Tuesday, September 23, 2014

'Cats Win!!! Linfield sends Redlands to the dog house in a 36-3 thumping.

Charlie Poppen and the Wildcat Receivers were a wrecking ball against Redlands
Photo Courtesy of Dan Harris of D3photography.com: View Dan's Linfield vs Redlands Gallery Here.

BOOM! Now that’s what I’m talking about right there.  Watching the Chapman game from the week before you could see that Linfield had the pieces to do some good things and the growth from week 1 to week 2 was obvious as Linfield’s offense was dynamic against what I thought was a solid Redlands defense and what can you say about the Wildcats defense at this point in the season?  The defense has been tremendous in allowing 17 points over two games against the best two current teams in the SCIAC.  It’s been a great start out of the Linfield defensive.

The Wildcat offense made notable strides as a group this past weekend as well.  The offense gave the Wildcat faithful a taste of what could be as the ‘Cats showed they could hit the home run ball, pound it out on the ground, or convert critical 3rd downs to keep drives alive. 

I think many around Redlands was expecting Saturday to be a nip and tuck affair because how could it get any worse after Redlands’ performance against the number 2 team in the country in Mary Hardin-Baylor?  Well, Linfield left little doubt that this team has the potential to be a national contender once again after the complete performance against Redlands.  It became apparent quickly on Saturday that Linfield was too fast, too physical, and too skilled for the Bulldogs to handle.

As the game was in the final moments it felt great to finish up a grueling two week period at 2-0.  I don’t think many people realize just how hard it is to get on a plane on Friday, have a large group of guys hanging around till Saturday night, perform at a high level, wake up early on Sunday, fly home, and turn around and get ready to do it all over again.  Doing all of that and playing the way Linfield did should be applauded. 

Moving forward, the ‘Cats are on the bye week and get a chance to rest some bodies and add some more pieces to the roster than can do nothing but help this Wildcat team.  Everybody in the program knows what awaits Linfield in two weeks up in Puyallup with Pacific Lutheran.  It’s a monster game to open Northwest Conference play and will have major implications towards the NWC title and automatic playoff bid. But right now, the ‘Cats have earned a chance to regroup and leave all Linfield fans an opportunity to wonder what might be in store for this talented Wildcat team.

The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

The Good

Team Performance: The team was sharp on Saturday night and the group had an overall different feel from in the locker room to on the sideline.  I think much of that was a number of players asserting themselves as leaders of this team.  After a departure of 35 seniors from the 2013, I think it took an actual game this group of players to say “OK, this is our team. Let’s take control” and that was reflected in all aspects of the performance against Redlands.  Great group effort.

Defensive shut down:   A top notch defensive effort by the Wildcats.  Linfield held Redlands to only 153 total offensive yards on the night and 60 of those came in the 4th quarter with the game on ice.  The ‘Cats defense forced 5 three-and-outs.  This is a fast group of Linfield defenders.
Linfield LB Mike Nardoni has piled up 12 solo tackles in the 1st two games of the season
Photo Courtesy of Dan Harris of D3photography.com: View Dan's Linfield vs Redlands Gallery Here.
Offensive Growth:  The Wildcats offense took a measurable step forward from last week in racking up 559 yards of total offense against the Bulldogs  Linfield showed off a balanced attack of 43 rushes to 42 passing attempts and produced four scoring drives of 78 yards or longer.

Offensive Line:  We’ll talk about the skill guys in a little bit but major props to the play of this offensive line.  The Dawgs had a quick defensive front but Linfield stonewalled Redlands and provided more than ample time for Linfield QB Sam Riddle to go through progressions and deliver strike after strike.  The O-Line as paved the way in the running game as Linfield rushed to ball at a 4.6 yard per carry clip. Great night for the big ‘Cats up front.

Rushing Defense:  Redlands only managed 0.9 yards per rush in 28 attempts.  The ‘Cats speed was on display as Redlands struggled to deal with the ‘Cats physicality and explosive rush defense.   The defensive line had another banner night in creating penetration and the Wildcat LB’s (Nardoni, Meng) and defensive backs (Giza, Yamamoto)  were spot on all night in closing down running lanes before any damage could be done.

Wildcat receiver/QB combo:  I LOVED the way that Linfield QB Sam Riddle challenged the Bulldogs continuous down the field and Riddle can have the confidence to go deep when you have Charlie Poppen, Evan Peterson, and Brian Balsiger making play after play on the ball.  The Redlands defensive backs were looking for the big hit all night long but they couldn’t contend with Linfield’s skill at receiver.

Pass Rush: Once again, the Linfield pass rush was legit.  Defensive End Alex Hoff was a major disruptor and the ‘Cats defensive tackles, Marq Randall, Jeremy Girod, and Trey Farber ate up the Redlands interior.  A lot of NWC offensive line coaches are going to watch film of these first two games and mutter to themselves “Oh crap…”

Kickers:  Again, a lot of promise is being delivered upon by the ‘Cats kickers/punter.   Metter nailed all three of his field goal attempts, Conley kicked four touchbacks out of his 7 kickoffs, and McClean averaged 46.5 yards in light duty on two kicks.

Bonus Good:

Traveling Right: Coach Smith addressed the team on Monday to talk about this past weekend and the plan going forward but he also addressed how well the team traveled these past two weekends.  What I mean by that is the number of times workers in restaurants, hotel staff, flight crews, charter bus services, stopped Coach Smith and comment how nice his players were and the respect the Wildcat players treated people with.  That’s no small thing and a true reflection of what the program preaches being put into action.  Makes you darn proud to be a Wildcat.

The Bad

Special Teams coverage/return game:  There is a lot of room for growth in our return and coverage teams.  Good news is that Coach Hazenberg is one of the very best special teams coaches in Division III and I fully expect these groups get to the standard that Linfield holds for these units. 

The Ugly

Rejected Game Review Headline: There was nothing ugly on Saturday night from the ‘Cats.  You go on back-to-back long road trips and have a great performance, that’s fantastic.  Nope, this week the ugly falls on me.  I *try* to be a little witty with the game review headlines and last night I was coming up with some really terrible dog puns.  Some of my gems were “Linfield Neuters Redlands”,  “Linfield puts the Dawgs to sleep”, various Old Yeller references, and even, yes  “Linfield bones the Dawgs”.  As I was pitching these headline ideas to Mrs. 11 all I was getting in response was “Oh, come on RC.”  Yeah, those are pretty terrible headlines and I’m a dog lover too!  So slap the Ugly on old Wildcat11 from this past weekend.  I earned it.
catdomealumni's 2014 Redlands album on Photobucket

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