Wednesday, November 26, 2014

2014 NCAA Division 3 Playoffs Round 2: Linfield (9-1) at Mary Hardin-Baylor (11-0)

The 'Cats vs The Cru
We’re off to Texas this Thanksgiving weekend to play the 2nd ranked team in the country, the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor Crusaders. The Cru is once again having another powerhouse season as UMHB has pounded team after team this season. While the UMHB program is only 17 years old that hasn’t stopped them from winning 170 games over that span. Remarkable.  It all starts with the UMHB coaching staff and their stability. Head Coach Pete Fredenburg started this program and has built a juggernaut during his tenure.  Each season UMHB features one of most talented rosters in the country and have a reputation of doing it the right way. The result is a program that has grown into a sure fire lock to win American Southwest Conference titles and make continual deep runs into the playoffs. This season is no different as UMHB has won games by an average margin of 39.6 PPG. (54.6 PPG to 15.0 PAPG)

Last weekend, Mary Hardin-Baylor had one of the more interesting playoff games in recent Division III history, as a huge storm rolled through Belton, Texas that caused multiple delays in their game vs Texas Lutheran. Eventually, the game was suspended on Saturday and wrapped up on Sunday with UMHB surviving a talent rich TLU, 27-20.  Don’t let that opening round score fool you. This was the second time UMHB and TLU faced each other in 2014 with UMHB laying the wood to TLU in the first go-around (72-16). As a player, it's difficult gearing back up to play an opponent a second time in the same season, especially when the first game was so decisive. Anybody around UMHB will say that wasn’t a typical Cru effort and when UMHB had a “down” game this season, all that Mary Hardin-Baylor has done is come back and double barrel blast their next opponent.  No doubt, the ‘Cats are going to see a UMHB team at their best come Saturday.

UMHB features a balanced offense attack and a large and athletic smothering defense.  While the Cru has thrown for 2,709 yards and 26 TD’s this season (against only 7 picks), it still starts with the rushing attack for UMHB. UMHB has a number of running back options to select from including their QB, Zach Anderson. The Cru running back corps will be the most explosive group the ‘Cats will have seen this season (2,613 Yards, 5.0 per carry, 44 rush TDs) and it’s going to be a huge priority for Linfield to try to figure out how to slow down the UMHB rushing attack.  On the other side of ball the Cru’s defense has limited the opposition to only 15.0 points per game on only 311.4 yard per game which is impressive considering the vast offensive talent in the ASC and the teams they faced during their non-conference schedule.    The Cru defense has compiled 111 tackles for loss (11 per contest) and 35 sacks. This is about as physical and athletic group of defenders that you’ll find in Division 3.

Yeah, there is history between our two programs. UMHB and Linfield first faced each other in the 2004 Stagg Bowl, where Linfield was able to pullout the 28-21 victory to win the 2004 National Title.  Five years later, the ‘Cats and Cru once again faced off, this time in the 2nd round of the 2009 playoffs in the ‘Catdome. UMHB controlled the early action before Linfield’s defense went crazy in turning over UMHB multiple times on their way to a 53-21 Linfield victory. There is nobody on the rosters this weekend that played in either of these games and those other two games have zip, zero, nada impact on what’s going to happen this weekend. This Saturday is all about these two current rosters trying to win and advance so they can continue to chase the ultimate prize and nothing that happened in 2004 or 2009 matters to the guys on either roster.

Obviously, the ‘Cats know they’re up against it this weekend. Our ‘Cats are an underdog (undercat?) and I’m not going to pretend otherwise. Everybody associated with Linfield knows that Linfield is going to have to be at their best in order to put the ‘Cats in a position to pull off the upset. Linfield doesn’t have to be prefect but the ‘Cats are going to have to execute and play as clean of a game possible in order to have a shot at advancing.  I love this Linfield team. The ‘Cats have a wonderful mixture of youth and veteran talent that’s come together and is playing at a very high level in all three phases of the game. If there was going to be a Linfield team to finally breakthrough on the road in the playoffs, this is the group of ‘Cats that can get it done.

Get To Know A Wildcat

#7 Eli Biondine, Linebacker, Junior
Hometown: Mililani, Hawaii High School: St. Louis School

Favorite place to eat in Mac: The Grain Station - chicken, bacon, avocado sandwich is phenomenal.

Favorite Movie: The Goonies - definitely a childhood favorite

Favorite Music: Reggae

Favorite TV show:
Criminal Minds

Favorite Book: Steve Jobs - great viewpoint from a successful business man

Class I Most Look Forward to: Really any of my business classes, but if I had to pick one probably Business Law

iPhone or Android: iPhone

CPU Homepage: Catdomealumni YouTube channel

Personal Mantra: Find a way or fade away

Social Media of Choice:

Car or Truck: Truck

Xbox, PS3, or Wii: PS3

What first inspired you to play football: It was really the only thing that got my mind off of the outside world. The field became my sanctuary and there was no place I'd rather be.

Favorite Coach Smith Saying: "You don't know, what you don't know."

Favorite part of playing at Linfield: Definitely the bond with all the guys and staff that are a part of this program. This is truly home away from home. Catdome family.

Post Linfield aspirations:
To be a successful business man and entrepreneur.

Wildcat11’s Keys To Victory

60 minutes of Linfield Football.  Expect To Win. Linfield has to have the state of mind that they can go in one of the toughest venues of all of Division 3 and go toe-to-toe with the Cru. I’m stating the obvious when I say that Linfield is going to have a superior effort in order to knock off UMHB but I have tremendous believe in the talent and heart of this team.  Linfield has to be prepared to handle the ups and downs of the game and keep moving forward with the best effort until the last snap is over.

Be up to the task on the line of scrimmage: The ‘Cats offensive and defensive lines face the biggest challenge of the season when they line up against UMHB. We all love to talk about the skills guys and put them on the highlight videos *rises hand* but football has and always will be won in the trenches. The ‘Cats offensive line and defensive fronts have to play great assignment football and be up for the physical challenge.

Maintain a Balanced Offensive Attack: Linfield has shown great offensive balance this season and the ‘Cats will have to be able to get after UMHB by both running the ball and through the air. The ‘Cats offense cannot afford to be one-dimensional so Linfield is going to have to find ways to keep the Cru off on their heels by mixing up the pass and run.

Don’t give up the big play: UMHB is explosive on offense. They have playmakers all over the field so Linfield is going to have to be a great tackling team and not allow the Cru rack up quick points by allowing the big run or letting Cru receivers get behind the defense.

Play A Smart Brand of Football:  Sometimes in big games like this, players have the desire to press and do things they don’t typically do. Forget that and just do your responsibility and make good decisions.  This game is going to be tough enough so excessive penalties and bad ball security will only make it harder.

Special Teams Stepping Up: If you’ve been reading this blog this year, you already know how I feel about the growth of the ‘Cats special teams.  Linfield is going to need another great performance out of this group to help shift field position in favor of the ‘Cats and help capture every point possible. 

Enjoy the Moment: There are only 16 teams left in the country; you are with your best friends, and getting a chance to play a game you love in a beautiful venue against one of the very best. Enjoy the heck out of the moment and let it rip.


Cats by 1. Linfield is walking into a lion’s den this weekend in Belton and will be pushed to their physical and mental limits by one of the very best in the business. This is weekend is why the players on the roster choose Linfield.  They choose Linfield over the NWC schools to have the chance to go toe-to-toe with the big boys and see how they measure up. If Linfield can play a clean football game and manage the lows and highs of the contest, I’m fully expecting the ‘Cats to have a shot at this towards the end. This is Linfield team not only has talent but they have heart. Let’s go see what we’ve got.

1 comment:

DS said...

On three

1 2 3 LINFIELD !