OPPONENT PREVIEW: Willamette University
The week two contest is a slight change in scenery from the past, with Willamette replacing the spot occupied by Linfield every year since 2010. The words “change of scenery” are exactly what this is; I wanted our student-athletes to have a little variety in their schedule, so we went about 30 miles down the road to Salem, Oregon to find an opponent that we had replaced with Linfield after the 2009 game.
The Bearcats of Willamette are coming off of an impressive 34-10 victory over Trinity University out of Texas (speaking of opponents and scheduling) up in Oregon. Willamette wore their white uniforms at home, and our beloved Punter, Jack McFarland, studied the Trinity Punt Return team pretty closely and can write about that unit on his own time. Jack, Trinity is maroon, just like the Bearcats, but Willamette wears gold helmets…
OFFENSE: To answer the #1 question I’ve been asked about Willamette, NO, they no longer run the Fly Offense as their primary scheme. They are more of a Spread Offense, with quick perimeter screens and throws, and Read Zone schemes to run the ball. I’d fully expect them to test us with some Option football after watching our first quarter last week, which is fine, I think we know where we struggled in the opener. The Tailback is a good player, and they have an impressive young Wide Receiver on the outside.
DEFENSE: Same structure as PLU, different philosophy. PLU likes to pressure to stop the run, Willamette pressures to get after your QB. Their Front 7 personnel are probably better than what we just faced, so it will be a challenge for our O-line, Tight Ends, and Running Backs in that phase of the game.
SPECIAL TEAMS: These units are critical in early season games, and I thought with the exception of our Kickoff Return unit, we played pretty well in the opener. Willamette is not exceptional on Special Teams but they are good.
COACHES: Glen Fowles, a Willamette grad back in 1996, enters his third season as the Head Coach at his alma mater. He spent the previous 14 seasons as the Offensive Line Coach/Offensive Coordinator/Assistant Head Coach, and I’ve known Glen for quite awhile, dating back to games against them when I was the O-line Coach at Humboldt State. Overall, he’s 15-4 in two seasons in a very tough conference, so the dude knows how to get it done. His Defensive Coordinator, Nathan Naggy, has been there for 11 seasons so he’s a fixture as well. This is a good group of guys that produce tough, talented football teams every season.
OUTLOOK: Generally speaking, a football team experiences a lot of growth and improvement between weeks one and two. Not always (2013), but most of the time. The key for us it to focus on a great week up on the North Field. It is going to be hot all week, especially today, and we must focus on improvements. Willamette is in the same boat; they turned the ball over last week and I think we’re better than their opponent in the opener. Not to mention they’re traveling and it’s the first time our team gets to play in front of the home fans. Going to be interesting to see how both teams manage the clutter and distractions, but we’re pretty evenly matched.