Friday, October 20, 2006

Falcons Fighting for .500 season

Whatever remote chance the Falcons had to win the East all but vanished on the turf at Perry Shorts Stadium last night, as the Chippewas rode big plays to beat BG 31-14, despite the Falcons providing a more consistent and even effort.

The basic storyline is as follows. The Chips blew out to a 7 -0 lead when they scored on their first play from scrimmage. Then, a couple minutes later they returned an AT INT for a TD, after which they added a FG. Bottom line, with 11:59 left in the second, we're down 17-0.

To our credit, we did not fold this time. We buckled down and got back into the game. We took the kickoff following the FG right down the field for a Barnes TD, and then Barnes scored again with 1:33 left in the first half, as BG capitalized on a CMU fumble. So, at halftime, it was 17-14.

During this time, our defense really locked down on CMU--a good offensive football team that plays a very solid spread scheme. Their next 14 plays netted only 50 yards. They started drives nearly that entire time inside their own 20--once on the 1.

Furthermore, the offense was in great field position, starting one drive on the CMU 35. However, the offense was equally unable to put anything together.

In fact, the drive that started on the 35 began a sequence of events that eventaully decided the contest. BG ran three plays for three yards, and chose to punt from the 32. The Falcons were unable to down Rojas' kick and CMU started on its own 20. The defense initiated play well, stopping CMU for a 3 yard loss, and then getting a false start penalty. But on 2-18, CMU threw an 88 yard TD pass to make the lead 24-14, and it was beginning to look bleak.

BG's offense finally mustered a drive, stalling on the CMU 7. BG decided to kick a FG (since they were down 10), but it was blocked. CMU then marched back down the field against demoralized Falcon D, scoring the final points of the game.

Let there be no doubt. The BG offense lost this game. They had field position and plenty of opportunities to win the game. We just don't have playmakers on that side of the ball right now. Chris Bullock runs hard and effectively, and Barnes makes plays in spots, but Turner will complete a big pass and then over throw and open receiver, and we just aren't getting our WRs or our TEs into the game.

Coach said after the game that we made too many mistakes to win this game. For this, he was correct. He said it is the youth of this team. I can't doubt that either.

As always, the Falcon Nation is distraught over this loss. I guess I see it differently.

We are rebuilding this year. I didn't expect us to win this game when the season started. CMU is a well-coached team that has more players than us. But, this time, when we were down early, we got back into the game. We fought back. Yes, we still gave up big plays to lose, but we got back into the game. This game presents hope for the future.

Given the struggles in Oxford and in Toledo (or Akron, for that matter), there is no plausible reason for us not winning three of the next four games and finishing 7-5, an accomplishment for this team.

Lastly, there is a burgeoning QB controversey in the Falcon that is laughable for its craziness. (There is no losing team in America that does NOT have a QB controversey). It involves Tyler Sheehan, true FR, who played a little against KSU when we were getting blown out. He had a little initial suceess (though that was all), and now everyone wants to dump AT and put Sheehan in.

This is crazy talk. For the first time since the first half of UM's initial season, we are dealing with something other teams see all the time--less than stellar QB play. AT is in his first season as a starter. You cannot expect everything from him. He has shown flashes, and certainly has a long way to go. But the expectations are too high for him today.

Let's be thankful, in fact, that he is not pulling down a veteran team. With luck, everyone on this team can rise together.

So, I view the CMU game as a small step forward. Yes, we could have won, and that would have been a real feather in this team's cap. But we just aren't good enough right now.

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