|#64 Gabe Mojarro and the 'Cats offense had a big day for the Linfield Offense.|
Batten down the hatches it was a good old beatdown by the ‘Cats this Saturday against longtime NWC foe Willamette. Linfield used their shutdown passing defense and a ground based offense to punish the Bearcats by the tune of 40-0. This is the first time Linfield has held Willamette scoreless since the 1984 season. Wow, in all the beatings Linfield has laid onto Willamette over the years it’s hard to imagine that it’s been 32 years since our ‘Cats held Willamette scoreless.
Let’s talk real quick about the weather. While the rain didn’t come has hard as I thought it would, that wind was relentless for four quarters and some of the strongest winds I can remember at the ‘Catdome in my 22 year association with the program. I thought that Linfield handled the conditions beautifully and while it did have a major impact on the strength of the offense (the passing game), Linfield was able to adapt and punch in four rushing TDs to control the game from its outset. Being able to adjust and produce in harsh conditions like that is a sign of a very good football team.
For the Bearcats. I think Willamette is a scrappy team but they not the program they once were during Speckman’s tenure. When they dumped the fly, they lost what made them unique as a program and blended into the forest of division III football programs. Yes, they the nailed the ‘Cats with that huge upset in 2014, but besides that, there is nothing of note Willamette has done since Speck took the fly and left the Bearcats.
So with that out of the way, we all know what time it is. Linfield going up to Spokane for a HUGE NWC showdown with Whitworth. It’s a playoff game in October. As the winner has a major inside track to the NWC crown (aka the Pool A playoff auto-bid), while the loser will probably be relegated to the outside fringe of the Pool C bids. It’s the NWC game of the year (again) and will be one of the top games in Division III this weekend. Until then, here is this past Saturday’s “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly”.
The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
Handling the Wind: While the rain didn’t come like I thought it would that wind was really something else and made the passing and kicking game difficult to manage for both Willamette and Linfield. What was super impressive to me was Linfield’s first two drives of the game was going right into the face of the wind and all the ‘Cats did was break out drives of 58 yards and 75 yards for touchdowns to take the commanding 14-0 lead early. Along with that, I thought the Linfield staff was smart to use the unpredictable nature of the win in their first two kick off attempts where Cayman Conley boomed the kickoff sky high and let the wind play havoc and nearly created two turnovers. Also the staff was again wise to use the wind at their back to attempt the longest field goal of the season in Conley’s 47 yard boomer to put the ‘Cats up 33-0.
Rushing Offense: Both teams knew it was a matter of who was going to do a better job rushing the football would wind up with the advantage and Linfield was that club. The ‘Cats rushed for 218 yards, 4.4 per rush, and 4 rushing TD’s (season high). Both Spencer Payne and Bryan Cassill chipped in with 56 and 52 yards off of 22 carries and the staff allowed Sam Riddle to get a little loose and Sam churned out 45 yards and two smooth looking TD runs on the day. I thought the Linfield offense line played a great football game and this unit continues to build some chemistry.
3rd / 4th down defense: How do you shutout another football team. You hold them to 1 of 13 on 3rd down attempts and 0 and 2 on 4th down. Those 4th down stops were particularly huge as those came on both of Willamette’s most promising drives as the ‘Cats stacked up the Bearcats leading rusher Taylor Wyman in their Wildcat formation for emphatic stops for the Wildcats.Nice wrap up on Linfield's 40-0 blanking of Willamette on @fox12oregon Oregon Sports Final. #Catdome pic.twitter.com/eVhyzchvDY— Catdomealumni.com (@catdomealumni) October 18, 2016
Special Teams: About dang time. Two big field goals of 33 and 47 yards, flipping field positon, good coverage, fielding the ball cleanly, etc. That was one to build off of for this group and I hope they keep it up.
Pass Defense: Yeah, the wind was tough on both passing games but this stat line is no mistake. Linfield held Willamette’s passing attack to 8 of 22, 79 yards, and 3 picks. On the year now, the Linfield defense is hold the opposition to 65 of 146 for 139.8 yards per game, 6 touchdown passes to 9 interceptions. That is easily the best pass defense in the conference up to this point in the season (We’ll find out how good it really is next weekend).
Missed chances to put the game to bed in the 1st half: Being nitpicky here but I thought that Linfield missed a couple of chances to bury Willamette in that 2nd quarter in pinning the Bearcats deep but Linfield let Willamette off the hook with a redzone interception, and extending two Willamemtte drives with a roughing the passer penalty and then a facemask. I’m being greedy but I thought Linfield could have gone in at the break up 30 to 35 points.
Willamette QB stat line: Poor Willamette Sophomore quarterback Enrique Pacheco. The Willamette staff inserted Pacheco in the lineup for spot duty throughout Saturday’s game and ask the kid to throw the ball deep in squall level winds. The result was a line state line to forget…. 0 for 5 passing with 3 interceptions. That’s it. He completed three passes to the Wildcats and zero to the Bearcats. I’m not sure what the QB rating would be for that kind of stat line but I’m pretty sure Blane Gabbert would cringe at that one. Enrique is probably one hell of a good young man but that was one to throw away into the trash bin.
This field goal attempt by Cody Mitchell: The offense line like to live out their skill player fantasies early in the pregame by playing a little skelly offense in the red zone by drawing up plays in the dirt and throwing the ball around. Sometimes they will even line up for some field goal attempts. Most of the attempts are are typical low line drive misses and then you get Sophomore Center Cody Mitchell’s big boot that landed somewhere near the Theta Chi house.