Monday, September 30, 2013
It was a bit of a strange game when you hold a team to only 5 rushing yards, beat them by 45 points, and you’re still left feeling somewhat unsatisfied. Most of that is due to the fact that I think Linfield knew they were playing a team that wasn’t in the same ballpark in terms of skill and talent and the offense had a number of series that sputtered. You know you’re a pretty darn good football team when you look up and see 45-0 and you don’t think it was good enough in all areas of the game.
Regardless, Linfield took care of the business in front of them and dusted another opponent to set the stage for bigger and better opportunities. Linfield has a big opening NWC conference game with a very good Pacific Lutheran team at the ‘Catdome this Saturday. We have plenty of time to dive further in this game but I know both sides of the game will be pumped up to see who gets the inside track to that NWC title and Pool A playoff auto-bid. Until then, let’s get to the good, the bad, and the ugly.
The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
The Defensive Doughnut: Getting a shutout is hard against any team. It doesn’t matter that Case Western wasn’t on Linfield’s level in all regards but keeping a team completely off the scoreboard is dang tough.
Defensive Line play: The ‘Cats defensive line blew up the Case Western Offense line at will on Saturday. Case didn’t the horses to hang upfront and the ‘Cats defense line did what they should have in that circumstance, and that's eat up the CWRU rushing attack. It was fun to watch.
Defensive Backs throwing a blanket on Case: One of the CWRU key plays on offense are their quick WR screens. They’re essentially run plays for the Spartans and the ‘Cats defensive backs sniffed out and smothered that play all game long. It was a clinic in how to defend. Top that off with a 71-yard pick 6 by Ian Zarosinski during the 4th quarter and it was a quality day for the ‘Cats DB’s.
Not having a “good” offense day and still putting up 38 points and 429 yards of offense: I know the offensive side of the ball wasn’t happy with their play on Saturday but the Linfield offense still managed to put up 38 points and 429 yards of offense at 5.2 yards per play. A lot of teams would take that every Saturday of the fall but I know Linfield wanted more.
Kickoff coverage: Linfield had some spotty kickoff coverage during their 1st two games of the season but the ‘Cats made some strides on Saturday with this unit . Case’s offense started on their own 20, 22, 16, 23, 27, 19, and 49. That’s an average starting field position of the 25 yard line. I’ll take that all day.
End of 1st half field goal/execution: Linfield managed to get ball on the Linfield 45-yard line with 20 seconds left and move down to the Case 26 to set up a Josh Repp 43-yard field goal. Repp crushed it to tack on 3 more and give Linfield some good live “2-minute” drill experience.
Overall Offensive Execution: This is hard because Linfield still put up 38-points and over 420 yards but it wasn’t nearly as crisp of execution that we saw in the previous two weeks. It is what it is and that’s football. Some days the defense is going to carry the day and others the offense is going to bail out the defense. I’m not worried about it as I’ve seen this offense at their best and it’s really freaking good.
This sign at the Cleveland Marriott Doubletree
I know we’re in Division III and when you're three time zones away from your school many people will tilt their head when you say you’re from “Linfield College” but this is one for the books. Sheesh, thanks for nothing Cleveland Marriott Doubletree.
Wednesday, September 25, 2013
|'Catdome Ohio this Saturday|
After two dominating performances your Linfield Wildcats will once again be hopping a plane for their final non-conference tilt of the season. The ‘Cats will face off against 1st time opponent Case Western Reserve University out of Cleveland, Ohio. This is a one-time affair so we won’t be seeing Case make the return trip to the ‘Catdome in 2014. This game was originally going to be filled with George Fox as they reboot their program, but late last year Fox wanted more time to properly fund and establish their return season so they pushed their start year from 2013 to 2014. That left the rest of the NWC members in scramble mode to fill the vacated slot in the 2013 schedule but thankfully the ‘Cats were able to find Case Western willing to take the one-off game. So thank you to Case Western for taking the game and thank you to the Linfield administration for being willing to pony up the extra cash to fund a 2nd flight trip this season.
This is a great opportunity for Linfield to continue to grow and take on another challenger that will be hyped and charged up to host a national level contender during their homecoming game. It’s no secret that Linfield has many positives rolling along at this early stage of the season. The offense has been highly productive and the defense has been keeping points off the board against talented offensive units. Speaking of talent, the 'Cats have it all over the roster and the home crowd was able to witness that this past weekend as some reserves and young ‘Cats were able to show their talents once the 1st units put the game away. This week for Linfield is going to be another opportunity to handle the adversity of a long flight and see if this roster can continue to push to maintain that elite level of play.
For Case Western Reserve I would imagine playing a team as highly ranked as Linfield is a big deal. CWRU has tasted a large amount of success over the past 7 seasons as they’ve won four University Athletic Association championships (2007, 08, 09, 11) and made three playoff appearances during that stretch (2007, 08, 09) and cracked the AFCA Top 25 during the 2007 – 2010 season. This UAA is not the best conference around but Case Western has shown they produce a winning product on a consistent basis. Currently, Case is sitting at 1-2 on the season after taking back-to-back losses to Oberlin and Frostburg State. Case does have a number of talented players on the roster and throws a ton of looks at you on both sides of the ball but have struggled to find consistency on offense in the early portion of the season.
Get To Know A Wildcat
#72 Jesse Archambault, Senior, Offensive Tackle
Favorite Place to eat: Carl's Jr.
Favorite Movie: Fight Club
Music of choice: Rock
TV show: Family Guy
Favorite Pro Team: St. Louis Rams
Favorite Class at Linfield: Econ
Mac or PC: Mac
CPU Homepage: USA today
Car or Truck: I have a car, but wish it were a Bronco
Xbox, Playstation, or Wii: Definitely Wii (super smash bros.)
Favorite Coach Hire saying: "Swag is the number of marks on your helmet."
If you became lost in the woods with one of your fellow offensive linemen who would you want that to be: Seth Fults
Favorite part of Linfield football: Being a part of the tradition of excellence an winning legacy
Post Linfield aspirations: Pursue a career in agriculture/forestry
Wildat11’s Keys To Victory:
Don’t take the foot off the gas: After easily handling a talented Cal Lutheran team it would be easy for a program to overlook a team battling some inconsistencies and look a little further down the road. However, if Linfield wants to continue to build this season towards something special then the ‘Cats are going to come out and give Case Western their very best effort. I’ve talked about the maturity of the team a number of times and I believe this group will meet that challenge and come out and play with a great amount of effort.
Limit CWRU big plays: The Wildcat defense is legit and if I’m CWRU I’m going to throw the entire playbook at the ‘Cats in hopes of hitting a few big plays and picking up some early momentum. Look for a lot of WR screen game and don’t be surprised to see some gadget plays in the mix. Linfield needs to keep everything in front of the defense and force CWRU into 3rd down situations where the Linfield defense has been tough and CWRU is only converting 32% of the time.
Field position: The fastest way the ‘Cats can put this game away is by pinning CWRU deep and giving the ‘Cats short fields to work with on offense. Cory pointed out yesterday that the ‘Cats are allowing the opposition greater starting field position this season and that is an area I would like to see improved this contest.
Continue to Run The Ball: The ‘Cats should be able to impose their will on the ground this weekend and I don’t doubt for a minute that Coach Smith is going to move away from that strategy this weekend. Josh Hill continues to be electric, Tavon Willis showed pop in hitting the hole against CLU, and Josh Yoder is a weapon when his number is called. If the offense line continues to play well I see the ‘Cats offense putting up big running numbers.
Limit mistakes: Take care of the football, make good decisions, and don’t allow silly mistakes to slow down this team on Saturday.
Defensive Line domination: I’m looking for the ‘Cats defensive line to have a big day. They’ve had two rather big challenges to start the season with HSU and CLU and have played great. There is no reason why this group shouldn’t have a highlight reel day against Case Western.
It’s up to the ‘Cats. Linfield is a big favorite in this game. If the ‘Cats come out with a poor effort and mess around then Case Western might be able to make the game interesting but if Linfield is sharp and executes it should be a large margin of victory. I’m firmly in the camp that Linfield is going to be sharp and ready to perform on Saturday. There’s too much on the line coming down the road to give a flat performance this weekend and stifle the growth of this team. I’m looking for the ‘Cats to do it big this weekend.
Tuesday, September 24, 2013
|The 'Cats offense has been hard to touch so far in 2013.|
(Photo Courtesy of Brad Thompson: View Brad's work here. )
As an English Literature major, I think I have an increased appreciation for the drama and heroics that accompany the gridiron. These aspects of football were on full display this weekend across the country and made the enjoyment of Saturdays that much more exciting. There was unranked St. Johns beating second ranked St. Thomas on the road to get their first win over their rivals since 2009. Not to mention the fact that they won on a missed, last-second field goal. I can tell you, that’s the type of drama that rivals literary greats like Shakespeare’s Othello and Dumas’ The Count Of Monte Cristo. Additionally, we saw games in which players became heroes. For example, Brandon Snyder of Delaware Valley kicked a 25-yard game winning field goal as the clock struck double zeros to give Delaware Valley only its second 3-0 start since 2006. Heroics such as this measure up to those chronicled by Homer in Odysseus or Harper Lee in To Kill A Mockingbird. Heck, this weekend even provided us with a twist ending no one saw coming: Puget Sound actually won a game! In the end, I hope you savored this weekend of football like a good book. The Cat’s certainly savored their weekend, as they devoured the CLU Kingsmen in a convincing 52-14 win.
That game has already been expertly examined in Monday’s game review. So make sure to check it out if you haven’t already.
This week we turn our focus to the Cat’s journey to Cleveland, OH as they take on the Case Western Reserve Spartans. We will explore two truths the stats tell us about Linfield and then one truth the stats tell us about this week’s opponent. Finally, we will finish with a couple of quick hits on the upcoming game.
The Truth: Linfield is worthy of its number two ranking but still has work to do.
The Stats Breakdown: There were a ton of positives for the Cats this last weekend. 655 yards of total offense, 52 points, a 5.3-yard per carry average for 283 rushing yards, only 14 points allowed. These numbers precisely demonstrate the extent of ability that exists on this Linfield team. However, this team does have room for improvement in a variety of areas. This Saturday, Linfield continued to struggle with its kickoff coverage. On the season Linfield has allowed an average of 27 yards per kickoff return, which ranks 219th nationally. Last year the Cat’s were marvelous on kickoffs, as they conceded a mere 16 yards per kickoff return- good for 35th nationally. Those extra ten yards make a massive difference as they equate to one additional first down the opposing offense must pick up. Furthermore, forcing a team to start at the 20-yard line vs. the 30-yard line can drastically impact the way in which that team approaches their play calling on a drive. Kickoff coverage needs to improve; for as good as Linfield is, the greatest teams are strong in all three phases of the game. Another improvement is needed on defense. Last week I stated that this defense is elite and Saturday’s performance only bolstered my belief; however, one sack in two games is not going to cut it for the reigning sack masters of college football. Obviously the loss of All-American defensive end Brynnan Highland (19 sacks in 2012) hurts and teams have been sure to include a high number of quick passes in their gameplan to negate the Linfield pass rush, but Linfield needs to get to the quarterback more frequently in order to continue their success.
What To Watch For: This is not a team that appears content with its current level of play- even if it has been exceptional. Instead, expect the senior leadership on this team to keep pushing this team on to new heights. Look for the special teams play to improve and for the coaches to find ways to get Linfield back to its habit of sacking opposing quarterbacks.
The Truth: Linfield owns third down.
The Stats Breakdown: Typically, teams dread third down and look to avoid it at all costs. Linfield, on the other hand, thrives on this down. Ranked number one in the country, Linfield has converted 20 of 27 third downs for a slightly ridiculous 74% conversion rate. The true beauty of this feat is that Linfield has been completely balanced in their approach to gaining first downs. Overall, the Cats have achieved first downs on 30 rushes and 28 passes this year. By staying balanced on offense, Linfield keeps defenses unhinged as they are unable to predict how Linfield will operate in third down situations. On defense, Linfield is holding opposing offenses to a respectable 41% third down conversion rate. Furthermore, the defense has limited opponents to an average of 17 first downs per game. In two games, the defense has allowed 13 rushing first downs and 17 passing first downs. If Linfield can continue to force teams to pick up first downs through the air, then they should encounter more opportunities to pick up sacks and decrease their opponents third down conversion rate.
What To Watch For: Look for senior quarterback Josh Yoder to stay hot and continue picking up crucial third downs. Also expect Linfield to keep defenses guessing by consistently picking up first downs on the ground and through the air. Lastly, I anticipate the defense will clamp down further on third downs as they improve their pass rush. This week, look for a defensive lineman (potentially senior Michael MacClanathan who has 11 sacks over the past two seasons) to assert himself as the Cats’ principal pass rusher.
The Truth: Case Western is inconsistent both offensively and defensively.
The Stats Breakdown: My research into the Spartans involved some rather agonizing film study (flashbacks to mediocre high school football) and I left with a muddled impression of the team’s capabilities. It’s not that Case doesn’t have the components to be an effective football team; they have a few talented runners, an offensive scheme (a no-huddle, hurry-up pistol look with read-option elements) that will require diligent prep, and a defense that has recently been the anchor of their team success. However, their performances this year have revealed undeniable inconsistency. The Spartans’ offense is centered on the run; yet, they have produced completely uneven rushing performances in three games this year: 99 yards in week one, 16 yards in week two, and 294 yards in week three. Couple these results with a pedestrian 3.2 yards per carry average for the year and Case Western’s offensive strength begins to look less dependable than a Ford. Furthermore, their passing game has been similarly erratic. The Spartans posted passing yardage of 246, 179, and 138 yards in weeks one through three, respectively. A major factor contributing to the inconsistent passing numbers may be the fact that Case Western is only completing 58% of their passes. Case’s defense has shown greater consistency but just gave up 567 yards of offense and surrendered 36 points in a loss to Frostburg State. That may be the most alarming aspect of the Spartan’s inconsistencies; they have all occurred against average and below-average talent.
What To Watch For: If the Spartans can’t come out and execute consistently on both sides of the ball, then expect Linfield to control this game from the get go. Linfield’s offense has been relentless and efficient in its pursuit of points and the defense has had little trouble keeping offenses off the board. I believe the Cats will continue to improve on both sides of the ball and expose the deficiencies of a Case Western team that hasn’t been able to get in a groove. Expect big numbers from the Linfield offense and a dominating performance from the defense.
Quick Hit #1: Last week, Linfield tight end, Westly Meng, scored a touchdown on a go route over the middle. The play was set up by a convincing play-action run fake. In the last few years, tight end has been an underutilized position for the Cats in the passing game. It will be interesting to see if the Linfield coaches find ways to incorporate the athletic tight ends on this roster. I think there are a lot of opportunities waiting in the play-action passing game.
Quick Hit #2: Case Western is currently converting third downs on 32% of their attempts. If they continue to struggle to stay on the field while on offense, then it’s going to be a long day for the Spartans. Linfield’s high octane offense will look to convert those potential extra drives into points and make this a blowout.
Quick Hit #3: I haven’t been shy about my feelings when it comes to senior running back Josh Hill. He’s my type of runner and I think he has next level talent. In two games this year he is averaging 106 all-purpose yards per game. Although he started last year averaging around 177 all-purpose yards, his production this year has only been hindered by the team’s plethora of talent and willingness to spread it around. I’m picking this week to be a huge game for Josh, as I think he finds big holes created by the offensive line and charges into the end zone for a multiple touchdown game.
Monday, September 23, 2013
|The 'Cats were all smiles in the 'Catdome as they rolled CLU.|
Photo Above from Flickr photo stream: korm12
Wow. That was something else. While there were many people (including myself) that dismissed the ‘Cats bludgeoning of Hardin-Simmons to the fact that HSU is not a good football team this season, there is no denying that Linfield straight up whooped up on what I think is a very talented Cal Lutheran football team. The Kingsmen have all the components in place to be a solid top 25 team this season and I think will improve as the season moves along but Linfield exploded to put up 42 consecutive points on CLU after the Kingsmen tied the game at 7 late in the 1st quarter.
CLU had a few chances to make the game more competitive but Linfield’s defense held up and Cal Lutheran missed two field goals that wound up being critical misses for them as the CLU defense had little to no chance to stop the ‘Cats offensive attack. Even if they make those field goals it was just a matter of time before Linfield puts CLU to bed. The ‘Cats offense did what they wanted, when they wanted, and only stopped themselves at times. You couple that offense with a Linfield defense that was more than able to meet a big physical challenge and the margin for a CLU victory was virtually non-existent.
What is crazy to me is that there is still a LOT of room for improvement for Linfield. They didn’t come close to playing the best football they could as they were penalized way too much, turned it over a few times, and can still sharpen up the tackling at times. If this Linfield team keeps focusing on the next step and looking to improve and get better I don’t know if there is a better team in the country. There are still some BIG challenges on this schedule and that starts in two weeks when a fine PLU football rolling into the ‘Catdome. But first the ‘Cats have some business in Ohio to take care before we talk more about the ‘Lutes.
The Good, The Bad, The Ugly
Awesome Effort: It was a GREAT effort by the program this past Saturday. From the players up to the coaching staff. Linfield was prepared, focused, and ready for the challenge in front of them. Like I’ve mentioned before there is a level of maturity from this Senior group that trickles down to the rest of the roster and it’s been showing up on game day.
Offensive Production: 80 offensive plays for 655 total yards (8.2 per play.) I think that’s pretty dang good. 2nd week in a row where the ‘Cats offense looked like an elite unit in division III. The ‘Cats spread the ball all over the field and it’s great that the staff hasn’t had to overwork a small number of players on the roster.
Bend but don’t break defense: The 1st team defense only gave up 7 points on the day to CLU but they were challenged on three other long drives by the Kingsmen. I thought the defense did a great job in not allowing CLU to establish any sort of down the field passing game and kept the ground game damage to a minimum. CLU did breakoff one long run on the day and a hit on a trick play but beyond that the 'Cats kept Cal Lutheran at bay.
Wide Receivers: Coach Smith mentioned this in his post-game comments to the team but the Linfield WR vs the CLU DB match up has been one where Linfield has struggled in the more recent past. The Linfield WR’s/Yoder/Offensive line/RB's did a great job in the passing game in racking up over 300 yards in passing and 3 passing touchdowns. It seemed that whenever Linfield needed it a Wildcat receiver was making another big play.
Linebacking Group: Dom Forrest and Tim Edmonds piled up 24 tackles and 3.5 tackles for loss on the day. Being a former defensive lineman, I know that 100% of those stats go to the credit of the hard work and sacrifice of the defensive line taking up space so the LB’s can rundown hill without any issues to scoop up the glory but that goes without saying. Domo and T-Train had a fantastic day for the LBC.
Pass Defense: I thought our defensive backs had a very nice day in the office. The ‘Cats only gave up 147 passing yards from the CLU starting QB and with around 50% completion rate. We have a number of ball hawks in our secondary and I think you’ll see this group play a huge role in Linfield’s success as the season progresses.
|The 'Cats were ready from the jump.|
Nothing I’m going harp on. You can point to the two picks but those were actually good decisions by Yoder. The 1st one was a fantastic play by CLU’s safety to get over in time on a long ball and the second bounced off of a Wildcat receivers hand before being picked. Yoder was very accurate on the day. Maybe you could say tackling and at time it wasn’t perfect but Chapman is a heck of a running back that is going to light up the SCIAC. There was one item that stood out the most and it’s in the Ugly below.
Penalties: 14 for 99 yards. Not good. I was so fired up after the HSU game because the ‘Cats were flagged only twice but yesterday was an ugly one in the penalty department. None of the flags were for unsportsmanlike conduct or personal fouls and that’s a great thing. But we these flags are drive killers for the offense and drive extenders for the defense. Need to clean this up.
Not an Ugly for Linfield but an Ugly for this CLU former player and father of a high school senior:
Bad day...@CLUSports gets clobbered v @catdomealumni & after campus tour, my daughter wants to attend Linfield. #MyNightmare
— Eric Sonstegard (@Willing2Die) September 21, 2013
Sunday, September 22, 2013
Saturday, September 21, 2013
Game Day at the 'Catdome. Does it get any better than that? Nope.
The official hashtag for the program is #Catdome. For those that use Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Vine using the Catdome hashtag is the way to express you passion for all things Linfield Football. Below is a Twitter widget that keeps a running tab on #Catdome.
Tweets about "#catdome"
The official hashtag for the program is #Catdome. For those that use Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Vine using the Catdome hashtag is the way to express you passion for all things Linfield Football. Below is a Twitter widget that keeps a running tab on #Catdome.
Tweets about "#catdome"
Friday, September 20, 2013
Northwest Conference Games:
#3 Linfield (1-0) over #22 Cal Lutheran (0-1) (at Linfield): (509)Rat says Linfield: Linfield is a lot better than the cat posters on here would like you to believe. The defense was nasty against HSU and the passing game hasn't lost a beat. I wasn't real impressed with their running game the first few series, but Yoder converted pretty much every 3rd down so it didn't matter (and it turns out they'd get it going). Cal lu is talented again and my money would be on them repeating as SCIAC champs, but that doesn't mean much. They couldn't beat the 2nd best NWC team, I don't see them beating the 1st.
#11 Pacific Lutheran (1-0) over Redlands (0-1) (at PLU..well at Puyallup): I love making fun of Redlands for ducking Linfield over the years but I have to tip my cap to them with the way they’ve scheduled their non-conference over the past few years. North Central, Mary-Hardin Baylor, PLU. Those are heavy hitters so props to Whitworth submarin'er Maynard for picking up those games. Regardless, Redlands is a notch below CLU and PLU should handle their business up at Sparks.
(509)Rat Says PLU: Redlands did ok against UMHB, I guess. I still don't think they are as good as the solutes...who already lost to the nolutes. PLU racked up 234 rushing yards on CLU and should be able to get a buncha yards this weekend against a defense that's giving up 6.2 ypc
Whitworth (2-0) over La Verne (0-0) (at Whitworth): La Verne is a program that has some mojo going on in the SCIAC. They’ve made some very good improvements to their roster and facilities and seem to have a path laid out to being a respectable program. However with this is their 1st game and Whitworth will continue to pad their non-conference record with a Tully-ball style win.
(509)Rat Says Whitworth: La Verne is another bad SCIAC team. Next.
Whittier (0-1) over Puget Sound (0-1) (at Whittier): UPS lost last week to Chapman 57-14 in their new bar code uniforms (I think they're going for tree bark?) and the quote from the UPS head coach is “We are way better than last year”. I’ll take the Poets to beat the improved Loggers.
(509)Rat Says Whitter: UPS is bad. Whittier isn't very good either. I just hope Whittier doesn't have one of those video feed setups that's going to ask people to PAY to watch this game...
Pacific (2-0) over Menlo (1-2) (at Menlo): Menlo is on their 3rd head coach and 3rd offensive system in 3 years. They’re terrible. The Oaks only put up 7 points in their 1st two games (losses) and could only scratch out 4 offensive TD’s and 350 yards of offense vs the juggernaut known as Pomona-Pitzer. Again, terrible. Pacific’s defense should limit Menlo and find plenty of offense to move to 3-0 and setting up a huge road game in two weeks at Whitworth.
(509)Rat Says Pacific: Pacific has proved that they can move the football, tighten up on D when they need to, and win on the road...Menlo won't do them any favors. The grass hasn't been cut in 7 years and they will try and kill your coaching staff via cherry picker. Unless all of that has changed...probably hasn't. Another road win for the Boxers.
#9 UW-Platteville (2-0) over Lewis & Clark (0-2) (at L&C): For real? I swear to you that when I saw this on the pick ‘em page that I went on L&C’s website to just make sure this wasn’t a typo. Shouldn’t this say “Crown vs L&C” or “Smart College of the Midwest vs L&C”. UW-Platteville? Good luck with that.
(509)Rat Says Platteville: Platteville comes from the WIAC which is the top to bottom, deepest league in the country. Plus they are one of the best teams in said league. LC is young and small and not good at defense. Monkey stomp.
West Regional Game of The Week:
#2 St. Thomas (2-0) over St. John's (2-0) (at U$T): Linfield fans and SJU fans have had some big battles in the past and it doesn’t help that SJU is 3-0 lifetime on Linfield. But Division III football is better off (and more fun) when the Johnnies are a national contender but the problem is they haven’t been for a number of years now and that’s coincided with the rise of St. Thomas. UST has handled the Johnnies the past few years and I don’t see that changing this year. I think this is the best rivalry in D3 football but UST’s head coach has the Tommies firing on all cylinders like the many used cars that I’m sure he sold during his life.
(509)Rat Says St. Thomas: This game has the potential to return to 2010 form, won by last second heroics after a back and forth game. St. Thomas is too good to let that happen. St John's has 2 wins against 2 WIAC opponents this season. I at least think the Johnnies put up more of a fight this year.
National Games of The Week:
#4 Mary Hardin-Baylor (2-0) over #5 Wesley (2-0) (at UMHB): The “game of the week” in Division III squares the Cru vs Wesley as UMHB finally gets to open up their mega Division III stadium. The place is a palace and should be packed to the gills. On the field, Wesley has had to have some luck to be 2-0 at this point and I think the ‘Cru will open up the new crib in style.
(509)Rat Says UMHB: I almost picked Wesley. The UMHB passing game (that really remains to be seen) made me hesitate as Wesley will not allow the almost 5.5 yards per carry the Cru is getting. I still think UMHB will have to throw the ball a few more times this game, but the defense is too good to pick against. They give up less than 40 rushing yards a game and have 5 ints on. The extra motivation of winning the opening game of the new digs doesn't hurt either. Cru at home.
#15 UW-Whitewater (1-0) over #35 Buffalo State (2-0) (at Buffalo State): In 2012, Buffalo State landed the upset of the season when they knocked off Whitewater. It was big news and set the tone for another down year for a Whitewater offense that lacked any punch. I think this will be a tight one as Buffalo State’s offense has some fire but whose defense has been lacking. I think this is should be a fun game but I have a hard time seeing Buffalo State get Whitewater in consecutive years.
(509)Rat Says Whitewater: Last year was a fluke. I got nothing else.
Wednesday, September 18, 2013
|Do I know you? Yeah, I think we've met before.|
Linfield was able to answer some of the questions heading into the season last week but the ‘Cats are dealing with a whole other animal on Saturday. Hardin-Simmons was not a very good football team so don’t expect for the ‘Cats to just saunter out and put on a duplicate performance. Linfield did some great things last week but in taking a look back at the game they left plenty of chances on the field to make more plays and this team has a whole lot of room to improve as the season moves along. Linfield’s depth defensively is going be tested greatly this week as CLU will be the most physical offensive team Linfield will see during the regular season. CLU’s offensive line is big, excellent run blockers, and they have two hardnosed running backs that are going to attack Linfield all game. On the other side of the ball, Linfield was able to do whatever they wanted route running wise and we already know that CLU prides their defense on the ability to man up players and win the one-on-one battle. Linfield QB Josh Yoder and the Wildcat receivers are going to face a very good challenge in the passing game.
CLU did drop hard fought home game to what I think is an excellent PLU team. PLU defense is one of the better run stopping groups in the country and at times CLU was able to force their will on the Lutes. CLU’s new QB had an OK day but the ‘Lutes secondary have made a number of QB’s grind over the years. I think CLU’s passing game is much better than what was shown last week. Overall, CLU is as talented as ever. They have good depth, size, speed, and players that can make plays on both sides of the ball. The past two Linfield/CLU games could have gone either way and if Linfield doesn’t execute at a high level for the duration of this game, the Kingsmen are more than capable to walk out of the ‘Catdome with a victory. It has to be all hands on deck this weekend for the ‘Cats.
Get To Know A Wildcat
#9 Michael Link, Senior, Corner
Favorite Place in Mac to Eat: Sandwich Express
Favorite Movie: Remember the Titans. Classic.
Favorite Music: Never can go wrong with a little bit of country.
Favorite TV Show: The League (WC11 note: every clip I found on YouTube was too raunchy to post)
Favorite Pro Football team: Circle the wagons! Buffalo Bills. It's finally their year.
Class I Most Look Forward to: Photography
Mac or Pc: Mac
Cpu Homepage: Yahoo
Netflix or standard cable: Standard cable
Car or Truck: Never had my own car so I'd take either
Xbox, PS3, or WII: Xbox
Favorite Coach Haze Saying: "It is what it is"
Who would you vote as the "best dressed" DB on the team: Brandon Funk aka Funky Fresh
Your Favorite Part About Playing at Linfield is: How close the team is. These guys are my brothers.
Post Linfield aspirations? To become a sports broadcaster for a college or professional basketball team.
Wildcat11’s Keys To Victory:
-Limit The CLU Run Game: You’re going to see a lot of physical football on Saturday from CLU. I’m sure the CLU faithful like what they saw out of the CLU offensive line and both of the Kingsmen running backs (Chapman and Zirbel) as they’re not going down easy and can find the lanes in traffic. Linfield’s defensive front has to win the battle in order to slow down the CLU offense. This will be a key match-up in determining the outcome of the game.
-Run the Football: Yeah, this is basic football 101; If your defense stops the run and if your offense can run the ball with efficiency, then you have a good chance to win. That holds true this weekend as well. Linfield HAS to be able to consistently run the ball on CLU’s defense. The ‘Cats offensive line looks to be a good unit this season and will have a chance to make a major impact on Saturday.
-Win 3rd down. With both teams trying to flex more on the ground this season, we’re probably going to see a lot of 3rd and mediums, and 3rd and shorts. Who can stop who on 3rd down will be a statistic that should indicate which team controls the action on Saturday.
-Get the Pressure on: The secret is out that returning 1st team All-American Brynnan Hyland is out for the season with an injury suffered in fall camp and so is returning 1st team All-NWC DT Marq Randall. Thankfully All-American DT Tyler Steele is back for the ‘Cats and the rest of the group is very capable of getting to the QB and will have to have to show that this weekend. Their ability to put pressure will be huge on passing downs.
-The ‘Cat receivers winning the battle: CLU’s secondary held a very competent QB (PLU’s Ritchey) to only 13 completions last week for a little under 200 yards. The Kingsmen have always had players in the secondary and this year is no different. Linfield is going to need the passing game this weekend in order to maximize the ‘Cats scoring chances. This is a big challenge for the ‘Cats receivers.
-Limit Mistakes: Linfield was brilliant last week with not turning the ball over and keeping their penalties down. Turnovers and drive killing/drive extending penalties change the outcome of close games on a weekly basis. Whoever can play the cleaner game will have the advantage.
-Embrace the Challenge: A game like this weekend is why players choose to come to Linfield. The ‘Cats are not afraid to play against high level opponents and should be thrilled they get a chance to compete against one of the better programs in the country. Saturday’s atmosphere should be rocking and I hope the players soak in every second of it.
I’ve never picked against the ‘Cats in all of my time writing these game previews and I’m not going to stop now. I’m going to say Linfield by 7 but it could be closer than that. CLU is going to be dang good and their staff will have them plenty prepared to face Linfield. I’m expecting another edge of your seat type of game and it will come down to which team better executes better over 4 quarters and I’m betting that will be my ‘Cats.
Tuesday, September 17, 2013
|With Texas in the behind the 'Cats, all focus is on a mighty good challenger this weekend.|
Another week of entertaining and exciting football is in the books. Once again the NWC had a solid week going 5-2 in non-conference play, and once again it was perennial doormats Lewis and Clark and Puget Sound that couldn’t get it done. Many of this week’s games were close and those experiences will pay off huge down the road for teams as they engage in crucial conference games later in the schedule. However, one game that was not even close to close was the Linfield season opener vs. Hardin-Simmons. Linfield blew open the season with a dominant win that showcased their diverse, dynamic offense and their steadfast defense.
If you haven’t already, make sure to check the game review in Monday’s game review.
This week we will explore two truths the stats tell us about Linfield and then one truth the stats tell us about this week’s opponent: Cal Lutheran. Finally, we will finish with a couple of quick hits on the upcoming game.
The Truth: Linfield has offensive playmakers everywhere.
The Stats Breakdown: Against the Cowboys, Linfield cruised to 651 yards of offense and 71 points. In the process, six different players scored touchdowns and the offense demonstrated balance by gaining 30 first downs (14 in the air, 14 on the ground, and 2 by penalty.) Three players rushed for over 50 yards (Running backs Josh Hill and Tavon Willis, as well as quarterback Josh Yoder) and five different players had multiple catches (Wide receivers Charlie Poppen, Brian Balsiger, Evan Peterson, David Sigler and running back Josh Hill.) The team’s ample amount of playmakers was also noticeable in their yards per play average. On passing plays the Cats averaged 10.2 yards and on rushes the Cats were able to gain an eye-popping 6 yards a carry. It’s important to remember that Hardin-Simmons’ defense isn’t very good but it’s also very clear the Cats will be difficult to stop when they have so many athletes who are able to make big plays.
What To Watch For: Look for the Cats to continue to spread the ball around and let their athletes make plays. This is not a team that relies on one player to carry them, but instead a team that will frustrate defenses unable to key on all of Linfield’s offensive options. I think Portland State transfer, Brian Balsiger (7 catches/80 yards receiving), is going to impress a lot of people. He’s got a big frame and can really go after the ball when it’s in the air.
The Truth: Linfield’s defense is elite.
The Stats Breakdown: I know, bold statement but its simply the truth. Although much has been made about Hardin-Simmons’ deficiencies on defense, don’t pretend for a second that they aren’t a talented offensive team. Last year they ranked second in the nation in offense and just last week they put up 534 yards of total offense, which included 344 yards rushing. This week Linfield’s defense flexed their muscle and showed just how good they are. The stat that most jumps off the page is Linfield shutting down Hardin-Simmons’ offensive strength by holding the Cowboys to just 60 yards of rushing on a meager 2.1 yards per carry. However, a deeper analysis reveals just how good this defense is. Although Hardin-Simmons was eventually able to put up respectable offensive numbers, the first half paints the truer picture of how this game went down. On their eight first-half drives, Hardin-Simmons was limited to 126 total offensive yards and only six first downs. Those eight drives included a Linfield goal line stand at the one-yard line and a punt block. Finally, five out of those eight drives culminated in three-and-outs for the Cowboys’ offense. These stats confirm that the Linfield defense is going to cause headaches for opposing offenses throughout the year.
What To Watch For: Look for the defense to come out swinging and give their offense a chance to claim an early lead. Linfield has incredible defensive depth, which allows them to play aggressive defensive football throughout the game without fear of players wearing down. This week, I expect more of the same suffocating defense Linfield displayed down in Texas. I’d especially look for this defense to continue to shut down the run game as Tyler Steele (2 tackles for a loss/ 1 sack) is once again playing the role of a wrecking ball in the middle of the defensive line.
The Truth: Cal Lutheran’s offensive emphasis may have changed.
The Stats Breakdown: This is more like a possible truth as one game may not be enough to support this claim; however, it looks like Cal Lutheran may be shifting their offensive focus from the pass to the run. Last year, in their game against Linfield, the Kingsmen threw the ball 55 times for 320 yards. In their opening game this year, the Kingsmen only attempted 23 (last year their lowest number of pass attempts in a game was 24) passes and gained an unimpressive 135 yards in the process. Instead of gaining yards through the air, Cal Lutheran focused their efforts on the ground with 41 rushes for 212 yards- an outstanding performance against a stout Pacific Lutheran run defense. This change may have much to do with the loss of wide receiver Eric Rogers who is now with the Dallas Cowboys of the NFL. It may also have to do with the transition of Middle Tennessee State transfer Cameron Deen who is lining up under center for the Kingsmen this year. Either way, it looks like the Kingsmen may now be a run first football team. This change works in the favor of the Linfield defense as they clearly showed last week that they can shut down premier rushing offenses.
What To Watch For: Look for CLU to come out and try to assert their running game. In fact, Cal Lutheran attempted rushes on about 75 percent of their first downs last Saturday. Unfortunately for the Kingsmen, I don’t see this working as Linfield’s defense is up to the task of dominating the line of scrimmage. Expect Linfield to force CLU into passing situations and determine whether or not the Kingsmen can effectively move the ball through the air (only 5.9 yards per pass completion vs. PLU last week compared to 12.4 per pass completion in 2012).
Quick Hit #1: Against Hardin-Simmons, Linfield scored on seven of their first eight offensive drives. I’m not sure they can replicate that performance against a CLU defense that is far superior to the Cowboys’, but a fast start will go a long way in this week’s game.
Quick Hit #2: Linfield’s offensive scoring drives ranged from 98 yards in two plays taking 25 seconds to 70 yards in twelve plays taking 4:22. Clearly, Linfield’s offense can both strike quickly and be methodical in their approach to moving the ball. This balance will be key come Saturday.
Quick Hit #3: In his first career start Josh Yoder showcased his diverse skill set as he posted a 350 yard passing performance with a 70 percent passing percentage and three TDs. He also added 54 yards on the ground (a handful of those yards coming on sack-saving scrambles) and one rushing touchdown. Josh’s dual threat ability makes an already potent offense even more difficult to defend.
Quick Hit#4: CLU doesn’t seem to be very explosive on offense. Their longest play from scrimmage last week was a 34 yard run. It will be difficult for them to get anything going this week against Linfield’s defense if they can’t generate some big plays.
Quick Hit#5: The Kingsmen allowed an alarming seven sacks against PLU’s competent defense. Although Linfield only gathered one sack last week (largely due to Hardin-Simmons prevalent screen game), they still have all the parts to uphold their reputation as a sack machine. I expect the Cats to blow past CLU’s offensive line and post their first multiple sack game of the season.
Monday, September 16, 2013
That was a positive way to start the 2013 season. I loved the way that Linfield took care of business on the road against a program that’s in a bit of a spiral. I mentioned it all last week in how Linfield was 0-2 in Abilene and that the ‘Cats needed to bring a great effort this past Saturday. The ‘Cats were happy to oblige in sudden fashion.
HSU did threaten right off the bat with a great kickoff return and quickly moving ball to set up a 1st and goal on the 2 yard line. Linfield’s defense stuffed HSU 4 consecutive plays in a huge stand and it only took two plays before Josh Yoder found Charlie Poppen on a blown coverage for an 84-yard TD reception. The shift in momentum was huge and Linfield never looked back. Linfield had great performances from returning vets and we had a number of young ‘Cats make a major impact.
It’s apparent that Linfield has a lot of talent on both sides of the ball and when they’re executing they have the ability to make plays. The bad news is Hardin-Simmons isn’t the program it once was and Linfield is going to face much greater challenges in short order. It was a great way to start the year but this program can’t kick up their feet and be happy. Cal Lu is coming to the ‘Catdome this Saturday and they are big, physical, and have a ton of skill. Linfield has their work cut out this upcoming weekend.
The Good, The Bad, The Ugly
-Handling Business: The mindset of this team was spot-on from Friday’s practice to the game itself. You can tell the level of maturity is there with this team in terms of not being too loose but not gripping the wheel too tight before the game. It turns out that Hardin-Simmons might not be a good football team this year but Linfield did what they should to inferior competition and that’s run them off the field.
-Crisp Offense: You never know how an offense is going to react with a new QB at the controls but Josh Yoder and the offense looked sharp in their 1st time out. The offense has a lot of people that can make plays and Coach Smith spread it around yard and it kept HSU’s head spinning. Yoder’s ability to pull the ball down and run should be a great asset this season.
-Rushing Defense: Hardin-Simmons had one chance in making this a game and that was to run the ball at the Linfield Defense. It didn’t happen. After rushing for 344 yards vs Willamette the week prior, Linfield held HSU to 60 total rushing yards (2.1 per rush) including an early back breaking goal line stand.
-3rd down offense: Linfield’s offense was fantastic on 3rd down in going 12 of 16 and kept the chains moving. A lot of good execution on 3rd down by the offense and that’s going to be needed in the upcoming stretch of games.
-Defensive Playmaking: Linfield piled up 13 tackles for loss against the Cowboys’ offense and it wasn’t always coming off of blitzes. Linfield’s defensive front and LB’s have a great combination of physicality and quickness. It was good to see not only vets but some newer faces showing their ability to make plays.
-Lack of mistakes: 0 turnovers and 3 penalties for 30 yards. Penalties killed the 2012 Wildcats at times and seeing the lack of mental errors for a first time out is promising.
-Offensive Line: Good 1st effort from the ‘Cats offensive line. The challenges will be bigger and faster but this has the potential to be a very strong group as the season rolls along.
-Confirmation of doing the little things right: After the game, one of the HSU chain-gang members, who has worked HSU games for the past 10 years, told Coach Smith in all of his time working the visiting sideline at HSU, the ‘Cats were the nicest and classiest group of players he’s ever dealt with. It’s a little thing but speaks volumes about Linfield’s culture.
-Game day operations: HUGE tip of the cap to a few groups. Have to thank Texas Christian University Athletic Director, Chris Del Conte, for allowing the ‘Cats to hold their Friday practice at TCU’s indoor facility and the stadium locker rooms in Fort Worth. It was a neat experience and a cool (temperature wise and experience wise) environment on the week’s final preparations. Also, a major salute to Linfield’s equipment coordinator, Mack Farag, for creating a great cool zone on the Linfield sideline. Mack strung together 4 or 5 Linfield canopy tents and brought in two large Port-A-Cool systems and created a sideline to battle the heat. A few HSU players were laughing at the ‘Cats’ setup during the pre-game but not much to laugh at later on. Mack does so much for the program and we’re lucky to have him.
Instead of “Bad”, I’m going to say “can do better” because these areas on Saturday were not bad but we can sharpen up on for sure.
-Tackling: Overall the tackling on Saturday was strong but a few times the ‘Cats lost their feet and didn’t wrap at the point of contact. That HAS to get better this next Saturday.
-Special teams clean up: The Special teams had a lot of work on Saturday and had some GREAT moments (Arkans Punt Block, 40-yard FG by Repp, and great kickoff return) but they did have a couple of 1st game breakdowns against a dynamic returner. Also, our PAT/FG team (which I think will be consistently good) have a few things to iron out. Nothing alarming but need to improve upon.
If you have watched any college football over the past three weeks then you know a major new emphasis this season the targeting rule. It’s been highly controversial because the call if highly subjective due to the speed and nature the game is played at.
The targeting rule is as follows:
• No player shall target and initiate contact vs. opponent with the crown of his helmet.
• No player shall target and initiate contact to the head or neck area of a defenseless opponent.
You break the rule and you get ejected from the game and might face further suspension the next contest. There have been a number of calls already this season that are close on if the call was correct. However, I think we had a CLEAR cut example of a violation of both prongs of the targeting rule when an HSU offensive guard absolutely blasted Linfield corner Brandon Funk in the 1st quarter of play. The guy got ejected and rightfully so. Yikes man.
Thursday, September 12, 2013
|Old School 'Catome never goes out of style.|
Let’s get to week two:
Northwest Conference Games:
#3 Linfield over Hardin-Simmons (at HSU): (509)Rats Says Linfield: The Cowboys really came out flat against Willamette last week, and I honestly don't expect much different this week. HSU has some big holes on both sides of the ball. There isn't much of a QB/passing game on offense and the Defensive secondary is equally bad. whether it's due to personnel or scheme, Linfield will have a field day picking on those weaknesses.
#12 Pacific Lutheran over #18 Cal Lutheran (at CLU): CLU’s head coach has been painting his team as the home underdog this past week and I have to agree with him if you’re looking at this on paper. I think PLU is a top 10 team this season and CLU is top 20 program but they have many new faces in starting roles to open up the season. Winning at that new soccer/football field is going to be tough but I do like PLU getting the road win. CLU is going to have a lot of talent on the field and it’s going to be how that talent comes together on Saturday that determines if they can upset the ‘Lutes.
(509)Rat Says PLU: I'm picking PLU out of conference loyalty and the fact that they will rely on returning players rather than transfers. And this time the PLU QB has a whole season under his belt, instead of "first collegiate start". The roles have been reversed and I'm picking the more experienced team to win for a second straight year in this series.
Lewis & Clark over Claremont-Mudd-Scripps (at L&C): L&C will have enough offense to put some points on the board but their defense is going to get roasted this year. CMS is pegged by the SCIAC coaches to finish near the bottom and if that’s the case then you’re probably a bad football team. I say L&C in a shootout.
(509)Rat Says CMS: I still think L&C is gonna take a step back this year. With a close game the last time they played, I don't expect much different. L&C's offense won't be enough to overcome the complete lack of a defense.
Chapman over Puget Sound (at UPS): Puget Sound is trying, man. I mean they are trying hard. They did say they had a great off-season in the weight room and have the largest roster size in the latest coaching era. I do think they’ll be a better and more competitive team this year but they’re going to have a hard time finding wins in the NWC. Chapman is a good enough program to win at UPS and that’s what I’m going to take.
(509)Rat Says Chapman: Is UPS getting worse and worse every year? That's a completely serious question.
Willamette over Sewanee (at Willamette): Last season Sewanee’s triple option attack game Willamette fits in a closer than I thought it would be game. That triple option is the only thing that is going to keep this game close. If it sputters then Willamette is going to blow them out and crack the top 25.
(509)Rat Says Willamette: So Willamette is good...I don't think the Bearkittens will have nearly as much trouble with the Tigers as they did last year.
Whitworth over Whittier (at Whitworth): The Rats non-conference schedule of cupcakes and weaklings continue as they host Whittier. The Poets do have talent as they’ve gone with the transfer, transfer, and more transfer model of building a program. However, I like the Rats to continue to pad that non-conference win total
(509)Rat Says Whitworth: Whitworth defense is much improved and won't let Whittier back in it this year.
Pacific over Occidental (at Pacific): Man, what a sad story this is. In the not-so-distant past, Occidental was a premiere football program in the Western Region. They won SCIAC title after SCIAC title, had the greatest NCAA playoff run in SCIAC history (West Regional Finalists in 2004), and were putting QB’s into professional leagues. They were legit. Then new administration came in and didn’t get along with the great Dale Widolff and canned him after 30 years of building a winner. Two years later, and two head football coaching changes later, and Oxy football is a dumpster fire. Pacific should slap and eat up the Tigers this weekend. Just a reminder in how quickly it can all go away.
(509)Rat Says Pacific: If you can go on the road and beat a conference champion...you can beat Occidental. Oxybob has stopped posting, largely because Occidental's sports information dept doesn't give him anything to post. As long as the Pacific defense shows up again, the Boxers will win.
Western Region Games of the Week:
#22 Coe over Cornell (at Coe): Come on. Cornell is softer than an ice cream sundae. Kohawks will roll.
(509)Rat Says Coe: Coe looked rusty last week, escaping with a win against an inferior opponent. Luckily for them, they get another inferior opponent. And this time, at home.
#8 Bethel over Wartburg (at Bethel): I have respect for Wartburg. Good history, great fans, a traditional IIAC power but Bethel is on another level at this current time. Bethel should overpower them with defense and control this game from the jump.
(509)Rat Says Bethel: Bethel may be the best coached program in the MIAC. Wartburg has been tough traditionally, and may make this a close game. Even so, the Royals have shown a few times over the years that they are more than equipped to win at the end.
National Game of the Week:
#19 St. John Fisher (1-0) over Washington & Jefferson (1-0) (at SJF): I don’t know much about these eastern teams but I do know if you talk bad about SJF their fans will cry, whine, complain, make excuses, and do it over again. I’ll just pick them because I don’t want them crying to me for picking against them.
(509)Rat Says SJF: I'm just picking the higher ranked team if we're being honest.