Tag Archives: sports commentary

A look at NWC top dogs

Hey ’Cats. With only two regular season games left, I figured now would be the perfect time to write a column dissecting the Northwest Conference football playoff picture. So, without further ado, a short analysis of the top contenders in the NWC, with their current standing, name, record and conference record (in parentheses):

Linfield College, 6-1 (4-0)
Linfield has once again shown why it is the cream of the NWC crop with commanding victories in each of its four conference games.
The ’Cats are averaging an unreal 487.2 yards and 47.8 points per game while only allowing 13.8 points and 290.5. With only games against Whitworth University and Lewis & Clark College left, Linfield figures to waltz into the playoffs wearing the NWC crown for the second-straight year.
Watch out for Lewis & Clark on offense, however: The Pioneers are just behind Linfield in both points and yards per game. Whitworth’s stingy pass defense may present some problems for senior quarterback Aaron Boehme as well.

Pacific Lutheran University, 6-1 (3-1)
The Lutes began hot this season by rattling off five consecutive victories before getting emphatically swatted by Linfield at home two weeks ago. Their success has largely been on the back of senior quarterback Jordan Rassmusen, who is playing the best ball of his life this year at around 230 yards per game and 10 touchdowns.
In the end, PLU’s porous defense led to its undoing; the Lutes are allowing just more than 393 yards a game in total offense.
Despite all this, they remained No. 8 in the NCAA’s latest regional rankings, meaning they may be able to secure an at-large bid in the playoffs should Linfield win out. PLU controls its own destiny now, and their final regular season game against Willamette will ultimately decide whether one team or two will represent the NWC when playoffs come around.

Willamette University, 6-2 (3-1)
Just like PLU, Willamette’s lone conference loss was a 35-7 drubbing at the hands of Linfield. Defense has been the Bearcats’ strong suit this season, as they only allow 18.8 points and 291.2 yards a contest.
Don’t count out their offense, either: 39 points and 453.8 yards per game are nothing to sneeze at.
Also like PLU, the Bearcats have a shot to break into the West Region’s top eight teams and secure an at-large
playoff berth if they can win out in its last two games against the Lutes and the Pioneers.
Should Linfield drop their remaining games and the Bearcats win out, Willamette would even win the NWC.
Their final game of the season against Lewis & Clark looks to be a retelling of the age old adage, “What happens when an unstoppable force (Lewis & Clark’s prolific offense) meets an immovable object (Willamette’s sturdy defense)?”

Lewis & Clark, 4-3 (2-2)
The Pioneers are undoubtedly the biggest surprise in the NWC this season. Predicted to finish last, Lewis & Clark has defied all odds to surge to the middle of the pack in the conference race and are not completely removed from title contention.
If the Pioneers defeat Willamette and Linfield in their final two games, and the Wildcats also lose to Whitworth, Lewis & Clark would wrap up its first conference championship in God only knows how long.
Freshman Pioneer quarterback Keith Welch is averaging 279.5 yards of total offense in a breakout season, but the Lewis & Clark defense has been atrocious, allowing 404 yards and 34.2 points a game.
If Lewis & Clark can mange to crack Willamette or Linfield’s defensive scheme, it just might be able to outgun them and eke out a huge upset
victory.

Chris Forrer/Freelancer
Chris Forrer can be reached at linfieldreviewsports@gmail.com.

Linfield sports love lives in loyal hearts

Hey ’Cats. Now that we’re midway through the fall 2010 season, I thought I’d take a minute to step away from analyzing sports and look to the heart of some Linfield aspects that I only fully realized recently.
Linfield has a lot of love, in terms of its sporting teams. In fact, this might be the most lovely campus I have ever seen or heard of. Yes, even more than the football titan that is the University of Oregon, which lies only a few, short hours away. Linfield loves its teams, and they love it back.
Don’t believe me? I don’t blame you (unless you’re just basing your disagreement on Division-III hate, in which case you don’t matter). After all, Linfield is small; this fact is readily apparent in our new slogan and symbol.
Ignoring the obvious chance for a phallic joke, the small Linfield community is indeed a powerful one. Our football program, holder of the NCAA all-divisions record for consecutive winning seasons, has consistent fan support pour in through large attendance at home games.
Alumni, who have loved their Linfield since their first tentative steps through Melrose Hall, come out for these games in droves.
Heck, we even have a pretty decent tailgating scene on Saturday mornings in the south parking lot out by Ford Hall.
And if anyone tries to tell you that Linfield sports are a one-trick pony (football), think again.
The women’s soccer team is having a season that has surpassed all expectation. They are in the thick of the conference race and are playing some inspired ball right now, and it has not gone unnoticed. Attendance at these games has seen a noticeable increase.
That’s right, folks; the students respond when their sports teams need them to. The uptick in fan support for our ladies has no doubt had an impact.
As someone who is not an athlete, I can’t say I personally relate; but as a theater major, I know that when the house is packed on a show night, I bring my “A+” game every time.
In turn, the athletes pour their souls into this school’s sports teams. I don’t think many of you realize just how loyal Linfield’s athletes are to the Old Oak and all it stands for.
Take senior quarterback Aaron Boehme. I’ve been able to talk with him often in my short time at Linfield while writing about the football team, and one day last spring, I had a curious question in the back of my mind. Boehme is a stellar athlete, sure, but with graduation looming and a year of eligibility left, he had some decisions to make. Luckily, I found him on Facebook one night, and I asked him these questions: “Are you planning on coming back next year?” and “What do you want to do after graduation?” His answers were indicative of the aforementioned truths about Linfield athletics.
“Yes, I’m coming back,” he said. “And when I graduate, I want to teach high school. Maybe coach some day.”
Do you follow me, Linfield? Are you picking up what I’m putting down? Boehme doesn’t have plans to play after college.
Coming back for his senior year wouldn’t boost his draft stock or get him any closer to becoming a teacher. If anything, it could only put him at risk to seriously hurt himself during the course of the season. But his drive to win a national championship for this school is so deep, so all-pervasive and so passionate that he put his career plans on hold to come out for one last go-around and try to bring glory to Linfield and all its students.
That’s what I call loyalty, and that’s what I call love.
How often in Division-I programs do we see amazing athletes spurn their colleges to make the jump to the pros and chase the almighty dollar? Sam Bradford did it; Mark Sanchez did it. But that is something you will never see a Linfield athlete do.
Students, your athletes love you, and they love this school. So give a little love this week — for them and for what it stands for.

Chris Forrer/Freelancer
Chris Forrer can be reached at linfieldreviewsports@gmail.com.

You know you’re a Heisman candidate when…

Hey ’Cats. Once again I’ll be traveling to Duck-land for another column about Chip Kelly and the boys down in Eugene.
But rather than talking about the team, I want to focus on Oregon’s small wonder: its leading running back, the sparkplug of their offense and one of the nation’s leading Heisman Trophy candidates: LaMichael James.
More specifically, this is why I think this is the year we’ll finally see a player wearing green and yellow hoist the ol’ stiff arm later in the fall.
That’s right haters; not only do I think that James will win the Heisman this year, but I’m also willing to spend an entire column outlining, in statistic-based academic terms, why I think he’s a lock to finish first.
I’ve come up with criteria that I believe are the most critical things each candidate needs to fulfill in order to win. In no particular order, they are:
• The candidate must continue to play up numbers consistent with the first half of the season’s output.
• The candidate must have a “Heisman moment” game
• The candidate must play for a nationally ranked team.
• The candidate’s team must not be in the Western Athletic Conference.
• The candidate’s team must continue to win.
• The candidate must be a significant part of that victory.
The top five Heisman candidates are Kellen Moore of Boise State, Terrelle Pryor of Ohio State, James of Oregon, Cameron Newton of Auburn and Denard Robinson of Michigan. For the sake of space, I’m only going to address the first three candidates, in no particular order, and show you why James is a shoo-in to win this season.
In my opinion, Pryor is the only guy poised to challenge James for the trophy this season. He’s put up great numbers so far — to the tune of 1,349 yards, 15 touchdowns and only three picks, and also got it done with his feet, racking up 354 yards and 3 TDs.
However, he’s got gimpy knees (torn posterior crucial ligament at the end of last season that stuck around for a while … ask Dennis Dixon), and Ohio State has a tough schedule ahead. This weekend the Buckeyes are on the road against No. 18 Wisconsin and No. 15 Iowa later in the season.
Also, don’t ever count out Michigan to spring the upset; its rivalry is one of the great ones, and it’s always a toss-up.
Pryor also has yet to turn in a dominating performance against a tough opponent. (Ohio State always front-loads with patsies early in the season.) He may have one yet, but I don’t see it happening.
And of course there’s Kellen Moore. The guy is having a killer season. His TD to interception ratio is 14-1, his team is ranked No. 3 in the country, and it doesn’t look like BSU is going to lose any time soon.
But none of this can dissuade me from the notion that a quarterback playing in the Western Athletic Conference is incapable of winning the Heisman.
I’m sorry Boise lovers, but your conference sucks. Boise may win by 50 points every single game, and Moore may pile up 250 yards or more a game, but it’s against New Mexico, San Jose State and Louisiana Tech. Any moderately talented quarterback could rack up ridiculous numbers and lead his team to a BCS bowl as long as he had at least a decent supporting cast behind him.
BSU just doesn’t have the weight in major voting because its strength of schedule is one of the poorest in the nation.
That brings us to James. He’s picked up a solid 848 yards (second in the nation) and eight touchdowns this season while leading the nation with 169.6 per game. He shows no signs of slowing down and has stayed completely healthy so far. Plus, Oregon has only Arizona and Oregon State left to get through, and Arizona showed just how porous its defense is in a loss last weekend to the Beavers.
The OSU game is always a trap, especially in Corvallis, Ore. but with James Rodgers out for the rest of his senior season, this one is going to be a cakewalk for a Duck defense smothers teams in the second half.
But above all else, James put on a clinic in the game against Stanford, picking up 257 yards and three scores — both career bests.
That, ladies and gentlemen, is a Heisman moment, and when you consider that the last three Heisman winners have all been sophomores, it’s almost eerie how serendipitous this season seems to be for James. All the Ducks have to do is keep winning, and LaHeisman will be carrying the stiff arm to Eugene come December.

Chris Forrer/Freelancer
Chris Forrer can be reached at linfieldreviewsports@gmail.com.

Team’s respect is well deserved

Hey ’Cats. I’ve got a confession to make. This may shock some of you for, as you’ve seen, I can be very passionate about this thing they call sports. However, this week I’m here to say to you, and to the world: Sometimes things are just more important than throwing a ball around a little piece of grass or shooting a ball at a little metal circle with some rope hanging from it.
This thought has always existed somewhere in my subconscious, although heaven knows that once September rolls around, it’s difficult to find me on game days.
But something I heard in this week’s football press conference, mentioned almost off-handedly by coach Smith, sparked something within me.
As we were packing up and preparing to leave the media room on the second floor of the Health, Human Performance and Athletic Building, Director of Sports Information Kelly Bird asked Smith how the fundraising effort was going. Smith replied that it was going well, and he hoped to present the money raised to the young man’s family at the upcoming football game against the University of Puget Sound.
Naturally, I became curious, and I began to look into what the exchange was about. Soon after, I learned about Corey Obungen. Ever heard of him? Didn’t think so. After all, why would you know the name of one of the defensive backs on UPS’ football team? I certainly hadn’t.
But over the summer, Corey was on vacation in Hawaii for his cousin’s high school graduation. During a trip to the beach with some of his teammates, he dove into the water and landed on his head, snapping his spinal cord and paralyzing him from the waist down. Faster than you could blink, his football career and his life as he knew it were gone.
Yet, despite losing the ability to walk, Obungen says he just feels lucky to be alive. And he promises that he will walk again one day.
Here’s the Linfield connection: Obungen went to the same high school as senior quarterback Cole Bixenman. The Linfield football team organized a fundraising effort to help pay for Obungen’s medical bills and help him realize his dream to get up and move around on his own two feet.
This is the kind of thing I just don’t see enough of in sports today. Teams that play in the same league rarely send so much as a get-well-soon card to opposing players, even if they were injured on the field while playing against them.
Sure, NBA and NFL players have their charities, their philanthropic organizations devoted to feeding the starving, clothing the naked or helping underprivileged children play sports. That’s wonderful, don’t get me wrong, but where is sportsmanship like this in today’s athletic world?
Linfield has the respect of a sports nation, whether you know it or not. The Wildcats are universally known as a class act in everything that they do, and I can think of no better example than this to highlight why. It’s not because of the national championships in football and softball or because of “The Streak” or because we perennially challenge for league and national fame. It’s because we know what matters most and constantly strive to achieve it.
After all, football is just a ball, some boys and some grass; it’s just a game.
Chris Forrer/Freelancer
Chris Forrer can be reached at linfieldreviewsports@gmail.com.

Upping game attendance makes a positive difference

Hey ’Cats. This week I’ve got something of a public service announcement for you. So listen up, and listen good, because what I have to say could very well change the face of Linfield football for the better.
This weekend, our nationally ranked Wildcats come home for their first game at Maxwell Field. It’s the first time in more than 20 years that our boys did not play a home game in the month of September, and it certainly has taken its toll.
Our squad brings a 1-1 record and a No. 16 ranking into this weekend’s game, along with a lot of road weariness and a lot of doubt. On top of that, Saturday’s game is against Willamette, our perennial rivals and top challenge to repeating Northwest Conference championship and making the playoffs again. Willamette, incidentally, is ranked No. 15, so Saturday’s game will be a matchup of Top 25 teams.
I don’t say this to criticize the team, but if you look at the box scores of both games thus far in the season you’ll see some startling numbers.
You see a contest in which we basically handed the game over in the second half to a team we should have defeated by all accounts and a win against a team that we probably should have beat by more than 40 or 50 points but could only put up 30 against.
Our offense did well but laid a lot of eggs in the red zone that should have been points. Defensively, the second game was an improvement, but it was against a team that hasn’t won a game in about 26 months, so you have to take it with a grain of salt.
Willamette, meanwhile, knocked off a team ranked in the Top 5 in the nation in the first week of play this season, then dropped a game on the road before winning last weekend. They bring the complicated and barely used fly offense to the table, which requires an intricate and specific set of preparations to combat on defense, and it’s looked pretty damn good so far this year.
Honestly, this game is starting to look really scary on paper.
This season’s Wildcats are good, make no mistake. They may not be in the same dominating form as last year just yet, but they’re beginning to heat up as a cohesive unit, and I believe that at home this weekend they can knock off Willamette. But, and I’m going to put this in all caps so you get the point, THEY NEED OUR HELP.
Last season, game
attendance was pitiful. The student section sat largely empty even after our boys beat the No. 4 team in the nation in the season opener and never looked back. We put up absurd point totals game after game, blowing out opponents by 40 and 50 points even with our second string guys in for an entire half. We never trailed an opponent until the seventh game of the season for goodness sake.
The team was hot, but the fans were noticeably absent.
I understand that football snobs ignore our team just because it’s Division-III, Seriously? Everybody went to their high school’s football games because that’s just what you do, whether your team was state champ or bottom of the barrel every year. And now that you get to college, you suddenly stop because it’s not a high-profile, Division-I school? Come on, Wildcats, you can do better than this, and you know it.
’Cat fans, this is our eleventh hour. This game is the final, real test for our boys. If they win, the NWC crown is all but assured and a playoff berth almost guaranteed, but unless we show up in force and get raucous real fast, they might as well be playing on the road again.
Our team badly needs us for this game, they need their home crowd to be bigger than it’s ever been and louder than all of you think possible.
This may not be Autzen, but if we had a thousand fans swarming the student section by the fences, you can bet your life it’s going to make a difference.
And frankly, a thousand fans should not be hard to muster for a school that made it to the national semifinals in last year’s NCAA Division-III playoffs.
Maybe, just maybe, when you see that there is something to be excited about, the Catdome will be bursting at the seams every home game.
So I issue this proclamation to every student at Linfield College: I challenge you, I dare you, to show up this Saturday at 1; I dare you to bring your red and purple gear; I dare you to scream your head off on every 3rd and 4th down defensive stand; I dare you to jump around and get crazy after every score; I dare you to make a difference.

Chris Forrer/Freelancer
Chris Forrer can be reached at linfieldreviewsports@gmail.com.