Sunday, October 16, 2011

Rocket Game Story, Part I: Hanging on

So, after a night's sleep, let's take a look at the game with the Rockets yesterday.

There are some positive ways to view it, I suppose.  We played them tougher than Temple did, for example.  And it was a big improvement over last year's game.  We see that we are not where we need to be, but we maybe see that we can get there.

As I mentioned last night, the issues with not being able to make 3rd and shorts and in not being able to defend the run have been endemic in our program for what is now approaching 10 years.  That is certainly disappointing.  For a team to know they can come out in the second half and just run the ball and push us all over the makes it tough to win games.  The teams we beat (Miami, for example), don't have that in their playbook anyway.

So, I guess the bottom line is that yesterday's game showed progress in a way, but in the very big picture, it didn't.  I still believe we are on the right track, and I still believe that this team is improving.  Whether that means we get to MAC Championship level remains to be seen.  I was proud of our guys for bouncing back and playing effectively against a very good team.

Coach said that it came down to UT making 3 big four quarter plays.

  1. The interception.
  2. The stop on 4-1.
  3. The 50+ yard pass on 3rd and long deep in their own territory.

The better team made those plays and the lesser team didn't.  You have to take care of the ball, make a yard when you need it and get off the field on that 3rd and long to beat a team like this.

Coach said that for most of the game BG played at a very high level which I would agree with.  He also said that while we hung in, "we were hanging on" which I also agree with...

Let's look at each element...

First, the offense.

Certainly, BG did not have a great day on offense.  The start was pretty bad--BG was 3 and out in the first four possessions.  Then BG called a flea flicker that went for a big play, and things seemed to break out from there, at least for a while.  Before that play, BG had 17 plays for 45 yards.  After that, BG ran 58 plays for 298 which is just 5.1 yards per play, around the league average.

Coach said that Toledo won the battle of the trenches, and that was very clear on offense.  He made the point that while BG did run the ball reasonably well, it was always on draws and gimmicks, never on good-old power runs.  In addition to the 4th and 1, BG also had the ball on the 2 in the first half and couldn't get it in (that's what she said) and then missed a 24 yard field goal.

So on the line of scrimmage, UT was better.  I think our line play has been improved, but we were not as good as the Rockets today, and that's where we need to get.

I have to say that I don't understand some of the playcalling.  So you have 2 plays to make a yard or so. If you haven't been winning the battle of the trenches, I wonder why you don't try something else on one of those plays--a bootleg or one of those plays where the backside TE wanders off by himself.  I know we should be able to power run for a yard, but if you can't you have to wonder why we didn't try something else.

I do, however, fully support going for it on the key 4th quarter play.  You don't want to give the Rockets the ball back in that situation and the FG was far from a sure thing even that close.  You need points that close and going for it on 4th was the only call.

Anthon Samuel had a 100 yard game with a long of 27.  He got most of the carries and is clearly our #1 TB in a year where a rotation was envisioned.

Coach said Matt Schilz was very uneven.  I'd say that is accurate.  In those first four long drives, he was all over the place.  It looked like we had a pretty good game plan and there were a number of plays that were open, but he didn't make the throws (and to be fair there were a couple of drops).  Then, after the flea flicker, he seemed to get his confidence back

He picked up two key 3rd down passes in the second half, and in general appeared to be more in command.  He even ran for one first down, though he looks less comfortable running the ball then any QB I have seen in a long time.

The INT that eventually was the difference was a bad idea where that ball was supposed to go, but it was a 3rd and 5 play.  He also took one bad sack in a situation where it just can't happen, though he bailed himself out with the hail mary-lite at the end of the half.  There was another time where BG had to use a timeout because of the play clock and Clawson exploded on him, ripping his hat off and charging out and yelling at him like he was a referee.  Later, they were having a gesture-laden conversation on the sideline.

I know he is a sophomore and I do think he is improved this year.  He's also getting more time to throw and has a better running game than last year.

I was concerned coming into the season about the offense, and I would say they are right about where I feared.  At the end of the day, we are good in spots, but far too inconsistent to win conference games regularly.

Defense and special coming up soon...

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