Thursday, December 11, 2014

2014 National Semi-Finals Game Preview: Linfield (11-1) at University of Wisconsin – Whitewater (13-0)

Let's go.
Wow. Here we are back in Wisconsin and headed to the Perk to play UWW. What a thrill and an opportunity to play with the division 3 world watching (  Linfield will get to once again line up against the best in the business in UW-Whitewater. I could type 1,000 words on just what the Warhawks have accomplished since the 2005 season. Their run and dominance in D3 is remarkable and something to be saluted and admired.

So, I’ll have to keep it short on UWW. The Warhawks are the current defending National Champions and have won 5 total National titles since 2007 (2007, 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2013).  The Warhawks are what you expect a UWW team to be. They have a highly effective offense (41.4 PPG) and a lockdown defense (10.4 PAPG) that’s propelled Whitewater onto the doorstep of another National Championship appearance. This will be the 4th match-up against UWW in the playoffs for Linfield since 2005.  The ‘Cats are on the snide at against UWW in losing 2005 at Linfield (44-41), 2009 at UWW (27-17), and at UWW once again in 2013 (28-17).  Linfield has had lead in all three games but haven’t been able to overcome the talented and resilient Warhawks.

For our Linfield Wildcats, I cannot wait for these young men to hit the field on Saturday. This has been such a roller coaster past four weeks and to see these guys take each game in stride and let it all hang out has been a thrill to see up close. I’m not going to sugarcoat it, UWW is a beast and a mountain that Linfield has been close to climbing but have fallen short three times. This fourth time isn’t going to be any easier but this Wildcat team is one that has been knocking down one barrier after the next that’s stood in the program’s way.  Linfield is going to have to play a complete and highly efficient game to be there in the end but this is a group that you shouldn’t bet against. All three phase of this Wildcat team can win football games and if they put it all together then the ‘Cats are going to have a shot. Keep playing for Moore.

Get To Know A Wildcat

#95 Marq Randall, Defensive Tackle, Sophomore
High School: Roseburg High School, Hometown: Roseburg, OR.

Favorite place in Mac: It's not in Mac itself, but I love going to Hagg Lake to fish and swim and just hang out.

Favorite Movie: Saving Private Ryan

Favorite Music: Would definitely have to be country music. Old country, new country, Texas country. If it has some twang in it, I'm down

Favorite TV show: South Park

Favorite Book: Lone Survivor

Class I most look forward to: I enjoy my business courses because I can easily relate them to real life situations I encounter.

iPhone and Android: Android

CPU Homepage: That picture of the defense we took after the Pacific game with the scoreboard in the background. Parker's smile in that picture always sticks out to me

Personal Mantra: Hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work hard

Social Media of Choice: Instagram

Car or Truck: Truck for sure. You can't take a car up in the woods and scrap it in the mud.

Xbox, PS3, or Wii: Xbox or PS3: Doesn't really matter to me, as long as we got 2k anything works

What first inspired you to play football: I just liked football because I loved being around my best friends. That why playing at Linfield is so great

Favorite Coach Smith Saying: I love Coach Smith's pregame speech. Its the same every time. "Linfield football today" Its simple, but it perfectly explains our mindset every time we step on the field. We aren't going to do anything out of the ordinary, we're just going to do every small thing better than you!

Favorite part of playing at Linfield: I really enjoy the family aspect of Linfield football. The family aspect hasn't been more important or influential than in the last month. The whole team has come together as one unit, playing for one purpose. It has really helped me personally in this tough time.

Post Linfield Aspirations: I think at first I will continue to work with my Dad in our excavation business. Ideally, I would like to take over the company and keep it in the family and make it every more successful. And I'm definitely going to move back to Roseburg. Other than that I'm not exactly sure.

Wildcat11’s Keys To Victory

Play Hard. Play Smart. Play Together: This game is the reason why these players chose to come to Linfield. It’s such a great opportunity to play on a national stage against the best. As a competitor there isn’t anything more than you could ask for. With that in mind, there is no reason to put additional pressure onto yourself. Go out and play as hard as you can both emotionally and physically and let’s see how it shakes out at the end. Through the ups and downs, just keep pushing forward to the next play.

Limit the UWW Rushing Attack:  Yes, UWW’s Matt Behrendt is a premiere quarterback in the country (238 out of 347, 3,121 yards, 36 TDs to only 5 picks) but if Linfield allows the Warhawks to get off in the rushing game, it’s going to be a long game for the Wildcat defense.  UWW is rushing for 221.2 yards a game and have punched it in 28 times on the ground this season. It’s huge for the ‘Cats to try to limit this aspect of the UWW offense. Lots of outside zone mixed in with power football. Linfield can’t afford to bend too much here.

Have to find a way to rush the ball effectively: The Linfield rushing attack has face two excellent rushing defenses the past two weeks and now get to face the best one yet with the Warhawks. UWW is only allowing 88.2 rushing yards per game and have been making team after team be one-dimensional due to the defensive brick wall Whitewater tosses up each game. However, that cannot discourage the ‘Cats from pounding away with the run.

Solid Special Teams: Field position is going to be a major component the outcome of this Semi-Finals match-up. After having some issues against UMHB, the ‘Cats were masterful on special teams against Widener. UWW has one of the very best special teams units in the nation so the ‘Cats are going to have to be sharp in order to minimize the Warhawks return game on kickoffs and punts. Once again, we need another huge game out of our three Soph. kickers and returners as well against a stout UWW coverage teams.

Protection: The Wildcat offensive line and running backs has been fantastic this post season in keeping Sam Riddle upright on passing downs. Along with that, Riddle has shown tremendous pocket awareness that buys him extra time to either pull it down or find receivers breaking free. The Warhawks are a unique challenge as they have great depth on the defensive line and will rotate fresh bodies all game long. Talent, depth, and fresh legs have led to 39.9 sacks (3.07 per game) this season. The ‘Cats offensive front will have their work cut out but if they can provide clean pockets for Sam, the ‘Cats should find success in the passing game.

Don’t give up the big plays: UWW have homerun hitters not only catching the ball but also toting the rock as well. The big play has been what’s hurt Linfield in the past against UWW and I can promise you that the Warhawks will once again be taking shots deep. The Warhawks have two outstanding receivers in Justin Howard (1,050 receiving yards, 11 TDs, 14.2 avg per catch, 80.8 yards per game) and Jake Kumerow (928 receiving yards, 12 TDs, 17.5 avg per catch, 103.1 yards per catch) Our secondary has to be up for the challenge on when UWW loads up off the play action for the deep ball. Along with that, the ‘Cats defense cannot afford to allow the Warhawks to break off huge rushing gains. The ‘Cats backers have to be demons on getting to the hole and getting the wrap on UWW running backs.

Apply Pressure: The ‘Cats are one of the best defenses in the country in making quarterbacks uncomfortable in the pocket and accumulating tackles for loss and on the flip side UWW’s offensive line is stinking great. The ‘Cats defensive front have to win their individual battles and try to get Whitewater’s Behrendt off his rhythm and not allow him to step into the deep ball. Linfield’s ability to get pressure will be a critical factor in how effective the Whitewater offense is.

Good Decision Making: Linfield has to be sharp mentally on Saturday. I’m talking about assignments, decision making with the ball in your hands, and understanding the value of each possession of this football game (UWW is a +23 on the turnover ratio this season). If Linfield can limit both the little and big mistakes, it will optimize the ‘Cats chances to be in a position to win late in the 4th quarter.


‘Cats by 1. I’m expecting another epic Linfield vs Whitewater game. Yeah, the ‘Cats have fallen short in the previous three contests but I believe this is the Linfield team that can break through. Linfield is going to have to be ready to go the distance in all phases of the game. UWW is the standard in Division III but there isn’t a doubt in my mind that Linfield has what it takes to break through and punch their ticket to Salem. Go ‘Cats!

1 comment:

DS said...

We have technique. We have training. May luck be on our side.