Thursday, October 29, 2015

2015 NWC Pick 'Em Contest: Week 8

It’s hard to believe that we’re already rounding the bend towards the end of the regular season. It’s gone by fast and it’s been an interesting year in the Northwest Conference.  I already gave you my breakdown on the NWC last week and where I see some of the programs are headed.  Last week, PLU finally made it in the win column and I guess this is the Lutes worse record since the 1960’s. Yikes.  Whitworth still has something to play for but I think they’re a long shot for one of the Pool C at-large playoff bids.  I don’t think their case will be good enough compared to teams like Hardin-Simmons, SJU, Salisbury, Whitewater, etc. 

But I’m keeping a close eye on Puget Sound as the Loggers have a huge game against PLU this weekend.  The Loggers haven’t knocked off PLU since 2005 and this is their best chance yet to get it done.  With a win, UPS will move their conference record to 4-1 and get to roll into the ‘Catdome with legit shot to play for a share of the NWC lead if they could pull off a monster upset over the ‘Cats.  That should add some nice spice to what’s been a traditional pretty ho-hum week with the Loggers.  So look for that around the conference.

Let’s do it!

Northwest Conference Games of the Week:

#2 Linfield (6-0) over George Fox (3-4) (at GFU):  (509)Rat says Linfield: You know why the Bruin offense is better this year? Two words. John. Tully...Linfield wins by 100

Whitworth (6-1) over Pacific (5-2) (at Whit):  Playing for the right to finish 2nd in the NWC and that’s nothing to feel bad about at all.  I think Whitworth is a good team and is a program on the rise and Pacific has won two straight after the Linfield loss but have been a bit uneven.  I think Whitworth is the more complete team this year and has a better defense so I’ll take the Rats to knock off the Boxers.

(509)Rat Says Whitworth: Whitworth has a ways to go and I have no problem with Linfield showing them the type of talent it takes to get there. I don't think this is a team or staff that will feel sorry for themselves and drop a game they should win after last week's beatdown. Pirates show up, pissed off, and win comfortably.

Puget Sound (4-2) over Pacific Lutheran (1-5) (at PLU): The last time Puget Sound had five wins in a season was in 2006 when they finished 7-3.  I’m fully expecting them to reach that 5th win this week when they play the young Lutes this week at Sparks Stadium.   PLU kept the offense very simple last week but they found something on offense.  Granted, they were playing GFU’s defense and lots of people have found something against Fox but I don’t think it will be enough against UPS and their Air Log offense.

(509)Rat says UPS: PLU should have lost last week. Somehow, for some reason, UPS has me believing they are good enough to do what George Fox couldn't do...put away the Lutes. Loggers get one win closer to finishing in the top half of the conference. I feel like David after the Dentist (hopefully WC11 inserts a youtube link so the older crowd gets this), "Is this real life?"

Willamette (1-5) over Lewis and Clark (0-6) (at Will):  It’s the battle for the Wagon Wheel in Salem this week as one of the two of the NWC bottom dwellers get something to be happy about after a football game this season.  Willamatte’s offense highest point total of the year is 24 points.  It’s a terrible offense but they’re going against a terrible team so they might be able to break the 30 point mark at least once. Maybe L&C knocks them off this week but I think the Bearcat defense is good to get it done.

(509)Rat says Willamette: Willamette gets to feel good about themselves for a week. L&C, the struggle is real.

West Region Game of the Week:

#6 St. Thomas (7-0) at #14 Concordia-Moorhead (7-1): I think the Tommies are a legit National Championship threat this season with that bruising running game and defense.   They’ve been the class of the MIAC this season and I have a ton of respect for the quality of football they play there.  Concordia-Moorhead is a quality program that seems to play good football on a yearly basis but I just don’t think they have the horses to knock off the Tommie juggernaut this year.

(509)Rat says UST:  The Tommies are good. Neither the Cobbers nor the Gusties are going to stop St. Thomas from winning the MIAC this year.

National Games of the week:
#3 Mary Hardin-Baylor (7-0) at #13 Hardin-Simmons (7-0) (at HSU): It’s really good to see Hardin-Simmons become a playoff quality football team again.  It makes the ASC a much better conference and I just like what that program is about.  However, UMHB isn’t going to lose to the Cowboys this weekend.  I’m expecting a quality football game and maybe even a tight one but I just don’t see this Cru team losing this weekend. This should be a preview of a pending 1st round playoff game though.

(509)Rat says UMHB:  Even when Hardin-Simmons was pretty darn good, they couldn't get past the Cru. UMHB will once again put little brother in his place. If this was a Feaster led HSU offense with the defense they are actually playing this year, I would consider taking the Cowboys in an upset. I just don't think they'll be able to move the ball consistently enough to win this one.

Trinity (5-0) at Middlebury (4-1) (at Trinity): I’ve never paid any attention to the NESCAC conference because they are not eligible for playoffs by choice.  So by choice I’m not going to write very much and just say Trinity will win. Whatever.

(509)Rat says Trinity: You know how when your wife or mother fills out NCAA tourney brackets, she picks based on things like mascots and uniform colors? Well, according to wikipedia, a Bantam is a small breed of chicken in which the male (not sure if I can say "cock") is noted for its aggressiveness. Count me in.   *Wildcat11 note: You just did, Rat.

#19 North Central (4-3) over #15 Illinois Wesleyan (7-0) (at IWU):  Illinois Wesleyan looks like a contender but it’s fool’s gold. They haven’t played anyone good yet, while North Central has been though a meat grinder of a season and have come up just short of some top 25 victories.  I think that experience shows this weekend with NCC taking out the Titans.

(509)Rat says NCC: Don't let the records or the rankings fool you. North Central has lost to UW-Platteville, Wesley, and Wheaton. IWU has beat nobody. IWU does seem to pull out a 6-1, 2nd place league finish every other year. They were 2-5 in conference last year so they're due. Not enough for me to pick them against a much more consistent North Central Program.

Wildcat11’s Week 8 NWC Power Rankings
1.    Linfield – The ‘Cats beat Whitworth and Pacific by a combined score of 129 – 20.
2.    Whitworth – Probably won’t get a Pool C, even at 9-1, but are trending upward.
3.    Pacific – In danger of Puget Sound catching them for the 3 spot
4.    UPS – Will have a shot to play for a share of the NWC lead next week at Linfield.
5.    Fox – A few weeks ago GFU players were talking about winning the NWC title.
6.    Willamette – Showed life against Pacific but PLU could overtake them soon.
7.    PLU – Big win over GFU and they found a QB for the next 3 seasons.
8.    Lewis & Clark – I just don’t see a win on the schedule for L&C.

Coach Smith Interview on ESPNnews SportsCenter!

So Coach Smith crushed it on ESPNnews SportsCenter yesteday.  No biggie.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Game 7 Preview: Linfield (6-0) at George Fox University (3-4)

Let's do it!
On the road again! Linfield will be making their shortest road trip of the year as the ‘Cats roll over to Newberg to play the George Fox University Bruins.  Weather wise, it’s looking a little rough in the forecast but I’m still expecting a great atmosphere between these two fan bases filling up Fox’s tin box stadium (I’m only kidding, it’s a lovely set up) to see these two Yamhill country teams battle it out.

George Fox is doing some nice things in year 3 of their reboot of football (Yes, only their second year of playing but they had a zero year where they practiced, recruited, installed, etc, etc.) .  Probably their biggest jump from last year as a program is their offensive production.  Fox was downright terrible on offense last year as they were only able to put up around 10 points per game.  This year has been a leap forward with Fox now sitting as the 2nd highest scoring team in the NWC (33.1 PPG) and 3rd in total yards per game (420.6).  Leading the charge for the Bruins is Sophomore QB Grant Schroeder who has been the trigger man for GFU.  Schroeder has a good command of the offense and a group of solid targets to throw to.  The Fox QB has thrown for 1,852 yards, on 133 of 230 passing attempts (57.8%) and 15 TDs to 5 picks.

Accompanying Schroeder is senior running back, John Shaffer.  Linfield fans should be familiar with John as he spent his first two years at Linfield before transferring down the road.  Shaffer is the current NWC leading rusher with 91.3 yards per game (639 yards on 151 attempts for 4.2 YPC) and he’s punched it in 6 times.  Shaffer is also a critical part of the GFU passing game as the RB is the 3rd leading receiver for Fox with 25 catches for 202 yards and 3 TDs.  Shaffer is a hardnosed running back and should offer a stiff challenge for the Linfield defensive front.

While the GFU offense has been a highlight for the program, the Bruin defense has been a rough spot.  The Fox defense is giving up 33.1 points per game and is dead last in yards allowed with 470.0 yards yielded per game.  It’s curious to see Fox take a leap on offense but actually be worse than last year defensively when Fox gave up 432.1 per game during the 2014 season.  Where Fox has really been failing is the pass defense, which has been brutal in allowing 331.6 yards per game.   That’s not very good.

Overall, Fox has developed some good front line talent on offense.  The Bruins did have to insert their starters back into the Lewis & Clark game because the Pios were making such a big run on the Bruin reserves. That should tell you where GFU stands in terms of depth, and that’s understandable considering they’re still a young program. 

I’m sure the GFU coaches and players are itching to get Linfield at their place where Fox is 2-0 on the year. Linfield should be used to being “the game” for every NWC opponent and this week is no different.  Everything on paper says Linfield should be the heavy favorite but the ‘Cats still have to prove it.  Each week, the NWC opposition wants to be the one to take down Linfield or even make it close.  I’m fully expecting GFU to throw everything they can at Linfield and I’m interested to see how the ‘Cats respond.   Is this Linfield team going to be ready to roll or are the ‘Cats going to get caught looking down the road?

Get To Know A Wildcat
Photo courtesy of Brad Thompson: View Brad's 2015 Linfield Football photos here.
#3 Eric Igbinoba, Receiver, Junior
Hometown: Cheney, Washington, High School: Cheney High

Favorite place to eat in Mac: Los Molcajetes

Favorite Movie:  Interstellar

Favorite Music: R&B

Favorite TV show:  House

Favorite Book:  Heart over Height

Class I Most Look Forward to: Intermediate Account

iPhone or Android: Android

CPU Homepage:  Google

Personal Mantra:  Take it day by day and be grateful for every breath

Social Media of choice: Instagram

Car or Truck:  Car

Xbox, PS3, or Wii: Xbox

What first inspired you to play football: My older brothers. They played and I have always looked up to them and wanted to do similar things.

Favorite part of playing at Linfield: The Friendships that I have made with other guys on the team and the sense of family here.

Smartest Linfield receiver:  Brian Balsiger, the guy has a huge brain.

Post Linfield aspirations: Become a CPA and get a dog.

Wildcat11’s Keys To Victory

T.E.A.C. – Often imitated, never duplicated.  Here’s another weekend for this program to put its core principles into action. Team, Excellence, Attitude, Class.  Those four words are not just something to put out there for show but are all the things this program is about.  Fox is going to be ready and willing to show Linfield how they’ve improved over the past year so go show them what one of the very best in the country looks like.

Limit the GFU rushing attack:  Fox is more than willing to put the ball in the air but Fox loves to hammer away with Shaffer in the running game.  If Linfield can bottle up the Bruin rushing attack, it’s going to limit the effectiveness of their play action game and make life that much harder to put up points against the ‘Cats.

Attack with balance:  It might be very tempting to chuck it all over the yard this weekend but this Linfield offense is at its best when Linfield comes at you with a balanced offense.   There is a reason why Linfield lead the NWC in yards per completion with 17.8 per catch, and that’s because teams have to respect to honor the run fake which allows helps free up the Wildcat receivers to get loose.

DB up:  George Fox has a very capable group of receives that have shown they are dependable and can go up and make plays on the ball. I thought the ‘Cats defensive backs played lights out last weekend and they’re going to get another opportunity to show why I think they’re one of the best groups in the country.

Special teams go to work:  I’m looking for a great day out of the Wildcats special teams on coverage and with returns.  If this group can get it going early and often, it’s going to set the table of the ‘Cats offensive and defensive units to eat.

Battle of 3rd downs:  A very telling sign of how this game goes is going to be on 3rd down.  You have two of the best NWC teams on 3rd down this weekend with Linfield converting on 53% and George Fox moving the chains 47% of the time.  We saw it last weekend, if you don’t convert on 3rd down, Linfield will bury you in a hurry.

Win in the Red Zone:  Another really good match-up here is the Red Zone with Fox converting 83% of their trips for points (70% of these TDs) and Linfield converting 87% if the time (76% of those TDs) But what’s wild is that the ‘Cats defense has only allowed teams to enter the Red Zone 7 times this season and 2 of those were drives started in the Red Zone by turnover. 


‘Cats by 24. I know, I know.  Linfield has been beating teams by 50+ per game this year so don’t roll your eyes at my 24 point spread.  Obviously, we know if Linfield goes to Fox and plays at a high level the chances of Linfield putting it on thick are great and I’m not the type of prognosticator to start calling for 50 point victories.  Fox is going to do their best to make life tough on Linfield but if the ‘Cats play sharp, it should be the ‘Cats day.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Cats Win!!! Linfield Keelhauls Whitworth in 52-10 plank walking in the ‘Catdome.

#8 Spencer Payne and the Wildcats left Whitworth in the dust.
Photo Courtesy of Brad Thompson: See Brad's Photos here.
Wow. Whitworth is a good football team and Linfield absolutely dropped the hammer on the Pirates.  I mean, Drake didn’t treat Meek Mill as badly as the ‘Cats did to Whitworth this past Saturday at Maxwell Field. 

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.

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

The Good

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.
QB pressure:  Linfield’s sack total coming into this game was deceiving. The Wildcat’s only had 19 sacks coming into the contest but that was due mainly to teams just being unwilling to run longer developing passing schemes against the Linfield defense.  Teams are leery of the ‘Cats pressure so they limit their pass games.  It’s for a good reason. However, Whitworth was going to be themselves and challenge the ‘Cats and Linfield made them pay to the tune of 8 quarterback sacks on the day and countless other hits on Ian Kolste.  It was a pass rush/blitz clinic put on by the ‘Cats defense. The Whitworth QB is probably still in an ice bath as you read this.

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.

The Bad

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.

The Ugly

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.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

2015 NWC Pick 'Em Contest: Week 7

Team, Excellence, Attitude, Class
Back again for another wonderful week of college football!  The NWC pick board race is tightening up as Wildcat11 and (509)Rat are part of a huge log jam in the middle of the standings but we’re both within a reasonable reach of getting in the top third of the standings if we play our cards right.  Rat and I had a good week 6 but got tripped up by Alfred losing to Cortland State but the rest of the games played out as expected.  (509)Rat had to keep it short and sweet this week because his mom was fumigating her basement today and he had to vacate.

(509)Rat is calling his shot this week in the Linfield/Whitworth game and I’m smelling an “upset” in another NWC contest this weekend.  With over half the season over, you can see that the NWC is in  a transition period.  Yeah, Linfield is still boss hogging their way around and Whitworth is coming on like gangbusters but the rest of the conference has been interesting. 

UPS does have a legit shot in finishing in the top three as their schedule sets up to be 5-2 overall and 4-1 in NWC play when  they visit the ‘Catdome on Nov 7th.  At that point, Pacific should have a 2nd conference loss to Whitworth and set up a 3rd place battle for their season closer. 

You already got my thoughts on Willamette and I think that program is in “Lewis and Clark might pass us up in a few seasons” trouble.  Pacific has done nothing but trend up from years 1-5 so them flattening in year 6 has to be a little concerning. Fox has developed some good front line talent but if you have to put your starters back in the game to hold off a Lewis & Clark rally you know you have zero depth at this point.

And then you have PLU. A PLU backer reached out to me and asked if I thought Scotty Westering was in trouble in Parkland. I wrote back saying there is not a chance they cut him loose.  PLU has been pretty darn good recently, and though they are taking their lumps this season, they seem to have some young talent that will launch them back into the conference mix sooner rather than later. However, if PLU’s admin is thinking differently, then they better be careful.  Frosty’s legacy lives on with Scott in how PLU approach everything they do as a program.  If you dump Scott and bring in someone else, you’re risking blowing up your whole identity that makes PLU unique, cutting off a relatable thread with decades of EMAL alumni, and then you’re just a college football program playing in a community high school stadium 20 minutes away from campus.

Enough of my ramblings…let’s do it!!! 

Northwest Conference Games of the Week

#2 Linfield (5-0) vs #25 Whitworth (6-0) (at Linfield): (509)Rat says Whitworth:  I have reached a level of complete desperation in the pick'em. Like I've said all year, Whitworth is in fantastic shape under Sandberg but are still 2 years away from being competitive with the Linfield's of the D3 universe. Linfield should win this game by 2 touchdowns, especially at home. I can't imagine this game is a Pacific-type monkey stomp, however this is a Whitworth team that hasn't played anyone as remotely talented as Linfield. I don't think the magnitude of this game will get to them...I really hope it doesn't

Puget Sound (3-2 ) over Lewis and Clark (0-5) (at L&C):  The good news for Lewis and Clark is that they’re starting to score some points but the bad news is that they’re doing it late against the other teams 2nd and 3rd units. The Loggers offense continues to be a pass first and keep on passing offense.  The Loggers leading rusher has 135 rushing yards total…for the season…really…that’s all.  The Loggers passing attack has been very effective but it’s pretty much hit short crossing routes and let other teams Linebackers try to tackle their shifty slot receivers.  It’s worked a number of times this year and will this weekend against the Pios.  However, I’m calling this one within a two score game.

(509)Rat says UPS:  Lewis and Clark won't win a game this year. We could just keep them out of the pick'em blog posts to save time/space since the "L" is unfortunately a given for a while.

Pacific (4-2) over Willamette (1-4) (at Will):  Two teams just playing out the string as Willamette has been bad all year and Pacific post-season hopes have been cooked since Linfield took them behind the woodshed for another epic spanking.  Willamette’s defense isn’t too shabby but that Bearcat offense is bad.  Seriously, if the Bearcat offense was a movie it would be staring Adam Sandler.  I expect Pacific’s offensive weapons to shake loose enough to get the win.

(509)Rat says Pacific:  If you went by score against a common opponent (Linfield) I guess you'd say Willamette is the better team. If you've seen the Bearcats play, you wouldn't give em a shot in this one. Pacific wins comfortably.

Pacific Lutheran (0-5) over George Fox (3-3) (at PLU): I’m calling for an upset in this one.  Yes, I said upset.  Right now, George Fox is the better football team while PLU hits the reset button on their program in 2015.  I expect PLU to roll out freshman QB Cole Chandler this weekend and the kid is pretty talented.  Let’s face it, George Fox’s defensive backs couldn't guard a crosswalk.  So if I was PLU, I’d ditch their terrible rushing attack and chuck it in the air 50 times and let the chips fall where they may.  If PLU take WC11’s advice, I think the Lutes could pull it off.

(509)Rat says GFU:  PLU is not good. They were very unimpressive last week against Whitworth. PLU is traditionally the better program, but I actually believe Fox is the better team. GF will score and I don't know that PLU will. Bruins with what is probably considered an upset.

West Region game of the Week:

#5 UW-Oshkosh (5-1) at #12 UW-Platteville (5-1) (at Platt): You can pretty much pick a WIAC game every week and call it the west region game of the week.  So much quality in that conference and this week is no different.  After year’s of calling Platteville “fools gold” the Pioneers smacked me in the mouth with their win over North Central but Oshkosh is a different animal.  The Titans are for real and will get one step closer to an outright WIAC championship.

(509)Rat says Oshkosh:  Oshkosh beat Whitewater, Plateville didn't. I'll take the Titans.

National Games of the Week:

#3 Mary Hardin-Baylor (6-0) over #24 Texas Lutheran (5-1) (at UMHB):  These two teams played twice last year with UMHB rolling TLU in the first match-up and a tight one in the 1st round of the playoff in a bizarre game split up over two days due to weather.  I have a feeling this game is going to be more like the first game of 2014 with UMHB flexing their muscle and putting the muzzle on the Bulldogs.

(509)Rat says UMBH:  The Cru has only given up a couple of touchdowns, that weren't in garbage time, all year. Line 'em up and knock 'em down. TLU is next.

#4 Wesley (6-0) over #21 Rowan (5-1) (at Wesley):  Rowan has changed their style this year to more of a power football team and hardnosed defense, which is almost an oddity in today’s game.  The Profs will do all they can to get Withler Marcelin the rock as much as possible but it won’t matter.   Wesley has been mopping people up to the tune of 49 to 18 on the year and I’m expecting the Wolverines to beat Rowan by a comfortable margin.

(509)Rat says Wesley:  Callahan has been playing great this year. The Wolverine offense rolls in this one.

#8 Wheaton (6-0) over #16 North Central (4-2) (at NCC):  MAJOR battle in the CCIW between the two of the best teams in the country.  There are no secrets between these two and I’m sure it’s going to be a hotly contested game but it’s the Thunder’s year to carry the flag for their conference and make a serious run the NCAA playoffs. 

(509)Rat says Wheaton:  This pick is for Coach Sandberg's old program. I also recently saw Garth Brooks in concert...and the Thunder rolls...

Wildcat11’s Week 7 NWC Power Rankings

1.    Linfield – Gotta prove it this weekend
2.    Whitworth – Huge moment in the early Sandberg era
3.    Pacific – UPS coming up fast on the Boxers
4.    Puget Sound – When was the last time UPS had a chance to be 4-2 this late in the year?
5.    George Fox – The offense has been good but the defense stinks.
6.    Willamette – Trending downward
7.    PLU – Should be much better in 2016
8.    L&C – Coach Locey only lost 18 games in 10 years at Linfield. On track to lose 9 in 1 year at L&C. That’s a tough rebuild job.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

2015 Game 6 Preview: Linfield (5-0) vs Whitworth (6-0)

It's a battle of the NWC's best in McMinnville on Saturday.
Now this should be a fantastic football game.  The clear cut top two Northwest Confernece teams for the 2015 season hooking horns for pretty much what should be for the conference title, the auto berth for the playoffs, possible hosting right, etc, etc.  Yeah, there are still three weeks left in the season for both programs but let’s be honest….who wins this ball game is going to have the major inside track to all of the goodies that go with winning the conference title.

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!

Monday, October 19, 2015

‘Cats Win!!! Linfield uses second half eruption to bury the Bearcats 49-7 in Salem.

Mitch Kekel went pick six against the Bearcats this past weekend.
Photo Courtsey of Brad Thompson: View Brad's Photos here.

It was a tale of two halves for the Wildcats as Linfield could only muster up a single score in the first half against Willamette but Linfield got their runaway freight train on track in the 2nd half and exploded for 42 points as Linfield would roll up the Bearcats 49-7.  It’s Linfield’s seventh victory out of the ‘Cats last eight trips to Salem and this one was sweet because it locked up Linfield’s 60th consecutive winning season to extend the program’s all-level record.  An incredible accomplishment but that’s just a footnote to what this 2015 team is trying to achieve.  I think we all know what that is.

Coach Smith stated before this game that he was hoping to see the ‘Cats struggle at some point in the season so he could see how his players would respond to adversity.   Coach’s wish was granted as the Wildcat offense was moving the ball effectively but thanks to a combination of some solid Willamette defensive efforts (I said before the game, it’s a decent defense) and Wildcat miscues, the ‘Cats sputtered as they entered deeper into Willamette territory.  However, the ‘Cats offense answered in the 3rd quarter with two quick scores and then the Wildcat defense put the dagger in the Bearcats with back-to-back touchdowns as Linebacker Mitch Kekel when pick-six for 26 yards and then defensive end Asa Schwartz scooped and scored a 23-yard forced fumble recovery and the party was on after that. In about a span of 5 minutes, the ‘Cats turned a 7-0 lead to 35-0 but that’s what this program has been able to do to teams in the Coach Smith era…..bury you in a hurry.

For Willamette, I’m just not sure where that program is going. They still have some good players and talent on the roster but the players spent almost as much time complaining to officials as they did playing the game. There’s just not a lot of spit and polish to the product on the field and as silly as it sounds when the Bearcats dumped the fly, they lost their identity as a program.  Now there’s nothing to make them unique or different from the Puget Sound’s and Pacific’s of Division 3 football. They're now just another program.  On top of that, they might have the worst fan support in the NWC.

Now onto what is easily the 2015 Northwest Conference game of the Year.  Newly minted number 25 Whitworth (6-0) is coming into the ‘Catdome this Saturday for what should be for the NWC title.  Both Linfield and Whitworth have established themselves as clearly the best two teams in the NWC so this game has a TON riding on it. 

If you’ve been reading the blog this year, you’ll know what I think about Whitworth.  They’re legit.  The Rat defense is only giving up 11.0 points per game, they’ve caused 19 turnovers (10 picks, 9 fumble recoveries) and have piled up 32 sacks.  Along with a dominating defense, the Rats offense has been fantastic in putting up 36 points per game using a more balanced offensive attack that gains 443.5 yards per game.  Hands down, this is Linfield toughest challenge to date as Whitworth is capable of taking Linfield to the limit.  We’ll talk more on Wednesday but this a the definition of a big football game.

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

The Good

Second Half Response: I’m sure that there were many people at the game that probably thought Coach Smith was going to tear into his team at the half after stumbling around.  That couldn’t have been further from reality.  Coach Smith rallied his ‘Cats and told them that the 2nd half was a great opportunity to respond positively to adversity and see if this team could answer the challenge.  And that’s just what the Wildcats did, as Linfield would explode for that 28 point 3rd quarter to put the game to bed. That response was a big old positive sign if you are a Linfield fans as we got a little glimpse at the mental toughness of this group.

Stellar Defensive Effort: The ‘Cats defense was once again fantastic.  Yeah, the Bearcat offense is dismal but Linfield did what a great defense should against a lesser unit and that’s flat own them.  Willamette only had 10 first downs, and 200 total yards of offense.  Take away the lone fourth quarter score (a 50 yard dash up the middle) and Linfield held Willamette to 50 rushing yards on 30 carries. 

Rushing Attack: 288 yards on 49 attempts for an average of 5.9 yards per carry.  Willamette was daring Linfield to run as the Bearcats loaded up the pass coverage and the Wildcats were happy to respond by slicing up the Bearcats defense with four rushing TD’s and nearly 300 yards of rushing on the day.
Spencer Payne and the 'Cats rushing attack left Willamette in pursuit mode all game long.
Photo Courtsey of Brad Thompson: View Brad's Photos here.

3rd down defense:  As anticipated, Willamette was trying to eat up as much clock as they could as they would burn off as much clock in between plays as possible.  That’s why 3rd down defense was vital.  Linfield held Willamette to only 2 of 13 on 3rd down on the day and that was a huge key in Linfield wearing the Bearcats out.

Penalties/Decision Making: The ‘Cats have shown some great improvement on the penalty front the past two games as the ‘Cats were only flagged 5 times for 40 yards against Willamette.  Out of the 5 infractions, Linfield was only hit with 2 penalties in the first half of action and 3 through three quarters of play.  Along with that, Sam Riddle made good decisions with the football against a team that spent most of their time dropping 8 defenders into coverage. 

The Bad

1st half Offensive Execution: The Wildcat offense was pretty good in the first half of the game, until they cracked the Willamette 40 yard line and then had a hard time keeping the wheels on.  The ‘Cats missed two field goals (Metter is too good and that won’t happen again), turned it over on a miscommunicated snap, and had a fake field goal go bad. The Bearcats did some nice things defensively in the first half but it was mainly Linfield not getting out of their own way.  Obviously, the ‘Cats cannot afford to have a lackluster start this week against Whitworth.

The Ugly

Profane Willamette Mom in parking lot: I like to head out to the tailgate to film the Linfield fans doing their things (it doesn’t hurt they give me free food) but I was shocked by the profanity laced tirade by this Willamette football player mom (I’m assuming) towards a group of Linfield tailgaters. Parking at Bush Park stinks and it’s tight quarters but that’s part of the deal.  Well, a couple of Linfield fans were slightly over the lines of a parking space leaving one spot pretty much useless.  Not a huge deal as there were still spots left hours before the game kicked off.  But for some reason it really set of this lady and her husband who were driving by.  She rolled down the window and started dropping all sorts of language at these Wildcat fans.  It was pretty much F-bomb this, a-holes that, calling them “retarded” (which I find incredibly offensive and disgusting).  It was so unhinged and out of left field that it left the tailgaters near speechless.  I was proud of the Linfield fans for not letting it escalate and just replaying with a bunch of “Go ‘Cats!” as the offending Wildcat parkers proceeded to repark to let someone behind these angry people in.  I felt pity for this couple to let something so minor get them into such an ugly place.  Sad stuff.

Friday, October 16, 2015

2015 NWC Pick 'Em Contest: Week 6

Hey You! Get to the game this weekend.
Don’t have a long time to talk…been a hectic week so we’re going to just do a quick recap of the NWC action.  Fox had to put their starters back into the game vs L&C which doesn’t bode well for GFU’s current depth, UPS and PLU are in a battle for historically bad NWC rushing offenses, Whitworth is really good, Willamette still has some dudes but not very explosive on offense, and that had to be the longest bus ride from McMinnville to Forest Grove for Pacific last week.


Northwest Conference Games of the Week:

#2 Linfield (4-0) over Willamette (1-3) (at Will): (509)Rat says Linfield: Cat fans can talk all they want about 2014, but there is absolutely no chance this game resembles last year. Willamette is way down and Linfield is very very good. All of the "one game at a time" and "not looking ahead" cliche's that will get thrown around this week are pointless. Linfield just needs to get off the bus Saturday.

Whitworth (5-0) over Pacific Lutheran (0-4) (at Whit): The Rats continue to be very impressive to me.  Get get a bad field with terrible weather and the pass happy Rats grind it out on the ground and dominate UPS defensively.  Again, the Rats should be a top 25 team and get one more tune up before the NWC game of the year in McMinnville next week.  PLU is super young and haven’t looked very good on offense. Rats roll.

(509)Rat says Whitworth: I'm not sure if PLU can make this a game. 264 yards of offense like they had against Willamette last week isn't going to cut it. They still can't run the football so they better force a bunch of turnovers if they'd like to keep Whitworth out of the endzone. Or better yet, pray for miserable conditions like last week that force Whitworth to run the ball 61 times. PLU will be better in a couple of years, I just don't see this game as a confidence booster for a young team. This year or in the years to come.

Puget Sound (2-2) over George Fox (3-2) (at UPS):  This should be a very interesting game.  UPS has ZERO running attack but they don’t care.  Their short passing attack is their rushing attack and while Fox has been impressive on offense, the Bruin defense has been giving up 316 yards a game through the air and I think that’s where this game is won or loss for both teams.  This is like the 2nd tier NWC championship game and I’m going with the Loggers.

(509)Rat says UPS: George Fox won't sack UPS 7 times and probably won't hold them to -37 yards rushing as Whitworth did last week.

Pacific (3-2) over Lewis and Clark (0-4) (at L&C): Just what the doctor ordered after getting ushered out of the ‘Catdome with a 67 point loss.  The Boxers did have a tight one with L&C last year so I think the Pios surprising Pacific this year is out the window. 

(509)Rat says Pacific:  Perfect opponent to take out some post-monkey stomp frustrations out on. Pacific wins big but doesn't feel a whole lot better about themselves afterwards.

West Region Game of the Week

St. Johns (4-1) over Gustavus Adolphus (6-0) (at SJU):   GAU quarterback Mitch Hendricks is throwing for 1,584, 20 TDs, and has a completion percentage of 78.8%.  That is pretty darn good but what makes it worse for SJU fans is Hendricks played his first year at SJU and transferred because he thought he would never get a shot.  The biggest knock on SJU this season (as with recent seasons) is their QB play so Johnnie fans get a look at “what could have been” this weekend.  GAU may be 6-0 but they haven’t played anyone yet. Their last four games of the year are: SJU, Bethel, Concordia-Moorehead, St. Thomas.  Good luck with that.  Sura leads SJU to victory this week.

(509)Rat says SJU: West region and national games have been bad for me and so was the last time I picked the Johnnies. However, my prognosticating skills are on par with the Gustavus Adolphus defense. A loss for the Gusties moves Whitworth closer to the top 25

National Games of the Week

Berry (5-1) over Hendrix (4-1) (at Berry): Not a top 25 tilt but fun because these are two 3rd year programs meeting this late in the year with a combined 9-2 record and playing for the lead in the Southern Athletic Association. Berry just knocked off a top 25 team for the first time in program history (Chicago) and have been doing in with defense.  Hendrix might have more offensive punch but I’m going with defense.

(509)Rat says Berry: Of course now that I'm picking Berry to win, they will blow it. But Berry has been playing good defense against what looks like the toughest stretch in their schedule. Hendrix offense has been explosive all season and they may be able to outpace Berry even if they do end up allowing the Vikings their largest point total of the season. Hopefully I'm not putting too much faith in the upstart football program just because of the Chicago win.

Alfred (4-1) over Cortland State (at Cort): I should take Cortland State here but I made fun of Batman’s butler last year and the Saxons made me pay.  As punishment, I’m picking them this year to win so that pretty much means Cortland State should roll.

(509)Rat says Alfred: I'll take the better defensive team again. Cortland state has been living on the edge all season with 4 games being decided by a score. Buffalo state showed that a good team can slow down the red dragon offense and I think Alfred does the same this week.

Wildcat11’s Week 6 Northwest Conference Power Rankings

1.    Linfield – Until proven otherwise
2.    Whitworth – Looking to be the ones to prove Linfield differently
3.    Pacific – That’s how big the gap is right now between Linfield/Whitworth and the field
4.    UPS – Been mostly solid this year
5.    Fox – Looking to climb up the ranking this weekend
6.    Willamette – I like their defense but the offense is on the struggle bus
7.    PLU – Just a hard year to be a PLU fan
8.    L&C – Another week, another search for a silver lining

Thursday, October 15, 2015

2015 Game 5 Preview: Linfield (4-0) at Willamette (1-3)

Off to Salem!
The 'Cats are back at it this week as Linfield continues their march through the heart of their Northwest Conference schedule.  The ‘Cats will be loading up the buses to make the short trip down the Salem as Linfield will be taking on the Willamette Bearcats in a rematch of last season’s stunning upset by Willamette.  As much as that game stunk, in some ways it was a blessing. It snapped the program back to attention and put Linfield on a course where the program made history with historic playoff road victories and had Linfield knocking on the door of a national championship game.  I’m hoping that lesson still sits in the front of the minds of the 2015 Wildcats as they prepare to take on a Willamette team that’s played in just about nothing but tight games but came up short until last week.

While Willamette is only 1-3, the Bearcat defense has been pretty solid in only allowing 23.8 points per game and only allowing 125.3 rushing yards per contest.  Linfield’s offense struggled mightily last season against the Bearcats defensive front so that’s a match-up I’ll be keep a close eye on this Saturday.  Where the Bearcats have been struggling is with their offense.  Willamette is only scoring 15.0 points per game, and while the Bearcats are moving the ball at a respectable clip (340.0 yards per game), it’s their red zone offense that’s been under performing (only 4 TDs in 14 red zone trips so far in 2015).

I’m expecting Willamette to go back to what worked against Linfield last season and that’s try to possess the football (Willamette held the football for over 38 minutes in last year’s game) and try to get the Wildcat’s offense out of sync with a lot of defensive movement and pressure.  Willamette is going to try to make Saturday’s pace slow and ugly and get Linfield into a tight game and see if the ‘Cats will make mistakes under duress. In that regards, it will be a good test to see how our ‘Cats handle the pressure.

Get To Know A Wildcat
Photo Courtesy of Linfield S.I.D. Kelly Bird: View Linfield Sports Photos Here

#99 Ty Farber, Defensive Tackle, Junior
Hometown: Wasilla, Alaska , High School: Wasilla High School

Favorite place to eat in Mac: The D (WC11 note: The Deluxe does have the best burger in town!)

Favorite Movie: Interstellar

Favorite Music: Rock/Rap

Favorite TV show: Breaking Bad

Favorite Book: Slaughterhouse 5

Class I Most Look Forward to:  Ceramics

Iphone or Android: iPhone

CPU Homepage: Google

Personal Mantra: It's life, just keep moving forward

Social Media of choice: Instagram

Car or Truck: 1969 road runner truck: 2015 ram

Xbox, PS3, or Wii: Xbox

What first inspired you to play football: My dad loves the game and I love my dad, also I like to hit people.

Favorite Coach Smith Saying: "You don't deserve anything in life but death and taxes."

Favorite part of playing at Linfield: My friends I get to see every day get together to play the best game in the world

Linfield Defensive lineman that you would want to go to Vegas with: Obviously Alex Hoff, not because he is my best friend but because he knows how to have a good time.

Post Linfield aspirations: I would like to get an HR position/snowboard design position at burton snowboards. Also just live a happy life.

Wildcat11’s Keys To Victory

Keep building: Now is not the time to be content.  We all saw what’s possible with this team last weekend but that can’t be just a one time or every now and again type of effort.  Linfield needs to aspire to keep building upon the early season success and continue to aspire to play an aggressive but controlled brand of football. 

Don’t Allow Willamette to possess the football: The Bearcats are going to do their best to grind out first downs and keep the football away the Wildcat offense for as long as possible. Linfield’s defense has been fantastic this season and will doing their best to keep Willamette from moving the chains and get the ball back to the offense.

Handle Willamette’s defensive movement/pressure:  Willamette has some good players up front and in their linebacking corps and they’re going to move around and give Linfield all sorts of looks this weekend.  Pacific tried to take a page out of that books as the Boxers were sliding their defensive front all around and Linfield handled it beautifully.  I think Linfield will see more of that this weekend and how the offensive line and RBs handle it will go a long ways to determining how the offense performs.

Stuff the Bearcat Running Attack: Willamette has been respectful in running the football this season as the Bearcats average 146.5 rushing yards per game (3.8 per carry).  Linfield’s defense has been stout against the rush this year (61.8) and if the ‘Cats can continue to bottle up the opposition run, the Wildcat defense should be in great shape.

Great Decision Making: Linfield needs to continue their upward trend of on-field decision making and that will be key once against in Salem. 

Run the football effectively: Linfield’s going to get a stiff test in the running game this weekend and I hope our offensive line looks forward to it and is able to create the running lanes necessary for Willis and Payne to move the chains and set up the other aspects of the Wildcat offensive attack.  Don’t allow Willamette to make your offense one-dimensional.


‘Cats by 21.  This will be an interesting game. Linfield is coming off a huge win over Pacific and Willamette’s has been in a number of tight ballgames so far.  Granted, the Bearcats have been coming up short but their defense has been very respectable and the Bearcats still have talented players on their roster.  However, if the ‘Cats keep it clicking, Linfield is going to put this game away in style.

Monday, October 12, 2015

‘Cats Win!!! Linfield slaps around the Boxers in a 77-10 victory.

Erick Douglas III (#11) and the 'Cats offense left Pacific defense dazed and confused.
Photo courtesy from Brad Thompson: View Brad's photos here
So…Linfield looked pretty good this past Saturday.

I had a few people poke some fun at me for only picking the ‘Cats by 7 points in this past week’s game preview.  Yeah, instead of 7 point spread it was closer to 70 but Pacific is a solid team it would have been disrespectful to roll out a 40 point victory predictions.  I truly thought Pacific would give the ‘Cats more of a run with their Senior laden offense and experience but I was about as far off a score pick that is about humanly possible. 

Linfield was superior in just about every possible way that you could imagine in the ‘Catdome this past weekend.  Saying the ‘Cats blew the doors off of Pacific might be a bit of an understatement.  The Boxers did have a few shots to make the game a little more competitive but if you make mistakes against the ‘Cats when Linfield is rolling, it’s going to get ugly real quick.

In being around the team before the game, I knew the ‘Cats were dialed in.  The mood in the locker room was right.  Last week up at L&C, it was more loose and guys were cutting it up a little more before the game but not this week.  You could see it in the players’ demeanor that they were ready for what they thought was going to be a challenger and I had zero doubts that Linfield was looking past the Boxers.

For Pacific, that has to hurt even more than last year’s skunking at the end of last season.  The Boxers had all of last season to mull over what went wrong and devise a game plan with a veteran group of players to only see themselves run into a bigger buzz saw again.  Coach Buckley (who has done a good job building the Boxer program) said in the pregame interview on the Boxer radio broadcast that some Pacific faithful were complaining that the Boxers had to come back to McMinnville this year but he stated that he wouldn’t want it any other way.  Buckley stated he want to measure up his program against Linfield at the ‘Catdome.  Well, Linfield was more than happy to provide the Boxers with the measuring stick that turned out to, once again, be a whooping stick.

However, let’s not forget the lessons of last season.  Linfield looked unbeatable about this point of the season in 2014 before stumbling against Willamette.  Every week is a new game and I think this Linfield team will not lose focus on what’s in front of them.  Linfield still has over half of their season left and a single complete game doesn’t mean the rest of the NWC is going to roll over and just give it to Linfield. The ‘Cats are still going to have to earn it each week out and that next rung in the ladder is down in Salem this weekend when the ‘Cats get a chance to correct a wrong from 2014.

The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

The Good

Total Team Effort: We’ve been waiting for all three phases of this Linfield team to put it together and they did just that this past weekend.  You could feel it in the locker room before the game.  It was a group that was locked in and focused on the task in front of them and Linfield delivered. Very proud of the team approach and how guys rally around each other on this Linfield team. That was the Linfield team that we all knew was there.  Now, let’s see if the ‘Cats can keep it rolling.

Offensive Production: 698 total yards of offense (243 yards rushing, 455 yards passing), 0 turnovers, 9 touchdowns scored in 11 times touching the ball.  That was so much better than anyone could have expected.  Such a crisp and sharp performance for the Wildcat offense.  They did what they wanted, when they wanted and I’m sure defensive coordinators in the Northwest Conference are going to watch this game and start to sweat.
Defense putting the clamps on the Boxers:  Warner Shaw came into this game completing 70% of his passes for 320 yards passing a game and Linfield held Shaw to 11 of 21 yards for only 68 yards of passing before exiting the game at half. If it was the coverage getting Shaw to pull it down, it was the Wildcat pressure he was feeling.  Shaw just didn’t look comfortable against the Linfield defense once again.  Outstanding effort by Linfield in only allowing 200 total yards and 10 points against a very competent offensive football team.

Alex Hoff (#55) came up with a huge early 1st quarter sack and forced fumble against Pacific.
Photo courtesy from Brad Thompson: View Brad's photos here

Special Teams are once again special: The ‘Cats special teams scored their 3rd and 4th touchdowns on the season off a tremendous misdirection punt return to open the game and then the head’s up play by punter Kevin McClean when the Boxers forgot to cover gunner Cory Stowell, as McClean took what should have been a punt and lofted pass to Stowell who made one Boxer miss and was off to the races for the 66-yard TD.  Linfield special teams continue to shine as a major weapon and they made Pacific look silly once again.

Linfield owning 3rd down:  I called this a key down in the game preview and Linfield proved me correct as the ‘Cats would go 10 of 12 on 3rd down, while holding Pacific to 6 of 16 on the day.  Sam Riddle was 5 of 6 on 3rd down in the 1st half and his accuracy was a critical reason why the ‘Cats offense laid the hammer on the Boxers in the 1st half.

‘Cats Offensive Line:  I think it’s safe to say this was the Linfield offensive line’s best game of the year.  They’ve had to spend the first three games of the year working out some kinks and shuffling the deck a little bit but this group jelled for a top flight effort against the Boxers.  If the O-Line can continue to provide the lanes for the run game and time for Riddle in the pocket, the ‘Cats offense will continue to be dangerous.

Linfield Defensive Backs: I’ve been singing our DB’s praises since camp opened and this group passed their first true test with flying colors.  The Boxers have some very good receivers and a strong passing game and the ‘Cats blanked the Boxers receivers, made plays on the ball, and shut down the Pacific passing game. A strong effort by the Linfield defensive backs.

A photo posted by catdomealumni (@catdomealumni) on
The Bad

Looking….Looking…Looking…nope.  Pretty darn good performance all around by Linfield.

The Ugly

Poor Boxer Cheerleaders:  With the score about 64 – 7 late in the 3rd quarter I was filming on the visitor sideline (the turning trees is a great backdrop this time of the year) and all of the sudden I hear this top of the lungs screaming from a female Pacific student that was standing up in the visitor grandstand dressing down the Boxer cheerleading squad for not doing enough cheering on the team.  She was all over these cheerleaders for not giving the Boxers enough encouragement and that you keep on cheering and supporting your team no matter what the situation.  O.K., sure. But it’s not the cheer squads fault that the Boxers weren’t giving them anything to cheer about.  I felt bad for those young women who had to stand there and take that type of garbage. 

Bonus Ugly: To the adult Boxer fan on the sideline that started yelling at Linfield for showing “no class” when Kevin McClean hit Cory Stowell for the 66 yard pass during a punt attempt to make the score 43-7 late in the 1st half.  1) Pacific just scored and was doing all they could to get back in the game. 2) Not Linfield’s fault Pacific didn’t cover Stowell, that’s on the Boxers. 3) Is Linfield obligated to take the foot off the gas in the 1st half of a football game with Pacific still trying to get back in it? 4) Maybe if the Pacific cheerleaders yelled louder, the game would have been closer


Linfield Running Back Andy Nelson drops some serious bars in his hip-hop Linfield Football anthem "Catdome".  You know I'll be rolling around with the windows down blasting this today on the way home from work.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

2015 NWC Pick 'Em Contest: Week 5

Get to the game!
We’re back for week 5 of the NWC Pick ‘Em contest as the first week of Northwest Conference play answered some questions but more light will be shinned on just where the conference picture is going as we have the critical Linfield/Pacific game and a chance for Whitworth to continue to build their case as a top 25 team. 

Right now, (509)Rat has a slight lead over Wildcat11 in the NWC pick ‘em standings but we’re both firmly right in the middle of the standings.  Both of us are in agreement with this weeks games except for the hot PLU/Willamette match up as the resistible force will face off against the movable object up in Washington. I’m curious to see how badly Fox will put the hurt on L&C and we’ll see if the improved Loggers will offer up much fight against a darn good Whitworth team.

Let’s get to the action!

Northwest Conference Games of the week

#3 Linfield (3-0) over Pacific (3-1) (at Linfield): (509)Rat says Linfield: Linfield's offense has looked out of sorts, at times, despite what the scoreboard reads at the end of the game. Pacific needs Linfield to turn the ball over, which the Wildcats have been willing to do in the running game, in order to have a shot in this one. I don't think Riddle will make too many mistakes in the passing game and the defense will be what you guys like to call "salty." Pacific shouldn't lose by 59 this year, but they aren't strolling into the Catdome and winning a game any time soon

Whitworth (4-0)  over Puget Sound (2-1) (at UPS): So this is the 2nd year in a row where UPS has a winning record in the month of October. Congrats on that but the Loggers will be sitting at .500 after this weekend.  Whitworth continues to start fast and boat race the competition. Looks like the Pirates also have some nice special teams weapons as their place kicker hit a 46 and 51 yard field goal last weekend.  I’m expecting more of the same as UPS will probably turn it over a few times and that will lead to the Rats winning by a comfortable margin.

(509)Rat says Whitworth: An improved D will be plenty to stop UPS and don't expect the Logger D to better their season avg of 435 yd/gm allowed. Whitworth will score early and often and get one week closer to their first (and what may be their only) test of the season. It's nice being a fan because I can look ahead to Linfield all I want.

Willamette (0-3) over Pacific Lutheran (0-3) (at PLU): Holy smokes. A few years ago it would have been hard to imagine that both these programs would be sitting winless at this point of the season. At least Willamette has been close in their last two losses (losing by a combined 7 points) while PLU has just been getting brutalized. Something has to give this weekend and I’m going to take the Bearcats to send PLU to 0-4. 

(509)Rat says PLU:  I literally flipped a coin. PLU can't run the ball, but Willamette gives up 140 yds/game (and that number would be much worse if you could throw out the UPS game since the Loggers can't and don't run the ball). Both teams turn the ball over about 3 times a game. Neither team knows what it feels like to win a game in 2015. This should be a close game...and a very sad game when you think about how far these two have fallen this year.

George Fox (2-2) over Lewis and Clark (0-3) (at GFU): Fox has done some nice things in year 3 of their restart of football, while Lewis and Clark is going to continue to take their lumps in year one of a total rebuild job at Lewis and Clark. The Pio defense is the better unit as the Lewis and Clark offense just doesn’t have the horses to get points on the board and Fox should be able to have a happy homecoming and push their record to 3-2 on the season.

(509)Rat says Fox: George Fox will beat L&C. The Bruins shouldn't have any problems moving the football and they are playing against the only team all year that they'll be able to stop defensively. Props to the Bruins for being more competitive in year 3 than Locey will be before he gets a better job. Don't get all upset Wildcat fans, not his fault, Larry Kehres couldn't win at L&C.

West Region Game of the week:

#1 UW-Whitewater (4-0) at #15 UW-OshKosh (3-1): The meat grinder continues for the Warhawks as UWW will face their 3rd ranked opponent in a row this weekend as the Titans host the Warhawks this weekend in biggest WIAC game of the year. If UWW is going to fall this year, then this weekend is for it to happen as the Titans are a legit contender but you just don’t go against the UWW.  I might be in the middle of the pick ‘em pack but I’m not ready to start throwing the hail mary quiet just yet.

(509)Rat says UWW: Plateville was a wake-up call. Whitewater had a post Morningside hangover, so what? Only a desperate man would pick against them.

National Games of the Week:

#24 Chicago (4-0) over Berry (4-1) (at Berry):
Chicago broke into the top 25 for the first time ever as the Maroons have raced out to a 4-0 record and look to build up on that as they travel to 3rd year program Berry who has shown incredible growth in a short period of the time as the Vikings have gone 0-9, 2-8, and now sit at 4-1 to start the 2015 season.  I’m expecting a low scoring game here but Chicago is going to have more firepower and will leave the Vikings black and Maroon.

(509)Rat says Chicago: Berry is in year 3 of football, and while they've already beaten 4 teams that they lost to in 2014, I don't think they can upset Chicago. Berry has a shot mostly because Chicago doesn't care too much about playing defense. Chicago, however, should be able to control time of possession, limit turnovers, and continue to run the ball down their opponents' throat. I really hope Berry pulls this one out...Whitworth is better than Chicago but won't creep into the top 25 until some of the low hanging fruit starts falling.

#20 Wittenberg (3-1) over DePauw (4-0) (at DePauw):
Not a very sexy match-up to wrap up this week’s pick em.  Whittenberg bounced back nicely last week after getting plunked two weeks ago by Wabash and DePauw is off to their best start since 2010.  I’m going to pick this purely on traditional strength of the Wittenberg program and the fact they’ve handled DePauw over the past few seasons.

(509)Rat says Wittenberg: I'll take tradition and the better defense. Wittenberg responded to losing a big rivalry game by shutting out Wooster, which is good to see. Depauw will score, but it will be much tougher sledding than in weeks past. Sure, Depauw has some nice box scores, but their opponents are a combined 3-19...they've basically played against the SCIAC every week. Depauw gets a wakeup call on Saturday.

Wildcat11’s Week 5 NWC Power Rankings:
1.    Linfield – ‘Cats get their first true test of the year this weekend
2.    Whitworth – It’s criminal that they’re not a top 25 team right now
3.    Pacific – Best performance of the year vs PLU sets stage for Linfield showdown
4.    UPS – The Loggers are the best of the middle of the pack.
5.    Fox – Have a legit shot at knocking of the other middle of the pack teams this season
6.    Willamette – That loss last week had to sting.
7.    PLU – I know the Lutes are young but man it has been ugly so far
8.    Lewis & Clark – Not going to have the offense to break into the win column this year