Monday, December 22, 2014

Falcon Co-OCs Flying the Coop

So, for those of you who thought that Coach Babers had made a mistake with his over-reliance on his EIU staff and thought BG had a low-wattage set of assistant coaches....this is your day.  It was reported by si.com that BG's co-offensive coordinators Sterlin Gilbert and Mark Mattox are leaving BG to work at Tulsa University.  The new coach there is Philip Montgomery, who was the OC at Baylor, so there is a natural connection, plus a desire to play, you know, fast.

It will be interesting to see how Babers handles the vacancy.  Presumably he needs an OC or OCs that know this offense, which can't be a terribly huge pool.  I believe Babers is the true OC, but whoever is going to fill the spot has an important tactical role to play.  Developing.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Jans: Defeat Will "Put a Damper on my Christmas"

So, yeah, while everyone was still reliving the thrilling Camellia Bowl victory last night, the Falcon men's basketball team took to the floor to play Ferris State, a DII team on an 8-game winning streak.  I didn't see the game, but based on Coach Jans' comments after the game, BG was apparently already on break.  They played what Coach said was our worst defensive game of the year, gave up 82 to Ferris and lost by 14 on home floor.

Jans:  "We took a step back."

So far as I can see, BG's last non-D1 loss was to Findlay to kick off the 91-92 season.

It would appear to be one of those days...a Ferris team that is playing well with 2 really good players meets up against a team that Coach Jans concedes he was unable to get to play with the needed intensity--so opportunity kicks in an open door.

The interesting thing is that it was never really a game.  BG was down 1 at half but Jans says "it felt like more."  Then, with BG "not putting up much resistance," (Jans), Ferris shot 58% from the field, 50% from beyond the arc and 11 of 13 FTs to put 45 on the board for the half.  Meanwhile, BG shot 39% and 33% and scored only 32 (not too bad, on its own).  The Bulldogs led by 20 inside of 2 minutes.

Ferris was led by Drew Lehman, a Toledo Central Catholic product.  Lehman had 29 points on 10 of 17 shooting.  They also had Josh Fleming who scored 23 points and added 13 rebounds.  I don't remember the last time BG had two players go 20+ against them, but it is far from common.

Richaun Holmes had a big game for BG, scoring 26 on 9 of 14 shooting and adding 9 rebounds.  Clarke had an efficient 13 and Denny had 10 that took a lot of work to chase down.

It is humbling for the Falcons, who have met or exceeded expectations for most of the year.  This--a 14 point defeat at home to a non-D1 team--certainly qualifies.  They'll get plenty of time to think about it....they play again Sunday @South Florida.  Adversity strikes any season.  It will be interesting to see how BG responds to this.

Bowl Wins Freshens the Place Up a little bit


It is amazing how much better this place looks after a win, huh?

Things were getting pretty foul--not that everything is in the clear, now--but things certainly are feeling a lot better with the Camellia Bowl win Saturday in an absolutely great football game.   I can hear the haters now--I know, USA was a 6-6 Sun Belt opponent, but I don't care.  It was a really nice win for us.

I had to go back and look this up.  BG's last win before Saturday was NOVEMBER 12--so BG had gone a month and 8 days without putting one in the W column.  That's bound to get anyone cranky.  Than, you lose to your arch-rival, blow a winnable game at home, lose by a record margin in the MAC title game, toss a couple arrests in there...not great but it it all looks a little bit better after a win.  The sun is shining into the kitchen in the morning again.

More to come in the next day or two, but my concerns about this game had been written...that South Alabama came into a game in which they felt they were "making history."  This was the huge thing in the history of their program.  The body language from inside our program just didn't seem ready to match that enthusiasm, and I feared one of those bowl games where something goes wrong and one side races away and the other just watches.

I give our coaches and our players 100% credit.  That did not happen.  We competed with energy and enthusiasm from the opening bell.  BG certainly didn't play a flawless game, but they played their best game in many weeks--certainly their most complete game--and that's a tribute to a bunch of guys playing for each other and for pride for the program and they have my respect for that.

Perhaps no player has to be as satisfied as the game's MVP, James Knapke.  He has taken a ton of heat from fans...in some cases for things he could have done better and in other cases unfairly...anyway, as always happens, the team's entire failing is put at the feet of the QB.

Knapke had a huge game out there, and at no time more than in the play that won the thing.  USA had just taken the lead for the first time in the game.  There was only 1:20 left to play.  BG was on its own 22 and needed only a FG, but things were certainly looking dicey.

BG lined Roger Lewis up in the slot and found him 1-1 with a safety.  They called his number....launching from the slot he got a running start and he went right down the field.  Here's the thing...this is a pass/fail test for Knapke.  There are no advanced metrics here.  His team needs him to make this throw ONE TIME...you just have to have it...and he did make it, a perfect throw that not only was catchable for Lewis but catchable in stride so that could he could do what he does, which was to turn a little bit of space into a gut punch, rip the heart out of USA's chest touchdown pass, a complete jaw-dropping ending that will echo for years.

Knapke had to make THAT throw...and he did.  As Coach said after the game, the words James Knapke are now under the words BART STARR on the bowl trophy, and that's pretty awesome.  Even more so, because it is possible that he will not play another meaningful down for our program, and his name will still be under Bart Starr's.  That's pretty cool.

Anyway, more to come, but for now, a great, great football game and a credit to our guys for coming out and getting it done.  I think it will provide a lift for everyone as the off-season slogs along.

Friday, December 19, 2014

25 questions for an inaugural event

What is their body of work?

It isn't great.  They are 6-6.  In common opponent land, they won @Kent, 23-13.  They also lost to Mississippi State and South Carolina, and to Navy by 2.  They have lost 4 out of their last 5, which puts them in a similar skid to the Falcons.

How many seniors and juniors on the two-deep?

32, which is a very senior-dominated team.

Who are their FBS statistical leaders?

Their kicker is #13 in FG%.  His name is Aleem Sunanon.

ALL Rankings below are Sun Belt rankings, all games.

What is their turnover ratio?

They are -4, 8 in the conference.

You are looking live....
Offense:

How is their QB Play?

It is interesting.  On paper, Bridge doesn't look that good.  Their QB is #9 in the Sun Belt in passing efficiency.  He completes only 51% of his passes with 11.8 per completion.  He has 14 TDs and 6 INT.  But, he's getting serious interest from the NFL...he certainly has the kind of body they like.  He can beat you with his legs.

What is their scoring and yards per play?

They are not good.  In fact, at the end of the season they fired their OC and then hired (re-hired actually) the guy who lost his gig at UAB.  They are 9th in scoring offense and 10th in yards per play.

Can they run the ball?

They are a run-oriented team with a run-heavy play mix.  Overall, their yards per rush  is 7th in the conference.  However, they have 3 lead backs who averaged over 5 yards per carry.  Unless the Jaguars have seen zero game film, I would expect this to be their first line of attack.

Do they pass the ball?

They are last in the conference is passing efficiency.  Again, I'd expect to see them try to get the run game open and then try to create space for their quick WRs.

How is their run/pass balance?

They run on 57% of plays, which is a high run mix.

Do they convert on 3rd Down?

They are 10th.

Do they score in the red zone?

They have stalled for a high number of RZ FGs.  They average only 4.3 points per trip.

Do they protect the quarterback?

They have only given up 27 sacks, which is not a huge number, but remember there is a heavy run mix.  They have allowed sacks on 6.7% of sack plays.

Defense:

Topline: Scoring and yards per play.

They are good here, 2nd in scoring defense and 5th in yards per play.  It is odd to see a split like that, so maybe something will indicate what is going on.

Do they defend the run effectively?

They are tied for 6th in yards per carried allowed.

The world's most historic bus.
Can they be passed on?

They are 5th in the Sun Belt in pass defense efficiency.  They allow only 55% completions, which is really good and conference best.  They have allowed 17TDs and only 6 INT, and do allow 12.6 yards per completion.

Do they get off the field on 3rd down?

They are 7th in opponent 3rd down conversion, so average.

Do they defend in the red zone?

And here is what accounts for the split between the scoring and yardage rankings.  USA allows only 4.1 points per red zone trip, which is really good.

Do they pressure the QB?

They are 6th with 25 sacks.

Special Teams:

Punting?

They are pretty good.  They are 5th in net punting.  They have been blocked once and allowed 1 TD.

Punt Return?

Nobody really gets too many punt returns anymore.  They had one good one.  No blocks, no TDs.

Placekicking?

Dude is really good.  He's missed only 3 times, is 5-6 over 40 and has a long of 46 with one block.

Kickoff?

They are 7th in this, too, with an average start at the 27.  No TDs allowed.

Kickoff Return?

Not especially good, starting on 25.

Miscellaneous: Overall atmospherics and intangibles.

Camellia japonica
I wrote on this earlier this week.  This is a serious concern.  The stadium seats 25K and USA has been drawing 17K, so I would expect them to fill up most if not all of the stands in Montgomery.
Also, this is a huge big deal for USA and they seem pretty jacked up, while I worry our enthusiasm is not as good. To say the the least.

It is the last chance for our seniors to win a bowl game, but the team didn't rally around their last chance to beat Toledo or win at the Doyt, so I don't see that being much.

Both teams are playing poorly heading into the game.  BG is an average team in the MAC and USA is an average team in the Sun Belt, but given the overall karma going into the game, I am really worried about BG getting steamrolled.  Most of all, I worry that USA gets off to a fast start....

Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Jaguar Offense...Coordinator, Quarterback

Over time we have become used to seeing teams coached in a bowl game by a different head coach than the one who coached them in the regular season.  In fact, we got used to it right here last year.  This year, South Alabama is putting a different spin on that idea.

First, it is the offensive coordinator and not the head coach.
Second, the OC didn't leave but was fired.

So, at the end of the year, the point-challenged Jaguar team fired OC Robert Matthews.  I don't think they had any way of knowing that Bryant Vincent, a former three-year Jag assistant, was about to lose his job as OC at the University of Alabama-Birmingham.  That brought two things together in a nice, convenient package.  Re-enter Vincent at USA.

Vincent will be OC for the bowl game.  He has been at the practices and tells the media he has put some new "wrinkles" in.  He does note that you can't change too much, but even if 98 of it is the same thing, one play might make all the difference.  Meanwhile, I would absolutely expect him to put some new energy in the troops.

The other thing to watch for is QB Brandon Bridge.  At 6'5" and 235, he is an eye-popping physical specimen and has the eye of NFL scouts.  NFLdraftscout.com has him ranked as the #8 QB and a 4th or 5th round pick.  He's a native of Mississauga, ON, Canada, and was at what time considering UB but there was a coaching change and he went to Alcorn State, where the boys named him Air Canada.   Then he transferred to USA after a coaching change there.

He has a strong arm and can make plays with his legs.   His coach says he has improved his mechanics and has gotten better as a player.

Interestingly, he was not even named all-Sun Belt honorable mention.  The NFL is certainly capable of seeing an under-developed player of that kind of size and taking a shot on him as a project.  Our interest is how good he will be Saturday.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Falcons Tie Up Loose Ends....



When last we heard, Croley was suspended indefinitely and Babers was mum on whether Johnson was going to the bowl game or not.  And you see here that those two issues have been resolved.

The test of this won't be these cases.  The test will be the absence of such incidents in the future.  I'm hearing some serious concern about Coach's response to the Johnson incident and people are in a really sour mood right now.  I have always said that I never want Bowling Green to be a place with athletics programs we are embarrassed by.  We, the fans, are the ones who stay.  Players go, coaches go, athletic directors go, Presidents go...we stay.

Sometimes a little adversity helps you focus on what's important and let's hope that's what happens with the football program.

New Falcon Football Verbal: Sit Down. It is a TE.

The latest verbal for BG football is out there on the internet...his name is Derek Lee,  and brace yourselves, Falcon Fans, he's a TE.  After having really strong TEs last year and a couple of TE commits, this year BG ran an offense that mostly did not use a TE.  The closest thing was Chris Pohlman, who is sort was a hybrid TE/FB.

Derek has been playing at Butler Community College, which is in Kansas.  He's also a native of the perfectly named Maize, KS.  (Side story.  At the MHSAA state football championship game, we sat next to a guy who got a degree in Grain Millinery Science at Kansas State University).

He's 6'4" and 255, which is a pretty good sized fella.

He's listed as a FB on the conference site, so just extrapolating out I would imagine he will play the Pohlman role for BG--and of course, he will be immediately eligible. However, Hustle Belt has been in touch with him...he made his first stop at North Dakota State and red-shirted and then played before transferring to the JUCO, so he will be in BG for only one season.

He had less than a dozen carries but he did catch 17 passes in their 11 games, with 2 TDS.

Welcome to the Falcons, Derek.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

South Alabama Brief


So, I think there might not be too many D1 football programs that BG fans were less familiar with than South Alabama.  So here's a little primer.

University of South Alabama was founded in 1964.  They have about 16,000 students, which is about the size of BG.  The University is in Mobile, Alabama, and play in the stadium where the GMAC/Go Daddy bowl is held.

They have a medical school.  You have probably seen something on the web about their 14% graduation rate, which seems to come from the Chronicle of Higher Education.  Using the same report, BG has a 32% rate.

The most notable sport that USA has competed in was baseball.  For a long time, they were coached by major league great Eddie Stanky....graduates include David Freese, Adam Lind and Juan Pierre, among others.

They started their football program in 2009.  They played a couple of years of "unclassified status/"  They played one year as an FCS independent and now three years as a full FBS member of the Sun Belt Conference.  They were 2-10 their first year, and then went 6-6 each of the last two years.

They are coached by Joey Jones.  Jones is a Mobile native who went to Alabama to play for The Bear.  He was an all-SEC WR, and then he played in the USFL and the NFL, for one season with the Atlanta Falcons.

Jones was a successful HS Coach and then coached for one year in DIII ball before taking the job at South Alabama.  According to the USA Today database of coaching salaries, his base salary is around $30K more than Dino Babers.

Camellia Warning Signs..

I have to say that I have some pretty big worries about the Camellia Bowl coming up Saturday.

The whole Karma of the thing seems to be going in the wrong direction, and I'm very worried about what kind of result we are going to get.

Let's run down the items.

First, this is the biggest thing in their program's history.  You follow them on twitter and other things, they are geeked up.  They are going into this game as if it is huge...think back to when BG made a bowl game and went out to the California Bowl way back when.  That kind of excited.

I could be wrong, but let's just say I don't sense the same kind of enthusiasm around here.

Second, the game is pretty close to their fans.  They are selling out their allotments and I would expect them to have a pretty nice home crowd advantage on Saturday.  I would expect the BG crowd to be minimal.

So, while USA is thrilled to be here, my guess is that BG is not.

Now, BG should win this game.  I haven't done the whole analysis thing, but I think we should be the better team--if we play like we are capable of playing.  Coach was using the "seniors" motivation, which didn't work for the UT game or the Ball State game, so maybe the third time will be the charm.

Anyway, love to be wrong, but it seems to me that all the mojo is going in the wrong direction.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Matt Johnson: You can't make this stuff up

This has not been a good week for Falcon football.  The storyline moved from the serious to the ridiculous with news that Matt Johnson has been charged with filing a false burglary report as part of a prank on his roommate, Ryan Burbrink.  Apparently, both young men had won money at the casino, and Johnson stole Burbrink's and the concocted the story to flesh out the joke.  The Sentinel-Tribune has the most complete take on this.


Chris Kingston said that he is sure it will be learning experience and it doesn't sound like Johnson will be officially sanctioned.

A couple things.  Obviously, Johnson let this go too far when he involved the police, which was a very dumb thing to do.  As far as that goes, young people do dumb things sometimes.  Compared to the other three police-related incidents this year, this one is relatively minor.  It is an embarrassment to the program and the University, however, and that's not acceptable.

The other thing kind of buried in here is the Casino.  There had been some chatter on azz.com about a contingent of BG players going to the Casino on a regular basis...right from practice in their warm-ups.  I hadn't said anything because I didn't have any way of knowing if it was true, but this seems to confirm it, at least partially.  I was initially surprised because all I have read recently about college athletes is that they can't afford to get a pizza or a snack at night, so I wouldn't have thought they had money to gamble with.  I guess that's my fault for believing what I read.

Burbrink won $1,500 and Johnson won $3,000, which to me are not small amounts of money.  Nothing illegal about it if you are 21, so it isn't that.  If it is true that our players are "regularly" going to the casino, I can't believe people in the program don't have problems with that.