Thursday, October 31, 2013

NWC Pick ‘Em Contest: Week 9

BOO!  (Thanks to the Fisher family for another great 'Catdome themed pumpkin)

(509)Rat and I are back after with another big week in NWC play and around the nation as conference races continue to play out as the playoffs are right around the corner.  Last week, we both missed the big PLU/Willamette game and I don’t feel bad about that.  It was a tossup game that could have gone Willamette’s way so I’m not overly crushed I missed that.  The other game we missed was more surprising as Illinois Wesleyan took down Wheaton and delivered a major blow to the Thunder’s playoff hopes (they still have to play NCC).   

For the season both Rat and I are 36 out of 45 games (80%) and are once again in agreement for the week 9 slate of games.  The two highest profile games in Division III are taking place in the WIAC and OAC as Mount Union faces their first real OAC test of the season and the WIAC race for conference crown could be put to bed this weekend as Whitewater hosts Platteville in what should be a classic defense (UWW) vs offense (Platteville) pairing.  Let’s get to the action!

Northwest Conference Games of the Week

#2 Linfield (6-0) over #25 Willamette (5-1) (at Will): (509)Rat says Linfield.  Not gonna write a lot for this. I think people have finally stopped pretending that Linfield isn't that much better than the rest of the conference. This one could look closer than the PLU game only because Willamette's big play offense and ST...oh and anything is better than the goose egg laid by the Lutes. It will be out of hand by the time the 4th quarter starts. What's that you Wildcat homers say? Phone it in

#16 Pacific Lutheran (6-1) over Puget Sound (1-5) (at PLU):   Puget Sound is starting to feel like they’re at the same point where they were last year.  After getting crushed over and over again you think it’s going to get worse as they face the toughest part of their schedule.  But the Loggers actually start playing some improved football, and while they still lose to the NWC heavies, it’s not quite the smash jobs you would think.  We’ll see if that’s the case this Saturday vs the Lutes.

(509)Rat says PLU: The UPS v Whitworth game felt a lot closer, unfortunately, than the score indicated. UPS did a nice job of pressuring the Pirate QBs and sold out against the run when Whitworth was in obvious run formations or on 1st and 2nd down. Whitworth only ran for 140 yards which is surprisingly well below what everyone else has done against the Loggers. Why am I still talking about stuff that doesn't really matter? Because this game isn't going to be close. PLU earned themselves an NCAA tourney bid last weekend (well not officially but I'd put money on it) and also got the running game back on track against a suspect Willamette D. The Lutes ran for 252 yards last Saturday...I expect it to be closer to 352 this week.

Pacific (6-1) over Lewis & Clark (1-6) (at Pacific):  The Boxer defense is very good and will dominate the Pioneers one-man show in Forest Grove.  This must be a pretty rough week of practice for Lewis & Clark after getting a beatdown for the ages last week.  This should be a big spread.

(509)Rat says Pacific: Pacific is playing as well as anyone not named Linfield in NWC play. L&C isn't. I mean, we're talking about a team that could have easily lost by 120+ had the Linfield coaching staff been interested in making 22 year old men cry. Pacific will hold the L&C offense in check and I expect the offense to put up numbers like they did against UPS and Occidental...and Whitworth (ugh)

West Region Game of the Week:

#6 UW-Whitewater (7-0) over #8 UW-Platteville (7-0)  (at UWW):  Last week the Warhawks gutted out a tough 17-14 road win at Oshkosh and took one more step in reclaiming the WIAC title.  Platteville has the offense but to me I’ve been thinking that Platteville is the weakest of the WIAC’s big three this season.  I’ve used the term fool’s gold when discussing UW-Platteville and the Warhawks will expose them this weekend with their dominating defense. 

(509)Rat says UW-Whitewater: The Oshkosh game was much closer than I thought it would be. And made me hesitate to pick a Whitewater team that is going to face an offense that averages 530 yds/gm. Then I remembered who they've played, scaled down the offensive numbers, scaled up the defensive numbers, and realized Plateville hasn't seen anyone close to as good as Whitewater is this season. They are conference opponents so it's not like much is going to "surprise" the guys on either team, but Plateville hasn't had to respond to being punched in the mouth since Oct. 2012 against's been awhile. It's been even longer since they've beaten Whitwater (2004). Whitewater wins another close one and reclaims the WIAC.

National Games of the Week:

#1 Mount Union (7-0) over #9 Heidelberg (7-0) (at Heidelberg): This game has been talked for a long time now in the OAC as many people are thinking…excuse me…hoping that Heidelberg is going to be the OAC team to finally knock Mount off the top of the conference pile. Mount Union is Mount Union until proven otherwise and I’m not picking against them in OAC play until further notice.

(509)Rat says Mount Union:  Doesn't matter what number you put in front of Heidelberg, they are still a long ways away from being able to threaten Mt. Union. The Purple Raiders are giving up, on average, 54 yds/gm rushing and 99 yds/gm passing...And that's with starters only playing a half of football each game! Mt. Union is, surprise, surprise, still Mt. Union. At least this isn't Heidelberg's Homecoming game.

#4 North Central (7-0) over #13 Illinois Wesleyan (7-0) (at IWU):   So maybe I’m dumb for picking against IWU two weeks in a row but North Central has shown no signs of having fallen back to the CCIW pack this season in handing out butt kickings like they’re Halloween candy.   I think the Titans defense will slow down the NCC rushing attack to keep the game close but in the end NCC will have too much for IWU to overcome.

(509)Rat says NCC:  WC11 and I both compared the CCIW to the NWC in terms of one heavy favorite and a couple other guys battling for second. Unfortunately we were wrong about the 2nd place teams (PLU and Ill Wesleyan). The Titans outplayed Wheaton last week and should be all kinds of fired up to get conference favorite NCC at home. I didn't pick the home teams last week and I got burnt. Luckily this week the away teams are quite a bit more talented and easily considered heavier favorites. North Central has been rolling through middle of the road WIAC teams and the bottom of the CCIW (4 teams with a combined 6 wins on the season), but that doesn't mean they don't deserve the #4 ranking. NCC's defense has been much stingier and more consistent than the Titan's which will easily make up for any sloppiness or unfavorable road calls. NCC should pull away without a whole lot of trouble in this one.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Game 7 Preview: Linfield (6-0) at Willamette (5-1)

Showdown Weekend.

For a Linfield football player (and for the fans too), this is the type of game that you live for.  The ‘Cats are playing a strong opponent, walking into a hostile environment, and a lot of implications for your season on the line.  It’s just another huge game week in the Northwest Conference.

Your Linfield Wildcats will be traveling over to Salem to face off against a tough Willamette Bearcats team in McCulloch Stadium with a 1:30 PM kickoff.  The ‘Cats are sitting with a 3-0 Northwest Conference record while Willamette dropped their first game of the season last week to Pacific Lutheran 35-24.  With the loss, the Bearcats 2013 season is on the razor’s edge.  If they drop this weekend’s game against Linfield then their NWC title hopes are done and so are any chances on securing a playoff bid.  With a win, the Bearcats would throw the NWC title chase into a four-way tie between Linfield, PLU, Pacific, and Willamette with two weeks remaining.  Linfield has to realize they’re going to be playing a team that’s up against it, and is going to come out with all guns blazing.

The Bearcats are led by duel threat quarterback Josh Dean who is having another fantastic year as the main man of Willamette’s breakneck speed offense.  Dean is surrounded by trio of fine running backs in Dylan Jones, Taylor Wyman, and Terrell Malley.  Each of those RB’s can get you tough yards or hit a home run.  On the outside, Dean has favored two main targets in Derek Traeger (51 catches, 644 yards, 9 TDs) and freshman De’Zhon Grace (36 catches, 486 yards, 4 TDs).  On defense, the Bearcats are still a 3-4 look team that’s built on great secondary and linebacker play.  Linebacker Jack Nelson is the tackling machine for the Bearcats while Tyson Giza is the main playmaker in the secondary.  This is a team with a lot of skill and speed.

Linfield is coming off a record setting game against Lewis & Clark but everyone in the ‘Catdome knows they are dealing with a different animal this week.  I think there are still some people around the nation waiting for the ‘Cats to trip up and have this game circled as the time where it’s going to happen.  To me, this Linfield team has proven time and again that they have a gear that I think only a few teams in the country can match, but they’ve yet to be tested in a tight road game against a talented team .  Linfield is going to get that this weekend and I’m looking forward to seeing how they respond to the challenge.

Get To Know A Wildcat

#1 David Sigler, WR, Junior

Favorite place to eat in Mac: Great Harvest. I could eat their BBQ chicken panini with a salted carmel chocolate chip cookie for lunch every day.

Favorite Movie: Oh, that's a tough one. I'm going to have to give a few. Shawshank Redemption and Remember the Titans. I'll also admit that I'm a pretty big Harry Potter nerd.

Favorite Music: Being from a small town I got to say country, but it's really how I feel at the time. Hip Hop, 80s rock, and of course a little Reggae now that I have the Hawaiian influence.

Favorite TV show: I'm atrocious at keeping up with a TV show on a week to week basis, but right now there's not much better than Duck Dynasty.

Class I Most Look Forward to: I'm going to have to go with "Prevention and Care of Athletic Injuries" taught by Laura Kenow because that is the class I took Freshman year that put me on the Athletic Training route and where I am right now.

Mac or PC: Mac

CPU Homepage: ESPN

Netflix or Cable: Cable

Car or Truck: Well, I currently roll in a Jetta but that's more because it was passed down to me. If I had the choice I would definitely be cruising in a pick up.

Xbox, PS3, or Wii: I'm not really much of gamer at all. Just ask my roommate, Jordy, he's been trying to convert me for years.

Favorite Coach Smith Saying: "The proof is in the (pause) pudding"

Which WR on the team will be on a reality TV show one day and why: I'm going to have to go with Reid Sullivan. I don't know if I could give you a one sentence answer other than if you've been around Reid for any significant amount of time and have got to know him then you would agree with this 100%.

Favorite part of playing at Linfield: I absolutely love the relationships that I've gained from being here. Everyone talks about being a family when you come on your recruiting trip and you don't quite understand what that means until you get here. Especially this group of Seniors that we have, I think that we are one of the closest groups that we have had around here for a while. Also, why would you not want to come to a winning tradition like this? Knowing that you are going to have a shot year in and year out to be in the title hunt is something that I think everyone would want.

Post Linfield aspirations: Initially I want to take the certification exam for Athletic Training and become certified and then probably go to grad school for Athletic Training to open up my career options a little more. I don't know after that. I've always had a huge drive to want to coach one day so if that came up before grad school then I might have to take that and run with it.

Wildcat11’s Keys To Victory

Full 60 Minutes of Linfield Football:  Willamette is a fast starting team so it’s imperative that Linfield is able to come out of the gates strong and maintain a high level of performance for the entirety of the game.  Willamette proved last week that they’re fighters when they mounted a comeback effort vs PLU.  Linfield needs to be prepared for 4 quarters of competitive football.

Limit the Willamette Rushing Attack:  When you think of Willamette you think of Josh Dean throwing for 300 yards of offense and over 20 touchdowns but this offense’s passing game is built off of having a strong rushing threat and then play-action passing the tar out of you.  The ‘Cats rushing defense needs to have a big day in order to limit that aspect of the Bearcat attack.  If Linfield allows Willamette to run the ball consistently then it’s going to allow Willamette to get off in the passing game.

Establish the Linfield Running Game:  The Linfield offense has the ability to throw the rock but this offense moves as the running game goes.  The ‘Cats offensive line and WR’s need get on and sustain their blocks against a fast and sound linebacking and defensive back unit.  The ‘Cats effectiveness on offense will fall squarely on Linfield’s ability to run the ball.

Special Teams rise to the challenge:  Biggest Special Teams challenge to date, bar none.  The Bearcats Tyson Giza and Terrell Malley are averaging 35 yards per kick return on the season and have a combined 3 TD returns between the two of them.  The Bearcats have shown a knack for blocking kicks and making key plays in this phase of the game.  Coverage and blocking need to be tight this weekend.

Pressure Dean:  The Willamette quarterback is a dangerous weapon with his legs and his arm.  Dean possesses a fast release and has great trust in his primary receivers (Traeger and Grace) to be in the right spots when he delivers the ball.  Linfield has to put a premium on getting Dean off his sport and break up the timing of this passing game. 

Don’t leave points on the field:  Linfield’s offense has been great in the redzone this season and the ‘Cats have to be able to keep this trend moving forward.  I’m expecting a tightly fought game so Linfield is going to have to scrap for every point they can get.

Limit the big play:  Willamette’s offense has hit a ton of big plays this season as Dean does a great job in getting the ball to his playmakers and letting them create in the open field.  If Linfield can take away the big play from the Bearcats then I see this Wildcat defense making life tough for Willamette.


‘Cats by 10. You come to Linfield to play in big games with a lot on the line.  This weekend’s game vs Willamette fits both of those criteria and then some.  I fully expect the Bearcats to come out and try to punch Linfield in the mouth and let Linfield know they’re going to be in a fight.  That’s fine but this Linfield team is built for games like this.  If the ‘Cats execute and play to their ability Linfield is going to walk away from Salem with a huge win and add another piece to the 2013 puzzle.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Tuesday's Truths and Quick Hits

Another big NWC game awaits Linfield in Salem this weekend.
-By Cory Edmonds

Before game day I like to text my younger brother (a senior linebacker on the team) a brief message of inspiration. On Saturday, with a less than convincing win over Whitworth in their rear view, I sent him the following message:

Today is not a day for mercy.
Today is not a day for half speed.
Today is a day for statements.
Today is a day to remind the nation that you are a team to be reckoned with!
Today is a day to leave no doubt!

An 84-7 drumming of Lewis & Clark was about as clear of a statement as one could hope for. Clearly Lewis & Clark is far from a quality opponent, but the dominant effort Linfield put together on Saturday left no doubt about the Cat’s ability. This team is championship caliber and, based off the number of Linfield records it took down on Saturday, it might just be historic. One could break down all the statistics from the game against the Pios, but all you really need to know is that Linfield faced all of four third-down conversion attempts and the team’s ten offensive scoring drives averaged 3.6 plays and 1:10 in time elapsed. Meanwhile, the starting defense held Lewis & Clark to three first downs and a mere 68 offensive yards during the first half. On Saturday, dominant was spelled L-I-N-F-I-E-L-D.

For the Cats there is no time to rest on their record-breaking accomplishments, as they travel to Salem this next weekend to battle with the Willamette Bearcats. Although Willamette just suffered a loss to PLU, the Bearcats are a proud team that will give all they have to defend their home turf.  In today’s installment of Tuesday Truths we will explore two truths the stats tell us about Linfield and then one truth the stats tell us about Willamette. Finally, we will finish with a couple of quick hits on the upcoming game.

The Truth: Linfield can churn out yards on the ground.
The Stats Breakdown: Saturday’s effort against Lewis & Clark exemplified this truth as the Cats steamrolled their way to 351 yards rushing while averaging 8.4 yards per rush. However, the Cats have been piling up yards on the ground all season. On the year, Linfield is averaging 251 yards rushing per game and is gaining 5.3 yards per rush. Additionally, the Cats have amassed an impressive 27 rushing touchdowns through their first six games. Although Linfield has sported its fair share of elite signal callers over the past decade (Yoder, Inns, Boehme, Elliott, Matthews), this team is loaded with capable runners and should continue to rely on that strength. As the season progresses, the weather will continue to get colder and wetter making a potent ground game essential. What makes the Cats special is how they are achieving their ground success; Linfield sports three running backs that average 40 or more yards a game while each of the three backs has at least two rushing touchdowns. Additionally, the Cat’s three main backs possess varied skill sets that make for difficult game planning; Shaffer uses power to gain hard earned yards, Willis is lightning in a bottle and can explode in space, while Josh Hill is an all-around monster displaying good hands, quick cutting ability, and excellent pass protection. Good luck figuring out how to stop this group from gaining yards and scoring touchdowns.
What To Watch For: Linfield attempts 47 rushes per game so expect more of the same this Saturday against the Bearcats. Add in the fact that Willamette is forfeiting 259 yards rushing per game, and the Linfield running backs should be looking forward to a feast. Look for the Cat’s coaching staff to find ways to get all three backs involved in the running game. I expect the Cats will rush for over two hundred yards and score at least two touchdowns on the ground against a suspect Willamette run defense.

The Truth: Linfield is solid in all three phases of the game.
The Stats Breakdown: You all know about Linfield’s high-octane offense and their suffocating defense, but recently the special teams unit has definitely raised its level of play. At the beginning of the year, Linfield’s coverage team seemed like a potential weakness; however, the group has been outstanding over the past three games. The Cat’s kickoff coverage unit has limited opponents to a paltry 17 yards per return. This improved coverage has forced opponents into poor staring field position and limited their effectiveness on offensive drives. The Cats haven’t punted much this year (only 16 punts in six games), but on those 16 punts Linfield has played well. They are averaging 40.6 yards per punt while allowing only four yards per return. In fact, Linfield’s punt unit has been so good at times that opponents have only attempted five returns on those 16 punts and four of Linfield’s punts have been downed inside the 20 yard line.  Add in an effective return game for Linfield (24 yards per return on kickoffs, 8.5 yards per return on punts) and a legitimate field goal kicker (7/10 on FG attempts, 4/5 made from 40-49 yards out) and it’s clear the Cats are exceptional in all three phases. Complete teams like Linfield can expect success deep into the playoffs.
What To Watch For: Linfield’s special teams units need to be ready for Saturday as Willamette has had great success in the return game- more on this in a moment. Look for Linfield to potentially use the squib kick to limit the Bearcats return game and expect the Cat’s coverage team to fly down field all day. Winning the battle of field position could go a long way in this one.

The Truth: Willamette loves the big play.
The Stats Breakdown: Ever since Mark Speckman left Willamette in 2011, the Bearcats offense has taken on a dramatically different look. Airing it out has become their calling card and behind the arm of senior Josh Dean the Bearcats have lit up the stat sheet. This year they have turned in a number of big plays that have propelled them to a 5-1 season; their only loss coming to PLU. On the year the Bearcats are averaging 6.4 yards per play and an impressive 12.7 yard per pass completion. These numbers clearly illustrate their downfield approach and ability to create in the open field. The team also claims rushes of 26, 33, 53, and 54 yards as their longs for four different runners. Additionally, the Bearcats have connected on passes spanning 31, 36, 38, 66, and 74 yards. Add in three kick returns that went for touchdowns and this team’s ability to make explosive, momentum-shifting plays becomes very clear. Willamette will look to make more of these types of plays on Saturday in an effort to steal a win from the Cats.
What To Watch For: Last year Willamette was rolling through their schedule putting up huge stats but then they collided with Linfield and the unstoppable force that was their offense was shut down by the immovable object that was Linfield’s defense. In that game last year Linfield held Willamette to 108 offensive yards and ten points scored. Once again Willamette boasts some dynamic play makers, but Linfield’s defense is as deep as it is talented and so I expect them to minimize the Bearcats offensive output. Look for the Wildcats to get after Dean and unsettle Willamette’s downfield passing game, while continuing to dominate the line of scrimmage and prevent any semblance of an effective run game (opponents are averaging 1.9 yards per rush against the Cats) from surfacing during the game. If Willamette keeps this game close it will be due to big plays; therefore, it is imperative that Linfield keep everything in front of them. Limit the explosive play and the Wildcats should come away with a win.

Quick Hit #1: Quarterback Josh Dean is the focal point of Willamette’s offense but he relies heavily on two receivers. On the year, 64 percent of his passing yardage has been gained by Derek Traeger and De’Zhon Grace. Furthermore, 13 of his 21 passing touchdowns have been caught by the two receivers. Linfield will need to blanket these receivers and force Dean to look elsewhere.
Quick Hit #2: Linfield is holding teams to a dominant 27% conversion rate on third down. On the year, Willamette is only converting on 37% of its tries. Getting Willamette’s offense off the field should contribute to a Linfield victory.
Quick Hit #3: Willamette has scored an average of 17 points in the first quarter. Linfield must prevent them from starting strong if they hope to be successful. The team must be ready to go from the first whistle. 
Quick Hit #4: Over the past three games Linfield has completed 11 passes to its tight ends with positive results. Against a strong Willamette secondary (11 interceptions, 37 passes defended), look for this trend to continue. Linfield should be able to find favorable matchups as their athletic tight ends will likely be covered by slower linebackers.
Quick Hit #5: Halfway through their conference schedule the Linfield defense has yet to surrender a rushing touchdown to an NWC opponent (only two rushing TD’s allowed on the whole year). It will be interesting to see if this trend continues.

Monday, October 28, 2013

‘Cats Win!!! Linfield goes on a Corps of Demolishing Expedition in win over Lewis & Clark.

It was all 'Cats, all day long against the Pios.
(Photo Courtesy of Brad Thompson: View Brad's 2013 Linfield Football photos here. )

Holy Smokes, that was a wild day in the ‘Catdome.  84 points, 87 players, 86 years.   Linfield broke its all-time single game points record by posting up 84 points against Lewis and Clark in a mammoth beating at the ‘Catdome.  The ‘Cats broke an 86 year old record  on a day when the program was celebrating the year when “The Streak's” architect, former head coach Paul Durham, would have celebrated his 100th birthday.  87 players for Linfield took part in the action on Saturday and overwhelmed a Lewis and Clark team that has played well at times against a tough schedule.

There are so many numbers and records that fell but I’ll let Cory get into some of the insane numbers the ‘Cats put up on the scoreboard and in the stat sheet tomorrow.  I’m going to give an overly simple explanation for why this happened on Saturday: Kickoff team pinned L&C deep, Linfield forced L&C’s quick paced offense off the field in short order, Linfield’s offense ran through the Pios like a hot knife through butter, put on repeat for the rest of the half.  I stood in the South End Zone for a minute looking at the scoreboard at the end of the first half and only one thought ran through my mind “Man, that was incredible.”.  Well, I was also trying to come up with a snarky tweet to put out as well but that was a forceful display of football for a program that consistently plays outstanding football.

Bottom line is that Linfield came out and played to their potential on Saturday against a team that physically overwhelmed by the talent, speed, and physicality that the ‘Cats possess.   I listen to’s Around The Nation Podcast this morning (Linfield talks starts around the 25 minute mark) and I think Keith McMillen nailed it when he was talking about Linfield scoring that many points.  Essentially Keith said that Linfield wants to be known as a team wanting to win a National Championship and not trying to gain attention by breaking the 100 point mark and he’s exactly right.  The ‘Cats coaching staff handled that situation well by keeping the game on the group but still allowing their young men to play hard.   Linfield wasn’t trying to run up the score, no, any ‘Cat that stepped on that field on Saturday was being respectful to the game by playing the hardest they could for all 60 minutes.

Linfield Tight End, Wes Meng, and the 'Cats only had one thing on their mind this past Saturday.
 The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

The Good

84 points:  When a team breaks a record that’s stood for 86 years in a program that’s one most historical in the country, you’re doing something right.

Defensive Pressure:  The fact that L&C came out in that modified A-11 look where they lined Keith Welch in the deep slot and had their back up QB in the shotgun was all you needed to know.  L&C knew they had no chance to handle the pressure so they tried to move the pocket with a gimmick formation but that didn’t long.  The ‘Cats only gave up 74 yards in that first half and did a great job in getting the ball back to the offense.

Special Teams:  GREAT cover day once again.  This group is going to be huge in the final 3 weeks and beyond.  If they can continue to kick well, block well, and cover well, the ‘Cats are going to be put in successful situations for the offense and defense.

Depth on display: I loved watching the depth of this team getting to get in competitive situations.  Linfield’s future is going to continue to shine brightly if these young players continue to follow the examples set up the older ‘Cats.

Team Enthusiasm:  Going up 70-0 at the half it would have been easy for the starting units to hang out on the benches and make dinner plans during the 2nd half but the ‘Cats weren’t having any of that.  The older players were loud and giving the young ‘Cats on the field all they could give in terms of energy.  It was one of the best things (in a list of many) that I saw on Saturday.  The older players were coaching up their teammates, celebrating their success, and enjoying every minute of it.  This is truly a great team in multiple aspects.

Bonus Good:

Former All-Conference Linfield football player Bob Haack addressed the team in celebration of Linfield Hall of Fame Coach Paul Durham’s 100th birthday before the game.  This was great.


Extra Good:

Not only does Linebacker Dom Forrest find the gaps in the offenses we face but "Domo" has a knack for finding the camera as well.

The Bad:


The Ugly:


catdomealumni's 2013 Lewis and Clark album on Photobucket