athletic Training and become certified and then probably go to grad school for Athletic Training to open up my career options a little more. I don't know after that. I've always had a huge drive to want to coach one day so if that came up before grad school then I might have to take that and run with it.
Wildcat11’s Keys To Victory
Full 60 Minutes of Linfield Football: Willamette is a fast starting team so it’s imperative that Linfield is able to come out of the gates strong and maintain a high level of performance for the entirety of the game. Willamette proved last week that they’re fighters when they mounted a comeback effort vs PLU. Linfield needs to be prepared for 4 quarters of competitive football.
Limit the Willamette Rushing Attack: When you think of Willamette you think of Josh Dean throwing for 300 yards of offense and over 20 touchdowns but this offense’s passing game is built off of having a strong rushing threat and then play-action passing the tar out of you. The ‘Cats rushing defense needs to have a big day in order to limit that aspect of the Bearcat attack. If Linfield allows Willamette to run the ball consistently then it’s going to allow Willamette to get off in the passing game.
Establish the Linfield Running Game: The Linfield offense has the ability to throw the rock but this offense moves as the running game goes. The ‘Cats offensive line and WR’s need get on and sustain their blocks against a fast and sound linebacking and defensive back unit. The ‘Cats effectiveness on offense will fall squarely on Linfield’s ability to run the ball.
Special Teams rise to the challenge: Biggest Special Teams challenge to date, bar none. The Bearcats Tyson Giza and Terrell Malley are averaging 35 yards per kick return on the season and have a combined 3 TD returns between the two of them. The Bearcats have shown a knack for blocking kicks and making key plays in this phase of the game. Coverage and blocking need to be tight this weekend.
Pressure Dean: The Willamette quarterback is a dangerous weapon with his legs and his arm. Dean possesses a fast release and has great trust in his primary receivers (Traeger and Grace) to be in the right spots when he delivers the ball. Linfield has to put a premium on getting Dean off his sport and break up the timing of this passing game.
Don’t leave points on the field: Linfield’s offense has been great in the redzone this season and the ‘Cats have to be able to keep this trend moving forward. I’m expecting a tightly fought game so Linfield is going to have to scrap for every point they can get.
Limit the big play: Willamette’s offense has hit a ton of big plays this season as Dean does a great job in getting the ball to his playmakers and letting them create in the open field. If Linfield can take away the big play from the Bearcats then I see this Wildcat defense making life tough for Willamette.
‘Cats by 10. You come to Linfield to play in big games with a lot on the line. This weekend’s game vs Willamette fits both of those criteria and then some. I fully expect the Bearcats to come out and try to punch Linfield in the mouth and let Linfield know they’re going to be in a fight. That’s fine but this Linfield team is built for games like this. If the ‘Cats execute and play to their ability Linfield is going to walk away from Salem with a huge win and add another piece to the 2013 puzzle.