|It's a battle of the NWC's best in McMinnville on Saturday.|
Rolling into the ‘Catdome this weekend is a revived and darn good football team led by 2nd year head coach Rod Sandberg. Coach Sandberg was a fantastic hire by Whitworth after spiking long time head coach Jay Tully after the 2013 season. Most Whitworth fans knew quickly that Sandberg would have the Rats back in the conference title mix but even the Rat faithful have to be surprised at how quickly Whitworth have grown in under two short years. You can credit much of that growth to the Whitworth defense which is only giving up 11.0 points per game this year, compared to 34.1 points Whitworth gave up per game just a year ago. That’s not by accident either, as Whitworth has already passed last year’s sack total (31) with 32 through six games (leading all of D3 with 5.33 per) and are leading the NWC in interceptions (10) and fumble recoveries (9). You couple that with 9.7 tackles for loss and it becomes clear in why the Pirate defense has been so good in 2015.
On the other side of the ball, the Whitworth offense continues to be one of the more impressive units in the conference as well in averaging 36.0 points per game. Whitworth is led by Sophomore Ian Kolste, who actually had his first career start two years ago (Kolste medical redshirted last year) against Linfield in the Pine Bowl. Kolste is one of the top D3 QB’s on the west coast who has thrown for 1,659 yards (276.5 per), 12 TDs to only 4 picks, and completes 62.4 percent of his passes. While Kolste doesn’t gain a ton of yardage rushing the ball, he’s very elusive in the pocket and will buy time to throw rather than run. The Rats spread it around as Whitworth have five different receivers with over 20 catches on the year and what’s made Whitworth a more efficient offense this season is the emergence of running back Duke DeGaetano. The Rat RB gets the bulk of carries and has rewarded that faith with 8 rushing TD’s on the year, 527 rushing yards, for an average of 84.7 yards per game. Degaetano not only has good speed but he's a strong runner as well.
This will also be the best special teams unit Linfield has faced as well as Kicker Rehn Reiley has been good on 6 of 10 field goal including a 51-yard attempt, and punter Robert Thullen is averganing 38.5 yards per punt attempt, and the Rats have been good on kick coverage as well.
Summing it up, Whitworth is darn good and easily the most complete team the ‘Cats will face during the 2015 regular season. It’s a well coached and confident team that’s coming to town and it should be fun to see how the ‘Cats respond to a worthy challenger.
Get To Know A Wildcat
#49 Asa Schwartz, Defensive End, Sophomore
Hometown: Chelan, Wash., High School: Chelan High School
Favorite place to eat: Wildwood Cafe
Favorite movie: Gladiator
Favorite music: Rap and R&B
Favorite TV show: Game of Thrones
Favorite book: Matilda by Rahl Dahl
Class I most look forward to: Spanish
iPhone or Android: Android
Cpu homepage: Google
Personal mantra: Let the haters be your motivators.
Social media of choice: Instagram
Car or truck: truck
Xbox, ps3 or wii: Xbox
What first inspired me to play football: My childhood best friend started playing and I wanted to hang out with him so I started playing.
Favorite Coach Smith saying: "You don't know what you don't know."
Favorite part of playing at Linfield: The brotherhood I have with all of the players.
Quote from Coach Vaughn that you'll remember for the rest of your life: "No explanations or no excuses. And don't be soft"
Post Linfield aspirations: Become an ambassador
Wildcat11’s Keys To Victory
Start Fast and Finish Strong: Both Whitworth and Linfield have been suffocating the opposition in the first half play this season. Whitworth is outscoring their opponents 152-10 compared to Linfield at 138-14. Obviously, both teams are going to want to come out of the gates fast and control the tempo of the game. However, we all know there are four quarters in the game and the ‘Cats will need a full game effort to knock off the Rats.
Handle Adversity: It’s gonna come at some point in the game and how the ‘Cats can handle this Saturday’s adversity will go a long way in if this Linfield football team can prevail.
Limit the Rats running game: The Rats have been much more balanced this year and if Linfield lets DeGaetano and Hare get rolling on the ground, it’s going to be hard offense to keep out of the end zone. Linfield’s defensive front has to have a day against the Rats rushing attack.
The Linfield Offensive Line: The big boys for Linfield are going to be critical on the outcome of Saturday’s game. Keeping the negative plays in check and keeping Sam Riddle upright and clean are going to be two huge factors on the effectiveness of the Wildcat offense against Whitworth.
DB’s meeting the Challenge: Whitworth’s passing attack is a tough one. They’ll run all sorts of receiver screens or hang onto the ball and have blockers leak out behind the defense on fake WR screens. The Wildcat defensive backs have to walk that edge of taking away that screen game without getting burned on the fakes. The Rats offense is going to come right at Linfield’s secondary.
Pressure: Whitworth’s offensive line has been stellar in 2015. The Rats have only allowed 9 sacks so far in 265 passing attempts (1 out of every 29 attempts). It would be a boon for the ‘Cats if Linfield’s front four could generate pressure on Kolste and allow Linfield to keep the max number of defenders in coverage. Alex Hoff and the boys need to be big on Saturday.
Red Zone Offense: Linfield will get shots in the Red Zone and the ‘Cats have to make those chances count. Withworth’s defense has only allowed 5 scores in 10 red zone trips this year while Linfield’s Red Zone offensive has been excellent (88%, 28 scores on 32 trips).
Decision Making/Ball Security: When two good teams get together, turnovers and decision making can make all the difference in the world. Linfield has shown some darn good improvement with the decision making the past two games and are going to need more of that this Saturday.
‘Cats by 7. I took a lot of heat last time I picked the ‘Cats only by 7 (Pacific game). I thought that the Boxers would stand up better and I was wrong. However, I’m not wrong about Whitworth being a legit contender and that Linfield is going to have to bring their “A” game against the Pirates. Linfield has been super impressive this season and I know they’re going to find a way to win. Go ‘Cats!