|Let's do it.|
So Linfield is playing in a big football game this weekend. The ‘Cats make the long bus trip out to Spokane to play what might just be the NWC game of the year as the two conference favorites has a showdown for what could for the NWC title (Linfield still has to face PLU) and the only way to truly lock up an invitation to the post-season tournament, the Pool A automatic bid rewarded to the NWC champion. The loser of the game still has a shot at an at-large Pool C bid but the competition for those six at-large selections is going to be fierce across the country as the WIAC, MIAC, OAC, CCIW, ASC, and more are all going to have 2nd place teams that will certainly be playoff worthy. No, the only sure fire way for Linfield or Whitworth to get a shot at the post-season is by victory this Saturday at the Pine Bowl. The team that falls, will undoubtedly be on the bubble and that bubble is one that the playoff selection committee has burst many of times for teams around the NWC.
What’s waiting for Linfield is one of the top offenses in the country in the Whitworth Pirates. The Rats boast the 4th highest scoring team in division III in averaging 47.7 points per game, and whose offense is currently 5th in the country in total offense (550.0 yards per game). The trigger man for that offense is Junior Quarerback, Ian Kolste, who leads D3 in total offensive yards 406.2 yards per game, and leads D3 in passing yards per game (395.2 yards per game with 16 TDs to only 3 picks.). But Whitworth’s offense is far from just Kolste, as the Rats have a fleet of receivers as Whitworth has over four different receivers with over 20 catches for the season and running back Duke DaGaetano has 35 receptions as well. The Whitworth offense is diversified and going to be a monster challenge for the Wildcat defense to try to slow down.
This football game might just come down to how good the Linfield offense can perform. The Wildcat offense has been no slouches this season in averaging 44.4 points per game while putting up 502.8 yards of offense per game but at times have missed some critical opportunities to salt games away with a knockout blow by either turning the ball over or not converting critical 3rd downs for one reason or another. For as explosive as this offense has been, it’s felt like this group still hasn’t put everything together on the same page for a full four quarters. If the ‘Cats can finally do that this upcoming Saturday, it will be the catalyst to a Wildcat victory.
Get To Know A Wildcat
#1 Sam Robinson, Senior, Receiver
Home Town: Northridge, Ca. High School: Notre Dame Preparatory School
Favorite place to eat in Mac: 1882
Favorite Movie: Training Day
Favorite Music: Rap + R&B
Favorite TV show: Currently, my favorite show is 'Empire'. All-time favorite 'Chappelle's Show'
Favorite Book: The Outsiders
Class I Most Look Forward to: Strategic Management...it's my only class
iPhone or Android: iPhone
CPU Homepage: A picture of me and my brothers + cousins
Personal Mantra: "No one is going to do YOUR work but YOU...so get it done!"
Social Media of choice: Facebook
Car or Truck: Car
When did you know Linfield was the right choice for you: My sophomore year when I red-shirted. I was forced to explore new things because football was temporarily taken away from me.
What first inspired you to play football: Playing pick up games in my grandma's backyard with my cousins and uncle.
Favorite Coach Smith Saying: "Cut the fluff! Your body is the team's body, Got it?!"
Favorite part of playing at Linfield: Being able to be a part of a great program and grow as a person. Also, the friendships I've made with all my teammates throughout my time here.
Post Linfield aspirations: Make money baby!
Wildcat11’s Keys to Victory
Four Quarters of Linfield Football: Whitworth is a team that starts a game strong and finishes a game strong as they’ve outscored the opposition 178 – 64 when you combine the first and fourth quarter. The ‘Cats are going to have to put in a complete game of sharp and sustained play in order to knock off the Pirates on their home turf.
Take away the Pirate rush game: It’s seems silly to say that taking the running game away from one of the most explosive and efficient passing games in the country is critical in slowing down the Whitworth offense but if you let Duke DeGaetano get into a groove rushing the ball, it’s going to be a loooong day in the ball park for your defense. DeGaetano is leading the NWC in rushing with 99.2 yards per game and a beefy 14 rushing TD’s (2nd in Division III). The ‘Cats have to try to cast a net around DeGaetano and limit his yardage and make the Whitworth offense one-dimensional.
Have the run game clicking: Linfield HAS to have a strong rushing game against the Whitworth defense. On the season, the Whitworth defense has allowed 222.3 rushing yards a game (5.3) yards per rush. If the ‘Cats offense wants to be as effective as possible, Linfield has to dictate the pace of the game with the big boys up front leading the charge with Payne/Cassill/Choisser putting in a big day in the office. If the ‘Cats run game gets going, it will only allow Sam Riddle and the play action passing game to have multiple opportunist to hit home runs.
Get Whitworth off the field on 3rd down: The Rats are currently converting 55% of their 3rd down conversions on the season (52 of 94 attempts). This down will be where the Linfield defense butters their bread and will go a long way in just who wins this football game.
Take great care of the football: This could really be the tale of the game. These are two fantastic football teams and when you get into these games the turnover factor could be a primary factor in victory or defeat. Linfield needs make wise decisions with the football on offense and with the ‘Cats special teams unit. IMO, turnovers has been the biggest hurdle from this Linfield football team reaching their full potential. If the ‘Cats can keep this under wraps, this is a national championship caliber group.
'Cats by 3. Going and winning at the Pine Bowl is no easy feat. This is the game Whitworth has been waiting for since the end of their 2015 season….to finally get Linfield on their home field and finally knock the ‘Cats off the NWC throne. The Rats have all the firepower, coaching, and talent to make that happen but this Linfield team was built for challenges like this and I know will be well prepared for the challenge.