Saturday, April 21, 2007

Spring Game Report--Defense Wins

Here, in today's game, Dan Macon runs to the left with one of his 18 carries.

OK, so here's the deal with the spring game. It's a ying yang thing. When the offense lights it up (as it did a couple years ago, courtesy O4 and AT), you're glad to see it, but at the same time, you worry about the defense. Same thing for a low scoring game, only in reverse.

With that thought in mind, the defense won the spring game. The ying-yang doesn't stop there. I mean, does it mean our really young D has come around, and is ready to contribute as a leading unit in our conference....or is our offense consigned to another season of low wattage output while the defense gets lit up like a Christmas tree?

Of course, there is no way to know. Reviewing basic facts, the game produced only 3 TDs, and one of those was off a very short field following a Sheehan INT. So, really, there were two sustained drives. The offenses would move the ball for a while, and then stall out, and that was true for both of them.

Looking first at White, (the Turner/Glaud team). What you have is playcalling that very closely matched what we ran last year, and that can't be what we want. Turner was 9-14 and Glaud was 5-6, so that's 14-20, or 70%. Not bad. However, those 20 passes accounted for only 82 freaking yards, the kind of line we saw commonly last year. That's about 4 yards per pass play--actually much less than the 5.8 the team did last year. So, yes, nice %. On very, very short passes. And Turner threw an INT. He was only sacked once, but I would hope so.

It actually is a little worse. Glaud had a 29 yard completion. That means the other 19 completions were worth 53 yards, less than 3 yards per attempt.

So, at least we ran well with White, right. Dan Macon had a nice day (18 for 86 and 4.8), but Eric Ransom (highly touted JUCO transfer) was 14-46 for 3.3, which isn't too much. Plus he caught four passes for -5 yards. Turner was also no threat on the run, although Glaud did run for a TD.

Now, he didn''t have Corey Partridge, who (we will cover later) is simply as good a possession receiver as we have ever had. Marques Parks caught four passes for 60 yards.

Play mix was 38 runs and 20 passes.

Well, let's look at the Orange. Playcalling on this side was, interestingly, a little more typical of a Gregg Brandon offense. 34 passes, 31 runs.

How about Tyler Sheehan? The backup QB fans have fallen in love with? I thought he looked good in spots, but he also threw 2 INT's and was sacked three times. He also fumbled. In all, he was 20-33, which is about 61%. But, those 33 passes covered 179 yards for 5.4 yards per attempt, so there was at least some degree of difficulty. Sheehan had a nice TD pass to Kelvin Davis for 32 yards, which made up for an alligator arm Davis pulled on sideline pass a few plays before that (Davis is a redshirt Fr, and has a great body. I'm looking forward to watching him).

Chris Bullock ran 18 times for 83 yards, a respectable 4.6 average.

The real star of the game for Orange was Corey Partridge. He is simply a fantastic receiver. We had no one who could cover him. He caught ten balls for 96 yards--by far, the best offensive performance for the team.

So, you have two distinct playcalling styles and sets of performers, playing against defenses that were equally mixed. Both Orange and White averaged 3.9 yards per play (a full yard less per play even then last year's anemic offense). Which leads me to my fear--that we aren't going to move the ball again this year....that we have three QBs who are OK, but none that is really good. That we have some running, but not enough receivers to really open it up.

In fairness, I thought the defense made lots of plays. Diryal Briggs is going to be huge in this conference (9 tackles and 2 sacks). Lewis Parks, PJ Mahone, a number of our players had pretty big games. We forced four turnovers (both ways). Our defense is still painfully young. The depth chart in the prospectus lists 33 players. 2 are seniors, and one of those is Sean O'Drobinak.

I hate to say that we might still be a year away on defense, but I will say this: if this defense produces this year, this conference is in for a scary couple seasons. If this defense proves to be young and untalented, then we're in for a scary couple seasons.

Special teams. Improved. Iovinelli punted for both teams and got somewhere near 40 yards. He wasn't rushed at all, and we didn't send defenders down field, either. The crowd applauded politely with each successful punt. Vrvilo made 3 FGs. The walk on ("other kicker") had one blocked. We had a couple cruddy kickoffs, but I don't remember which kicker that was.

So, there's the spring game. Next time we see our heroes, they will be running onto the field of the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome to play the Golden Gophers. Today, I saw a defense win over the offense. What that means depends on whether you see ying or yang.

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