|What's going to give this Saturday at the 'Catdome?|
For those that have been around the Northwest Conference since its reformation back in 1997, you knew what to expect out of Whitworth week…Tully Ball. That was the unmistakable brand of football developed by 19 year Whitworth head coach John Tully, where the “Rats” would play conservative ball control offense and rely on linebacker centric defensive play to creative turnovers and force opposition mistakes. That Tully Ball brand had a solid run in the NWC as Whitworth ran off a 100-83 record during Tully’s tenure and peaked during the 2006-2007 seasons when the Pirates won back-to-back NWC titles and a trip to the NCAA’s in 2006 (Don’t ask about the 2007 playoff snub, Mike Maynard, and a knife in the back). However, the fizzle started going out of the Whitworth bubble as an offensive game plan of Zone Left, Zone Right, Pass, Punt left little to the offensive imagination and the record started to reflect it. So after the 2013 season, John Tully stepped down as captain of the Rats' ship.
So in comes long time defensive coordinator of the Wheaton Thunder (CCIW) Rod Sandberg. The energetic Sandberg for the most part gutted the previous Whitworth staff but kept some pieces and then reached out to a number of former Pirates making hay in the high school coaching ranks. Sandberg’s biggest get was Offensive Coordinator Alan Stanfield who was having a great run of success as head coach of Shadle Park High in the Spokane area. Stanfield brought his offense with him to Whitworth, which is pretty much Mike Leach’s Air Raid offense from Washington State (Hal Mumme strikes again) where an offense tries to use a short passing attack as their quasi-running game.
The “Air Rat” offense (I’m putting a trademark on that) has found instant success as Whitworth is 2nd in the NCAA in passing per game (390 yards), first in 1st downs gained (161), tossed 23 passing touchdowns, and Whitworth is averaging 478.5 yards of total offense. Whitworth has some talented receivers in 6’ 5” Connor Williams (55 receptions, 571 yards, 6 TDs), Drew Clausen (51 receptions, 305 yards, 3 TDs), and Brett Moser (27 receptions, 338 yards, 1 TD). Tossing the pigskin is 4th year starting QB Bryan Peterson who has had some nice success in the past vs Linfield (2011) and also has been rolled over by Linfield (2012).
Bottom line, Linfield no longer gets to beat up on Tully Ball and will be getting a very stiff test this weekend by the Whitworth offense. Linfield has been so dominate with the pass rush this season that our DB’s at times haven’t been tested to the extent this Saturday might present. It should be a great challenge and you better get to the ‘Catdome to watch it go down.
Get To Know A Wildcat
#64 Owen Fritz, Offensive Guard, Senior
Hometown: Lynnwood, Wash. , High School: Mountlake Terranc
Favorite place to in Mac: Wildwood Cafe
Favorite Movie: American Gangster
Favorite Music: Rap/Hip-Hop/R&B
Favorite TV show: Workaholics
Favorite Book: Angels & Demons
Class I Most Look Forward to: Investments
iPhone or Android: iPhone
CPU Homepage: ESPN.com
Personal Mantra: "Today I will do what others won't, so tomorrow I can accomplish what others can't"
Social Media of choice: Twitter
Car or Truck: I drive an ’06 F150
Xbox, PS3, or Wii: Xbox
What first inspired you to play football: Ray Lewis
Favorite Coach Smith Saying: "Do common things in an uncommon manner."
Favorite part of playing at Linfield: The high expectations and the brotherhood I’ve built with my teammates.”
Post Linfield aspirations: I’d like to work for an investment firm in the PNW.
Wildcat11’s Keys To Victory:
Discipline Defensive Play: As mentioned above, Whitworth “Air Rat” offense is putting up some crazy numbers as it takes on the Division III West Coast teams and will present the Linfield defensive backs with their largest test to date. The pace of the offense will minimize the ‘Cats ability for substitution waves so the players on the field are going to have to play a specific brand of discipline football. That means getting into the right alignments, communications, and execution. The pace and speed of the Air Raid is counting on defensive breakdowns by the opposition.
Attacking Balanced Offense: Whitworth’s defense is giving up a whopping 515.2 yards per contest and are being hurt on the ground (212.0 rush yards allowed per game) and air (303.2 pass yards allowed per game). Linfield’s offense needs to be attacking Whitworth early, often, and constantly throughout the game with both the run and pass. Even though the ‘Cats posted up 59-0 points last week, I think the Linfield offense could be sharper and will need to be this week.
Fantastic Tacklers: The defensive game is going to come down to whose athletes are better…Whitworth’s receivers at breaking tackles or the Wildcat DB’s/LB’s at tackling? You’re going to see a ton of short passes, arrows, curls, bubble screens, and not a lot of long developing layered passing plays, so the basic fundamental of tackling will be the telling sign of Linfield’s defensive effectiveness against Whitworth.
Limiting Mistakes: The ‘Cats are going to make Whitworth’s task of upending the favorite that much more difficult if the ‘Cats can limit mistakes. That means ball security, good decision making, limiting penalities, etc. Linfield doesn’t have to be prefect but the cleaner the effort the harder Linfield is to beat.
Third and fourth down conversion attempts: Huge. Critical. Big. Through six games, Whitworth has attempted 122 third down conversions and has hit on 51 of those (42%). The Rats are going to run a ton of plays and should be in third down situations against Linfield a number of times. These are going to be critical downs that Linfield has to get the better of. Whitworth has also attempted 23 fourth down attempts this season as well. Compare that to Linfield (through 4 games), as the ‘Cats have only attempted 52 third down conversion and have only gone for it on fourth down twice.
Pass Protection: While the Rats are giving up 33.0 points per game, Whitworth has been able to get to the Quarterback for 18 sacks. Let's make sure we keep Riddle upright (which the O-Line has done a great job on this season).
Don’t let the passing hype take away from the Whitworth Rushing attack: All the hype for Whitworth are the passing numbers but Whitworth has slowly developed a running game to compliment to the air attack. Rat RB Duke Degaetano rushed for 141 yards on 27 carries last week against Willamette (3 TDs) and was a major factor in why Whitworth was able to close out Willamette. The Rats only run a couple of running plays and Linfield cannot allow Whitworth to gash them running the ball.
Foot on the Gas: If the ‘Cats can command an early lead, Linfield has to have the mindset of keep applying pressure on Whitworth. The Pirates are not going to change their style if they get down and they believe they have the ability to quickly make up ground. Linfield has to be in attack mode for a full 60 minutes of play.
‘Cats by 14 plus. This game could go a couple of different ways. If Linfield spins their wheels and are not sharp then the ‘Cats are going to get all they can handle and then more by Whitworth. The Pirates do have the ability to score points and move the ball and have proven that to this point. However, there has been no indication that this Wildcat team has any intention on slowing down as this group has been singled minded from the season outset. There might be some ups and downs this game but ultimately, I think Linfield is going to have too much for Whitworth to contend with.