Wednesday, November 5, 2014

2014 Game 7 preview: Linfield (6-1) at Puget Sound (3-4)

A first of many must wins await Linfield up in Tacoma.
In all reality, the playoffs for the 2014 Linfield Wildcats starts this weekend up at Puget Sound. Drop this weekend’s game and the post-season hopes pretty much go away and so do the big goals and aspiration of this year's team. Sounds kind of doom and gloom on my part but hidden in that is an incredible opportunity for this team to play with their backs against the wall, where in the past, a late season game against the Loggers hasn’t had too much riding on it. Also, as Coach Smith pointed out in his weekly interview on Linfield Sports’ website, this is different situation where in the past five seasons a loss meant the season was over for Linfield and there wasn’t a chance to fix what hurt Linfield. With Willmaette knocking off the ‘Cats last week, the coaching staff and players have that chance to address what was exposed last Saturday and see if those areas can be improved upon moving forward.

Waiting for Linfield this weekend up in Tacoma is a much improved Puget Sound football program. I'm not typing that just because they're the team Linfield is playing. The Loggers have made some measurable improvements this season. UPS has taken a lot of lumps before and since their current head coach took over the program but the Loggers have gained traction and turned in a solid 2014 season up to this point. Where that improvement has started for Puget Sound is on the defensive side of the ball.  In 2013 UPS gave up 51 points per game and through seven 2014 contests the Logger defense have shaved off 21 points and are only allowing 30.4 points per game.   On offense, Puget Sound still doesn’t run the ball that effectively but is second in the NWC in passing per game (313.4) and have tossed 16 touchdown passes.  What’s been impressive for the Loggers in 2014 is how competitive they’ve been in their four losses. At halftime of each of those games the largest deficit was only 10 points (halftime scores: 21-11 vs PLU, 28-23 vs Whitworth, 17-14 vs Pacific, 14-7 vs Oxy).  Those are all signs of a program headed in the right direction and discovering they can compete with the top end of the NWC.

For our ‘Cats, all eyes are going to be on what the response from Linfield will be. I’m not going to freak out if Linfield doesn’t open up the game by rolling along.  All the data shows that Puget Sound has been in every game this season and I’m expecting them to bring it against the ‘Cats. What I want to see from Linfield is a sustained sharpness and competitiveness that we’ve seen for the great majority of 2014 but was missing for whatever reason last Saturday. I know, you know, we all know, that when Linfield plays to their potential, this team is a beast.  Let’s see if that beast gets unleashed this weekend for four quarters.

Get To Know A Wildcat

#55 Alex Hoff, Defensive End, Junior
Hometown: Lebanon, OR  High School: Lebanon High

Favorite place to in Mac: Wildwood Cafe

Favorite Movie: Ironman

Favorite Music: Rap and Classic Rock

Favorite TV show: Sons of Anarchy

Favorite Book: Lone Survivor

Class I Most Look Forward to: Organizational Behavior

iPhone or Android: iPhone

CPU Homepage: Google

Personal Mantra: Every accomplishment starts with the decision to try.

Social Media of choice: Instagram

Car or Truck: Truck

Xbox, PS3, or Wii: Xbox

What first inspired you to play football: The influence from my family and the winning tradition.

Favorite Coach Vaughan Saying: I trust you about as far as I can throw you.

Favorite part of playing at Linfield: Forming the close bonds with my teammates. It makes it easier to put in the extra work.

Post Linfield aspirations: Moving into a managerial role within a company.

Wildcat11’s Keys To Victory:

60 minutes of Linfield Football: This team can’t come out on the field and shoot their emotional wad in the first 5 minutes of the football game.  That isn’t what Linfield has to do, and in fact would be detrimental to the ‘Cats performance.  After all of that crazy emotion goes away early in the game, it comes down to execution and performance. Playing Linfield football is being wound to that right tension.  Don’t be too loose and don’t be too tight. Find that right spot where you’re prepared for four quarters of playing aggressive assignment football.

Early and often balanced offense: The ‘Cats offense has to get going early and often. I’m looking for Linfield’s offense not to try to hit the constant homerun but take what the Logger’s defense gives you and attack those area with a mixture of running the ball and in the passing game. Effective, smart offense.

Excellent Tackling: Puget Sound sprays the football all over the field and is going to complete passes. It’s critical that Linfield’s defense has great fundamentals on the Logger’s grass field and minimize the yards after catch. Wrap, bring the feet, rally to the football. This basic fundamental will be a key ingredient to the effectiveness of the ‘Cats defense.

Limiting Mental Mistakes: We all know at this point that Linfield was terrible with the penalties and assignment breakdowns last weekend. Both sides of the ball have to have a much improved effort with their communication and executing on assignments.

Making Plays on the Ball:  With Puget Sound putting the ball up in the air so much there are going to be multiple chances to make plays on the football. Our defensive backs and linebackers have to compete once that football goes in the air.  Get after that football.


‘Cats by 14. Puget Sound has been visiting this blog A LOT this week since we took it on the chin (I do see you, Loggers). I’m sure they smell blood in the water and hope Linfield has a hangover from last Saturday. I can’t say that won’t be case because I won’t know until the ‘Cats line up this weekend and show me what they’ve got.  Excellent Linfield teams have laid eggs before up at Puget Sound but I feel that this Wildcat team is going to respond in a positive manner and reflect the team us Wildcat fans have seen for the great majority of 2014. Go ‘Cats!

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