|#8 Spencer Payne took to sky to punch in this 2nd quarter touchdown.|
|Photo Courtesy from Brad Thompson: View Brad's Photos here|
KA-BOOM! That was an old fashioned, take ‘em out behind the woodshed whooping that the ‘Cats put on George Fox this past Saturday in the ‘Catdome. My goodness, if this game was a UFC fight, the game would have been called in under 1 minute in the 1st round due to TKO. Linfield used all three phases to blow apart any hope Fox had in hanging around the football and give the young program a good look at what the difference is between being a pretender and an actual contender for the Northwest Conference Title.
For Linfield fans, that had to feel good to finally see this football team free from all the baggage that has tripped up, slow down, and bogged up what is a tremendous football team. We dove into it in this past week’s game preview that when this Linfield football team finally cleaned up the unforced turnovers, cleaned up the kick coverage, and got out of their own way with the silly drive extending/killed penalties, this was a monster of a football team lurking under the blemishes. What we all saw against George Fox is what this football team can be when these areas are put to rest. It’s such a lethal mix physicality and skill that very few teams in Division III can match but this trend of clean play has to be an every week thing for the remainder of the season if this football wants to get to where they are going.
Linfield is in 100% control of their playoff destiny at this point. All that Linfield has to do is win one of the last two games and the ‘Cats clinch a share of the NWC title and own the autobid (due to tie breakers) but this Linfield program isn’t too hip to sharing anything with anyone in the NWC. So the ‘Cats can’t rest now but have to keep building on this last week’s effort as Linfield continues their march to the 2016 postseason.
The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
Playing up to this team’s potential: About dang time. As we talked about this above, that first half is the team that’s been there the whole time. The ‘Cats finally cleaned up the areas that have bogged this team down by winning the turnover game, cleaned up the kick coverage, and rid itself of the ill-timed penalties that kept drives alive of the other team. The Linfield team that I saw this past Saturday looked like a true national championship contender and I hope it just wasn’t a one game deal.
Offensive line play: The key to this whole deal has been the development of the ‘Cats starting offensive line. It took some time after Center Will Heck’s season ending injury at UMHB, but this group of Dakota Smith, Steven Nnabue, Kela Grace, Ryne Fuhrmark, have grown tremendously with center Gabe Majarro over the past five games and haven’t allowed a sack against Sam Riddle in over 3 games, and has paved the way for the ‘Cats to average 254.4 yards of rushing in 5 NWC games. Keep it up big fellas, this team will go as far as you can take us.
Balanced offensive attack: The ‘Cats plan of attack all season is to run the football with a trio of running backs (Payne, Cassill, Choisser), make backers and safeties respect the run and then let their gang of receivers cut you to shreds with Sam Riddle directing traffic. The ‘Cats ran executed their plan perfectly against what was a respect starved George Fox defense in scoring on their first seven possessions of the game with four of the drives being 75 yards or longer and two others being 60 yards or longer. Linfield piled up 573 total yards and could have been much worse if Coach Smith didn’t call off the dogs in that 3rd quarter.
Kickoff Coverage: About damn time. The ‘Cats kick coverage was so much better this game and while it wasn’t lights out good, it was a huge improvement over the previous weeks. They even came up with a clutch forced fumble in that avalanche of a 1st quarter that help put the Bruins away early. I hope it was a lesson to our young ‘Cats in just how big of an impact they can make on the game.
|Linebackers #5 Mitchell Kekel and #9 Kyle Chandler celebrate snuffing out another GFU drive.|
|Photo Courtesy from Brad Thompson: View Brad's Photos here|
Pass Defense: The Linfield secondary ate GFU QB Grant Schroeder alive…again. The ‘Cats defense held the Bruin QB to a woeful game of 7 of 18 passing for 124 yards, 0 touchdowns, and 1 interception for touchdown (should have been two picks but we’ll talk about that later). For his career, Schroeder is now a combined 21 of 54, for 234 yards, 0 touchdowns, and 6 interceptions in 3 games against the ‘Cats defense.
Receiver playmaking: Sam Riddle used 9 different receivers to shred the GFU defense for 323 yards and 3 touchdowns on the day and the Wildcat receivers were magnificent in making tough catches in traffic, and finishing plays including this beautiful throw/catch/run on a Riddle to Reed Peterson 67 yard 1st quarter touchdown. This group is like a Swiss Army knife of receiving corps.Man, @Mitch_W_Lewis hit 'em so hard his mouth piece flew out. Hope he check his chiclets after that. #Catdome pic.twitter.com/HQSaKB4ltn— Catdomealumni.com (@catdomealumni) October 30, 2016
The BadI'm going to start calling @ReedPeterson "Mr. Johnny Walker Blue" because he's so damn smooth. #Catdome pic.twitter.com/OnwZJnztM3— Catdomealumni.com (@catdomealumni) October 31, 2016
PAT team: When you kick the holy heck out of a team, going 5 out 7 on PAT isn’t that big of deal but the ‘Cats are better than missing a PAT and getting one blocked. It’s knit picking a great performance but this special teams unit needs to be automatic as we get closer to the second season.
Blown PI Call: Look, I try not to make excuses by placing blame on officials. It’s not my style but sometimes you just need to say what something is. And that something is what should have been a Cory Stowell interception in the 1st quarter that was flagged as a Pass Interference call. This might just be the WORST pass interference call in the history of pass interference call. If this is where football’s headed we might as well just start playing with only 7 players on each side of the ball and play two hand touch.
The UglyThis might be the worst pass interference call I've seen with my own two eyes. @corystowell was straight robbed. pic.twitter.com/jPETh1bO78— Catdomealumni.com (@catdomealumni) November 1, 2016
Temporary Soccer Lines on Maxwell Field: Look. I get it. Linfield soccer field is a complete mess with the heavy rain this fall and so in order to allow the teams to have a playable surface they moved the remaining home soccer games to the ‘Catdome. I totally understand the move and I’m thankful that the football facility could pitch in and help out the soccer programs. However, the soccer lines defacing the football are U-G-L-Y and it’s like drawing a mustache with a sharpie on the Mona Lisa. Here’s hoping that the college will do the right thing and provide the soccer and Lacrosse programs with a brand new sparking field turf facility this summer.