|According the GFU's marketing people this would be a crowd of 11,313.|
Another big week for your Linfield Wildcats. As I’ve stated before, the playoffs for this year’s team started back in September when the ‘Cats dropped that non-conference road game to Mary Hardin-Baylor. The only way for Linfield to make it back to the second season and accomplish the goals this team laid out last December is to clearly win the NWC title and earn the Pool A automatic bid. Even with the ‘Cats long history of championships and deep playoff successes there is little to no room for error for Linfield. Anything less than the sole ownership of the 2016 NWC title and you’re placing your fate in the hands of a playoff selection committee that has a who’s who of Division III power vying for only six at-large berths across the country for the runner’s up of auto bid conferences (Pool C). Linfield controls their own destiny going into this game with George Fox but as quickly as Linfield can have both hands on the wheel of destiny, the car can easily swerve into the ditch if the ‘Cats are not keeping their eyes on the obstacles on the road ahead.
As the season moves along, the stats this Linfield team have piled up are becoming more and more impressive. Right now, the ‘Cats offense is right below the 2004 team in terms of average yards per pass with 10.1 (2004 – 10.2), 3rd in passing yards per game with 330.5, 3rd in total offense per play (6.9 yards), and 1st in average yards per game with 529.7 yards. But even with all of those flashy stats, it doesn’t feel to me that this team has played their best football game yet. IMO, The biggest reason for that is the turnover ratio. Linfield currently sits at a -3 which isn’t a place Linfield typically sits. In fact, since the year 2000, the ‘Cats average turnover ratio per season is a +10.9, with their best season being +26 in 2009 (12-1, National Semifinalist) and their worst was -3 in 2008 (6-3, 2nd place in NWC). If you look back at the 2016 season so far and the turnovers have played a huge part in this team’s only loss and being a key factor for not being able to put NWC foes on ice sooner in the game. I know there are only three games left but if this team can take better care of the ball while creating takeaways, you see this group take their game to another level.
The team hoping to create a gaggle of Linfield turnovers this weekend is the George Fox Bruins. George Fox football is in their 4th year of existences/3rd year of competing and right now are playing the best football they have since reinstating the program. The Bruins sit 3-3 overall and 3-1 in Northwest Conference play with their only loss being in the last moments to Whitworth. Since then, Fox has rolled past the NWC basement in Lewis & Clark and Puget Sound and then landed their biggest win since bring back football when they knocked off PLU 22-18 at home. The calling card for the 2016 Bruins is their Defense. GFU is currently only giving up 22.5 points per game and lead the NWC in rushing defense in only surrendering 96.2 yards per contest. Leading the charge on GFU’s 3-4 defense is outstanding Linebacker Charles Riga who has piled up 55 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 7 TFL’s, 3 pass breakups, and 1 forced fumble. The Bruin’s play a physical brand of football up front and will be a big challenge to the ‘Cats.
On the other side of the ball, Fox runs a balanced offensive attack that leans a little more on the rush but are certainly capable of putting the ball in the air off the arm of 3rd/4th year QB Grant Schroeder but love pounding the rock behind their lengthy offensive line with RB Wesley Riddell and have no issues in designed runs or veer plays for Schroeder (54 rushes, 359 yards, and 5 rush TDs). Fox is going to give Linfield a lot of different looks and try to attack Linfield North & South running the ball, quick game throwing the ball, and will go for the occasional home run.
Make no mistake this is a big football game on many different levels. Fox is probably the most confident they have been since restarting their program and have an opportunity to come in the ‘Catdome and play for a share of the NWC lead in late October. You know they’ll be jacked and ready to stand toe-to-toe with Linfield. The ‘Cats have to be ready for the challenge and not just assume that GFU will falter under the weight of the game. That’s not going to happen so I hope the ‘Cats have been getting their mind right this week.
Get To Know A Wildcat
#71 Ryne Furhmark, Offensive Tackle, Junior
Hometown: Gilbert, AZ., High School: Williams Field High School
Favorite Place to Eat: 1882 Grill on 3rd St.
Favorite movie: Saving Private Ryan
Favorite Music: Hip-Hop
Favorite TV show: Game of Thrones
Favorite Book: The Long Walk by Stephen King
Favorite class: I haven't taken a lot of history classes here at Linfield but history is easily my favorite subject, and I always enjoy going to those classes the most.
iPhone or Android: iPhone
CPU Homepage: Google
Personal Mantra: Try not to suck.
Social Media of Choice: Instagram
Car or Truck: Due to my lack of a vehicle, I can't have a preference since I would be okay with either.
When did you know Linfield was the right choice: When I came on my visit and I met Coach Hire and Smith I knew that I had to come play here. The distance didn't bother me and the culture was very similar to my HS so I knew it was right.
What inspired you to first play football: I really just started since everyone played it, but after actually playing the game, I enjoyed football and all of the lessons it taught.
Coach Smith saying: Pace...O-Line...Pace!
Best part of playing for Linfield: Being part of the family and being with a group of guys who want the same goals as myself. Also that drive to improve every week that is shared by everyone. Also the group of O-Linemen have really become my boys.
Post Linfield aspirations: I want to go to Grad school at Arizona State and pursue a career of making prosthetics, designing them or researching new models
Wildcat11’s Keys To Victory:
Accept the physical challenge for four quarters: The Bruins are going to come right at Linfield in all three phases of the game and pride their young program on playing a physical brand of football. Linfield is not afraid of that type of football game so the ‘Cats better button up the chin straps from the first kickoff and not unbuckle until the final horn goes off.
Be effective rushing the football: The Bruins do a very nice job in stuffing the rush and that’s where Linfield needs to attack GFU. There could some offensive series where the ‘Cats don’t go anywhere but Linfield needs to keep pounding. We all know what happens with this offense when they start popping some yardage on the ground. Our offensive line has to be up for the challenge.
Stand out special teams: Linfield has to control field position and one of the ways to do that is to be outstanding with your coverage units. Linfield’s kickoff team’s struggles are well documented this season so this group needs to have a step up game vs the Bruins. The other areas of Linfield’s special teams need to be clean and execute at a high level.
Bottle up the Bruin rushing attack: Linfield is going to see a lot of different looks out of GFU’s offense this weekend. Pistol, single back, no back, with a mix of zone rushing, power plays, veers, QB designed runs, etc. The Bruins really try to mix it up and keep defenses guessing. Bottling up Riddle and Schroder in the run game will be a major storyline in just where this game goes.
Taking care of the football: I already went football nerd up top talking about Linfield’s historical turnover ratio rates, etc. Ball security has to be a top priority this Saturday.
Close ‘em out on 3rd down: Both Linfield and GFU’s defenses have been owning 3rd down this season. Linfield is sitting at allowing teams to convert 24% of the time while Fox is at 33%. Those are both very impressive so this game could hinge on which team executes better on 3rd down. This will be one of the first stats I look at after the game.
Connect on the home run ball: At some point during this game, a Linfield wide receiver will be behind the GFU defense. It’s inevitable. When those opportunities come for the Linfield offense, the ‘Cats have to take full advantage and own that football once it’s in the air.
‘Cats by 14. If Linfield comes out and plays an “Linfield A” level of football then there is no doubt that the ‘Cats will prevail and do so in style. But if the ‘Cats scuffle, have a slow start, more self-inflicted wounds then the ‘Cats are going to be in a 4 quarter tussle with the upstart wannabe neighbors from across the county. Linfield better bring their big boys boots to the ‘Catdome this weekend and be ready for a fight.