Monday, November 4, 2013

'Cats Win!!! Linfield leaves Willamette grounded in a 56-15 shellacking.

It was "hit or be hit" on Saturday and Linfield did a whole lot of hitting.
(Photo Courtesy of Brad Thompson: View Brad's 2013 Linfield Football photos here. )

My goodness that was a drubbing.  Coming into this Saturday I was fired up and anxious to see what was going to happen when this Linfield team rolled into Salem and matched up against a high flying offensive unit in Willamette.  I would have been thrilled with a 3 point, 7 point, or 10 point win against a ranked opponent that knows us as well as anyone in the nation.  However, this 2013 Linfield Wildcat team again showed why they’re ranked number two in the country and have some voters ranking them number one.  This is a great football team that overwhelmed a solid Willamette club.

Early in the game both teams traded a few possessions until Willamette moved the ball and struck off their play action passing game, and for the first time this season Linfield was behind on the scoreboard.  I thought that this would be revealing in how the ‘Cats would respond to early adversity against a team with talent.  The response would be emphatic as Linfield’s offense would march 73 yards on 11 plays to answer with the tying score.  Willamette’s offense would be turned away in three plays on their next possession to only see Linfield take the lead on a 39 yard TD strike to Brian Balsiger from Josh Yoder on Linfield’s next play from scrimmage and the flood gates were officially open.

From that point the route was on as Linfield would tack up four more touchdowns before Willamette’s offense could answer with their second and last score of the day late in the 3rd quarter.  Linfield would blast in two more scores to finish up the day with the program’s second best single game team rushing total with 451 net yards (493 rushing yards vs Minot State during the 1992 playoffs is the record). 

It’s been so impressive what this team has been doing this year and it’s not a fluke or a gimmick.  Linfield is the real deal and if the ‘Cats can continue to play at this level then the sky’s the limit.  However, don’t get too comfortable yet as the NWC title chase is still not decided.  Linfield should have an improving Puget Sound team (they held a 14-7 lead over PLU in the 3rd before the Lutes finished them off) and then finish the regular season in what could be the NWC title game against Pacific.  If the Boxers can defeat Willamette this Saturday then Pacific would be 4-1 in NWC play and could cause a three-way tie for the NWC title by taking down the ‘Cats.  There is still work to be done for Linfield to get into the position they want but don’t bet against this Linfield team.  They have a way to make you look bad if you do.

The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

The Good

All three phases playing at a high level:  I’ve mentioned it on the blog before but when this Linfield team is playing at their top gear there are just a small amount of teams on the division III level that could counter Linfield’s best and I’m not sure how long they would last either.  Since getting back from Whitworth, the ‘Cats have put in two games of playing with a great amount of enthusiasm, maturity, and passion and the results show it on the scoreboard.  If you're a Wildcat fan that has made excuses for missing games this year then you need to stop because you’re missing something special.

Ground Game:  69 rushes, 451 net yards, 6 rush TD’s, 6.5 yards per carry.  That was a clinic put on by the Linfield offense in how to run the football.  Linfield QB Josh Yoder and RB Josh Hill were a 1-2 punch that the Bearcats couldn’t figure out as Yoder was sharp with his reads and the offensive line and receivers imposed their will on Willamette’s defense.  Yoder and Hill combined for 6.9 yards per carry and piling up 352 rush yards on 49 carries. 

Forcing Willamette Three and Out's: Eight times the 'Cats forced three and outs against the high powered Willamette offense, and after the Bearcats drew first blood to take a 7-0 lead, the ‘Cats defense responded with sending Willamette’s offense back to the sideline on four consecutive possessions after three plays.  Dominating defense by Linfield

Special teams were outstanding: Willamette does have a dangerous kick return game but Linfield’s coverage was fantastic and the Bearcats had ample chances to make something happen for as often as Linfield was kicking off.  Willamette’s starting field position after those nine kickoffs was their own 25 yard line.  Along with the coverage, Linfield punt and kick return man, Chad Coburn, had kick returns of 26 and 33 yards and a punt return long of 24 yards.  Great day of kicking, catching, returning, and covering.

Linfield physicality:  I thought that Linfield straight up manhandled Willamette on Saturday.  Linfield was the stronger and more explosive team.  That advantage was evident as the ‘Cats owned each line of scrimmage with a physical brand of football. 

The ‘Cats wide receivers:  Linfield’s receivers haven’t had much work over the past two weeks due to the nature of the games but I thought the ‘Cats receivers made the most of their offensive opportunities on Saturday.  They had a big impact on the game’s outcome.  This is a very talented receiving group and should have a big say in remainder of Linfield’s season.

Charlie Poppen hauled in beautiful 21-yard TD strike in the 2nd quarter.
(Photo Courtesy of Brad Thompson: View Brad's 2013 Linfield Football photos here. )
Pressure:  The amount of pressure the Linfield defense put on Willamette’s Josh Dean was intense.  I’ll give props to Dean for being a tough guy because the Linfield defense lit him up like a Town Square Christmas Tree on a number of occasions.  Dean kept coming but you could see his play get more and more anxious as the game progressed.  Those happy feet and wanting to get the ball out sooner led to more chances for our outstanding DBs to make plays on the ball.

Bonus Good

Our Fans.  The Linfield faithful was loud and proud and made the Catdome South feel like home once again.  They rocked all game long and the Linfield players loved their energy. The Willamette players, including Frosh QB Sam Stelk...not so big on our AWESOME fans.
Double Bonus Good

Giza Brothers.  It’s not a storyline that gets a lot of play, and many fans of each program don’t even know, but both Willamette and Linfield have had a set of brothers that have squared off over the past three seasons.  Older brother, Tyson Giza (Senior), is Willamette’s special teams guru and DB play-maker while younger brother, Jordan Giza (Junior), is one of Linfield’s best special teams players and a valued defensive back in Linfield’s passing down defensive packages.  The Giza brothers are best friends but when it comes to this game they want that win badly.  Jordan has scored not one, but three wins, for all little brothers around the world with his 3rd consecutive victory over big bro.

The Bad

I’m sure there are things the ‘Cats will find in the film that they need to improve upon but Linfield showed no weakness on Satuday.

The Ugly

Not having more seating available for Linfield.  How many years do the Linfield fans have to overrun Willamette’s stadium before they open up more general seating to the Wildcat faithful?  Not having enough parking at Bush Park is bad enough but Linfield fans were practically sitting on top of each other while the Bearcat faithful could have parked their Volvo’s in some of the space available in their sections.    

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