Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Game 3 Preview: Linfield (2-0) at Pacific Lutheran (2-0)

Old Friends meet up once again!
For the 3rd year in row the ‘Cats and Lutes open up the Northwest Conference season in a match-up of highly ranked teams with a lot of implications on the line.  The NWC coaches once again selected Linfield and PLU as their top two teams in the Northwest Conference and early season returns so far has proved that to be a smart choice.  PLU has opened up their 2014 season by landing solid victories over Cal Lutheran at home (35-28) and smothering Trinity (Tx) on the road last weekend (38-14).  The ‘Cats meanwhile dispatched the current top two SCIAC programs in scoring a comeback road win over Chapman to open the season (21-14) and then getting on track in pasting Redlands on the road in a 36-3 victory.  Both teams have played stretches of fantastic defense and explosive offense and that leads you to believe that this Saturday’s game should be another fantastic pairing.

There is nobody currently in the NWC that are more familiar with each other right now than PLU and Linfield.  This will be the 5 game between the two programs in a little over 2 seasons of play.  This is due to absurdity that is the 500 mile rule set before the D3 playoff committee by the NCAA as the Wildcats and Lutes have been paired as 1st round foes the previous two seasons. Yeah, it saves the NCAA some money but two high quality teams meet way too early in the playoffs. It stinks but it's life for the NWC and has led to these programs to know each at even greater depths.  And these are coaching staffs that have been competing in the the PacNW for decades to begin with but I don’t see any fatigue from either side in the Linfield/PLU game.  No, I get the sense this still is a big game for the players, coaches, and fan bases.  I don’t blame them either as Linfield and PLU are two of the most respected and well run programs in the country.

For PLU, this could be their best shot yet at dethroning Linfield from the top spot in the NWC.  The Lutes two-deep features over 25 seniors that have been on the short end of the stick against the ‘Cats for the previous 3 seasons and I know there is nothing more than this group of PLU seniors would like better than to be the group that ended Linfield’s hold on the throne.  The players on this PLU roster have been in the trenches against the ‘Cats and taken Linfield to the limit and beyond over the past two seasons and I’m expecting nothing but their best effort on Saturday.

For our ‘Cats, this is a huge opportunity for this mixture of vets and new faces to come together and make a statement of what might be in store for the 2014 Linfield Wildcats.  Over the first two games you can see the weapons slowing getting on the same page and their identity bubbling up and taking shape.  I have a great feeling for what this team could be but Linfield is going to have to realize it this weekend.  Chapman and Redlands was just the warm-up to what Linfield will be facing against PLU.  I can’t say it enough that this Linfield team has a great chance to be a special group and will have to reach that potential up in Puyallup in order to win.

Get To Know A Wildcat

#99 Trey Farber, Defensive Tackle, Senior
Hometown: Wasilla, Alaska,  High School: Colony High

Favorite place to eat in Mac: I like going to the Deluxe with the boys after a win and getting a burger. (Wildcat11 Note: The Deluxe has the best burger in town and it's not even close.)

Favorite Movie: The Predator, or anything else with Arnold!

Favorite Music: I like a little bit of everything, though classic rock and rap make the majority of my iPod

Favorite TV show: Sons of Anarchy and Entourage

Favorite Book: When the Game Stands Tall

Class I most look forward to: Biomechanics

iPhone or Android: iPhone

CPU Homepage: Google

Personal Mantra: GAINZZZ

Social Media of Choice: Instagram, so I can post pics of my Gainz.

Car or Truck: Being from Alaska, you have to have a Truck, I call her Goldilocks.

Xbox, PS3, or Wii: As long as I can play Madden/NCAA football, I am perfectly content.

What first inspired you to play football: My father played in college and I have always looked up to my dad, and wanted to be just like him.

Favorite Coach Vaughan quote: Even a blind squirrel finds an acorn every once in a while. (referring to a DT doing something athletic)

Favorite part about playing at Linfield: I love the brotherhood I'm a part of, we're all best bros and have each other's backs. Also, I love being a winner.

Post Linfield aspirations: I want to go to Physical Therapy school, or become a bodybuilder. haha

Wildcat11’s Keys To Victory:

Enjoy the moment and stick together:  As a football player and competitor this weekend is the reason why you put in all of those unseen hours during the winter, spring, and summer. Games like this weekend is what makes sports fun and that shouldn’t get lost in the intensity of the buildup.  There are going to be ups and downs during the game and how Linfield handles both will say a lot about the outcome of Saturday’s game.  It's going to be PLU's homecoming game so Sparks will be rocking. Stick together through thick and thin and let’s see what the scoreboard says at the end of the game.

Limit the PLU Run Game: If you go back and read my previous PLU game previews from the past few years, you’ll see this as the number one item and still holds true today.  PLU has a tremendous group of receivers that have hurt Linfield in the past but if you let PLU run the ball on you consistently you’re putting yourself behind the eight ball. Linfield has to put a premium on limiting Madison (tailback – 127 yards per game, 2 TDs) and Richey (QB – 58.5 yards per game, 4 TDs) in the PLU rushing game.

Rush the football at PLU: The Linfield rushing attack showed improvement from week 1 to week 2 and the ‘Cats MUST be able to effectively run the ball against the Lutes.  A team that becomes a one-dimensional passing offense against PLU is playing right into the Lutes hands with their exotic blitzing schemes out of their 3-3-5 defense.

Pass rush pressure:  The ‘Cats pass rush has been strong in the opening two games of the season in piling up 10 sacks while applying consistent pressure and harassment on the opposition quarterbacks.  The need for that pressure will be vital for the Wildcat defensive success as Linfield will face their most formidable offensive line this year with Pacific Lutheran.  If the ‘Cats can get to Ritchie, the defense will be a disruptive force.

Offensive execution: There is no denying the growth the Linfield offense had between the Chapman and Redlands game and it will be critical for the Wildcat offense even take another step forward as the ‘Cats face a heavy pressure defense in PLU.   If the Wildcat offense can consistently execute the ‘Cats are going to have opportunities to put points on the board.

Solid Special Teams:   The ‘Cats have had two weeks to put some shine on the Wildcat special teams unit as they face what is always an aggressive PLU special teams group.  The Linfield kicking trio has been impactful so far in the early season and they need to continue to boom the pigskin and it’s time for our coverage and return units to break through with a solid performance.

Compete for the football:  There are going to be a number of opportunities for both the Linfield offense and defense to make plays on the football.  Linfield has to be the aggressor on Saturday when the ball is up in the air. A few of these 50/50 balls might be key moments in the game.

Great decision making:  When two excellent teams face off, games can be decided on a handful of plays where decision making becomes critical.  The ‘Cats have to protect possessions and the football and stay away from the silly mistakes that can extend or kill a drive.  The cleaner a game the ‘Cats can play the more likely the outcome will be favorable for Linfield.


‘Cats by 3. I have a ton of respect for this group of Lutes players and their track record over the past three seasons.   You can expect nothing but haymaker after haymaker by Pacific Lutheran on Saturday and we’re going to find out what kind of chin this 2014 Linfield Wildcat team has.  I’m betting the ‘Cats have an iron jaw and come out with a hard-fought and thrilling victory.

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