'Catdome baby! It was a solid first step of the 2016 Linfield College Football season as the ‘Cats dispatched the Chapman Panthers by a count of 48-14 on a hot one this past Saturday in the ‘Catdome. Linfield did have a bit of a slow start in not converting a nice first drive into points on a makeable field goal opportunity and then giving up an ugly 93-yard punt return for TD. However, that punt return for TD was like a cold up of water that the ‘Cats needed as Linfield would go onto build a 34-14 halftime lead and never look back for a convincing 48-14 win.
What jumped out at me this first game was the connection that Sam Riddle and the Wildcat receivers had. You saw the chemistry develop as the 2015 season moved on and it seems to have done nothing but grow over this offseason and into this opening contest. The Linfield rushing game had its moments on Saturday but it was passing attacked that looked to be in mid-season form right out of the gates.
The Linfield defense also showed some flashes of what could be a fantastic defensive unit. There was some tackling stuff that could be cleaned up but the group’s speed was on display as the 1st team unit only allowed less than 200 yards of total offense before Chapman put together an 88-yard final drive against the ‘Cats defensive 2’s and 3’s.
For Chapman, I think the Panthers should be just fine in the SCIAC. It seems that conferenced is wide open for a number of teams and Chapman will probably be in the mix. Who knows…maybe we’ll see this team again down the road.
Overall, I think any fan of the program would be pleased in what they saw this past Saturday in the ‘Catdome. There is room to grow and that is a great thing but the bad news is that that growth needs to happen in a hurry as the ‘Cats are going to be walking into a madhouse this Saturday night in Belton, Texas. Linfield is facing what is the most talented team in the country in Mary Hardin-Baylor and that is not just some hyperbole to pump up this contest. Linfield know just what they’re getting into this weekend and I can’t wait to see it unfold.
The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
Quick Strike Offense: Holy Smokes the ‘Cats 2016 offense was fast and explosive. The ‘Cats offense averaged 2 minutes and 14 seconds in their seven touchdown drives. Twice the ‘Cats offense answered Chapman touchdowns in the first half to squash any chance of Chapman gaining momentum. Linfield’s pace was dizzying and had the Panther’s defense on their heels the whole game.
‘Cats 3rd down defense: Linfield’s defense did a GREAT job on getting Chapman off the field on 3rd down. The ‘Cats held the Panthers to only 3 of 12 on 3rd down attempts and was a huge key in keeping the pressure on Chapman in that first half.
Linfield passing attack: It seems that Sam Riddle and the Linfield receiving corps have a telepathic connection this season. It was like Riddle and the receivers were an old married couple that were finishing each others sentences on the field this past Saturday. Not only with the timing game but also when Riddle had to improv in the pocket. Their crispness was impressive.
End game defensive stand: Yeah, it was no fun watching Chapman get that last drive but man what a tremendous goal line defensive stand to end the contest. Chapman had 4 cracks from the 5-yard line but Duke Mackle, Chris Stinchcomb, and Kyle Chandler all made fantastic plays to help end the game on a defensive high note.
Good first effort by new look offensive line: The ‘Cats had 40 pass attempts and gave up zero sacks on the day. There were a few free runs at Sam but he was able to use his feet to escape and buy time but I thought the offensive line showed why this could develop into a heck of a unit.
Rocky Special Teams Play: Not the best debut for a Linfield special team’s unit. Giving up a 93-yard punt return for a TD, missing a very makeable field goal, and missing a PAT. Linfield is going to be facing an explosive special team’s unit again UMHB so the ‘Cats need to see big growth this week.
Senior Injury: I hate injuries. For either team. These young people work so hard to play the game and it’s gut wrenching to see injuries happen to take players off the field. Even worse is when it’s a senior player. It’s the last ride and it stings when you’re a senior and you have to miss games. It’s not my place to talk specifics on the player and injury, but you know who you are, and get back to us as soon as you can.
Nothing: Yeah, it was about 10 degrees too hot for this guy but it was a great season debut for the Wildcats and the ‘Catdome looked freaking fantastic with the additional end zone banner, some new signage, and a vocal home crowd. Great way to start the year.