Thursday, December 4, 2014

Game 12 Preview: National Quarterfinals, Linfield (10-1) at Widener (12-0)

The 'Cats and Widener are one of eight teams left in the country. Let's get it on!
Once again the ‘Cats are on the road as your Linfield Wildcats will travel to Chester, Pennsylvania to challenge the Widener University Pride with a berth to the National Semifinals hanging in the balance.   Hosting the ‘Cats are the 12-0 Pride who have been perfect this year in using all three phases to dominate the competition. Widener isn’t short on historical success as the pride are 2x NCAA Division III National Champions (1977 & 1981) and are prefect in the playoff at their home field, Quick Stadium (7-0). Linfield will be traveling out to the East Coast today (Thursday, Dec 4th) to try to acclimate themselves to the 3 hour time difference and get in their final preparation for what looks to be a wet and wild quarterfinal matchup.

As I mentioned very briefly this past Monday, Widener is a HECK of a football team. The champions of the Middle Atlantic Conference are having a banner year under first year head coach, Mike Kelly. The Pride features one of the most efficient passing games in the country anchored by senior QB Seth Klein (3,199 yards, 33 TDs), who has a number of playmakers at his ready including explosive All-American receiver, Anthony Davis (101.9 yards per game, 10 TDs). Widener’s offense is a bear to deal with as they average 39.8 points per game and can get you on the big play or quickly move the chains via the run or pass to put points on the board. Complementing the Pride’s balanced offense is one of the best defensive units in the country led by a suffocating defensive line. The Pride defense is only allowing 61.3 rushing yards per game (#1 in the country), while racking up 44 team sacks (3.67 per game - #6 in DIII), and have lived in the opposition backfield in piling up 121 team tackles for loss (10.1 per game - #3 in DIII).  While the defensive front has dominated, the Pride’s secondary has been most productive as well in picking off 23 passes (#3 in DIII) and taking 3 of those to the house. Add in the fact Widener has blocked 6 kicks, and 4 punts; it becomes easy to see why the Pride are one of the last eight teams remaining in the country.

For Linfield, I truly believe this is a much more challenging game than last week on a few different levels. Back-To-Back huge flights, coming off a huge emotional high in knocking off Mary Hardin-Baylor, 3 hour time difference, and having to face an extremely well-rounded and explosive football team in the Pride. The sum of all of that equals the ‘Cats biggest challenge to date.  However, there isn’t a single doubt in my mind that this Linfield team has something special going on right now. There is such a resilient quality to the makeup of the young men on this roster that if the ‘Cats play to the top level of their ability and execute for four quarters; Linfield could have a chance to move on….but Widener isn’t going to make it easy.

Get To Know A Wildcat:

#28 Spencer Payne, Running Back, Sophomore
Hometown, McMinnville, Or. High School: McMinnville High School

Favorite place to in Mac: My high school football field.

Favorite Movie: both Planet of the Apes/ Jersey Boys

Favorite Music: any type of slow jamz/ Christmas music.

Favorite TV show: Tanked/Planet Earth/Law and Order Special Victims Unit.

Favorite Book: Bud, Not Buddy

Class I Most Look Forward to: Football:)

iPhone or Android: iPhone

CPU Homepage:

Personal Mantra: I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (Phil 4:13)

Social Media of choice: Instagram, but bad at all social media websites.

Car or Truck: Car. I drive a ford focus wouldn’t change it for any other car or truck.

Xbox, PS3, or Wii: Xbox 360

What first inspired you to play football: my parents told me to try something other than soccer and loved football ever since.

Favorite Coach Smith Saying: We will not leave any stone unturned which means we will pick up every rock and check what’s underneath it.

Favorite part of playing at Linfield: The individual relationships you develop with the coaches and teammates.  The comfort feeling you have going into a game knowing you can look left or right an know that all your teammates/brothers have your back, and they’re willing to go 110% on and off the field for you.

Post Linfield aspirations: I hope to become an elementary school teacher after college. I’m hoping to teach at the kindergarten level.

Wildcat11’s Keys To Victory

Stick together/Play Together/Embrace the Ride: Just like the UMHB game, there are going to be ups and downs during Saturday’s game. It’s going to be up to the players to stay even keeled in the face of success and setbacks in order to navigate towards a victory. The ‘Cats have been tremendous in taking victory and failure in stride this season and will need all of that strength against Widener. Along with this, the opportunity to play in another quarterfinal is incredible. There are over 230 some teams in Division III that would love to be in Linfield and Widener’s position with playing in December. Remember to have fun and don’t hold back. Let it all hang out.

Balanced Offensive Attack: As I mentioned above, Widener can flat stuff the run in only giving up 1.91 yards per rush. However, Linfield can’t abandon what they do and must continue to try to find balance. If the ‘Cats allow the Pride to pin their ears back and get after Riddle, Linfield will be playing right into the hands of the Widener defense. Linfield has to make them at least respect the run someway.

Containing the Widener Rush Game:  Pride QB Seth Klein rightfully gets much attention for his play at quarterback but part of Widener’s success through the air is their offensive balance. The Pride rush the ball about 40 times a game and much of the passing game is built off of play action. Linfield has to do a great job in bottling up the Pride running attack to help take some of the edge off of their passing attack.

Making Plays on the Football: This football game might just come down to who can make more plays once the football goes up in the air. It’s all about competing for that ball and both the Linfield defense and offense has to challenge for the rock every single time that ball goes up.

Protection in the Pass Game: Widener defensive end, Tyler Glover has been a sack master this season in owning 10 of the Pride’s 44 QB sacks. But it just isn’t Glover as four other Pride defenders have 4 sacks or more this year (DiBiase, Jones, Burns, and Sunnerville). Linfield’s offensive line and running backs are going to a great protection day to keep guys off of Sam Riddle and allow the ‘Cats to get passes of cleanly.

Fantastic Tackling: It’s going to a wet one so Linfield’s defense (especially our LB’s and DB’s) have to have great tackling fundamentals against the Pride. Widener has a number of guys than can make things happen in the open field so getting a good initial wrap will be key in limiting potential big plays.

Rock Solid Special Teams:  Widener has been fantastic on special teams in blocking 3 punts this season and 6 kicks as well. Anthony Davis is a dangerous return man on the kickoff team and punt return team (as well as Rashon Sorrell). The ‘Cats special teams have been a force since the second half of the season and will need a great effort out of this group to help win the field position game.

Playing Smart/Taking Care of the Football: Football teams are hard to beat when they take great care of the football, while at the same time ripping it away from the opposition. Widener is #4 in the country in turnover margin (+23) and our ‘Cats have been a little loose with the football at times during the season. It’s going to be a wet on at Quick Stadium on Saturday and Linfield has to do a good job in making good decisions with the football and protecting the rock.


Cats by 3. Another awesome opportunity for this group of Wildcats to be together as a family. I’m not sure I’ve ever been more proud of a Linfield team for how they’ve represented themselves, Linfield Football, Linfield College, McMinnville, and how they’ve represented Parker. The ‘Cats have what it takes to win this football game but the level of difficulty is once again sky high. If Linfield can execute and do the little things right for four quarters, then the ‘Cats are going to have a shot in being able to stay together for another week.

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