|#8 Spencer Payne and the Wildcats left Whitworth in the dust.|
|Photo Courtesy of Brad Thompson: See Brad's Photos here.|
I was expecting for Whitworth to try their best to come into the ‘Catdome and punch Linfield in the mouth with an uptempo offense and pressure/play making defense but Linfield once again suffocated another NWC contender with a wildly effective balanced offensive attack, great kick coverage, a blocked punt attempt, and another lights out defensive effort. Beating the tar out of a subpar team is one thing but manhandling what I think is a good football team is completely something else. I fully expect Whitworth to finish 9-1 on the year and have a possible shot at a Pool C bid but Coach Sandberg and the Pirates have to know they just were steamrolled by a different kind of animal.
Linfield is outscoring NWC teams through four games 62.8 to 6.8 per game (56 point winning margin). #Catdome— Catdomealumni.com (@catdomealumni) October 25, 2015
With the victory, the ‘Cats are clearly in the driver’s seat for the NWC Auto-bid with three games left in the regular season. Now here’s the test. The ‘Cats could easily put their feet up and fumble it around the next three weeks and think they have it made or they could look at George Fox as the next team standing in Linfield’s way of something this program desperately desires. The challenge in the last 1/3rd of this season is going to be mental as the question is “Just how good do you want to be?” George Fox is another that wants to be just like Linfield. I’m not joking…besides the overdone helmets, Fox has pretty much lifted their whole culture and a lot of their playbook right out of Linfield’s. That’s fine and pretty understandable but we’re going to see if Linfield treats Fox like a 3rd year football program or a team trying to take something away from the ‘Cats. We’ll find out soon enough.
I think we all know that Linfield looks like national championship contender and I’m not afraid to put that out publicly. It is what it is. However, I don’t want this team to start looking down the road and expect the other remaining teams to roll over because Linfield is across the field. They won’t. They all looking to play Linfield close and have silver linings that they can stick into recruiting pitches when they’re out visiting high school playoffs games a few weeks from now. Just keep being the best Wildcat football team you can be and you’ll give them nothing to talk about.
The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
Tremendous Team Effort: I knew just where this was headed two hours before the game kicked off as I walked into the locker room. You could see in the faces and eyes of the players that they were dialed in and ready to go. There was no doubt they were ready for Whitworth and after taking a glancing blow from the Rats’ offense the ‘Cats answered back in surging to a commanding halftime lead. All phases played again played a major role in the ‘Cats commanding win as Linfield had all hands on deck in a statement win over Whitworth.
The Offensive Line: The ‘Cats offensive line put in their best game to date. Whitworth came in the game with 32 team sacks (second in D3 with 5.33 per game) and the Linfield offensive line threw a goose egg at the Pirate defense in 23 Linfield pass attempts. It wasn’t like Sam was getting rid of it quickly either as Riddle could have made a ham sandwich with the time he had in the pocket. Along with the pass protection, the big fellas paved the way for 256 rushing yards. Kudos to the ‘Cats Beef Cakes on a great day in the office.
Defensive dynamite: Whitworth came into Saturday’s game averaging over 440 yards of total offense 35.5 point per game and Linfield’s defense choked out the Pirates to the tune of 133 total yards (-10 rushing) and only 10 points (7 of those was a gift, IMO). It was just impressive to see Linfield’s defense manhandle what I think is a very good offensive team in Whitworth. Duke DaGaetano came into the game averaging 84 yards per game and Linfield held him to 17 yards on 10 carries and the LB’s and secondary ate up the Whitworth passing attack. To me, it was Linfield’s most impressive defensive performance yet.
|#4 Jake Remier and the Wildcat defense made life hard for the Pirate offense all game long.|
|Photo courtesy of Brad Thompson: See Brad's Photos here.|
Rushing Attack: The Linfield rushing attack as been this program’s greatest improvement in 2015. Whitworth had a first-hand look at that improvement as the ‘Cats rushed for 256 yards (5.2 per carry) and set the table up for Sam Riddle and the ‘Cats to hit one TD pass after the next over the top of the Pirate defense.
Decision making/passing game: Speaking of the passing game, Sam Riddle once again made great decisions with the football, and his chemistry with this group of receivers and running backs continues to tighten up and deepen as we move along this season. Sam threw for 233 yards and five touchdowns to four different Wildcats on the day and zero interceptions. In fact, there wasn’t a ball Riddle put up that was in danger of getting picked.
3rd down defense: The Linfield defense was masterful on 3rd down. Whitworth was a measly 2 of 17 on 3rd downs against the ‘Cats and didn’t convert a 3rd down attempt until mid-way through the 3rd quarter with Linfield leading 35-3. Whitworth is a rhythm offense that wants to play fast but they had zero chance of that as the ‘Cats defense slammed the door time after time.
Red Zone Offense: Whitworth came into the game with a stout red zone offense (only allowing 50% scoring conversions) but Linfield’s offense did what they’ve done all year and that’s make the most of those trips with scoring on 5 of 6 red zone trips. The ‘Cats even busted out the beef formation for the first time this year and Whitworth should take that as a sign of respect.
Punt Team: The only blemish on the day was the punt team issues that have been bubbling up for a few games now. The ‘Cats have had four punt attempts go sideways so far this season that that’s way too many for a team as talented as Linfield. Special teams has been TREMENDOUS for Linfield this year but the ‘Cats need to clean up the snapping/blocking issues that could pop up at the wrong time if this doesn’t get ironed out.
Nothing: The game avoided a huge rain storm that blew in on Sunday so it was a picture perfect late October day in the ‘Catdome. There is no better venue for Small College football on the West Coast than the ‘Catdome, and when you have a day like that, with a Linfield performance like that, it’s about as good as it gets.