|Get to the 'Catdome this weekend!|
-By Cory Edmonds
Last Saturday, with 5:49 left in the first quarter, Linfield found itself in unfamiliar territory; the Wildcats trailed for the first time all year. Ultimately, Linfield only trailed for four minutes and would take the lead for good only a minute after tying the game. Yet, trailing forced this team into a gut-check and it was promising to see the team keep their composure as they rushed their way to a 56-15 victory. With the playoffs only a few weeks away it’s essential that the Cats start to sharpen their minds and challenge themselves to improve even further. In many ways it would be nice if the playoffs could just get started; especially as this week’s game against a routinely hapless UPS team seems like it will offer little true excitement. Beyond the playoffs, it could also be tempting for the Cats to set their sights on a significant showdown with Pacific that’s two weeks down the road, but Linfield needs to stick to the plan and take it one game at a time. Linfield has worked too hard this year to let their play slip simply because they are playing an inferior opponent. The Loggers have struggled for a while now (their last winning season was in 2006), but they would love more than anything to spoil Linfield’s season. Linfield will need to treat them as their equal and come ready to play on Saturday.
In today’s installment of Tuesday Truths we will explore one truth the stats tell us about Linfield and then one truth the stats tell us about Puget Sound. Finally, we will finish with a couple of quick hits on the upcoming game.
The Truth: Linfield’s offense can sustain long drives.
The Stats Breakdown: This year Linfield has been as dynamic and explosive as any offense in the country. Yet, explosiveness is nowhere near as valuable as consistency- just ask Willamette’s previously explosive offense. So it was reassuring to see that a week after posting ten offensive scoring drives that averaged 3.6 plays and 1:10 time elapsed, the Cats were able to put together some sustained, methodical drives against Willamette. On Saturday, Linfield posted numerous long drives but none were as impressive as the following three: 11 plays, 73 yards, 4:18 time elapsed; 11 plays, 96 yards, 5:31 time elapsed; 10 plays, 80 yards, 4:23 time elapsed. These drives prove that Linfield is more than just an explosive offense that is limited to moving the ball on big plays. Instead, these drives demonstrate that Linfield’s offense can churn out first downs and take time off the clock. Against Willamette, Linfield gained 31 first downs (Willamette had 12) and owned the time of possession battle (40 minutes of TOP compared to Willamette’s 20 minutes). Against high caliber defense’s that Linfield will see in the playoffs, the ability to rack up first downs and chew clock will be pivotal. Overall, last week’s offensive performance bodes well for the Cats’ future.
What To Watch For: Don’t get me wrong, the Cats will still be very explosive- against Willamette they posted at least eight plays of twenty or more yards. UPS is clearly an inferior opponent and Linfield will be able to throw the ball downfield (allowing 12 yards per completion) and find open running lanes (allowing 187 yards rushing per game) but I expect the Cats to continue to display a methodical approach to moving the football. Sustained drives will take time off the clock and keep UPS’ strength (their offense?) off the field. If nothing else completing sustained drives will ready the Cats for the offensive approach they will most likely require in the postseason. Look for Linfield to experience offensive success on both the big play and in short to intermediate game.
The Truth: They will turn the ball over.
The Stats Breakdown: The Loggers haven’t displayed complete offensive incompetency this year, as they have been able to put up 24 points per game. In fact, their quarterback, senior Braden Foley, has even thrown for 17 touchdowns on the year- that’s three more than Linfield’s Josh Yoder. However, any success the Puget Sound offense has found has largely been negated by costly turnovers. The Loggers’ quarterbacks have thrown 14 interceptions (compared to Linfield’s six interceptions thrown) and the UPS team has lost nine fumbles (three of which are attributed to the Logger’s Foley). These turnovers have clearly cost the Loggers scoring opportunities and against a team like Linfield they will also likely lead to scores for the Cats. Linfield has 18 takeaways on the year (14 interceptions and four fumble recoveries); thus, the Cats’ average of three takeaways a game neatly matches up with the Loggers’ tendency to give the ball away three times every game. Throw in the fact that Linfield is clearly better than any team UPS has played and it appears the Cats should easily add a few more takeaways to their season total.
What To Watch For: Look for Linfield to get after the quarterback and force bad decisions. If the secondary is picking off passes on Saturday, it will certainly be aided by a relentless front seven from Linfield. Expect the Cats to fly to the ball and gang tackle in an effort to jar the ball loose and further strengthen their grip on the trajectory of the game. The more takeaways the Cats can grab, the more likely they are to grab the victory.
Quick Hit #1: Puget Sound has rushed for 305 yards on the year for a 1.6 yard per rush average; last week alone, the Cats rushed for 451 yards at 6.5 yards per rush.
Quick Hit #2: The Loggers main offensive weapon is sophomore wide receiver Kevin Miller who accounts for 30 percent of UPS’ receiving yards and 30 percent of the team’s receiving touchdowns. If the Cats can shutdown the 5’8”, 165 pound wide receiver it may be tough for the Loggers’ quarterback to find other targets.
Quick Hit #3: Linfield’s defense has still yet to surrender a rushing touchdown in conference play; I don’t see that changing this Saturday.