Sunday, August 31, 2008

Oh the Sweet Smell of Victory!

Here, you see (from the Blade) Tyler Sheehan racing into the end zone with what ended up being the winning touchdown in yesterday's thrilling win at Pitt.

I'll have more--much more--coming up in the next two days, but first a post on some overall impressions.

It was a great day to be a Falcon. On this Sunday morning, I am hoarse from yelling for our team. I am very, very proud of the effort our team put forward, even with the suspensions and the issues. And let's not forget, but for an inadvertent whistle, this game is a laugher.

There were a few keys to the game. The most obvious was the three critical turnovers Pitt made (I know there were four, but the last was while the game was over.) Pitt won most of the stat battles, but the early fumble in their own territory that allowed BG to tie the game and the late fumble deep in their own territory that allowed BG to take the lead were both very costly and BG made them pay.

Even the Kenny Lewis fumble--absent the TD--was critical, because it stopped a Pitt drive.

So, turnovers were probably the difference. BG took care of the ball, turning it over once.

I am so proud of our team for the adjustments we made. The first few minutes of this game were AWFUL. Pitt ran right over us, took at 14-0 lead, and you were beginning to feel like it was BC and Tulsa all over again. And, the offense was stagnant as anything.

But, things turned around. First, we did what all the best offenses in the Brandon/Meyer era have done when we took the ball off the second touchdown, and stuck it right down the field into the end zone. That drive was vital for re-establishing the game.

On offense, we found some things that worked, and we got it done. On the whole, it was not a great offensive performance. We only made 15 first downs, and had only 254 yards. That's only 3.6 yards per play. Running, we were only 24-81 (if you take the four sacks out), which is obviously not particularly strong, and when you take out a 36 yard run by Bullock, you have 23-45 for the rest of them.

But, Bullock DID break that run and put us in a position to score, we were able to run the option for third and fourth down conversions, and the direct snap played worked a few times, AT scored in the red zone and so did Tyler. So, the overall numbers weren't eye-boggling, but we had the runs when we needed them.

Tyler was just over 50% passing. There were some drops. Obviously, we hope to see that number improve in the future, but again, on key drives when we needed it, he was making the throws. We had 24 completions to 9 receivers.....are you kidding me?

Best of all, we were very resourceful. We ran a flood right in the red zone, but drifted the TE the opposite way. We have used this play often to score, and it is almost always wide open. And it was again.

We also had Freddie in the direct snap, but used him to throw twice, sucking everyone in for the run and then making a little shovel pass to the TE for the TD. We ran the option-pitch a few times, then (again in the red zone) when Pitt over committed to the outside, Sheehan run for an untouched 12 yard TV.

I can't say anything but this---our coaching staff maximized the players we had on the field, and we were ready to make plays when we needed them. Given the new OC team, I am very proud of our effort. Again, not overpowering. But winning.

On defense, one word sticks out.....PLAYMAKERS. We had guys who made plays on defense.

Is Kenny Lewis incredible or what? Did it help he was playing in his hometown--maybe, but he has done this before. Six tackles, one INT, one FR, and a defensive TD called back on an inadvertent whistle.

How about Jahmal Brown? 11 solo tackles, 14 total, and a pass break up.

Antonio Smith--12 tackles, 9 solo. Caused the key play of the game on a crushing corner blitz and a Stull fumble. Also two tackles for loss and a pass break up.

How about two sacks for Diryal Briggs? And three hurries. And I know he won't celebrate again.

How about Dozier? Six tackles, forced a fumble, broke up two passes, and had a QB hurry.

Just remember, it was 14-0 and Pitt only got 3 after that. We adjusted on D, starting tackling, and yes, our playmakers got loose. It was an incredible performance.

Certainly, we got an assist from Wannstedt, who punted twice inside our 40 when they had the momentum. And, they rarely if ever threw downfield until late in the game, though when they did, I think you could see why....Stull's deep throws were wild and ineffective. And, their receivers had a lot of balls run through their hands. But, our defense made lots of plays and can only be thrilled with their effort.

LaSean McCoy only averaged 3.1 yards per carry, and had no run over 12 yards. That's impressive. Stephens was ripping us apart (7-71) but luckily, Wannstedt decided to stop using him. It helped immensely that the passing game was short, because we could crowd up to stop the run and the short pass.

Stull threw 51 times (I'm sure that wasn't included in any winning game plans for Pitt), was sacked four times and hurried 8, based on the stats. BG was resourceful and found ways to pressure the QB, even though our D-Line was thin.

Pitt did not complete a pass over 18 yards the whole game.

Special teams...we won that battle too. Pitt's kicker missed a key FG, and Iovenelli was great punting. He had a 79 yarder that was kind of lucky, but nailed them deep twice and backed the returner up a couple times. Our only special teams miscue was coaching related, when we gave Pitt the field position for their 2Q FG on a squib kick I don't understand. We covered kicks real well all day and Vrvilio ripped a couple.

One last note for now. A team which is (in theory) less deep is aided by the game being on TV. Those TV timeouts give everyone a chance to rest, especially when it is as hot as it was.

So, much credit all around. We were better than Pitt on their field. Tyler Sheehan could play for Pitt tomorrow. Our worrisome line play showed signs of hope on both sides of the ball. We were resourceful and found ways to move the ball and make plays on defense. We took the opponent's mistakes, and turned them to our advantage.

A great day to be a Falcon. More to come.

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