|Saturday night under the lights!|
Kickoff: 7pm on Saturday Sept. 13th
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It’s game week for your Linfield Wildcats. Thank goodness because seeing college football on my TV the past two weekends has been driving me crazy waiting for the ‘Cats to kick off the year. Linfield is coming off their 5th consecutive Northwest Conference title and another deep run into the playoffs. Headed into 2013, the Wildcats were widely regarded as a national championship contender, and even after being hindered with a large amount of injuries, the ‘Cats were within reach of a possible semifinal berth before falling to the eventual champions, UW-Whitewater.
Going into 2014, many folks around the conference and country still expect Linfield to be a major player on the national stage but there are lingering questions about the loss of 8 defensive starters and just who will be the ‘Cats quarterback for 2014. Those questions have casted an error of doubt about Linfield’s early season prospects, as D3football.com’s Keith McMillan has predicated Chapman to upset Linfield in this weekend’s season opener. Keith’s reasoning is that he’s big on returning starters and that’s something Linfield lacks on defense against a Panther offense that returns the large majority of their starters and put up 45 points per game in 2013.
Those are legitimate concerns that shouldn’t be dismissed but what I’ve seen out of this past fall camp is that the potential for Linfield to have another banner year is great. The talented, speed, athletic ability, and potential is there but it comes down to live performance and it doesn’t get much more live than playing against a team coming off an 8-1 season that averages 500 yards per game.
On the other side of the ball, the ‘Cats have a chance to be lethal on offense. Linfield returns 4 out of 5 offensive line starters from 2013 and 2012 starting offensive tackle Jacob Hanke returns after missing 2013. Along with that, you have what I feel could be the best group of receivers (Poppen, Peterson, Balsiger, Nelson, Robinson, Carroll) Linfield has had since the 2003-2005 legendary group and a number of RB’s to perfectly compliment the ‘Cats up-tempo attack. It comes down to quarterback play and Linfield has the luxury of having 3 starting quality QB’s in the program right now. Only one QB can play and if that one is the guy that can drive this offense, I’m expecting huge production from the ‘Cats offensive attack.
For Chapman, hosting Linfield is a landmark opportunity to come out as a national level player in Division III. Being circled on the calendar is not a unique experience for Linfield and I fully expect a large and rowdy crowd, and a fired up Chapman team that’s going to throw the kitchen sink at Linfield. The lights are going to be bright on Saturday night and we all should be excited to see if the Wildcats can shine.
Get To Know A Wildcat
|Photo Courtesy of Brad Thompson: Purchase Brad's Photos Here|
(Hometown: Elk Grove, Ca., High School: Cosumnes Oaks )
Favorite place to in Mac: Wildwood Café
Favorite Movie: Law Abiding Citizen/ American Gangster
Favorite Music: Rap, R&B, Gospel, country anything that sounds good.
Favorite TV show: Walking Dead/Friday Night Lights
Favorite Book: The Immortal life of Henrietta Lacks
Class I Most Look Forward to: Health Education Methods
IPhone or Android: IPhone but for now I have an Android
CPU Homepage: Google
Personal Mantra: “Trust God and get going."
Social Media of choice: Instagram
Car or Truck: Truck
Xbox, PS3, or Wii: Ps3
What first inspired you to play football: My dad coaching football
Favorite Coach Smith Saying: You don't know what you don't know
Favorite part of playing at Linfield: Having one big family with your teammates, fans and alumni
Post Linfield aspirations: To stay around the game whether that's playing somewhere or coaching.
Wildcat11’s Keys To Victory
Trust in your training and each other: There’s an old saying within Linfield football and that’s “No “S” on the chest.” which means nobody on the field for Linfield has to be Superman. All the Wildcat players need to focus on this Saturday night is doing their job to the best of their ability. The moment a player starts worrying about what the man next to them is doing is when a team starts having breakdowns. The ceiling for the 2014 Wildcats is about as high as it can get and if this group comes together as a single unit, they’re going to turn some heads.
Control the line of scrimmage: While skill players get the media attention and focus, we all know that football games are won or lost at the line of scrimmage. That adage holds much truth versus Chapman. If the ‘Cats can win the fight up front; the odds for victory will dramatically increase.
Limit the Chapman rushing attack: Chapman QB Michael Lahey is the returning SCIAC offensive player of the year and for good reason, but the Panther offensive attack is much more than their signal caller. Senior RB Cody Chapple is a dynamic back that averaged 116.4 total yards per game last year (781 rush, 267 receiving) with 11 TDs, and Chapman also returns 2012 1st team All-SCIAC RB Jeremiah McKibbins after missing 2013 due to injury.
While the Chapman offense is balanced (247.6 pass/253.2 rush), the Panther offense wants to establish the running attack and that’s where Linfield defense has to limit the yardage. If the ‘Cats can slow down the Chapman rushing attack, Linfield will be able to pressure the Panthers on passing downs.
Establish the ‘Cats rushing attack: Linfield and Chapman’s offense are similar in the fact both teams can hurt you via the run or pass but the running game is where is begins. The ‘Cats need to attack Chapman’s 3-4 defensive front with the rushing attack to help Linfield’s new signal caller get settled. If Linfield can make Chapman respect the rush, it’s going to give Linfield’s dynamic receivers opportunities to make some big plays.
Execute on special teams: How many times did you see it on opening weekend where special teams made a HUGE impact on the outcome of the games? It happened often and where Linfield needs to have a clean game. Coach Hazenberg has done a great job with special teams over the year and let’s hope this 2014 group continues that tradition.
Win 3rd down: Last season Chapman was at 45% with 3rd down conversions, while checked in at 52%. The ‘Cats have to get Chapman in 3rd and long situations and turn it loose and at the same time the ‘Cats offense needs to keep those chains moving. This will be one of the 1st stats I look at after the game.
‘Cats +7. I’m expecting a hotly contested and exciting football game in LA. This is a game that Chapman has wanted for a long time and Chapman has full confidence they can take Linfield down. That fact isn’t lost on Linfield as the ‘Cats look to continue their extended run as one of the top D3 programs in the country. Saturday is going to be a night of new faces and possibilities but I believe this team will be up for the challenge. Go ‘Cats!