Thursday, November 3, 2016

2016 Game 8 Preview: Linfield (6-1) at Puget Sound (3-4)

Road Trip!
And off to Tacoma we go! After moving to 5-0 in Northwest Conference play the ‘Cats moved one step closer to winning a piece of their 8th straight NWC title, and more importantly, the automatic bid for the 2016 playoffs.  This Wildcat football team has come a long ways since that UMHB 2nd half meltdown as Linfield has grown up on the offensive and defensive lines over the past two months.  That growth of the interior coupled with better decision making with the football and a smothering secondary has propelled this Linfield team to beat NWC foes by an average of 36.0 points per game. This Saturday, in Tacoma, will be another chance to just see where this Linfield team is at.

Standing in Linfield’s way this Saturday is the Puget Sound Loggers. The Loggers are in a comedown year after having their best season in forever during 2015 that saw UPS finish 3rd in the conference with a 6-3 record. This season saw UPS start the year at 2-0 against the SCIAC and that led to UPS’s head coach claiming the Loggers are a “legit” football program. But those victories were fool’s gold as those tight victories came against some of the worst teams in that conference. Since then, it’s been a steady slide for UPS as the Loggers have stumbled to a 1-4 NWC record with this game left as a chance to wash out the taste in what has had to been a disappointing season for UPS.

For the ‘Cats this weekend, it's going to be an opportunity to see if last weekend’s game is a trend for this Wildcat team or if was an anomaly.  In some ways, I think Linfield fans will be holding their breath some to see if that crisp and sharp team from a few days ago will be loading the bus this Saturday morning or if it will be the team that can easily swat a team away but trips over their own feet at times. I’m curious as well and we only have to wait a little over a day to find out what we’re going to get.

(Forgot to track down a player this week so you get to watch Linfield smoke George Fox again)
Wildcat11’s Keys To Victory

Keep the Foot on the Gas: A big challenge this week for Linfield is keep their eye on the prize. After coming off two big wins and playing their best football of the season last week against George Fox, Linfield has to keep the hammer down. The last thing Linfield can afford is to slip into the patterns that have bogged down this explosive Wildcat team. No, the Wildcats have to continue emphasis winning the turnover battle, playing better kickoff coverage, and limiting silly penalties. We all saw what this team looks like when they minimize the mistakes and I’m hoping to see more of that this weekend.

Handle the field conditions: Not only is Linfield playing their last regular season away game of the season but Linfield is also playing their last game on grass this season. The UPS sod doesn’t have a great reputation and with the rain in the forecast you can expect muddy conditions. The ‘Cats are going to have embrace the mud and adjust to getting in and out of breaks and start/stop movements. I’m excited about an old fashion mud game and I hope the ‘Cats are as well.

Linebackers have to have a fantastic day covering/tackling: The Logger’s air raid offense is all about clearing the underbelly of the defense, getting the ball off quickly, and letting their receivers pick up chunks of yardage to help move the sticks. It’s a death of 1,000 paper cuts style of offense and if your Linebackers stink it can be very effective. Our Linebackers don’t stink and they will need to have a great day in covering all of those quicks and drags underneath to minimize yards after catch. The better this groups tackle, the better our defense will perform.

Run the ball and keep running the ball: Linfield is averaging 253.4 rushing yards a game in 5 Northwest Conference action. Linfield has done it with an offensive line that’s gelled and with a three headed running back attack. Linfield is going to need more of the same and even more so with what could be sloppy field conditions. The Wildcats offensive line need to continue to show why they’re the best unit in the conference by moving bodies and letting Cassill, Payne, and Choisser do their work.

Put a premium on ball security: I know the theme of mud and rain has been throughout this post but the elements will be a factor if the ‘Cats allow it to be. Linfield was brilliant last weekend with the ball security and a big reason why they smoked GFU. The ‘Cats have to make good decisions with the football at all times.

Special teams help own field position: I hope the ‘Cats kickoff team saw just how valuable they can be by pinning the opposition and letting the defense hold that field position.  It’s been a Linfield formula to success since 2009….great kickoff coverage, defense makes it hold, set up the offense with short field to work with, rinse, lather, repeat. Get after the Loggers this week and don’t allow them to flip the field in this phase of the game.

Get ‘em off the field on 3rd down: The Linfield defense has been fantastic on 3rd down for most of the season in only allowing teams to convert on 27% of attempts. In fact, Linfield has even been better on 4th down in yielding only 2 conversions on 15 attempts (13%) that puts the ‘Cats 5th in that nation in this category. The Wildcat defense is going to need more of this this weekend against the Loggers.


‘Cats by 21. Linfield is the better football team and program by a long shot.  However, the ‘Cats better come to play this weekend up on a surface this program doesn’t get much time on against a team that’s been beatdown and battered by the Wildcats in the Joe Smith Era. If Linfield plays a clean game there is no doubt that we’re looking at a Wildcat win but Linfield HAS to be the agreesors. If the ‘Cats are then it will be a fun bus ride home.

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