What a difference a week makes
My, how things can change in seven short days.
First, the Falcons go from their worst home loss at the Doyt to a clutch road win against a team of uncertain quality, but one clearly capable of beating the Falcons senseless on their home field.
Second, Kent hosts Akron and beats the Zips like a rented mule. Akron with two losses, now has a long road back into the East, since Kent would have to lose three times for them to make the MACC (barring a three-way tie!). They'd have to lose twice for BG to make it, but that's a discussion for later.
For the angst and frustration in the Falcon Nation, you have to give the coaches credit for today's win. We had a team ready to play, we had a game plan we could execute, and we had a game plan that, while not spectacular, did enough to get the win, and that was what we needed. A second straight loss heading to Columbus is inconceivable.
What was key to the win? We'll take offense in a minute, but the key was the D. Our guys played really well. We forced four turnovers and made four sacks, and had numerous other hurries. We held OU to 3.7 yards per play, and to 3 out of 13 on third downs, and that's a pretty good formula for victory. Kelvin McRae, their lead back, only had a 3.4 yard average. OU got nine points (an excellent result on its own), one of which came off a lousy punt. We played physical, we ran to the ball, we were a little more resilient. Excellent defensive performance for the D.
Our D-ends were in the backfield all day. Diryal Briggs had 3.5 tackles for loss, and Parks had 1.5. Beyond that were numerous hurries and pressures. Leading tackler was a LB (White) with 13, and John Haneline had a big game with 8 more.
With all that, the offense was good enough to win. Not great, but good enough to win. AT was back, and while he wasn't especially good, his mere presence opened up running lanes for Chris Bullock. Dan Macon stayed in BG with an injury, so Bullock got the carries, and he was excellent 21-144 and 1 TD and a 5.4 per carry average. He is a solid runner who is tough to bring down and heads north-south, and he helped to provide production from a position we really needed it from.
There was also evidence that we were learning how to use Freddie Barnes. First, he is deadly in the red zone on those direct snaps, like PJ used to take. Freddie had 10 carries for 37 yards and 2 TDs, and also was our leading receiver with 4 catches for 68 yards, including a QB throwback from Corey Partridge in a time when we really needed to jump start some production.
AT didn't have a great game, but the entire offense was good enough to win. AT was 9-18 for 77 yards, and ran seven times for -17 yards (though he was not sacked). It was clear that they were not going to let the QB beat them, and this week, we figured out other ways to move the ball.
In total, there are a few stats which tell the story. The offense only turned the ball over once, and gave up no sacks (though we threw on only 19 of our 63 plays). We were 3-3 in the red zone. We were 7-14 on 3rd/4th down. So, even though we only averaged 4.1 yards per play, we were good enough to keep the O on the field, and we make too many mistakes. We had the ball for more than 8 minutes in the second, third and fourth quarters.
Of particular importance was the fourth quarter. For the second time this year, we were up and needed a drive to salt the game away. To do that, you have to control the ball, and that usually means running. We took the ball on our 26 @ 8:07 with a 12 point lead. Bullock carried three straight times, converting a 3-1 with a five yard gain. Then AT lost two, and Freddie ran for 11 and five for another first down. We then got down to the OU 39 before we had to punt. No, we didn't score. But, there was 2;27 on the clock when OU got the ball back, and chances of two scores were all but gone. Those two third down conversions put the game away.
Special teams were improved. The punting game had its ups and downs. Rojas has an option on the rubgy punt to run if the zone is clear. He did it twice, once on our first (successful) and once later (not successful). He punted pretty well, with no blocks, but most importantly, Chris Garrett, the #1 PR guy in the country had a long return of four yards. We gave up no big plays (kickoffs or punts) on special teams. Rojas did shank one, but he boomed one, too. That's all we really ask of special teams...just don't take us out of the game. I could care less about five yards--its the fifty yards and the turnovers and the touchdowns that kill you.
All in all, a big win against what is probably a decent team. Remember, this is the team that beat NIU on the road before losing a couple of games against BCS teams. Coach Solich was disappointed in the post-game interviews. He shouldn't be too much. OU has one loss, and they can control their own destiny from here on in, so long as BG losses at least once more.
Here's what our Coach had to say:
All we talked about was our character and our pride, and that was being tested. That's what we talked about before the game."
"Our offensive coaches do a tremendous job, our players just execute. We ran so much offense today it was unbelievable. It's like a pro offense the things we do."
"Our defense was dominating today. They get a field goal off a shanked punt and a trick play, that's their scores. It was a tremendous team effort all around."
"The pressure was relentless. He (Ohio QB Austen Everson) wasn't able to sit in the pocket and get comfortable there."
"I can't say enough about our offensive line being able to control Ohio's front. That allows the others kids to make plays."
So, what from here? Obviously, this team has a long road to compete, but its no longer than anyone else's. Even if BG runs the table--including a win @ CMU, @Akron, and @Toledo and with a win over Miami at home (something that looks more possible than it did yesterday but is also a tall order for a team that is this young)--Kent has to lose twice to give BG the East.
Here's Kent's remaining MAC schedule:
|Sat, Oct 14||Toledo||4:00 pm||--|
|Sat, Oct 28||Ohio||4:00 pm||--|
|Sat, Nov 4||at Buffalo||1:00 pm||--|
|Fri, Nov 17||Eastern Michigan||6:00 pm||--|
|Fri, Nov 24||at Ball State||12:00 pm||--|
Toledo is still a threat, even if they are clearly not as solid as in the past. OU could be tough, but both those games are at home for Kent--and the community is rallying around the team (they drew 22K today). Beyond that, there's an always unpredictable trip to Muncie, but, in general, Kent has a decent road to the East from here on in.
On the other hand, in this year's MAC, they'll probably lose to Buffalo and Eastern.
For the Falcons, I think a .500 season is back in play, and we just have to try to be in the race when November comes. That will be challenging enough.
For tonight, all is well in Falcon Nation. A solid road win establishes some confidence again-in the defense, and in the offense's ability to move the ball when the QBs are stopped. If we can beat EMU, then we can start building it up in earnest.