Monday, November 9, 2015

‘Cats win!!! Linfield clear cuts the Loggers in 72-3 victory over Puget Sound.

John Carroll's one-handed TD grab was just one of many big plays by the 'Cats against UPS
Photo courtesy from Brad Thompson: View Brad's Linfield Football photos here.
My goodness that was a spanking. For the second year in a row, Linfield hangs over 70 points on Puget Sound as the ‘Cats rolled to their 26th consecutive victory over the Loggers at a soggy Maxwell Field. The Loggers came into this weekend on a 3 game winning streak and playing their best football in nearly a decade but they offered up little resistance to what has been a runaway freight train of a football program in your Wildcats.

You name a way that a football game could be dominated and the ‘Cats did it.  Rushing attack?  Check. Athletic TD receptions? Check. Suffocating defense? Check? Physical supremacy? Check.  On and on it goes as Linfield rolled out the big play and takeaways to dash any hopes or ideas the Loggers might have about the game’s outcome as the ‘Cats raced out the a commanding 52-0 halftime lead.

For Puget Sound, it’s been a great year for their program but they were just a speed bump for this Linfield team to smash over on their way to the playoffs.  I know some of their players had visions of a NWC title ring at the end of the year but the reality of just who owns the Northwest Conference had to set in suddenly and harshly during that first half.  Coach Thomas has done a fine job in getting that program going in the right direction but they still have miles to go before they’re ready to stand toe-to-toe with Linfield.

We’ll get to “The Good” down below but Linfield was impressive in multiple areas against the Loggers.  I try not to do a ton of calling out of individuals during game recaps but you have to salute Linfield running back Spencer Payne.  The junior running back would have easily captured the program’s single game rushing record (237 yards – Thomas Ford, 2003) if the ‘Cats would have rolled Spencer out for the second half of action as Payne racked up 211 yards on just 11 first half carries for 3 touchdowns.  Tip of the cap to the ‘Cats offensive line and wide receivers for creating the lanes and clearing bodies for Payne to get his work done.

Saturday’s victory was huge as the ‘Cats capture a record setting 7th consecutive Northwest Conference title and get that Pool A automatic bid locked up.  Linfield previously held the record of 6 consecutive NWC titles (2000-2005) as the ‘Cats once again have strung together an incredible run of dominance over their NWC adversaries. Linfield has gone 42-1 in NWC action since the 2009 season and this year as seen the biggest gap between Linfield and the other conference contenders. 

However, the regular season is not quite over yet.  Linfield has their longest road trip of the season left up at Sparks Stadium against a young PLU team.  I have to say the Wildcat offense has been somewhat lethargic at times on the road.  Linfield's offense has clearly been the superior unit in these cases but for whatever reason the offense had times of misfire on the road so I’ll be curious to see if that trend continues this Saturday or if the ‘Cats will bring some of that home electricity with them on the road.

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

The Good

Coming out of the gates strong: Linfield slammed the door on the Loggers quickly and emphatically.  I was interested to see how the players approached a team that has been on a little roll but knew they didn’t stack up all that great to Linfield.  It would have been an easy game to not have their eyes on the prize but this team was locked in from the jump and climbed all over UPS from the start and gave UPS no chance to establish themselves on either side of the ball.

Team Defense: You have to LOVE this Linfield defense.  It’s a complete team defense philosophy and the biggest stat you can see that in is the NWC leaders in tackles.  Right now, the ‘Cats only give up 6.4 Point Per Game on the season and the top tackler only ranks 31st in the NWC on the total tackles leader board.  Alex Hoff is the straw that stirs the drink on defense for the ‘Cats but Linfield has so many guys on the defensive side of the ball that can flat play the game.  UPS was just the latest to find out how good the Wildcat defense is.

Nowhere to run, Nowhere to hide for the Loggers offense against Linfield.
Photo courtesy from Brad Thompson: View Brad's Linfield Football photos here.

Rushing Attack:  I already hit on this somewhat up above but Linfield’s rushing attack was so good on Saturday.  The ‘Cats rushed for 355 yards on 46 attempts (7.7 yards per) and five touchdowns.  The big boys up front were clearing the path and the Linfield running backs and QBs were happy to break Logger ankles (and chinstraps) in the secondary.  It was a fun day if you are a fan of the ground game.

Red Zone Efficiency: UPS had been a heck of a red zone defensive team as the Loggers ranked 8th best in the country in only allowing a 53% conversion rate.  So that made me feel great about how the ‘Cats performed in the RZ against UPS/  Linfield went 7 for 7 in the Red Zone with 5 trips resulting in TD’s.  We haven’t seen the ‘Cats Red Zone fade game in action very much this season but Linfield busted it out in style against UPS.

UPS passing game shut-down: The Loggers entered Saturday’s game with Division III’s number one statistical leading passer in Hans Fortune (340 something passing yards per game) and Linfield’s pass defense chewed him up and spit him out to the tune of 14 of 25 for 82 yards and 2 picks. I’ve been impressed with Linfield’s secondary and Linebackers in coverage this season and the ‘Cats didn’t disappoint as they were fantastic on the cover AND great in the open field with tackling.

Field Goal Unit:  I thought our field goal unit had a great day in the office as Mike Metter converted 3 of 4 attempts with the only miss being a 39 yarder.  A few people have expressed concerns over field goal kicking this season but I’m not.  If you look at Metter’s misses this year (6) they have been at an average distance of 45 yards per attempt!  Three of those attempts (48, 49, and 50) would have landed Metter in the ‘Cats top ten single game record book for longest field goals made.  Metter is one of the better kickers in the country and I’m glad he’s on our sideline as we go into the playoffs.

The Bad

Penalties:  Just continues to be an issue with this team as Linfield had 9 penalties for 81 yards and were at times the Loggers best offensive weapon as the ‘Cats extended UPS drives 4 times via the yellow hanky. Linfield has to be better here as the playoff approach.

The Ugly

Nothing to call out: Yeah, the weather was crappy but I for one was glad for it. I think there were too many questions that had to be answered after that monsoon Linfield played at the weekend before. Someone that showed up early to the game that was standing on other side of the field told me the Logger players were fired up that it was raining because they though the Linfield offense wouldn’t be able to handle the weather.  That’s why I was happy for the conditions to be poor, yeah it would have been more comfortable for it to be 56 and sunny but I think this offense needed another shot in the rain and the ‘Cats delivered big time. 

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