Sunday, September 07, 2008

Saturday's Game

Well, what happened out there on Saturday was a shame. We talk about building the program, and its just seems like winning when we have a big crowd with lots of new fans in the house would be a great start. Sadly, Minnesota is a decent team, and they played stronger football on the one front that seems to matter most, and that's turnovers.

They did not turn the ball over at all, and BG turned it over 5 times, and you simply can't find a much better explanation that that. I thought we moved the ball pretty well and I thought for most of the game the defense did a pretty good job of stopping Minnesota. We certainly have improved our tackling and our defensive positioning.

It would be interesting to see if any team wins in college football this year with a -5 turnover ratio, even at home.

There were a couple of moments I thought really made the difference.

First, I think on our first drive, when we got to the 20 and stalled out and missed a FG, if we get those points, I think its a different game from there forward. And then we had a chance to tie the game at the end of the first half, where we had first and goal from the 8, and we threw three straight incomplete passes. If we tie the game, I think things might have been different.

We also wasted our biggest play of the game, a 38 yard pass down the middle to Kelly, a drive that ended in a punt.

Finally, on that 3rd and 9 play when Weber gets the crappy snap, pulls it in, and then remains composed and finds a receiver open for first down yardage--that was a really big play in the game. We get a stop there, and things might have been different, too.

So while the offense averaged 5.5 yards per play, which is pretty good, the Falcons just missed some key opportunities and didn't execute at a couple key times and fumbled way too much, inside a generally consistent and strong performance.

The running game seemed pretty strong to me. Our RBs averaged over 5 yards per carry, and we got positive carries out of Bullock, Geter, Turner and Barnes. All four had a carry of 10 or more yards. We went to the direct snap when we needed it, and it seemed to work. AT, in particular, is just deadly in that formation.

We only ran the ball 26 times, but that can work in our offense, and its not unusual against a team that is bigger than us. We seemed to have holes opened and did well with the run game.

Similarly, the passing game was pretty good, too. Tyler was 29 of 44, which is about 65%, a generally winning number in our system. He was only sacked once, and threw only one interception. He was certainly helped by a very conservative attack, and had less than 6 yards per attempt--you'd certainly like to see that a little higher.

He certainly can't be faulted for locking into one receiver--10 different Falcons caught passes. Jermiah Kelly, for whatever it is worth, looks like James Hawkins on those patterns down the middle of the field.

We were 5 of 13 on third down, and I think that's about one conversion short of where you would like to see it.

The grade for the offense has to be failing, because, by turning the ball over, they didn't give the team a chance to win the game. And I know that I didn't cut Pitt any slack (something about what my aunt would be if she had balls) for moving the ball but turning it over. In the final analysis, if we can eliminate the turnovers, we have the chance to score lots in conference play. If we don't we won't beat anyone.

On defense, I thought we played a pretty strong game, too.

To start with what was probably the weakest part of the performance, Weber was 21 of 25 in the air (something that surprised me when I saw it), and had over 9 yards per attempt, which is pretty darn good. So, the passing was handled pretty well. Weber did have some guys open, so it seems like coverage could tighten up.

Without sacks, they were 42-200 rushing, which is pretty good. They had some nice plays, but I never had the feeling they were running over us at will. I thought our tackling was better and guys stayed at home.

We did not get off the field as well as we would hope, as the Gophers were 7 of 15 on third down.

And, at the other end of the pipe, their yards per play was only a little better than ours.

We did get three sacks, all from Diryal Briggs, who is on his way to a monster season. In our conference, teams will seriously have to game plan around him, and account for him on every play. It is a seriously disruptive presence.

The one thing the defense did not do was make any other big plays--no interceptions or fumbles. That's what made the difference at Pitt, and in its own way, it made the difference at BG.

In addition to Briggs, Dozier had a big day with 14 tackles and Haneline had 13. Its a good sign when your two best linebackers are making that many tackles, and not your D-backs. (Jahmal Brown made only tackle after being in a bunch at Pitt, and I wonder if he was out there as much or injured).

Special teams--well, there were some poor plays. Vrvilo missed a makeable FG, and Williams fumbled a KO return, and Stoudamire got a huge kick return just when we were getting momentum. They covered Williams really well on kickoffs. So, the special teams did not contribute as we would hope, either.

Overall, a disappointment on many fronts, but there are reasons for fans to be hopeful. The conference play is what matters most, and it looks like every week could well be a challenge.

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