Thursday, November 14, 2013

Game 9 preview: Linfield (8-0) at Pacific (7-2)

Another in-state opponent looks to knock off the 'Cats
Wow, I can’t believe another regular season is almost in the books.  This season has flown for this Wildcat fan and I’m thankful that the ‘Cats will get to extend the season beyond this Saturday.  But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves as Linfield has business to attend to this weekend. Currently, Linfield does own the Pool A playoff qualifier bid due to the fact that if Linfield lost this weekend to Pacific the ‘Cats still own the head-to-head victory against  PLU.  So regardless of the outcome on Saturday Linfield isn’t in danger of missing the post-season.  But let’s be real.  Linfield’s mindset is never “just making it”.  The ‘Cats want to finish the season strong and that means winning the Northwest Conference title outright and then see how the brackets set up for Linfield’s Road to Salem.  Standing in the way of that first goal is a physical and well coached Pacific Boxer team.

Cory wrote on Tuesday about the accomplishments of the Pacific program in their 4th year back of playing football.  They’ve had a quality season in starting off the year 6-0 before falling on a last second field goal to PLU and then losing a tough contest to Willamette in the final quarter that ended any hopes of playing for a NWC title or the 2013 post-season.  The Boxers’ 2013 season has been built upon almost 40 seniors that were part of the 2010 class of players that reintroduced the Pacific program and those players have developed into a competitive and physical group over the past four seasons.  In fact, Linfield will line up against a number of players that will have upwards of 37 starts under their belts.  This will be the most experienced team Linfield has faced this season.  Saturday is going to be an emotion charged day for this Boxer team and you have to know they will be looking to make one last statement about the viability of their program against one of the Nation’s best in Linfield.    

For Linfield, the Boxers are going to offer up a challenging game.  Linfield’s offense hasn’t seen as quality of defense since the Pacific Lutheran game and that Lutes defense was a riddle that took the ‘Cats three quarters to solve before being able to explode in that 4th quarter.  On the flip side, the ‘Cats defense is going to get a heavy dose of multiple formations and having to contend with a balanced attack that can move the sticks and have the ability to break off the big play.  This will be a challenging game and I’m excited to see Linfield’s response.  This Linfield team has shown a great maturity and focus since the season ended in 2012.  This group may have a lofty goal but they understand that each step in this season is a critical piece of the puzzle.  This Saturday will be no different. 

Get To Know A Wildcat

#28 Michael MacClanathan, Defensive End, Senior

Favorite place to in Mac: Alf’s

Favorite Movie: Dumb and Dumber

Favorite Music: Rock

Favorite TV show: Scrubs

Class I Most Look Forward to: Creative Writing

Mac or PC: PC 

CPU Homepage: Google

Netflix or Cable: Netflix

Car or Truck: Truck

Xbox, PS3, or Wii: Xbox

Favorite Coach Vaughan Saying: Get a ticket!

Which of your fellow defensive linemen is the best all-around athlete: Alex Hoff and his Spider-Man moves.

Favorite part of playing at Linfield: Being part of a brotherhood.

Post Linfield aspirations: Get married and find a job that I love doing. And play video games.

Wildcat11’s Keys To Victory:

60 Minutes Linfield football:  Saturday should be a fun environment.  The Pacific community is going to come out in force to honor and support their 1st senior class in over 20 seasons.  It should be a hostile crowd and that will be fun to soak in and battle against.  Team, Excellence, Attitude, Class.  Be ready to lean on those pillars for four quarters of what should be a smash mouth football game.

Limit the Boxer Run Game:  The Boxers run for 158.2 yards per game off of 34 rushing attempts per contest.  The Boxers are one of the most efficient passing teams around but much of that efficiency is based off the Boxers’ play action passing game and ability to run the football.  The ‘Cats have to be able to limit the Boxer rushing attack and force Pacific to be more one dimensional. 

Limit Negative Offensive Plays:  If Linfield’s offense gets slowed down it usually comes by the way of negative offensive plays that stall out Wildcat drives.  The Boxers have piled up 70 tackles for loss on the season (7.7 per game) so Linfield’s offensive line is going to need to rise to the challenge to keep Boxers from getting to our Catbacks before hitting the line of scrimmage and keep Yoder upright.  Big week for the Linfield offensive line.

3rd Down Defense:  The ‘Cats are only giving up 3rd down conversions at a 26% rate on the season while the Boxers are converting at a solid 47% percent.  This will be a key down in the outcome of Saturday's game.

Linfield wide receivers stepping up: Two out of the past three weeks the Wildcats receivers had had minimal work due to the nature of the L&C and UPS games (didn’t throw the ball once in the 2nd half) but that won’t be the case this weekend.  Pacific’s secondary have been ball hawks this season in picking off 12 passes on the year and only allowing 206 passing yards a game.  The Linfield receivers have to win their individual match ups this week in order for Linfield’s offense to be effective.

Pressure:  The ‘Cats defensive line and backers will have to have another big pressure day against a Boxer team that’s only yielded 16 sacks on season.  Linfield’s ability to break up the Boxers’ timing passing game will be critical.  We saw how effective it was against Willamette and if the ‘Cats can get after the quarterback this Saturday it will go a long way towards a victory.

Special Teams Coverage and Blocking:  The Wildcats’ special teams have grown so much over the season.  The coverage has continued to be impressive and Linfield’s developed the ability to pop big gains in the return game.  You don’t talk about this often but Linfield’s PAT/Field Goal unit need to be sharp.  The Boxers have shown the ability to block kicks up the middle all season long so the ‘Cats line needs to be stout.


‘Cats by 14.  I think Pacific is going to come out with both guns blazing and is going to give the ‘Cats all they can handle.  The Boxers are still looking for that Northwest Conference signature win and you know their coaching staff and players would love it to be against Linfield.  However, if this Linfield team continues to play to their maximum potential then I’m expecting to see Linfield eventually get the game under control and for Linfield to force their will to another 9-0 perfect regular season.

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