Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Playoff Round 2 Preview: Linfield (10-0) vs Hampden-Sydney (9-2)

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone in the ‘Catdome.  This is truly a magical time to be a Linfield Wildcat football fan.  Being in the playoffs during the week of Thanksgiving is not a birthright, but rather, this week is earned off the monumental amount of hard work put in year after year by the players and coaches of this program.  The fact that Linfield gets to host another playoff game is a thrill, and while I know our crowd this weekend might be smaller in numbers, I’ve always appreciated the passion this weekend brings out in the Wildcat faithful. 

Coming off a tremendous 42-21 opening round win over Pacific Lutheran, the ‘Cats get to turn their attention around to a first time opponent out of the Old Dominion Athletic Conference (ODAC), The Hampton-Sydney College Tigers.   Hampton-Sydney is located in Farmville, Virginia which is a small town (est. population of about 8,200) and sits West of the Richmond area.    The Tigers are the champions of the ODAC after defeating their rivals, Randolph-Macon, 28-26 in the defacto ODAC conference championship game.  H-SC defeated Maryville (Tn) in the first round 42-34 to secure the 1st playoff win in school history and broke a ODAC winless streak that dates back several years.

The Tigers are led by standout Junior QB, Nash Nance.  The 6’4” 205 lbs. quarterback has an impressive stat line in throwing for 3,117 yards and 25 touchdowns (247 out of 388, 63.7 completion percentage) as the Tigers are averaging 35.5 pointer per game.  Nance can also get it done with his legs has he’s accumulated 16 rushing touchdowns out of the Tigers multiple look offense.  The H-SC offense is far from a one man show as the Tigers possess one of the most impressive receivers in the country in Holton Walker (6’2”, 205 lbs).  The junior receiver has piled up 1,559 yards off of 103 receptions for 15 touchdowns (141.7 yards per game).  To go along with the sharp passing attack, the Tigers use two primary running backs (Brady Macko and Chris Shembo) who combine for 101.8 yards per game and have 11 rushing TDs between the pair.  The Tigers have a more than capable offense and will be a great test for the ‘Cats.

On the flip side, the Tigers showcase one of the better statistical defenses in the country.  H-SC is only allowing 18.2 points per game and yield a very respectable 279.7 yards per contest.  The Tigers run a 3-3-5 defense and are led by the ODAC defensive player of the year, Linebacker Tyler Ikwild.   The Tigers defense has been very tough against the pass in only allowing 141 passing yards per game and holding teams to a 46% completion rate.  The Tigers don’t have great sack numbers but do have 71 tackles for loss and seem to do a good job in keep everything in front of the defense. 

At this point we know what our Wildcat football team is and they’re built for situations like this.  I’m expecting H-SC to come out aggressive and try to jump out to an early lead.  I think their staff knows that in flying out across the country the last thing they can do is let Linfield take an early lead.  That will spell doom for H-SC.  The Tigers are going try to let Linfield know they’re in for the fight of their lives.  That’s great, but this Linfield team has been here before and understands what it takes to absorb someone’s best punch and continue to push through towards victory.  The Wildcat defense is going to see a ton of offensive formations as the H-SC offense is led by a skillful quarterback, while the ‘Cats offense is going to have to come out of the gates rolling against a stiff defense. 

Get To Know A Wildcat
#54 Kekuapono Kalua, Offensive Guard, Junior

 Favorite Movie: Probably have to be 50 first dates

Favorite Music: Hawaiian reggae is prime for pregame

Favorite TV show: I would say the walking dead. Teaches me how to prepare for zombies

Class I look forward to: I really like my sports management class because it teaches you a different side of sports

Mac or PC: I have to say Mac but I have a PC

CPU homepage: Yahoo!, keeps updated on anything and everything, even fantasy football

Car or Truck: Jacob Hanke's car

Xbox, PS3, Wii: Xbox 360

Favorite Coach Hire saying: "back in my day...."

You have to pick an offensive lineman to cook dinner for the group.  Who would it be?: I trust no one's cooking so it would be myself. hahaha

Favorite part about playing at Linfield: You get to be a part of a program with great history and really good coaching. It's the best decision I made for playing at this level of football

Post Linfield aspirations: I hope I can work for Nike someday and hopefully coach football at any level and use my knowledge of the sport to give back to my high school and community.

Wildcat11’s Keys To Victory

Be Ready to Play Linfield’s brand of football:  This Linfield team has shown a great level of maturity and a quiet confidence all season long and that needs to continue this weekend.  The Tigers have been a fast scoring team in scoring 260 of their 390 points in the 1st half.  The ‘Cats need to be prepared to have a strong effort from the opening kick and sustain that for the duration of the contest.

Establish the running game:  Linfield showed again last week that they are more than just a running team as the ‘Cats have a number for receiving weapons but the Linfield offense needs to establish the run game and put the pressure on the Tigers to commit more resources to the Linfield run game.  Do that and the ‘Cats offense will be in great shape.

Limit Hampden-Sydney’s running game:  Lots of talk this past week has been about H-SC’s Nance to Walker combo (understandable, it’s pretty darn good) but H-SC’s offense is more run focused than you would think.  (443 rushing attempts, 1,778 net rush yards, 4.0 average, 29 TDs).  Obviously, H-SC feels comfortable throwing the ball but Linfield’s defense needs to do what they do and that’s choke the opposition run game and turn their offense one-dimensional.

Adjust and Adapt: H-SC is going to throw the whole playbook at Linfield from the opening kick.  With a limited number of games the ‘Cats have of the Tigers, the ‘Cats need to be able to get on the sideline and work out the adjustments and process information at a high level. 

Red Zone Offense:  Linfield has been stellar in the Red Zone this season in scoring 92% of the time and 88% of those being touchdowns.  H-SC’s defense has been solid in only giving up Red Zone scores 67% of the time (63% being TD’s).  The ‘Cats will have to make their RZ trips count.

Make plays on the ball:  Once again this Wildcat is going to get challenged by the Tigers.  Holton Walker is the big target for Nance but H-SC has 7 other players on the roster with touchdown receptions.  I have a feeling the H-SC staff is going to try to spread it around and try to make Linfield cover as many receivers as possible.

Special Teams once again:  The Wildcat’s special teams started the season a little shaky but over the season as turned into a strength of this team.  One of the special teams units have the ability to make a huge play on Saturday.  If it’s returning a kick, pinning the Tigers deep, or making a block the skill and scheme is there to make it happen.


‘Cats by 14.  The more I look at this Hampden-Sydney team the more I’m impressed with their schemes and players.  The offense will take chances and the defense is very steady.  They have the ability to push Linfield to the limit.  However, I think Linfield is going to be the better team and will be sharp for what will be this group’s last game of the season in the ‘Catdome (most likely).  Go ‘Cats!

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