Monday, November 2, 2015

‘Cats win!!! Linfield leaves the George Fox offense all wet in 24-0 shutout.

The 'Cats defense poured it on the Bruins.
Photo Courtesy from Brad Thompson: View Brad's Linfield Football Photos here
Some of my gear is still hasn’t dried all the way out from Saturday.  Holy smokes that was a soaker as the ‘Cats moved to 7-0 with a 24-0 victory over George Fox.  Yeah, it wasn’t the type of victory Linfield and our fans have become accustomed to this season and there was a number of ingredients that were thrown into the offensive pot that the ‘Cats will hopefully not serve up again this season.  However, first and foremost a win is a win is a win.  And how great is your program when you don’t feel fully satisfied after shutting out a team and winning by four scores? Yeah, you’re pretty good when you get to that level.

With the victory, the ‘Cats moved to 7-0 on the season and 5-0 in Northwest Conference play and sets the stage for another critical conference game as the Puget Sound Loggers come to the ‘Catdome this weekend.  That’s right.  I said the Puget Sound Loggers.  The Loggers have quietly put together their first winning season in almost a decade and moved their NWC record to 4-1 last weekend with a 6-2 mud bog victory over PLU.  That puts the Loggers in a defacto NWC title game with Linfield as if the Loggers can bump off the ‘Cats, it would put the NWC lead in a three way tie between Linfield, UPS, and Whitworth.  So once again, the ‘Cats have another challenger knocking at the door looking to take what this Linfield program has owned for a better part of 15 years.

But let’s round back to this past weekend’s win over George Fox.  Saturday’s victory reminded me of a couple of other games in the past when great Linfield teams didn’t give the greatest performance and it wasn’t the end of the world.  I can clearly remember the 2004 season when one of the greatest offenses in Division III history when up to Puget Sound and could only muster up a 35-16 victory over a 5-4 Puget Sound team.  The Loggers went on and on about how they held Linfield to their lowest output of the year and UPS kept bragging about it while Linfield was making their run to a National Championship.  Fast forward to 2009, when a 12-1 Linfield team that came within inches of another trip to the Stagg Bowl but almost fell on their faces against an 0-9 Puget Sound team in week 8 of that season as the ‘Cats were only up 5 points in the 4th quarter before putting the Loggers to bed.  Then you have last year’s Wildcats team against Willamette. Enough said about that game. Bottom line is that while this past Saturday wasn’t the prettiest victory of all time, it was another rung in the ladder the ‘Cats climb by in their advance towards another NWC title and the possibilities of what the playoffs might hold.  

The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

The Good

Defensive Doughnut:  What can you say about this Linfield defense this season?   The ‘Cats shut out their second offense on the year and the 2nd year in a row that the ‘Cats have blanked George Fox.  Linfield hemmed up the Bruins to the tune of 139 total offensive yards and only allowed GFU to 2.4 yards per offensive play.  It was such a through defensive whipping that the ‘Cats didn’t allow GFU to cross the 50 yards line once in the second half.  The shutout drops the points allowed by the Linfield defense per game to 6.9 and 5.4 points allowed during NWC play. Dang.

Rushing Attack: On the whole, I thought the ‘Cats rushing attack was very good on Saturday.  The ‘Cats rushed for 260 yards on 51 carries for an average of 5.1 per rush.  Three ‘Cats rushed for 50 yards or greater (Payne – 113 on 21 carries (5.4 per), Choisser – 72 on 10 carries (7.2 per), and Willis – 68 on 13 carries (5.2 per)).  On a day when the weather called to ground it out, the ‘Cats running game was more than willing to carry the mail.

Pressure: The Linfield pass rush was once again fantastic as the ‘Cats hammed GFU QB Grant Schroeder for 5 quarterback sacks and punished him on multiple other of occasions. The Linfield defensive ends at times made the GFU tackles look like they were wearing roller skates for how big of a push the ‘Cats were getting on the bull rush. I have to give Schroeder credit for taking it like a man.  Lesser QBs would have tapped out much earlier for how much the ‘Cats were blasting him.  If this was a boxing match, a corner man would have been throwing in the towel to protect their fighter.

It was a long day for the GFU offensive line.
Photos Courtesy from Brad Thompson: View Brad's Linfield Football photos here.
Punt and Coverage Teams: After a few games of uneven play, I thought the punt team had a great day in the office as Kevin McClean punted 3 times for an 38.7 average and dropped two punts within the Fox 20 yard line with one being on the 3 yard line.  Along with that, I thought once again our coverage teams were outstanding in not allowing Fox to flip the field.

Pass Defense: I’ve been bragging about the ‘Cats defensive backs all year and once again they didn’t let me down.  The ‘Cats pass defense erased the GFU passing game on the day and came up with two huge picks that snuffed out the Bruins only legit drives on the day.  Did you know that the ‘Cats have only allowed a single passing TD on the year?  Yeah, that’s pretty impressive.

The Bad

Red Zone Offense: The ‘Cats have been magnificent in the Red Zone this season but Linfield stunk it up against George Fox in only converting on 2 of 5 red zone trips.  It was a multitude of issues as the ‘Cats mishandled handoffs, bad exchanges, fumbling, missing a chip shot field gold, not punching it in from point blank, etc.  You name it and the ‘Cats didn’t do it in Red Zone.

Penalties: Linfield was flagged 7 times for 66 yards.  Linfield had improved by leaps and bounds in this category from games 3 through 6 and the ‘Cats were lucky that numbers was 8 penalties as punt return team skated on roughing flag when one of GFU’s cover guys boneheadly kicked a dead football.   This might be a little nitpicky but against a quality opponent penalties might be the difference between advancing or going home.

3rd down conversions: I think everyone on the Linfield offense will tell you that a 31% conversion rate on 3rd down isn’t acceptable.

Handling the conditions: This was a borderline “bad” for me this week. I would be curious to see how Linfield’s second half would have turned out if the officials didn’t make the mistake of not rotating Linfield’s first half game balls out for the dry balls in the second half of play.  Some of the ‘Cats ball handling issues and pass catching problems might have not been as pronounced if that oversight didn’t happen, but that was the hand the ‘Cats were dealt.  Last season the ‘Cats handled the downpour in Philly like the ball was made of Velcro so it was disappointing that it looked like the ‘Cats were handling a greased pig for much of the 2nd half this past weekend.  Linfield will be in bad weather games for the remainder of the year and have to do a better job with the rock in bad conditions.

The Ugly

Weather: I’ve been going the Linfield games for a little over 20 years and Saturday has to be the worst rain that I’ve experienced as a player or fan. Widener was incredibly wet last year in the playoffs but Saturday took the cake in terms of sheer amount of precipitation that fell during game time.  I don’t mind playing or watching games in the rain but Saturday was ridiculous.

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