|#37 Kaleo Yanai and the 'Cats rushed for 297 yards against Puget Sound.|
|Photo Coutsey of Rusty Rae: View Rusty's Photos here.|
Everyone in the ‘Catdome was curious to find out what Linfield’s response was going to be this past Saturday up in Tacoma and the ‘Cats answered in a big way. Baker Stadium hasn't always been a place where Linfield turns in stellar performances, but on Saturday, we saw the Wildcat team we’ve come accustom in seeing for the great majority of 2014. The team was sharp, executed, enthusiastic, and played hard for all four quarters of action. Maybe that loss to Willamette is truly a blessing in disguise for this team but one good performance against UPS doesn’t mean that all is good with the Wildcats. Linfield cannot go back to putting their feet up. I hope these past two weeks have been a continual lesson for this team, that if they want results like they had versus Puget Sound, this group is going to have to be singularly focused on the business at hand. The edge is razor thin and now is not the time to fall back into previous trappings.
For the game itself, Puget Sound is improved and a program that’s on the upward trend. They have a number of guys that look like legitimate football players (unlike L&C) and have a number of guys with skill as well. However, UPS found out what most of Linfield’s opponents have experienced, and that’s when Linfield comes to play, the ‘Cats can be pretty darn overwhelming in the number of ways Linfield can attack and hurt you. The Linfield defense and special teams created so many short fields for the ‘Cats offense to work with that once that boulder started rolling downhill the Loggers couldn’t do anything to stop it.
So with the victory, Linfield moves to 7-1 overall and 5-1 in Northwest Conference play. Waiting for Linfield this weekend is Pacific, who wrapped up at least a share of the NWC title in rolling over Willamette to move to 6-2 and 6-0 in NWC action. The Boxers have made fantastic progress over the past 5 seasons since reinstating football and have a chance to slay the biggest dragon on their list when Pacific comes to McMinnville this weekend. The winner of Saturday’s game will lock up the automatic bid to the NCAA playoffs with the loser gets tossed in at-large grouping of teams, and I’m not expecting a second NWC team getting a playoff berth. It’s win or stay home for both Linfield and Pacific. We’ll get more into that on Wednesday.
The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
Focused effort: The difference between this week and last week was incredibly noticeable. The ‘Cats were not frothing at the mouth during the pregame build-up. No, it was a team that was at the right tension to play a football game. During the game, the communication was fantastic on the field. You could hear lots of talk, echoing of adjustments, line calls, etc. It was a Linfield team that was prepared and focused on what was in front of them and not down the road.
|The 'Cats defense held UPS to -14 rushing yards on the day.|
|Photo Coutsey of Linfield SID Kelly Bird. Purchase Linfield sports photos here.|
Lock down defense: 98 yards of total offense on the day for Puget Sound says it all. Linfield’s defensive line was dominate as the Loggers’ Brandon Foley never looked comfortable in the pocket and the ‘Cats defense held the Loggers offense to 7 first half 3-and-outs with an 8th Logger offensive possession being a Linfield pick six. The Loggers didn’t cross the 50 yard line until later in the 3rd quarter.
Rushing Attack: Linfield primary kept the ball on the ground, even though Sam Riddle did toss 3 touchdown passes and 136 yards on 8 completions. The ‘Cats rushed 58 times for 297 yards (5.1 per carry) and 6 rush TD’s. The ‘Cats were without the services of Tavon Willis, Sam Robinson, and Bryan Cassil but looked dynamic on the ground with Spencer Payne coming back from an injury with Payne picking up 81 yards on 12 carries and two TDs. Linfield has tremendous depth at running back and the ‘Cats are going to need it.
Special Teams: Jordan Giza has blossomed into a premiere punt returner in the Northwest Conference and it showed in that first half. The punt return team set up the offense with some great fields to work with in some slick returns by our senior safety. Along with that, Linfield came up with a great punt block (#6 Kennedy Johnson in the video above) on the goal line that set up another 1st half score, and our kicking trio of McClean, Conley, and Metter all had nice days in the office. Also, shoutout to Asa Schwartz for making UPS pay for kicking off to an upback.
Penalties: 8 flags for 80 yards. The ‘Cats only picked up 2 penalties in the 1st half but flags started flying in the 2nd half as the ‘Cats worked deeper into the roster. I would have liked to see that number stay down and the ‘Cats HAVE to play as clean of a game as possible this upcoming Saturday.
Six Puget Sound Personal Fouls. I think a number of these were pure frustration on the part of the Loggers. UPS has been competitive all year so the fact they were getting steamrolled so early in the game had to be incredibly frustrating. I haven’t seen that many personal fouls called in a game since Linfield was still playing Western Oregon. Coach Thomas of UPS wasn't pleased either and I'm sure he'll snuff that out of his program.
Also, I was going to comment on Puget Sound’s announced attendance of 1,704. Hand grenades could have been detonated in Baker Stadium and nobody would have been injured. 704 people…maybe, but 1,704? Made me want to dust off this old post about the Loggers SID’s history of inflating that number