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.

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