Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Linfield has a Texas sized meltdown against UMHB in 66-27 blowout.

Linfield Linebacker, #7 Jason Farlow, with one of his team high 13 tackles.
Saturday was rough. I’ve been around Linfield football since 1994 and this is one of the very few times that I’ve seen Linfield football get rolled out of a game. Yeah, We’ve lost games but it’s a rare bird for the ‘Cats to get blown out. Shoot, I don’t even have to look it up on the Linfield website to remember this short list these long Saturdays for the Linfield faithful: 1995 at Willamette, 1999 vs PLU, 2001 at SOU, 2008 vs Willamette, 2011 second half against Wesley, and now 2016 second half against UMHB. I think that (509)Rat, who was in attendance on Saturday night, summed up Linfield’s issues perfectly in a tweet: “definitely more of an execution problem than a talent problem…”.  Bingo.

There is not a single doubt in my mind that Linfield has the players and talent in the program to beat UMHB but that wouldn’t happen in 100 rematches if Linfield repeated their efforts in terms of execution.  There was no consistency for the Wildcats in all three phases of the football game. I think everyone associated with Linfield football owns Saturday’s loss.

However, I’m not going to question the effort or heart of the players because that was there for Linfield, all the way to the end, but Linfield went from feeling that the game was in reach at half to watching the wheels come flying off the car in the 4th quarter. Then the car tumbled down into a ravine…..and then exploded into a fireball.  And the events leading to this wasn’t about heart or want but about not doing the little things right and it blew up on our ‘Cats.

Don’t get me wrong, UMHB is a hell of a football team. They are one of the very best in the country and have a claim to say, that right now, they’re the top team in Division III.  However, Linfield made it way too easy on Saturday with unforced miscue after unforced miscue that eventually snowballed into the rare Linfield blowout loss.

Saturday’s game was about potential playoff matchups down the line, etc, etc but Coach Smith is right that more than anything that game was about pride so it hurts to see Linfield lose in that fashion.  I’m sure it hurts the players and coaching staff even more. But does that mean the season is over? Does that mean Linfield cannot accomplish the goals this 2016 team laid out before the season started? The answer to both of these questions is “no”.  This season isn’t over, in fact, it’s just getting started. Winning the NWC and making a run at Salem, VA. Is still very much obtainable by this Linfield football team but they’re going to have to own this and grow from it.

There is a laundry list of areas Linfield needs to address if they want to play football at the end of December but it is still very much achievable.  So our ‘Cats need to make the decision if this past Saturday vs UMHB is going to break them or if the ‘Cats are going to use Saturday’s loss as a launching pad to reach the potential that this team possesses. I’m looking forward to seeing what our men decide to do.

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

The Good

Passing Attack:  I thought Sam Riddle and the Wildcat receivers played their butts off on Saturday night. The lack of a rushing threat hurt the ‘Cats big as the game progressed because UMHB could just drop 7 in coverage and sit on the ‘Cats but I still think passing attack performed admirably considering the outcome.

Linebackers Play:  Yes, we gave up 335 rushing yards but nearly half of that was piled up towards the end of the game when the dam broke.  I think both Jason Farlow and Jake Reimer were outstanding for the Wildcats on defense and should continue to be a major asset for this Wildcat defense.

Sticking together: It would have been easy to point fingers and snipe at each other in that 4th quarter but I was encouraged by the team policing itself on the sideline and postgame about owning the performance and moving forward as a program.

The Bad

Not doing the little things right:  Linfield is a program that prides itself on doing the little things right. You do enough of the little things right and they will add up to big successes. Well, that didn’t happen in Belton for whatever reason and I know that has to bother the staff and players the most out of everything. Offense, defense, and special teams all had fundamental breakdowns at various points of Saturday’s game. If this team is going to move forward from here it’s going to have to come with a re-commitment to doing the little things correctly every single moment of practice all the way through game day.

Lack of running game: Just nothing was doing in the running game.  Take away the two botched snaps that cost the team -71 yards of rushing and Linfield’s four primary ball carriers (Payne, Choisser, Cassill, Riddle) still were only able to manage 55 yards on 30 carries (1.83 yards per rush). This offense HAS to be able to run the football in order to be as explosive as it can be in terms of the play action passing attack, which can be lethal if there is a real threat to rush the football. The inability to run the football killed the ‘Cats in that second half.

3rd and Long defense: As a defense you LOVE it when a team is in 3rd and long situations. The chances of getting their offense off the field increase dramatically in this situation but in that 1st half it seemed UMHB’s offense was at its best in 3rd and long.  The Cru converted in 3rd in long six times against the ‘Cats in that first half and 5 of those conversions occurred on scoring drives.   The ‘Cats defense did tighten up in the 3rd quarter before the 4th quarter team meltdown but it could have been a different game if Linfield would have been able to turn back the Cru more effectively on 3rd and long.

Turnovers:  Linfield gave up 28 points off of five turnovers.  Turning the ball over that much is a sure way to lose football games and a sure way to get blasted into next week against one of the top programs in the country.  Saturday was the old shoe on the other foot from the 2009 Linfield vs UMHB playoff game at the ‘Catdome when UMHB turned it over 7 times against the ‘Cats in a 53-21 Linfield beatdown victory.  All three of Linfield’s fumbles on Saturday were from botched snaps (all resulted in touchdowns) and are easily avoidable mistakes.

The Ugly

Special Teams:  Our special teams stunk in week 1 and they were man handled against UMHB on Saturday night.  PAT blocked, dropped a punt, wild snap, and that killer kick return for a TD to start the 2nd half.  That’s a list that you wouldn’t hope to see in a season on Special teams let alone a single game.  All three phases of the program all played their part in Saturday’s loss but our players on Special Teams need to execute consistently on a higher level ASAP.

***On a side note, I want to give a major shout out to all the UMHB facility and game day operation people.  UMHB first class facility is run by first class people.  They were welcoming and accommodating but the best example of that is when our starting Center, Will Heck, was injured in the second quarter of play. I was in the South End Zone area (The ‘Cats were driving in) shooting video, and when Will went down, a UMHB student, that was sitting in a packed grass area, started to heckle Will with calls of “RUB SOME DIRT ON IT, SISSY” and “WALK IT OFF”.  Within 5 seconds, an UMHB administrator that was on the sideline came running up to this fan section and demanded to know who was yelling at our Linfield player. The offending student raised his hand and the administrator said “We don’t do that here. It’s time for you to leave.” and booted the student from the game/facility.  Tip of the cap to you and the fine people at UMHB that make that game day experience go.***

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