Sunday, November 23, 2014

Past and Future Opponent Land--West continues to kill East

Western Kentucky (6-5) Bowl-eligible with win over UTSA.
VMI (2-10) Lost to arch-rival The Citadel
Indiana (3-8) Put scare into OSU but lost.
Wisconsin (9-2) Beat Iowa in close game.
UMass (3-8) Lost to Akron
Buffalo (4-6) KSU game was cancelled.  Buffalo loses shot at bowl eligibility.
Ohio U (5-6) Threatened but lost to NIU.
WMU (8-3) Beat arch-rival WMU
Akron (5-6)  Beat UMass
Kent (1-9) Buffalo game cancelled. Kent loses shot at Buffalo.
Ball State (4-7) Beat EMU

MAC vs. Power 5: 4-22
MAC vs. non-MAC FBS: 3-12
MAC vs. FCS: 11-2
East vs. West: West leads 15-3

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Looking Ahead: Ball State

As the dust settles on the BG defeat to UT on Wednesday, we look ahead to next Friday and Ball State.  BG has a couple of extra days to get ready for that one, but then have a normal one-week turnaround to play for the MAC title.

Ball State is having a very disappointing year.  They were huge last year and everyone thought Pete Lembo was going to go elsewhere--in fact, he was highly mentioned for the job Clawson eventually got.  Things just didn't shake out for him, and that left Lembo back in Muncie.  There was some debate on how good Ball State would be...they had big losses, including QB Keith Wenning.  As it turns out, they have had a long year.

The primary issue has been injuries.  This Star-Press article calls the injuries "absurd" and Lembo says they are the worst he has had in his career.  They have mostly hit the defense...and in that case, impacted a dozen players who were expected to be in the rotation.

For different reasons, one thing to watch for is how each team will play when it has nothing to accomplish.  For example, Ball State's season will end Friday.  How much will they bring to the game?

Differently, BG's season will continue regardless of the result.  It will be interesting to see how BG handles injured players in the game.  For example, BG's top two RBs did not play in Toledo.  If they are a close call--say 90%--would BG play them against Ball State, or would they be held back for the Championship game.

Should that be the case, you wonder what we will do.  Obviously, the loss to Toledo has only made the Falcon Nation more ouchy about what has gone down this year.  The one saving grace is that for all the ways people might be disappointed in the year, BG is one game from going back-to-back.  So, my view would be that you don't play anyone who isn't 100%.  We saw in the UT game how much we need Greene and Coppet.

We'll see what Coach does.

Friday, November 21, 2014

ICSTR...Rocket Edition

Final words on the UT game...both teams had positive special teams performance.  On the plus side, BG blocked two kicks and put 4 punts deep in UT territory.  BG only had 3 negative plays--each of them a big UT kick return.  BG finished +4 for the game.

UT also had a good game.  They buried two punts, had the 3 big KO returns and one KO touchback.  They were only +3, as they gave up the two blocked kicks and the big KO return plus added a 16 yard punt.

BG Pos (+8)
BG blocks XP (+1)
BG Punt to UT 12  (+1)
BG punt to UT 16  (+1)
BG Punt to UT 9  (+1)
BG Blocks FG (+2)
BG KO ret to 37  (+1)
BG Punt to UT 10  (+1)

BG Neg (-4)
UT KO return to 35 (-1)
UT KO Ret to BG 19 (-2)
UT KO Ret to 48 (-1)

UT Pos (+8)
UT KO TB  (+1)
UT KO return to 35  (+1)
UT Punt to BG 10 (+1)
UT Punt to BG 7 (+2)
UT KO Ret to BG 19 (+2)
UT KO Ret to 48 (+1)

UT Neg (-5)
BG Blocks XP (-1)
UT 16 yard punt (-1)
BG Blocks FG (-2)
BG KO ret to 37 (-1)

Stats and Benchmark Report, Rocket Edition

My view is that this week we can get a lot out of all this.

Starting for BG's offense...I think it magnifies just how ineffective BG's offense was.  Running was weak and passing was actually weaker on a per play basis.  BG was poor on 3rd down, gave up way too many sacks for the number of attempts...BG only redeemed itself by not having any turnovers.  The offensive effort was probably the worst this year with the exception of Wisconsin.  When you can't run the ball but you still have to run the ball 45% of the time...and when the other team is stopping the run while not over-committing men to the box and opening the pass...that's a terrible offensive game.  I felt like BG invested way too many plays in going deep.  I assume they were trying to open the box up, but the result was a lot of missed plays on low percentage passes, especially with that wind.

The UT offense/BG defense had many of the same issues.  In fact, UT's passing offense was not effective at all.  More than 1 in 5 of their attempts resulted in a sack or INT and when you deduct sacks they had about 40 yards passing.  They also fumbled, were just OK on 3rd down, etc.  What they were was good in the red zone and most of all dominant in the run game.  Sack Adjusted, UT averaged 6.9 yards per run and ran the ball on more than two out of 3 plays.  Essentially, when it came to offense there was only one thing that worked for either team, and it was enough for UT to win the game.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Falcon Men Now 2-0, Beat Wright State

The Chris Jans era continued its strong start as the Falcons played a pre-UT Football matinee contest and broke a tight game open in the second half and finished with a 70-55 win.  The Falcons are now 2-0 on the young year and while the quality of the competition is yet to be demonstrated, hungry Falcon fans will take the two wins any day.

As you can see below, the game was nip and tuck for the first 30 minutes.  The Raiders led by 1 at the half and BG was up 3 with 10 minutes left to play.  From there BG went on a 21-9 run to close the game out and give BG the victory, eventually going away.

My preview covered Wright State--they are certainly down a couple of guys.  Having said that, we are happy to see our boys winning and playing well in the balance.

For the second straight game, the difference has been...wait for it....SHOOTING.  No, really.  Like shooting the ball into the basket.

BG shot 43% from the field overall--which isn't great--but they shot 45% from beyond the arc and got to the line 24 times, making 19 of them.  Meanwhile, Wright State only shot 33% and 27% and turned the ball over 18 times.

On your fancy advanced statistics, BG had 1.03 points per possession--which is overall pretty average--but Wright State had .81 points per possession, which is pretty much undateable.

The Falcons have had different players power each victory, something else that is a good sign.  Jehvon Clarke had a big game in game 1, but he was quiet in this.  Both Richaun Holmes and Spencer Parker also struggled on the offensive side of the court (Parker had 14 points but on 4 of 12 shooting).

In Game 2, it was Zack Denny who scored 18 points on 6 of 9 shooting and 4 of 4 from beyond the arc.  Joseph and Holmes added 9 as well.

Holmes may have struggled on offense, he had a big day on the defensive side, leading the team with 8 rebounds and blocking 5 shots.  Denny had 7 rebounds and Parker 6.  Jovon Austin led the team with 4 assists.

BG continued to use a lot of depth.  BG had 9 players get over 10 minutes of play and no player went more than 28.

BG has a few days off before South-something Missouri State arrives on Tuesday.  So far, the Falcons are off to a good start and I think we all look forward to seeing it continue.

Sadness Accrues: Falcons Lose to UT again

Look, the sun did come up.

So there's that.

A couple of quick notes.

Coach Babers said in his presser that the game would come down to whether BG could run the ball and whether BG could stop the run.  The answer to both of those questions was NO, and therefore the answer to the game was that UT won.

Obviously, where the offense is concerned the focus of fans is on the QB.  It isn't the philosophy of this blog to rip players.  Knapke can play better and needs to improve his accuracy (and I think he would tell you that).  But, there were other issues too, including the weather, drops and Lewis just a little out of bounds on what would have been a dramatic and potentially game changing well as a running game that was without its top 2 backs.

Ultimately, BG lost this game on the line of scrimmage, going both ways.  BG rarely won the battles to get space for Givens.  In fact, the only time BG was able to get running going was Ronnie Moore in the wildcat--in other words, by using a formation that left passing completely off the table.  And on defense, UT was able to get huge numbers behind Kareem Hunt (mostly) and implement a devastating zone read look with Macon at QB when they needed it.  UT won the game up front.

Relating again to the QB, Coach Babers said the team was in a "funk" and that they needed a "spark" which is why they put Callaway in.  And it worked, he got BG right down the field and scored a critical TD.  After that, it didn't go so well, as UT threw big pressure at the true freshman and BG failed to protect him and that was enough to keep the Falcons from getting the tying score.  Callaway had made a huge throw on the run to Burbrink, and it seems in retrospect that they might have protected him a little by getting him out on the move, but I'm sure they had their reasons.

Coach also said there is no quarterback controversy.  Knapke will start against Ball State.  He said that in so many words.  Of course, life isn't that simple.  If coaches got to decide when there was a QB controversy, there would never be one.  Many Falcon fans have been frustrated with Knapke, and even the little taste of success that Callaway had will jump into their heads every time Knapke misses a throw.

The defense gave up a ton of yards but survived on getting turnovers.  One INT was a bad throw by Woodside, but another one was on pressure where his arm was hit while throwing and BG forced Macon to fumble under pressure as well.  In total, BG picked up 4 turnovers and was hamstrung only by the offense's inability to capitalize on short fields.

The final thing that was frustrating in crunch time came on the 4th and long play where BG was down 7.  The Falcons sent their FG team out--which made no sense at all, since a FG would still leave BG a touchdown short and we had struggled all day to even get that close.  The Falcons had to use a timeout to get the offense out there.  If they had those timeouts in the last possession, they could have saved another :45, and that might have allowed them to use playcalls that would put Callaway under less pressure.

And then there's this...

It was a great football game last night.  Drama, big plays, punches and counter punches, certainly worthy of the rivalry.  Love our guy being ready to lace it up again.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Falcons Lose Again....

It was an opera of a football game.  Reversals of fortune, miracle plays, surprise actors upon the stage.  A great football game.  Much as we hate them, give UT credit.  They were the better team.  Congrats.  A 5th straight loss...stinging.

Honestly, that was a great football game.  BG simply cannot beat a team like UT without more offensive production.  Callaway kept things alive, but in the end the line couldn't protect him.  BG had opportunities that they failed to cash in on throughout the game.  This one is 100% on the offense, and not just on the starting QB but I think there was a lack of execution from beginning to end.

Remember, UT won with their #2 and #4 QBs in the game.

The sun will come up tomorrow.

More later.

It is now!

Almost Game Time!!! Go Falcons!!

Never forget....

Don't let your kids see this.

There they are....the history of Rocky Rockets.  Honestly, it is hard to say much.  The second guy from the right has to be the creepiest mascot I ever saw...I wonder how many dollars were spent on therapy bills from children traumatized by this "Rocky."  Then you look all the way to the left and you're like, yeah, uh, I didn't know Rockets have noses.  Or, the second from the left...when, stinging from comparisons between their mascot and marital aids, they decided to just randomly put a motorcycle helmet on "Rocky."

Sunrise in the Falcon Nation

Sunrise in the Falcon Nation...on Rocket Day!  Love your team today!

The Power of the Falcon.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Wright State Preview

While the Falcon Nation awaits the evening football contest with our hated rivals, there is the business of the home men's basketball opener.  This is a tough one.  Obviously, if BG could have scheduled the game on another day they would have, so they are trying to make it into a double header, starting at the Stroh, boarding buses and ending at the Glass Bowl.

The Falcons open at home with Wright State.  BG has played the Raiders the last two seasons, with both teams winning their home games.  Last year, Wright State won 46-43, invoking memories of basketball in the 1920s.

Wright State has been a very solid program.  They have 20 wins in each of the last two years and have failed to make the Big Dance by losing unexpectedly in the Horizon tournament.  Now, that record was established in the Horizon League, and resulted in final RPIs of 128 and 166.  Both BG games were competitive with them.

The Raiders also lost all 5 of their starters from last year.  They were picked by Blue Ribbon to be 3rd and by their own poll to be 5th. It also wasn't a great off-season.  Beyond graduation, leading returning scorer JT Yoho is suspended for a DUI and has not played this year.  Tavares Sledge, who averaged 12 minutes a game last year was dismissed in the off-season.  And Kendall Griffen, who played 25 minutes last year, is battling a concussion and sounds questionable for tomorrow's game.

Wright State is a depth based team.  Donlon substitutes more than a hockey coach.  They played 10 guys anaverage of 10 minutes per game or more last year and an 11th had 9 minutes.  Even with that, the Raiders could be down 8 of those 11 players when they arrive at the Stroh.

Which is why it was kind of a surprise that the Raiders opened up with a 73-70 win over Belmont.  It might not be the normal Belmont team, but that's still a notable win until we learn more.   (Note:  Howell was suspended for that game but will be back for BG, so they were down yet another guy).

The first thing Donlon did was allow some guys to play some minutes.  He ran an 8-man rotation and four players played 33 minutes or more.

Chrirshawn Hopkins lead them with 21 points on 8 of 18 shooting.  He also added 5 rebounds. Reggie Arcenaux added 15 points and 4 assists.

Other contributors were new to the program.  Note Michael Karena, from New Zealand and a JC transfer.  Karena is 6'10" and had 11 points in 4 rebounds before fouling 15 minutes.  Grant Benzinger is a FR who had 8 points in 33 minutes (3 of 12 shooting) and JC transfer Joe Thomasson played 34 relatively unproductive minutes.

For scoring 73 points, Wright State did not shoot well, only going 50%/21%.  They only made 64% of the free throws and had 14 turnovers.  In fact, Belmont shot better (47% and 20%).  The difference in the game appears to be that Belmont had 21 turnovers, and those 7 possessions made the difference.  Also, Wright State was good when they needed to be, closing the game on a 7-0 to turn defeat into victory.

Note for BG people...Parker Ernsthausen from BG is with the Raiders but apparently red-shirting this year.

After the game with Belmont, they hosted Ohio Dominican, a game they won by 12 and probably felt underwhelmed about that.

I would say that while Wright State is clearly undermanned right now and I would expect BG has a good shot at winning the game, the Raiders are a team that is used to winning and that can serve them well if the game is close.  Two keys would be whether Griffen plays and if Karena can stay on the court.

25 Rivalry Questions

What is their body of work?

Their record is not great, but they are better than that might appear.  They are 6-4 so far this year with losses to Missouri, @UC and @Iowa State.  Their only MAC slip-up came the same place is always does, which is on the same field as NIU.  For all the great players they have had, UT has not played in the MAC title game since 2004.

How many seniors and juniors on the two-deep?

26, which is a normal number.

Who are their statistical leaders?

Detmer is #16 in the nation in FGs.
Terry Swanson is #11 in yards per rush.

What is their turnover ratio?

This was a strong point last year, but this year they are -3.  (MAC play only).


How is their QB Play?

Well, that's a good question.  Their original starter, Phillip Ely, was lost for the year early.  They had Logan Woodside playing well, but he was injured and played only one series vs. NIU.  Their #3 was injured and is not expected to be available for the BG game.  They played the NIU game with WR Dwight Macon at QB, and he did pretty well, in fact.  They had an element of surprise--Carey said he didn't even know Macon could play QB--so it might be different with time to prepare.  Woodside is practicing this week and the situation is said to be still fluid.  Beyond the rivalry, the Rockets must win this one and I'd expect Woodside to go.

What is their scoring and yards per play?

They are a potent offense at full strength.  They are 3rd in the MAC in scoring and 2nd in yards per play.

Can they run the ball?

As always, yes.  They lead the MAC with 5.8 yards per carry.  This is test #1 for the BG defense...and it doesn't matter how well they pass if this is working.  Their line is great, and they have two very good backs.  As mentioned, Terry Swanson is in the Top 20 nationally with 6.7 yards per carry.  Their #1 back, Kareem Hunt, averages a ridiculous 8.1 yards per carry, but can't be nationally ranked until he appears in 75% of his team's games.  UT will test BG's front 7 as much as any team since Wisconsin.

Do they pass the ball?

While they don't get huge passing yards due to a run-based play mix, they are 4th in pass efficiency.  They only complete 58% with 8 TDs and 7 INT, but when they do connect they are gaining 13.5 yards per carry.

How is their run/pass balance?

They run on 61% of their plays, which is a very heavy run mix.

Do they convert on 3rd Down?

They are 4th in the MAC at 45%

Do they score in the red zone?

Dude.  They are 1st in the MAC and 16th in NCAA in red zone scoring.  They have been in the red zone 28 times and gotten points 26 times.  They average 5.5 points per trip, which is very efficient.

Do they protect the quarterback?

Yes.  They always do...they have only allowed 5 sacks, which is good (2.8%) even given the low pass frequency.


Topline: Scoring and yards per play.

This is where there struggles come...and it probably has been the thing keeping them out of the MAC title game.  They are 7th in scoring defense and 11th in yards per play allowed.  BG simply has to find a way to move the ball tomorrow.

Do they defend the run effectively?

They allow 4.2 yards per carry, which is 6th in the MAC.

Can they be passed on?

They can.  They are 12th in pass efficiency defense.  They are tenth in completion percentage allowed (60.8%), 13 TDs over 5 INT and 12.5 yards per completion.  BG has to succeed both running and passing to win.

Do they get off the field on 3rd down?

So, when we see a difference between yards allowed and points allowed, usually it is because a team is getting stops on 3rd down or in the red zone.  UT is 4th in 3rd down conversions allowed.

Do they defend in the red zone?

They are also good in the red zone, allowing only 4.4 points per trip.

Do they pressure the QB?

11 sacks is 4.8% of attempts, which is average.

Special Teams:


They are 10th in net punting.  No blocks, no TDs allowed.

Punt Return?

They are 6th in the MAC, no TDs, no blocks.


Dude is ridiculous.  He is 16 out 19 and 13 out of 14 inside 40.


They are excellent.  Teams average starting on the 23.

Kickoff Return?

OK.  They start on their own 23.

Miscellaneous: Overall atmospherics and intangibles.

A few.

First, UT has won 4 straight in this series, including a heart-breaking win at the Doyt last year.  It will be interesting to see how this plays with the BG players.  (Losing to UT was the best thing to happen to BG last year, the team was completely dominant in every game after that).  It is a monkey on the back, and that can either be a motivator or a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Second, the weather.  It is going to be not good.  The temp is supposed to reach a low of 17 in Toledo and 1-3 inches of snow are expected, though mostly before game time.  Winds 15 to 25.  The weather will 100% be a factor in the game.  You are going to be able to need to run the ball, which helps UT in my opinion.  This is unseasonably cold mid-western football, and the weather will be an issue.

Third, home field.  UT is very tough to beat at the Glass Bowl.  I think the weather will keep the crowd down, which should at least limit the impact of the home field.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Past and Future Opponent Land

Western Kentucky (5-5) Beat Army
VMI (2-9) Lost to W. Carolina
Indiana (3-7) Lost to 45-23 to Rutgers
Wisconsin (8-2) Smoked Nebraska
UMass (3-7) Beat Ball State
Buffalo (4-6) Beat Akron.  Go figure.
Ohio U (5-5) Smoked Buffalo
WMU (7-3) Beat EMU 51-7
Akron (4-6) Lost to Buffalo
Toledo (6-4) Lost to NIU
Ball State (3-7) Lost to UMass

MAC vs. Power 5: 4-22
MAC vs. non-MAC FBS: 3-12
MAC vs. FCS: 11-2
East vs. West: West leads 13-3

Jans Era Opens up in Fine Fashion

So, did you like that start to the Jans era?

I thought so.

Look, there's a long way to go and all, and there were some factors in our favor, but there's no way we aren't going to be pleased with a wire-wire 19 point victory on the road to kick the season off.

It was BG's biggest road win since a 24 point win over WMU back in 2012.

So, to dispense with the qualifiers...Drake was picked to be last in MVC, had a bunch of new guys and then had two returning seniors--including their leading returning scorer--suspended for the game (and 2 others) for receiving improper benefits.

Even with that, it was a great performance for the Falcons, who were never threatened.

The victory was built on the primary skill in the game of basketball and the thing that bedeviled BG most over the past few years, and that was the simple art of making the ball go through the goal.

BG shot 52% for the game and 60% in the first half, when the game was decided.  That kind of shooting is hard to beat on its own, but then you have to add in that BG made 41% of its 3FGs...11 total for the game.  With a 3-heavy shot mix, 52% is even better.

Overall, BG's EFG% was 62% and BG had 1.2 points per possession, but of which would be difficult numbers to lose with.

When you are shooting well, you want to also avoid turnovers, and BG did that as well, with 9 turnovers or about 14% of possessions.  The Falcons did not do much on the offensive boards and did not get to the line much, but they did make all 8 of their FTs.

On the defensive side, BG was also excellent.  Drake shot 37% for the game (though 50% from deep) and had only .91 points per possession, which is a difficult number to win with as well.  They also turned the ball over more than BG, and while they were better on the offensive boards and FTs, it wasn't enough to off-shoot BG's great shooting and Drake's poor shooting.

Individually, BG had 12 players score.  Todd Walker noted that this is more than the total number of BG players who scored all of last season. Jehvon Clarke came off the bench and (as we hoped) thrived in the 2.  He had 16 points on 6 of 10 shooting and 4 of 8 from deep.  Also, he played only 21 minutes.  Richaun Holmes had 12 on 4 of 6 shooting and 5 blocked shots.  Spencer Parker had 10 on 4 of 6 shooting to got with 4 steals (and a game high 25 minutes and Jovon Austin had 10 on 4 of 6 shooting and added 4 assists.

No Falcon had more than 2 turnovers and that was only 1 guy, the rest had only 1 turnover.

Anyway, a great start for the Falcons.  BG made outside shots--their biggest weakness in the past--while maintaining the ability to get stops on the defensive end.  I think we saw that we are going to see a deeper rotation for the Falcons and got a look at some of our new guys.  That includes Garrett Mayleben who played 16 minutes.

I'd encourage the Falcon Nation to pump the brakes just a little bit.  Let's enjoy seeing this evolve.  I'm looking forward to seeing how BG unfolds, but let's wait a while before we start to project ourselves into winning this way on a regular basis.  We probably did land in a good situation let's no burden these guys with a lot of expectations right away.

We will find out more Wednesday with Wright State, a very solid team on our floor in a matinee.