Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Loeffler Presser

So I watched the Loeffler presser.  He was quiet, to be sure.  Two things I noted.


First, he was finally asked the QB question....had he considered trying someone else?

To no one's surprise, he said "absolutely not."  He said that the things that went wrong in the passing game were "out of his [McDonald's] control."  He specifically cited tipped balls which happened when the D-line had pushed the o-line directly on top of him.  He said that these are things "the average fan doesn't see."

So there you have it.

Much of the rest of the presser talked about leadership.  One of the things Loeffler wants to work on this week is players doing something the first time they are directed.  That's a shocking thing to hear, frankly.  He says it is maturity.  I guess that's a form of it.  Someone was in the comments recently saying some of it is on the players, and this is a good example of that point.  I also wonder if it doesn't point to a lack of "internal competition" as Clawson used to say.

On to Buffalo.

Sunday, October 24, 2021

Past and Future Opponent Land

Tennessee (4-4):  Played Bama tough for 3 Quarters.

South Alabama (4-3) Lost to UL-Monroe

Murray State: (3-4):  Destroyed at home by Austin Peay

Minnesota (5-2) Beat Maryland

Kent (4-4) Beat Ohio

Akron (2-6) Lost big to UB

NIU (6-2) Last second FG stuns CMU

Buffalo (4-4): Crushed Akron

Toledo (4-4):  Beat WMU, got win they had to have

Miami (4-4): Won at Ball State

Ohio (1-7):  Lost to Kent


MAC vs. P5:  3-17 

MAC vs G5:  7-9

MAC vs. FCS:  10-1

East vs. West:  6-2, West

Oh the Humanity

 


There's not much to say about the EMU game, except this: there was absolutely nothing redeeming about it.  Every part of it was awful.

These are not just my opinions.  Here is Coach Loeffler, quoted in The Blade.

“We’re not going to let last year’s play creep back in, but it was the first time this season that I’m disappointed.  We took steps backward, and it felt like last year. Come hell or high water, that’s not occurring, and it did, and that’s my responsibility. Our program is moving in the right direction, but it sure as hell didn’t move today, and that’s the facts.”

Here's Matt McDonald:

“The game is hard enough as it is, and when we’re shooting ourselves in the foot, we just don’t give ourselves a chance.  This was the first time where I felt like we had no fight in us and we kind of gave up, so that was disappointing because we really haven’t done that the rest of this season.”

Somewhere else Loeffler said it was like 2020 all over again, and it totally was.  That's 100% accurate. It was just like the worst season in program history. 

He went on to give all the "it's on me" talk.  Which is kind of obligatory and in the coach playbook.  

It has to be more than lip service, because it is on him.

We have been asked to be patient with the process.  And while there was progress--even baby steps--I was willing to continue that patience.  

But we can't regress. And yesterday was a 100% regression.

I understand that our undersized lineman will get blown up.  I understand our players may not make the plays they need.  I understand we lack depth.

But regardless of skill, the team makes too many pre-snap penalties. Too many missed passes.  Too many mistakes, some of them game-changing.  Those things shouldn't be happening anymore, on a team that is making progress.  And they are.  Coach says that is on him and he's right.  And if he's the coach we think (or hope) he is, he's going to need to get it fixed.

The defense was at one point a relative strength.  They started out well yesterday, but then Creighton said that they figured things out and it was off to the races.  They are a good offense and they showed it.  Meanwhile, BG's offense is as anemic now as it was earlier.  Part of that is not going to get fixed this year, but they made it harder on themselves with mistakes and when plays are there they are too often not getting made.

I never thought we would win much this year.  And we haven't and we won't.  But you wanted to see movement in the right direction.  The last four games will be the test for that--@UB, UT, @Miami, OU.  We have played the better teams in our division tough.  When we don't beat ourselves, we are at least competitive.  That's all I am asking for in the last four games. 

And it truly is on Coach Loeffler's shoulders to at least get that much happening. This can be a turning point--a look back to where we finally turned the corner--or it can be proof that the doubters were right.

Friday, October 22, 2021

25 Questions From the Factory

 

It's a Water Tower


What is their body of work?

EMU has always been a tough place to compete.  When Chris Creighton came in, they had 18 straight non-winning seasons.  17 of those seasons were 4 wins or less.  Further, he took over after the Ron "Sh*tbird" English debacle.  He went an Arthish 3-21 in his first two years.  In the next five years, to present, they are 31-22 with 3 bowl game appearances.  He has had the most sustained success since Jim Harkema was there in the late 80s/early 90s.  Again, it's the low bar, but it is something.  They are 4-3 this year and 1-2 in the MAC.  The wins are St. Francis, UMass, Texas State, and Miami, with losses to Wisconsin, NIU, Ball State.  Interestingly, they had only one P5 opponent this year.

BG and EMU have not played since 2017. Creighton is 2-0 against BG and the Eagles have won 3 of the last 5.

How many seniors and juniors on the two-deep?

They have 25, which is pretty experienced.

Who are their statistical leaders? (Top 20 Nationally)

Ben Bryant is #19 in completion percentage,
Jake Julien is #12 in punting
Hassan Beydoun is #17 in receptions per game

What is their turnover ratio? 

They are -1 so far.

EMU Alum



Offense

How is their QB play?

Their starter is Ben Bryant, a UC transfer who moved to EMU last year.  He's very good....#2 in the MAC in passing efficiency, with 66% completions on almost 13 yards a completion, a very efficient approach.  7 TD over 2 INT.  He does run a little.

What is their scoring and yards per play

They are 3rd in the MAC in scoring offense and 9th in yards per play.  That's a very unusual spread that we usually reveals itself later.  We know it isn't turnover margin.

Can they run the ball?

They are not great.  They are 9th in the MAC in yards per carry.  Darius Boone has the most carries, but not great yards, while Jawon Hamilton (UCF-James Madison) is 5.5 yards per carry on fewer attempts.

Do they pass the ball?

They are #3 in passing efficiency.  See above.

How is their run/pass balance?

They run on 53% of their overall plays.

Do they convert on 3rd Down?

Yes, the do, 2nd in the MAC.  This helps explain the gap between scoring and yards per play

Do they score in the red zone?

They are good at 5.3 points per red zone trip.

Do they protect the quarterback?

 Not really.  They give up sacks on 8.7% of pass attempts...I have a little concern that offenses have figured out BG's stunting fronts that helped with the Minnesota win, but this would be a good time to get that rolling.


Defense:
Old School


Topline: Scoring and yards per play

This is where you worry.  They are #2 in the MAC in scoring defense and #4 in yards per play allowed.

Do they defend the run effectively?

Not great.  They are 8th in the MAC in yards per carry allowed.  Of course, you have to wonder how well BG can take advantage of this.

Can they be passed on?

They are pretty solid.  #3 in the MAC in pass efficiency defense, allowing 54% completions, 5 TD over 3 INT but 12.7 yards per completion.

Do they get off the field on 3rd down?

OK...they are 6th, allowing 38% completions.

Do they defend in the red zone?

They aren't great, allowing 5. points per trip.

Do they pressure the QB?

Pretty good, 7% of pass attempts

The Factory


Special Teams:

Punting?

They lead the MAC in net punting.  No blocks or TDs allowed.

Punt Return?

Very poor.  7 returns for -4 yards.

Placekicking? 

Good not great.  About 67% with a long of 47.  Has been over 50 in his career

Kickoff? 

Opponents start on the 27.  No TDs.

Kickoff Return?

They start on the 25.  No TDs.



Intangible Miscellany

EMU is a 3-point favorite.  They are a tough matchup for BG's offense, since they excel at pass defense.  They are a strong defensive team and given our struggles to move the ball, even against NIU's low-ranked defense...that is not a good sign.  BG's defense has been showing signs of being figured out just a little....but EMU is a pass-first team, which is a good matchup going that way.  So, best case, probably low scoring.  BG takes care of the ball.  Maybe one of those long plays goes all the way.  This is one where you'd like to see us show progress with a win, but this is not the EMU we are used to and it will require a very solid effort, four quarters, etc.  Love to get one on our last home Saturday.

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Football Updates

Some football updates.

Nate Needham won the East Special Teams Player of the Week award, which was well deserved after he kicked four FGs in the NIU game.  I wish we weren't relying on him so much, but he has done great work.

Coach talked about him in the presser.  He said he had called out Needham for his transformation in a team meeting.  He said that last year in practice he was "killing cheerleaders" by which I assume he means putting bystanders in danger with wild kicking, a very similar description to how Dave Clawson once described Stephen Stein. This year Needham has tremendous "urgency" which is the word of the day, but you can see the difference on the field.

He cited Needham to make a larger point.  It was interesting.  He said that this team is at least competitive but they have to learn how to win.   I remember Meyer saying that Lou Holtz told him the same thing...first a team has to learn how to compete than how to win.

And BG is at least staying in games, which we did not do last year.  It is a low bar, but it is progress.  

He said BG was going to win a couple more this year. That would surprise me, but it would also be an excellent demonstration of progress.

There are significant portions of the fan base that are very restless/angry with the situation and calling for Loeffler to be fired.  I think there is a zero-percent chance of that happening.  Having said that, I do get it.  You wonder why we aren't giving someone else a shot at QB, you wonder about some of the in-game tactical decisions that are being made and you wonder about the lack of transfers on offense, when we have seen what they have done for the defense.  You wonder why he "isn't calling plays" but you see the offense stand and stare at the sidelines while Loeffler has his head over his playsheet barking into the headphone.  You wonder why NIU has had such a fast turnaround and why Akron beat us with a team as young as ours.

While I don't agree, we should be grateful these people are so angry.  We have been so bad for so long that we risk having no fan base left if and when we are competitive again.  Angry fans at least still care.

Loeffler says we are on schedule, and that's how I see it.  I didn't expect us to be any good this year and we aren't.  If we were still getting regularly blown out, that would be a different issue.  But at least there is some indication of progress.  As far as I am concerned, you can't make a move until at least the end of next season.  But I do get it.  If you commit to a long turnaround, you have to give it time, but it's also a complete disaster if it flames out.  

Sunday, October 17, 2021

Past and Future Opponent Land

Tennessee (4-3):  Lose to Ole Miss, fans shower field with garbage, Kiffin cracks wise

South Alabama (4-2) Beat Georgia Southern 41-14

Murray State: (3-3):  16 4thQ points to beat SEMO

Minnesota (4-2) Beat Nebraska

Kent (3-4) Lost to WMU 64-31

Akron (2-5) Lost to Miami

Eastern Michigan (4-3)  Lost by 7 to Ball State

Buffalo (3-4):  17 4Q points stuns OU

Toledo (3-4):  Lost @CMU in overtime, program rift exposed in Blade

Miami (3-4): Beat EMU by 7

Ohio (1-6):  Ouch--blew big lead over UB


MAC vs. P5:  3-17 

MAC vs G5:  7-9

MAC vs. FSC:  10-1

East vs. West:  5-1, West

NIU Defeat--more thoughts....

 So a few thoughts.

NIU is a one-dimensional team.  They are going to run it.  And they did, with, in general, ruthless efficiency.  They threw only 8 passes.  Completed only 4.  Why would you bother?  After the game, BG cited doing better against the run in the second half, but it was 5.5 yards per carry in the first half against 5.3 yards in the second half.  The defense did get consecutive stops in the second half.  Yes, NIU was running to kill the clock, but they were one-dimensional the whole game anyway.  I don't understand why BG kept playing a two-deep alignment given how NIU plays.  I would think you would want to force Lombardi to try and beat you but that wasn't the approach we took.  

This was always a tough matchup for us--our DBs are the strength of our defense.  BG has not had a run-stopping defense in almost a decade.  I hope we are moving there but we are not there now--not a slam, but you could see it out there.  Also, NIU's leading RB did not play.  Jay Ducker, with 24 career carries for 85 yards, was 33 for 210 yards against BG.

The offense.  Woof.  We outgained NIU, FWIW.  There is no ability to sustain drives.  BG scored six times.  One came off a fumble, four others included at least one big play.  The only "sustained" drive was a 10-play drive that covered 28 yards.  Even the big plays led to FGs, because BG does not sustain even short drives.  Example.  After the McDonald 49-yard run, BG was on the 25 and did not make another first down.

The running game is improved.  Even removing the 49-yard run they averaged 4 yards a carry, which is far from great but we came in averaging half that.  Terion Stewart played.  We used some wildcat.

Here's the thing.  As the rushing game got better, we expected to see the passing game improve and it did not.  It was not good enough to win.  We completed 39% of our passes.  Sure, it was windy.  True, we had no INTs (or turnovers or the game would have been a blow out), but there was one pick-six that was completely dropped.  There were missed throws and dropped passes.  At least a couple knocked down at the line.  BG did connect some long passes, 3 of them for 134 yards.  Which leaves the other 38 passing attempts yielding 101 yards.  Less if you include the one sack.  He was hurried twice, though he did scramble out of the pocket a few times.

Don't get me wrong.  I love big plays.  But when we get a big play to the 25 we have to turn that into at least a chance at scoring a TD.  And that is not happening and it kept us from winning this one.  Coach said after the game that a close football game comes down to a few plays.  We got into the position to create those opportunities but didn't execute those key plays.

Needham and Naranjo are doing a great job.  The TD on the kickoff return might have been the most damaging play of the game.  Just can't let that happen when you have all our other issues.  We also had a short kickoff for no apparent reason and an OB kickoff.  Also, we had one return where we could have fair caught it, but didn't and ended up with a penalty and starting at our 8.  Also something we can't do with our issues.

I give our coaches credit for creatively working to run the ball.  The o-line seems to be improving, though it is still struggling on many plays.  Tactical decisions--like declining the penalty and no seeming plan to run a two-minute drill at the end and the two-deep alignment--are also holding the team back.

Another bad day in DeKalb

Another game, more sadness.  BG is certainly competing and is certainly better than they were last year, but they are just not ready to win yet.  NIU is much improved but young, which kind of makes it even a little sadder.  NIU was in control much of the way but BG didn't quit, had a better second half and eventually had the ball at the end with a chance to tie the game but couldn't execute a big play and it eventually died out.  We just aren't strong enough up front on either side and can't sustain anything on the offensive side of the ball.


NIU is a run-first team and it's pretty obvious.  They lived that identity yesterday, attempting only 8 passes--something we will see from OU as well.  They turned the ball over on their first possession--caused by Jalen Burton, making his first start and someone to keep an eye on--BG converted from there, which was a great thing to start with.  I give them credit, they put a lot of creativity and effort into getting a run game going.  We ran wildcats, we ran a TE for a TD, we looked for cut back lanes.  I felt like we had a game plan for trying to get some running going.

The next drive was a head-scratcher.  NIU--as they would for much of the day--had moved down the field with easily, 10 runs in 11 plays and they were on the BG 2.  The Falcons stop Lombardi for a one yard loss to force a 4th and 3.  NIU is called for holding and BG declined the penalty.  I just don't understand that.  I don't know if we assumed they would kick the FG, but you have to figure that they can make 3 yards, given the previous 10 plays.  We declined the penalty and they did indeed make the TD, albeit on a great effort by Lombardi.  Accept the penalty, their chances of making 13 yards are much less and it's far more likely to get them to a FG that way.

7-7.  BG went 3 and out and NIU went 73 yards on 6 plays to go up 14-7.

The teams traded punts.  BG got a big play from McDonald to Broden and was 2 and goal from the 5.  BG opted for 2 pass plays, one broken up and one dropped in the end zone and BG ended up kicking a FG.  When you look at why you're trying to run the lateral play on the last play of the game, you can look back to situations like this.  14-10.

(BG is 111th in the country in points per red zone trip and 10th in the MAC).

Then, BG kicked off and gave up a 100-yard kickoff return for a TD.  When you look at why you're trying to run the lateral play on the last play of the game, you can look back to situations like this.  21-10.

For the end of the half, BG got a good kickoff return from Taron Keith.  BG converted a 4th and 7 and had it on the NIU 26.  BG lost 5 yards on a bad snap and combined with two poor passes Needham kicked a 49 yarder on a windy day.

So it's 21-13 at the half.

NIU started out the second half with the ball.  After the kickoff was OB, NIU marched down the field (as you would have expected, 8 runs 1 pass) and they were inside the 10.  Here the defense at least kept BG in the game.  After 2 yards on 2 carries and a Devin Taylor break up, NIU was held to a FG, 24-13.

On the next drive, BG got a 49-yard run from Matt McDonald on a designed run.  It was the only successful play on the drive and BG had to kick another FG, 24-16.

NIU got the ball back and went 63 yards on 5 plays, including a TD pass, to go up 31-16.

After a penalty on the kick return, BG started on their own 8.  They went 3 and out and NIU started in BG territory after the punt.  They were on the BG 8 two plays later.  Anders then got a 2-yard TFL and we saw why declining that early penalty was such a bad idea, as Lombardi was incomplete twice and NIU added at FG 34-16.

So BG is down 18 just started the 4th.  Obviously, given that we had 16 points in the first three quarters, this would have to look like a difficult position to be in.  I give you guys credit.  I think past BG teams would have let the situation get the best of them, but not this time.  

McDonald completed a 54-yard pass to Embry and BG had it on the NIU 22 and a chance to get it going.  A 2-yard run and two incompletions left BG kicking a FG again.  34-19.

NIU rode a 34-yard run into BG territory but BG made a stop on 4th and 2 and had the ball back with 9 minutes left.  BG converted 2 3rd downs and had it on the NIU 36 and McDonald looked to Osborne.   Cursed by the football gods last week on a bobbling interception, Osborne was the beneficiary this time and made a great effort to get the TD and 34-26.

6 minutes left.  Aided by a penalty, BG gets a 3-and-out.  After a poor punt, BG started on its 40.  They made a first down to the NIU 41, but two incompletions, a sack and an incompletion on 4th and 17, NIU had the ball back and BG's best non-miracle winning chance was gone.

With 2:11 left, NIU was just killing clock.  They went 3 and out, forced BG to use its timeouts and punted the ball into the end zone.

BG had 1:02 for the miracle.  On first down, BG created an opportunity on a double-move but the ball was poorly thrown.  After that, BG was left throwing underneath passes, almost as if they were trying to set up the hail mary, and even when that happened they went for the lateral play instead.

So, a good comeback.  A team staying with it.  But a team still not ready to win.  I think that extends to the whole team--the return game, the offense (not only the QB) and the defense.

More to come.

Friday, October 15, 2021

25 Questions for Mission.....

Mission--who retired last month--and his understudy
Mini Mish, now Mission II

What is their body of work?

Through Novack, Kill, Doeren and Carey, they were able to sustain success across many seasons.  Things were getting a little soft before Carey went to Temple.  Keeping success moving after numerous coaching changes is tough (paging Jason Candle) and they did really well.

After Carey, they brought Thomas Hammock in, who is now in his third year.  They threw an 0-6 bagel last year and were picked to be last in the West, by a lot.

Lo and behold, that has not happened. They won @Georgia Tech and they won @UT last week.  They are 4-2 on the year, with additional wins over Eastern and Maine and losses to Wyoming and UM.

The two teams have not met since 2017.  NIU has beaten BG in 7 out of the last 10 meetings, dating back to the Meyer years.  BG's three wins are GameDay and the two MAC Championship games.

How many seniors and juniors on the two-deep?

There are only 9, which is astounding.  This is a young team with 32 people on their 2-deep with freshman eligibility.  BG has 16.

Who are their statistical leaders? (Top 20 Nationally)

John Richardson is #17 in FG% and #7 in FG/game.
Harrison Waylee is #8 in rushing yards per game.

What is their turnover ratio? 

They are -3 so far.


Offense:


How is their QB play?

Their starter is Rocky Lombardi, who transferred from Michigan State, where he made 9 starts.  He's not having a great year.  He is 13th in the MAC in passing efficiency, behind McDonald.  He has 57% completions, 5 TD over 6 INT and 11.8 yards per completion, the only number of which is decent.  He is a dual threat-QB, #11 in the MAC in rushing even with sacks.  They are very run-focused.

What is their scoring and yards per play

They are 5th in the MAC in scoring and #7 in yards per play.

Can they run the ball?

They can.  This is a point of maximum exposure for BG.  NIU is #2 in the MAC in yards per carry and #3 in rushing attempts.  Probably the best player in the MAC you never heard of....Harrison Waylee.  He leads the MAC in yards per game, averaging 114.  He is only in his second year at NIU, playing last year and had a couple 100 yard games last year.

Do they pass the ball?

Not well.  They are last in the MAC in passing efficiency.  

How is their run/pass balance?

They run on 66% of their offensive plays.

Do they convert on 3rd Down?

They are 8th, with 36%

Do they score in the red zone?

They are pretty good at 5.1 points per trip.  Only one empty red zone trip all season.

Do they protect the quarterback?

They do.  Sacks on only 2% of their passing attempts.


Defense:

Topline: Scoring and yards per play

They are 11th in scoring defense and yards per play allowed.

Do they defend the run effectively?

They are 10th, allowing 5.2 yards per rush.

Can they be passed on?

They are 7th in passing efficiency defense.  They allow 60% completions on 13.5 yards per completion, both of which are not great, plus 8 TD over 1 INT.

Do they get off the field on 3rd down?

They are 8th, allowing 42% completions

Do they defend in the red zone?

They aren't great, allowing 5.4 points per trip.

Do they pressure the QB?

They are decent, with sacks on 5.7% of passing attempts.

Fair Catch
Special Teams:

Punting?

They are 6th in net punting.  No blocks, no return TDs.

Punt Return?

Middle of the pack in the MAC, 9 yards per return.  No blocks, no TDs.

Placekicking? 

He's good...11 of 12, 4 of 4 over 40, long of 47, no blocks

Kickoff? 

They are 9th, opponents start on the 26.  No TDs.

Kickoff Return?

They start on the 26.  No TDs.




Miscellaneous: Overall atmospherics and intangibles.

Well, BG exceeded expectations for a while and then crashed back down to earth last week.  Meanwhile, NIU is exceeding expectations....maybe they crash down to earth.  The Huskies are 9-point favorites.  The matchup is tough.  BG will have to stop the run to have a chance to win, particularly on the QB option part of the run. NIU is not a great defensive team, but you'd think this would be something BG would not expect to be in a great position to capitalize on it.  So, on paper not a great matchup.  It will be interesting to see how BG rebounds from the Akron performance....will say a lot.

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Brian Kilbane Enters the Portal

BG O-lineman Brian Kilbane has entered the portal and he has been removed from the roster on the Falcon website.  Kilbane was reported to be in a tight battle with Malone VanGorder for a starting G job this year and VanGorder has gotten the start in every game this year. Kilbane remained on the two-deep and played in every game but one.

Kilbane was highly recruited out of Lakewood St. Ed's and you'd expect he will have options in the portal. 

Best of luck to him in the future.