Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Blue Raider Injury Report

So, there is intrigue for the game Saturday that doesn't ALL revolve around the BG quarterback.

MTSU also has injury issues to their two marquee players.

Brent Stockstill, who threw for 3 TDs last year in the Deluge at the Doyt, has been out with a cracked sternum and a separated collarbone.  He is questionable for Saturday.  Here's what his Father, the head coach, said....

Responsible party....

"If doctors weren't invented, he'd have been playing," he said. "If the doctors would have left it up to him, he'd have played. But he couldn't have played with the injury that he has."

All right then.  Who invented doctors, anyway?  Also, Richie James, their first team all-CUSA WR who had six catches and a TD last year, is also questionable.  He hurt himself on a wildcat play against Minnesota.

MTSU would be considered a strong favorite after beating BG 41-21 last year in BG and with Stockstill and James back and with the Falcons showing little ability to beat anyone.  The line is currently 9.  You add Doege in...and then remove Stockstill and/or James or put them at least them not at their best and it has the potential to be interesting.

Going to be warm.  88 degree predicted temperature.


Monday, September 18, 2017

Jinks Presser: We Are Better

So Coach Jinks had his opening presser today.  I watch so you don't have to.

Obviously, the first question was about the QB.  He claims it will be a game-time decision, but I don't think it sounds very much like that.  I'd be shocked if Doege isn't the starter Saturday.

Here's why.  Coach acknowledged that Doege was in the game mostly against reserves.  However, coach says he has "earned the right to show what he can do when the bullets are real" and that they "want to see what he can do before conference play."

So, you know.  If you want to see what he can do, you can't mean practice because you were seeing that before.  You have to mean in a game and there's only one more game until conference play starts.

We are looking for efficiency....and that seems to mean a higher completion percentage.  They will split reps for a couple days and then later in the week someone might get more.

On the redshirt.  He still has it.  This is a good point.  You don't have to redshirt your first year.  Now, if you want my opinion, the chances of him redshirting again after this year are not very good, but who knows, maybe Morgan improves and they think they can do it.  Or Doege shows he needs the time.

He notes that Doege dropped his first collegiate snap but then he picked the ball up and threw a "dart."  He's got "moxie"


Says he has been doing "a lot of thinking" in the last 48 hours, but when asked about it he claimed he was thinking about "consistency," which is an odd thing to think about that for that long.

He says we are better than last year.  Deeper and more talented.

He said we made some changes on defense, too., which were noted here and elsewhere.  Also, he said we played a lot of man early in the year, and we're re-evaluating that.  As I recall, trying to ask guys to play man was half of the problem last year and he made a similar announcement after the Memphis game.

The defense is giving up too many big plays.  What you want is to force them to make long drives and then you get a stop or a turnover.  He says this will "pay dividends" for us in the conference season.

As for MTSU, we all noted that they got blown out by the Boat Rowers.  Coach notes that their all-star QB Brent Stockstill didn't play in the game and is day to day, and their all-star WR (James) went out as well.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Past and Future Opponent Land

Michigan State (2-0) Idle
South Dakota (3-0) Beat North Dakota 45-7
Middle Tennessee State (1-2) Boat rowed 34-3 by Gophers
Akron (1-2) Lost 41-14 to Iowa State in Akron
Miami (1-2)  Heartbreaking 21-17 loss to UC in Oxford
OU (2-1) Destroyed Kansas, which is in last place in the MAC
NIU (2-1) Win of the day, winning
Kent  (1-2) Lost 21-0 at Akron
UB (1-2) Won their FCS game against Colgate
UT  (3-0) Won a thriller over Tulsa at Glass Bowl.
EMU (2-0) Idle

MAC Vs.

FBS:  8-17
P5:  4-12
FCS:  9-1

Another Long Night for Falcon Football

Well, Coach Jinks is going to see another week of a frustrated fan base.  Very little good happened in Evanston last night.  To be sure, BG is built to win the MAC, not beat Big Ten teams, but (in addition to the occasional upset) you do expect to make a showing and that did not happen last night.  This is not South Dakota.  You play poorly you get destroyed.

The Falcons continued their trend of making opponent players look like Heisman Trophy candidates.  Thorson was 23 of 30 for 370 yards, which means over 75% completions and more than 12 yards per ATTEMPTED pass.  Justin Jackson (who is legit) had 6.7 yards per carry.  Overall, Northwestern gained 9.2 yards PER PLAY.

On offense, things were not much better.  BG did get an offensive touchdown on a really nice run by Josh Cleveland in the first quarter, and the Falcons did move the ball in the first quarter, but after that things got a lot worse.  In the 2nd and 3rd Quarters, BG had 5 first downs.

Special teams (except punting) were no great shakes either, particularly the kick return game.

Coach also came through on his promise to let some new guys play if the other guys were not getting the job done.  On defense, you saw more from Sotolongo, Malik Brown, true freshman Darius Wortham, r-FR Torian Hampton and Josh Croslen.  On offense, Jared Wyatt got playing time.  Pete Norris.  And Doege, of course.

I guess the point is this...putting Jarrett Doege in there is not going to solve everything all on its own.  The team has big problems and QB is just one of them.

We were looking for incremental improvement this season, some sign that we had a program being led by people who knew how to build a team in college football.  I'm not being facetious when I say that Memphis hung 70+ on us last year, so Northwestern at 49 might represent an incremental improvement.  I think, however, we were hoping something slightly less incremental than that.

Nothing has changed.  This team, more or less, looks as poor as they did last year.  You know my feelings, this did not need to be a bottom-up rebuild, but it has turned into one.  The point is, after a full off-season to work with the players...something they did not have the first year...you just don't see anything going any better.  In fact, they might be incrementally worse.  The three-game winning streak at the end of last year is the illusion I said it was at the time, as BG beat three of the worst teams in the FBS...teams it should have beaten any day of the week.

Right now on the ESPN power index, BG is ranked #121 out of #130.  Only one MAC team...Kent...is ranked lower.  There are no guaranteed wins on this schedule.  I don't think it is very likely, but it is possible that BG could go 0-12.  And, to be clear, even under that circumstance the coach will not be fired.

I don't accept, by the way, the premise that Babers left the program in a shambles.  Every time Mike Jinks loses a game, Dino Babers becomes a worse coach.  Babers did not leave things in good shape, I understand that.  But we should be showing improvement.

Anyway, things are not good right now.  I thought the guys kept playing, so there is that.  There's another tough game coming up on Saturday before BG gets into conference play and now we've got a raging QB controversy hanging around.  Very possibly could get worse before it gets better.

Doege insertion lights fire in Falcon Nation

Well, give Mike Jinks credit.  He's got everybody talking after a 49-7 loss that had virtually no redeeming features.  With just a few minutes left in a game which had been over for literally hours...Coach Jinks pulled the redshirt off of Jarrett Doege and put him into the game in place of Morgan.

I have lots to say.

First, you cannot make that move if you don't plan on playing Doege.  John Gibson said that he expects the change to be permanent, and that's what you have to expect.  Doege has all the tools and you aren't going to blow a year on mop up duty in Evanston.

Beyond that, with the shitshow the season is right now, you could play Doege and still be awful.  And you're going to spend a year of eligibility on ... that?

The general comment in the Falcon Nation is that Coach Jinks doesn't care about four years from now, he's trying to save his job this year.

Let me tell you something.  We could go 0-12 this year....and that's possible.....and Coach Jinks will be back next year.  The only chance that doesn't happen is if he does a Dan Enos and goes to another school to be an assistant.

Which I believe is extraordinarily unlikely.  When we charge onto the field to start the 2018 season, you should expect to see Jinks leading the team out there and nothing this year will impact that.  Doege, Morgan, Loy....whatever.

After the game, Coach said that he has been saying that all the jobs on the team are open.  In his Monday presser, he said that if we can't get guys to do what we need, then it is their job as Coaches to get someone else in there.  And, true to that word, he played a bunch of guys last night.

So, obviously, with Doege red-shirted, there was no real competition for Morgan.  Now there is.  How much?  That remains to be seen (stand by for that).  But, Morgan is now no different than anybody else, including the WRs who saw Jared Wyatt making catches late in the game.  Or the linemen (Malik Brown in the house!) or the d-backs.

Coach said "we needed a spark."  We have to have needed more than that for this to happen.

This sets up a very difficult situation for a team.  Doege is a true freshman, and as much as he certainly looks like a player, they rarely step up and perform right away.  And while he had some success in Evanston, he was throwing high percentage passes against backups who were playing soft.  The first Q against Middle Tennessee will not look like that.

Here's the thing.  James Morgan made only his 10th start Saturday.  Lots of QBs don't develop in that period of time.  It is a very tough position and he has had chaos around him.  And yet it feels like they wouldn't put Doege in unless they were giving up on that potential at some level.

And that's another wow.  I have to wonder if our assistants on the offensive side have the skill and ability to develop a QB.  Morgan certainly isn't better than he was at the end of last year.  That's a problem you can't change QBs to get away from.

Anyway, the other thing you have to wonder is whether this is just a matter of Doege being "our" guy and Morgan being Dino's guy.  At some level.  Maybe not consciously.

One last thing.  It is possible that you were close to losing the offense behind Morgan's QBing, which was ineffective by any measure.  You did see much crisper execution with Doege in the game...much like you saw when Morgan replaced Knapke last year.

So, what happens next for sure is that Morgan and Doege battle for the job this week.  We don't see practice.  It is possible that Doege has been pushing Morgan already.  I expect Doege to start Saturday and we go from there.

Here are two scenarios where it gets worse.

One, if Coach decides he's going to alternate QBs.  And two, if no one claims the job and the team is playing this game week by week until we get to the end.

What gets it better?  Either Morgan responds to the competition and turns into the QB he has the physical skills to be or Doege claims the job and performs effectively when he's in there.

Either way, Jinks is not going gently into the good night.  Whether this is panic....or delusion...or a miscalculation by guys who are not ready for prime time..he's made the decision to regret something he did rather than something he didn't do.

Friday, September 15, 2017

25 Questions that do their own homework

What is their body of work?

Historically, this is pretty much the longest period of sustained success for Northwestern football.  For decades a Big 10 doormat, they are now consistently good.  This year they are 1-1...they beat Nevada and lost @ Duke big.  Neither game has been especially impressive but they often start slow.  FWIW, BG has never lost to Northwestern.

How many seniors and juniors on the two-deep?

The Flip Flop incident
They have 27...which is a relatively seasoned team.  They are #19 on the Phil Steele experience chart.

Who were their statistical leaders?

RB Justin Jackson was #13 in the nation in rushing yards last year and #16 in rushing yards per game.  He's considered one of the top backs in the Big Ten.

S Godwin Igwebuike was #9 in solo tackles.

CB Monte Hartage was #13 in INTs.

What was their turnover ratio?

They were +9 last year, which was #13 in the country.  They are +1 this year.

Offense:


How is their QB play expected to be?

He was a mid-range QB last year in the Big Ten and has a lower passing rating this year to date.  He has completed only 58% at 12.1 ypc and 2 TD/3 INT.

What was their scoring and yards per play?

Last year they scored 26 and this year they are in the 24s, with 4.9 yards per play.  They have not shown themselves to be an offensive juggernaut.

Can they run the ball?
2003 Motor City Bowl.
BG 28, NU 24

They are struggling to run the ball.  Their feature backs are 3.4 and 2.8 yards per carry, neither of which is very good.

Do they pass the ball?

They are struggling to throw the ball this year as they did last year.  Their top 2 WRs graduated and the top returning WR is out for the season with an injury.  They do have an Oregon transfer.

How was their run/pass balance?

They ran the ball on 49% of their plays last year, which is still relatively run-heavy in today's game.

Did they convert on 3rd Down?

Last year they were OK at 40% but this year it is very poor at 31%.

Did they score in the red zone?

They are very good here, with 5.4 points per trip--5 TDs in 7 trips.

Did they protect the quarterback?

It has been an issue, allowing 5 sacks on 76 attempts, which is 6.6% of passing attempts.

Defense:

Topline: Scoring and yards per play.

Last year they allowed 22 per game, which was a top 25 result.  This year, they are allowing 30.5 PPG on 5.3 yards per play, both below what their offense is generating.

Did they defend the run effectively?

Last year, they gave up 3.8 yards per rush which is one of the top 30 results in FBS.  To date this year they are allowing 4.4 yards per carry.

Can they be passed on?

They were ok last year at 117 passing efficiency defense and are about the same this year.  They give up only 55% completions, which is really good, at 11 ypc.  4 TD over 2 INT.

Did they get off the field on 3rd down?

They were among the worst in the nation last year at 56% and that's right where they are this year.

Do they defend in the red zone?


They are pretty good, with 4.8 points per trip.

Did they pressure the QB?

No, just 1 sack this year.

Special Teams:

Punting?

This might be the best punting matchup we will see this year.  The NW punter was #5 in the nation in net punting and he's back and on the same trajectory this year.

Punt Return?

They have not returned a punt yet.  Their PR is Flynn Nagel, which is the most Northwestern name
ever.  He was decent last year at 6.6/return with a 47 long.  No TDs.

Placekicking?

Highly recruited, he's decent so far.  67% last year and this year.  One bad miss inside 30, 40 long.

Kickoff?

They have done well, with opponents starting on the 22.

Kickoff Return?

They are average, starting on their own 25.

Miscellaneous: Overall atmospherics and intangibles.

First, Mick McCall, a BG QB Coach and OC in the past is the OC for the Wildcats, and Dennis Springer, another former assistant at BG is also on the staff in Evanston.

Proud Graduate
As noted, BG is 2-0 against Northwestern.  The first was in 2001 in Evanston.  BG scored late to be down 1 and a young Urban Meyer went for 2 and then win rather than forcing overtime.  It was a reverse to a true freshman Cole Magner who converted the score and the BG win.  The other game was the Motor City Bowl a couple years later, also a very competitive game that BG ended up winning behind the same players who played in the previous game.

Northwestern is certainly underperforming this year and they have to look at this as an opportunity to turn that around.  They have had injuries.  In particular, their defense has to be looking at the BG offense as a chance to assert some dominance after a rough week at Duke.

BG will be interesting.  Will the Falcons adjust positively or negatively to the loss against South Dakota.  You'd certainly expect to see a better performance and--obviously--if BG continues to play like they have, they aren't going to win any games.  BG is a 22 point dog and that's probably fair, especially on the road.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Lupro decommits from BG


So, BG also has a football commit.  As you can see, he thinks he might have committed too early....as in, he was BG's first commit.  He is a 3-star CB from Belleville, MI.  Here's the write up I did when he committed. 

Best of luck, Patrick.

Jinks Presser: Damn Right I do.


Let me tell you this.  As I said on twitter this afternoon, if there are some wins, I think a fan base could fall for Coach Jinks.

He was asked by Jordan Strack of WTOL if he understood why the fans were frustrated.  He said the above...here is (pretty much) the text version.

They should be frustrated.  That's what a fan is.  I'm frustrated when I watch the Cowboys.  That's what I want.  That's what we want.  I talked with Moose about that last night.  I want these fans blowing up my twitter.  That's what should be happening.  We want this community involved in BG football.  We want them passionate.  When you ask me do I understand their frustration, damn right I do.  And I don't want it any other way.  Period.

Wow.  Honestly, a guy who can talk like that starts racking up wins, I think this whole thing turns around.  This is a guy you could follow into battle.

He's right.  The worst thing is apathy.  When people don't care anymore.  You know a good example?  Men's Basketball.  That's the death of the program.  The irony is that what caused the apathy in the MBB program was keeping an ineffective (but honorable) coach two years longer than was needed to know he wasn't going to turn it around.  See?

Jinks wants high expectations...has said that all along...and you have to admire that.  Still, you have do more than talk.

Other things from today's presser...

There were two huge special teams mistakes but "those are easy to fix."  (Tell that to Gregg Brandon).

He said the defense showed a lack of focus and "eye discipline," particularly in the "back end."  They had some big plays on wheel routes when the safeties didn't have their eyes on the right thing.  On a play to play basis, BG played "pretty decent" defense but gave up some explosive plays, "and those plays count, too."  Those have to be eliminated.

He said the offense did some good things.  Big game for Teo Redding.  Ran the ball decently, though there were struggles for both players at G.

He thought Morgan improved as the game went on, which is a pretty PR way to put it.  Coach cited a play he threw a pick on in the first half that he executed in the second.

It isn't back to the drawing board.  We just "gotta have touchdowns."  And he's right about that.  Whether we can figure out how to make that happen and stop committing penalties....that's a bigger test.

He said that the officials were calling a lot of penalties and his players didn't adjust.  Also, he seemed to think that the call on the goal line to Wilcox was the right call.

He had lapsed a little into that "one play here, one play there" stuff and Strack was having none of it.  "When playing an FCS team at home," the question went, "one play shouldn't matter."

Jinks conceded the point.  "You want to dominate the FCS opponent.  We want the win.  We'd like to win by 40.  This is where we are right now."

He was asked about the RBs.  It is no secret that none of these guys are setting the world on fire.  He said he doesn't want RB by committee.  He wants one guy to get a rhythm going.  He says the backs know...if someone gets hot, they are staying in the game.  No one has stood out to date.

OK, one last thing.  After the "damn right" speech, he was asked what he could do to turn it around.

"Win games.  Stay the course.  Continue to build...."

That's what we are left with.  As noted, if he can get this team winning, I think he could reach all-time levels of fan affection here, just for being the guy he appears to be.  Sadly, there's no evidence right now that's going to happen right now.

Oh right...one other thing...Taborn and Banks could be back this week.  That would help.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Past and Future Opponent Land

Michigan State (2-0) beat WMU 28-14
Northwestern  (1-1) Slow start for the Wildcats.  Lost 41-17 @Duke.
Middle Tennessee State (1-1) Won 30-23 at Syracuse (yes)
Akron (1-1) Beat Arkansas Pine-Bluff 52-3
Miami (1-1)  Beat Austin Peay 31-10
OU (1-1) Lost 44-21 to Purdue
NIU (1-1) Beat Eastern Illinois 38-10
Kent  (1-1) Beat Howard 38-31
UB (0-2) Lost 21-17 to Army on 14 unanswered 4th Q points
UT  (2-0) Won 37-24 @Nevada.
EMU (2-0) Beat Rutgers for first Big 10 win.

MAC Vs.

FBS:  4-12
P5:  2-9
FCS:  7-1

In its winning FCS games, the MAC had a 159-54 aggregate scoring margin.

The morning after.....

Watching Irma coverage as I write this...I do get it.  Football is just football.  And we have players whose families are back in Texas and Florida, and I'm thinking about their families.


From a football perspective, though, last night isn't feeling any better.  

That's the first FCS loss since 1987, when Moe Ankney's Falcons lost to Youngstown State in his first year.  Jim Tressel coaching Youngstown State, BTW.

We had a pretty decent crowd to start the game, nearly 18K officially.  And yet, when it ended, I became one of the few football fans in America to drive out of the parking lot after the game with literally no traffic.  I hate to see that...I think it hurts our crowds for the rest of the year.

BG set a school record for penalty yards.  Coach called it "absurd."  We had 2 touchdowns called back on penalties and one on replay.  A lot of fans were upset with the officiating and I listened to the post-game radio show and Todd and Gibby had similar thoughts.  Coach did not jump on that point.  He said that if the team was executing properly, they would get calls.  He said that South Dakota's backs did something with their hands ("handplay") that kept them from getting calls.  I thought South Dakota played physical with our guys, but that was far from the only issue.

Fans also are concerned about the playcalling.  BG ran a huge number of vertical routes, which, more or less, did not hit.  Often, they were double covered.  We did hit a couple, but a lot of them were overthrown and some were underthrown on a rare (by the end) windless night in BG.

Coach said that issues with protection were the main reason for that.  He said that BG's young guards (both Kramer and Bright are new) could not handle a "twist" which is a type of stunt.  When BG was in "10" personnel (which is the 4 WR formation with one RB), they couldn't protect the QB.  So, they went max protect, which leaves you with probably 2 WRs out for the ball and that led them to call the vertical routes.

I always thought that the virtue of the spread formations was that you could go with short drops and quick hitting passes and mitigate the risk of getting rushed.  Apparently not.

The pressure on Morgan was real.  He was sacked four times and hurried five times.  He was also forced from the pocket and forced to throw on the run a few times, sometimes working OK and then once for a soul-crushing INT at the end of the 2nd quarter.  He doesn't look comfortable throwing on the run.

Also, for a team that supposedly found its identity as a running team, we did not remain committed to the run last night.  Factoring out sacks, BG threw 54 times and ran 31.  BG's backs were effective, averaging 5.2 yards per carry.  And yes, we were behind, but BG's defense kept USD on 21 points from last in the first through the middle of the third and it was only 21-9 most of that time.

Coach did, a couple times, lapse into "we're a young team" talk, but he would quickly change course.  That's not going to work as an explanation for this one.  It might Saturday in Evanston, but not today.

South Dakota deserves credit.  They were the better team on the field last night and deserved the win.  They had a game plan, which included attacking one specific CB early and our guards, and they executed it.  They were better prepared and executed better than we did and it wasn't really close.  

As Coach said, though, "you're supposed to win these games."

Last night I looked at this from the perspective of what it does to BG bowl game chances.  There's a more sour view.  As noted in my preview, BG needs to show incremental progress to show the world (and ourselves) that we have coaches who can do something besides recruit at this level.  I was hoping for 6-6 and you'd like at least a one-game improvement.

To win 5, BG will need to go 5-3 in MAC play, most likely.  Anything less and its 4-8 again.

And, look, if you want to look at a worst case scenario, this team is not set up to beat anybody right now and faces getting a couple beatings before the Akron game.  This team could easily finish worse than last year's team and I could see it getting as bad as 2-10.  That team last night is an 0-12 team, but you'd hope you don't play that poorly week in and week out.

That's not what the program needed.  The longer it goes on like this, the more the questions mount.  And it isn't like they're going to get rid of him, because they aren't.  What happens is the program ends up like Miami did, and it took them 10 years to dig out of it.

In other words, we (or I) was hoping we'd get some evidence we had leadership in the program that could win and right now we have gotten none and in fact are back to where we were after the Memphis game last year.  We're 4-10.  On the bright side, we're .500 in FCS games.

Saturday, September 09, 2017

Jinks: "Horrible"


via GIPHY

I will give Coach Jinks credit.  He is brutally honest.  He isn't a Gregg-Brandon-we-were-two-plays-from-winning-the-game-type guy.  He used the word "horrible."  Says we got beat in every phase of the game.  Too many mistakes.  Refused to blame the officials.  Admitted the loss hurts worse because it was an FCS game at home.

"You're supposed to win these games."

Inability to handle the twist on the pass rush, turnovers on special teams, 15 penalties, poor hand position on pass defense, the list went on.  BG was awful in all regards.

15 penalties.  Jinks:  "absurd."

So, I give him credit for the honesty.

That's not what I want to give him credit for, though.  I want to give him credit for having a team that can execute a game plan.  I want to give him credit for beating the FCS team.  I want to give him credit for proving that you can take a guy pretty much out of high school coaching, pair him with a bunch of mostly untested assistants and win some football games.  I want to give him credit for having guys ready to handle a twist.  For having DBs with their hands in the right position.  For an offense that can score.  For a team that doesn't commit costly penalties.  For an offense that can put points on the board.  For a defense that can contain a mobile QB.

That's what I'd like to give him credit for.  If he's forced to be brutally honest too many more times he's going to be doing an exit interview.

This was a hugely costly loss.  For BG to go 6-6 and make a bowl game now--assuming losses to Northwestern and Middle Tennessee--will require BG to go 6-2 in the MAC. In other words, we would need to win the East (probably).  Or tie for it.

In other words, a 6-6 record and a bowl game now look like a difficult slog.  If they can make it, if this team does fix those things, he'll get credit for that.

Until then, the narrative has not changed since the day he arrived.  The basic question--is coaching high school successfully transferable to college ball--has not been answered in the affirmative.