|#7 Eli Biondine and the 'Cats defense stonewalled the Boxers this past Saturday.|
|Photo Courtesy of Brad Thompson: Purchase Brad's Photos here.|
For Pacific, I poured the honey on pretty thick last week in the game preview and for good reason. The Boxers’ growth over 5 years has been tremendous and should be applauded. After starting 0-2 this season, the Boxers showed resolve and growth and earned their part of the NWC title. That’s something to be proud of. However, I think some part Pacific might have fallen into the score comparison trap with the Willamette results and that was a mistake. Saturday, the Boxers saw the Linfield team that the ‘Catdome has witnessed for the great majority of 2014 season. And when you add in the fact that the Boxers dumped Gatorade on their coach after beating Willamette, put out a hype video the night before the game, having a send off ralley, etc. I think many of the Linfield players felt like Pacific was treating Saturday’s game as a coronation rather than a showdown for all the NWC marbles. So, the ‘Cats were determined to show the Boxers what Linfield’s best looked like.
With the victory, the ‘Cats have assured themselves the NWC automatic bid and the ‘Cats 6th consecutive Northwest Conference title and 12th NWC crown over the past 15 years. The playoff brackets came out on Sunday and to nobody’s surprise it will be a NWC/SCIAC match up as the Chapman Panthers will be making their way up to McMinnville for the 1st round. This is a rematch of the season opener as Linfield was able to escape Chapman with a tight 21-14 victory. Both teams have had significant growth since week one and I’m sure each staff is hard at work in trying to figure out the best ways to attack each other in this rematch. Obviously, Linfield is going to have a very difficult week in trying to come together and prepare for a football game while grieving Parker’s death. At this point, I don’t know what to expect come Saturday. I know the staff and communities will take care of our young men and honor Parker by trying their best to prepare and represent him to the utmost of their ability. Chapman is a fantastic opponent and I know Linfield will do their best to stick together and put out a worthy effort on the field.
The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
Focused and Ready to Play: You could feel it walking into the locker room that this group of guys were ready and at that right tension. The intensity was bubbling right below the surface. Every guy has their own thing going on during pregame. Some get in their own world with their headphones on. Others can’t stop talking and cutting it up with their teammates. But no matter how each player was gearing up for the game you could feel that sense of readiness. When Coach Smith finished his pregame talk and said “Today...let's pick up that hammer.” there was an explosion of energy in the locker room. This team was ready to play.
Defensive Effort: My goodness that was an old fashioned busting out the salt truck Linfield defensive performance. The Linfield defense controlled all aspects of the Pacific offensive attack. The ‘Cats only yielded 144 yards of total offense (2.6 per play) with 62 of those yards coming in the Boxers' last drive of the game. The ‘Cats defense forced seven 3-and-outs, forced two turnovers on fumbles (both resulting in Linfield touchdowns), allowed only 46 net rush yards (1.5 per), and limited the Boxers' starting QB to only 38 passing yards on 8 completed passes on 17 attempts.
Rushing Attack: A former Boxer football player fresh out of school commented to a close friend of mine in the north end zone before kickoff that Linfield doesn’t have a run game and Pacific only needs to worry about the pass. 316 rushing yards (5.7 per carry) and 7 rushing touchdowns later by Linfield and I wonder if that sentiment would be the same. The ‘Cats rushing attack was so dynamic in being able to go side-to-side or line up and push the Boxers downhill as well.
Red Zone Offense: The Linfield Red Zone offense went 8 for 8 with all 8 conversions being by way of touchdowns. Pacific came into this past Saturday in only allowing 55% of opposition red zone scores being TD’s so that just continues to speak towards the absolute domination by the ‘Cats.
|#9 Evan Peterson hauled in this 2nd quarter TD to extend Linfield's lead to 31-0.|
|Photo Courtesy of Brad Thompson: Purchase Brad's Photos here.|
Special Teams Play: Major shout out to the ‘Cats special teams unit. The group has grown so much over the season. Honestly, the special teams coverage and return units at the beginning of the season were shaky and that’s putting it nicely. However, Coach Hazenberg kept shaping this group and they have become a weapon for Linfield in the 2nd half of the season. Saturday, this group once again caused a big turnover, pinned the opposition all game long, and came up with play after play.
Physicality: There wasn’t a single doubt once the game started just who was the more physical team. Linfield at every point of attack was the aggressors and just broke Pacific’s will as the game developed. Physicality doesn’t always just come from size and speed but it comes from want and desire. The Wildcats had the want and the desire this past Saturday.
Owning 3rd down (4th down as well): We talked about in our game preview how the 3rd down conversion stat would speak to the game’s outcome. Pacific came into the game 8th in the country in 3rd down conversion at over 51% and Linfield’s defense held them to 4 of 15 on the day. And when you add to the fact that the Wildcat offense goes 9 of 17 on 3rd down and then 4 of 4 on 4th down…….lights out. That is just great execution by the Linfield defense and offense.
Pressure: The Boxers’ Warner Shaw has some nice scrambling ability and he needed it as he was under constant fire by the ‘Cats defensive front. The ‘Cats were so darn aggressive and fast and the Boxers offense had no counter punch to slow down the heat Linfield was applying.
You just smacked the NWC Co-Champs by 59 points with all three phases chipping in with an "A" level effort. Nothing bad there.
Nothing: It was a cold but beautiful day in the ‘Catdome and a great performance put on by our ‘Cats. It was a tremendous way to end the regular season by an incredible group of young men. Go ‘Cats!