Saturday, September 30, 2006

What a difference a week makes

My, how things can change in seven short days.

First, the Falcons go from their worst home loss at the Doyt to a clutch road win against a team of uncertain quality, but one clearly capable of beating the Falcons senseless on their home field.

Second, Kent hosts Akron and beats the Zips like a rented mule. Akron with two losses, now has a long road back into the East, since Kent would have to lose three times for them to make the MACC (barring a three-way tie!). They'd have to lose twice for BG to make it, but that's a discussion for later.

For the angst and frustration in the Falcon Nation, you have to give the coaches credit for today's win. We had a team ready to play, we had a game plan we could execute, and we had a game plan that, while not spectacular, did enough to get the win, and that was what we needed. A second straight loss heading to Columbus is inconceivable.

What was key to the win? We'll take offense in a minute, but the key was the D. Our guys played really well. We forced four turnovers and made four sacks, and had numerous other hurries. We held OU to 3.7 yards per play, and to 3 out of 13 on third downs, and that's a pretty good formula for victory. Kelvin McRae, their lead back, only had a 3.4 yard average. OU got nine points (an excellent result on its own), one of which came off a lousy punt. We played physical, we ran to the ball, we were a little more resilient. Excellent defensive performance for the D.

Our D-ends were in the backfield all day. Diryal Briggs had 3.5 tackles for loss, and Parks had 1.5. Beyond that were numerous hurries and pressures. Leading tackler was a LB (White) with 13, and John Haneline had a big game with 8 more.

With all that, the offense was good enough to win. Not great, but good enough to win. AT was back, and while he wasn't especially good, his mere presence opened up running lanes for Chris Bullock. Dan Macon stayed in BG with an injury, so Bullock got the carries, and he was excellent 21-144 and 1 TD and a 5.4 per carry average. He is a solid runner who is tough to bring down and heads north-south, and he helped to provide production from a position we really needed it from.

There was also evidence that we were learning how to use Freddie Barnes. First, he is deadly in the red zone on those direct snaps, like PJ used to take. Freddie had 10 carries for 37 yards and 2 TDs, and also was our leading receiver with 4 catches for 68 yards, including a QB throwback from Corey Partridge in a time when we really needed to jump start some production.

AT didn't have a great game, but the entire offense was good enough to win. AT was 9-18 for 77 yards, and ran seven times for -17 yards (though he was not sacked). It was clear that they were not going to let the QB beat them, and this week, we figured out other ways to move the ball.

In total, there are a few stats which tell the story. The offense only turned the ball over once, and gave up no sacks (though we threw on only 19 of our 63 plays). We were 3-3 in the red zone. We were 7-14 on 3rd/4th down. So, even though we only averaged 4.1 yards per play, we were good enough to keep the O on the field, and we make too many mistakes. We had the ball for more than 8 minutes in the second, third and fourth quarters.

Of particular importance was the fourth quarter. For the second time this year, we were up and needed a drive to salt the game away. To do that, you have to control the ball, and that usually means running. We took the ball on our 26 @ 8:07 with a 12 point lead. Bullock carried three straight times, converting a 3-1 with a five yard gain. Then AT lost two, and Freddie ran for 11 and five for another first down. We then got down to the OU 39 before we had to punt. No, we didn't score. But, there was 2;27 on the clock when OU got the ball back, and chances of two scores were all but gone. Those two third down conversions put the game away.

Special teams were improved. The punting game had its ups and downs. Rojas has an option on the rubgy punt to run if the zone is clear. He did it twice, once on our first (successful) and once later (not successful). He punted pretty well, with no blocks, but most importantly, Chris Garrett, the #1 PR guy in the country had a long return of four yards. We gave up no big plays (kickoffs or punts) on special teams. Rojas did shank one, but he boomed one, too. That's all we really ask of special teams...just don't take us out of the game. I could care less about five yards--its the fifty yards and the turnovers and the touchdowns that kill you.

All in all, a big win against what is probably a decent team. Remember, this is the team that beat NIU on the road before losing a couple of games against BCS teams. Coach Solich was disappointed in the post-game interviews. He shouldn't be too much. OU has one loss, and they can control their own destiny from here on in, so long as BG losses at least once more.

Here's what our Coach had to say:

All we talked about was our character and our pride, and that was being tested. That's what we talked about before the game."

"Our offensive coaches do a tremendous job, our players just execute. We ran so much offense today it was unbelievable. It's like a pro offense the things we do."

"Our defense was dominating today. They get a field goal off a shanked punt and a trick play, that's their scores. It was a tremendous team effort all around."

"The pressure was relentless. He (Ohio QB Austen Everson) wasn't able to sit in the pocket and get comfortable there."

"I can't say enough about our offensive line being able to control Ohio's front. That allows the others kids to make plays."

So, what from here? Obviously, this team has a long road to compete, but its no longer than anyone else's. Even if BG runs the table--including a win @ CMU, @Akron, and @Toledo and with a win over Miami at home (something that looks more possible than it did yesterday but is also a tall order for a team that is this young)--Kent has to lose twice to give BG the East.

Here's Kent's remaining MAC schedule:

Sat, Oct 14 Toledo 4:00 pm --

Sat, Oct 28 Ohio 4:00 pm --

Sat, Nov 4 at Buffalo 1:00 pm --

Fri, Nov 17 Eastern Michigan 6:00 pm --

Fri, Nov 24 at Ball State 12:00 pm --

Toledo is still a threat, even if they are clearly not as solid as in the past. OU could be tough, but both those games are at home for Kent--and the community is rallying around the team (they drew 22K today). Beyond that, there's an always unpredictable trip to Muncie, but, in general, Kent has a decent road to the East from here on in.

On the other hand, in this year's MAC, they'll probably lose to Buffalo and Eastern.

For the Falcons, I think a .500 season is back in play, and we just have to try to be in the race when November comes. That will be challenging enough.

For tonight, all is well in Falcon Nation. A solid road win establishes some confidence again-in the defense, and in the offense's ability to move the ball when the QBs are stopped. If we can beat EMU, then we can start building it up in earnest.

Game Day!

Its game day. I'll be watching via the Internet, but a few comments, first. This is a must game. Winning the East without today's game is virtually impossible....for two reasons. First, there's the Math...we could have to run the table from here in.

Second, though, is that I think we will have a hard time putting our season back together after a loss today, especially a bad one. We would leave Athens and play in Columbus next week, and I just think with three straight beatings, we never get this team put together again.

It is hard to tell how good OU is. The beat NIU on the road in a huge game, and then lost on the road to a decent Rutgers team and a Missouri team that might be better than you thought. In neither of those games was the final score close. It is hard to tell from losses how good you really are, unless it came down to the last minutes.

The MAC is completely upside down, and nobody is out of it. A win here, and we're still in play. At the beginning of the year I thought we would lose today, and I still think that's probably what will happen. It is completely up in the air.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Nick Davis out for Season

The Sentinel has reported that NG Nick Davis will miss the remainder of the season with an injury. He was a R-So, which means he had at least a little experience, and freshmen will replace him.

Our young, shallow D has not been helped by injuries.

Rumors are that AT will play Saturday. He is taking most of the reps, and should be ready. Of course, we need him and we need him bad.

On other news, I am no longer on the Blogpoll "most stubborn" list.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Brandon Faces Press/Music

By now you now the drill. Coach talks, I comment in orange. Should be interesting this week.

Gregg Brandon
How did D.J. Young do in place of (the injured) Nick Davis) in Saturday's game?
"D.J. did OK. I mean, there were times when they blocked him. He is a good football player; he is a young and talented freshman who will only get better with more opportunities."

Of all the things that you might have asked first, I can't understand why that would be it. Nick Davis is only a sophomore, BTW.

How are the injured players, particularly in the secondary, doing?
"Well, not having P.J. Mahone, who had won a starting safety spot in camp, and Antonio Smith has been huge. I mean, P.J. is a true freshman and we would love to have him back, but we will just throw another true freshman in there, Jahmal Brown. He has performed admirably, but again, with the youth of that group, sometimes their mistakes are exposed.

"Antonio Smith, we have had him (injured) for three straight weeks. He is obviously the most experienced kid back there, and he is only a sophomore. Antonio will be back this week."

No doubt. I hadn't noticed, while at the game, that Mahone was injured. We need him if for no other reason than he beat Brown out for the job. The d-backfield is a mess. We really need Antonio Smith--he's a playmaker! That partly--but not totally--explains what happened Saturday. (see comment about standing around and watching).

How is Anthony Turner progressing?
"He has to have the strength, not only to make the throws, but to go in and potentially take a whack. Right now, he doesn't have it, so he will be day to day. We will see how he is doing today (Tuesday), and then we will evaluate him again tomorrow, and basically, we will continue to evaluate his progress every day."

Based on this, I would be surprised if he plays, but I suppose we could be sand-bagging, too. The Kent game made it clear. We need AT in the game and healthy.

Even with Anthony injured, did you feel OK about your personnel for the Kent State game?
"Yes. I thought we could win the game with the guys we had. Tells you what I know."

Now, now, Coach. Don't be so hard on yourself.

On having so many young players in key roles:
"They will learn. I mean, (On one of the plays when Tyler Sheehan was in the game), we ran a spread-out, not a stop-out. Tyler is reminded of that with a helmet bruise in the middle of his back, so he will learn. The best way for these kids to learn is to make a mistake, learn from it and know it down the road, and that's where we are right now. That's where we are as a coaching staff, too.

"There are some of these kids where I will go and put them in the game and I don't know how they will do because I have only coached them for two months. I have only had them since August. We are playing 15 true freshmen right now; that's the hand we are dealt right now. I put players in the game, because they are the best available guy. Are (the freshmen) ready and will they make plays? I sure hope so, but in reality, I don't know.

You weren't exactly dealt that hand. Those are the cards you have in your hand, but it isn't like they came randomly distributed--as in a game of cards. This team's youth represents the failure to recruit in a couple earlier classes--the aces and face cards either didn't come here or they moved on too soon, and we're left with twos and threes.

"The reason why we put Tyler Sheehan in the game is because Tyler has been practicing well and has been improving throughout camp and throughout the early part of the season, so (we thought) hey, let's give him a shot. Does that mean he is going to go out and perform? We only know when you turn on the lights."

That's the problem! The Kent game was during the day.

On the play of Chris Bullock:
"Again there is another kid that has been coming on. I mean he is a redshirt freshman, another youngster, and I saw a lot of promise in him after spring football. So it's nice to see him carry the ball. He put it on the ground once, which is unfortunate -- we just have to do a better job of taking care of the football. But he ran hard and made some nice runs; ran over some people and ran around some people."

What did Bullock show in the spring?
"Well, he showed a degree of toughness. I think he is kind of a cross between a tailback and a fullback. I think he has the finesse and speed of a tailback, but he also has the power to carry the ball. I think he can carry the ball 20 times for us. He carried the ball 17 times (vs. Kent State) and caught three passes for us and didn't play the whole game but he had 20 touches."

I'm excited about Chris Bullock. Dan Macon has not gotten untracked, and Coach seemed suspicious during the post game that he was truly injured. If we're going to do the runspread, and we're not going to get our QBs killed, we need the RB to produce.

How will the veteran players respond after the KSU game?
"I think they will respond in a positive way. They understand that it was a tough loss at home and an embarrassing loss at home. There is no other way to spin it. We have to play better we have to make plays when the opportunity presents itself and the veterans are the ones who need to do that. And even some of the young kids that know how to make these plays, the veterans need to carry them along and show them the importance of running to the football.

"If I'm a defender, I just can not stand there and watch, I've got to run to the football every snap. And offensively, I can't take a play off. I have to run a great route, whether the ball gets a chance to come to me or not. I have to block full speed every time."

Stand there and watch? Sounds like our motion offense (just kidding). Seriously, I do not understand how this happens, but it was clearly a problem as dying quails fluttered into the hands of receivers.

How did Freddie Barnes take the loss
"Freddie and I were the last two out of the lockerroom after the game. He was really down after that game, and so was I, and misery loves company so we just kind of hung out together. But Freddie is a competitor and a winner and Freddie will bounce back. He already has put that one behind him, which is what you have to do, and he has to move on to Ohio."

In a way, this is kind of reassuring. I do think Freddie has the heart of a champion.

Your Mom was in town for the KSU game. What did she say to you?
"She said the sun would come up Sunday morning, which it did."

Always listen to your Mother. What does she think of the punt formation?

What can you tell us about Ohio University?

"Ohio is an improved football team. They did a great job in the second half against Northern Illinois, moving the football, mixing up the plays, executing and scoring some points. And, they did a nice job against Northern's offense holding them in the second half and being able to get a win on the road. I thought that was very impressive. You know, the last couple weeks they have lost to a two good teams, Missouri and Rutgers, who I believe are both undefeated. They are a much improved team."

OU is dangerous. We will be hard pressed to beat them on their field.

They have the nation's leading punt returner in Chris Garrett.

"He is as quick as a hiccup. He had a couple (returns) against Rutgers that were just amazing. He is just a waterbug guy who makes people miss. That is what he does."

One more cliche and he wins a prize. Our punt formation is designed to prevent big returns, so let's hope it does.

For the most part, it seems like you have made improvements on special teams.

"Yes, I think we have our punt teams worked out. (Alonso) Rojas is doing well. He did have the one bad punt on Saturday, but aside from that he kicked the ball well. The last punt was in the wind and he hit that pretty well. Again, like all these freshmen, Rojas is no different. You have to bring your "A" game every day. You can't take a play off at this level, because everyone is good and everybody brings their "A" game. The ones who bring their "A" game most of the time are the ones who win the games, and we are continually pounding that into our young guys. You have to show up and practice with a level of intensity that will give you a chance to win a football game."

Fair is fair. Special teams were greatly improved. I think the kicking game should be a strength. Now we need to work on the other parts of the game--and keep this one up.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Week 4 Blog Poll

I am apparently rated as among the most stubborn voters. The simple answer is this. Many of these teams are not playing anyone, so I don't see how you can move somebody way up for beating a team they should easily beat. Also, losing to a top team is usually over-reacted to in the polls. Having said that, four teams left the top 25 this week.

  • AZ State because they got killed by an OK Cal Team.
  • Boston College because I am sick of their shit, and they lost to a poor NC State team.
  • Boise State because they almost lost to Hawaii.
  • Michigan State---well, because they're still Michigan State.

1 Ohio State --
2 Auburn --
3 Southern Cal --
4 Texas --
5 Florida --
6 Michigan 1
7 Louisiana State 1
8 West Virginia 1
9 Louisville 1
10 Georgia 4
11 Notre Dame --
12 Virginia Tech --
13 Tennessee 1
14 Cal 1
15 Iowa 1
16 Florida State 3
17 Oklahoma 1
18 Oregon 1
19 Clemson 3
20 Penn State 1
21 Nebraska 2
22 TCU 4
23 Arkansas 3
24 Washington 2
25 Missouri 1

Dropped Out: Arizona State (#20), Boston College (#21), Boise State (#24), Michigan State (#25).

More Brandon goodness

More quotes from the press conference which are in The Blade, but not in the official BGSU set of quotes. Its no surprise why these didn't end up on BGSU's site:

When asked what Kent did to neutralize BG, Coach said:

"I don't think they did anything. We couldn't get out of our own way,'' said Brandon, referring to BG's six turnovers, several missed scoring opportunities, and countless mental errors. "We continually shot ourselves in the foot.

"Kent's an improved football team, but are they 35 points better than us? I ain't buying that.''

Don't get me wrong. I don't think they are 35 points better than us. And yes, we did shoot ourselves in the foot. On the other hand, Kent had a solid running game, and were the first team to totally shut down our running attack after an initial drive. They figured out we don't stay home and called a reverse on the first play of the game. So, I wouldn't say they didn't do "anything."

"You can't tell me we lost 38-3 to Kent State at home and we played hard,'' Brandon said.
Brandon had better be correct. Because the alternative is too scary to contemplate.

"You can't tell me we lose 38-3 to Kent State at home and we played hard," Brandon said. "That's just what I told the team. That's our job to evaluate, see who's going hard and giving great effort. Those are the guys who are getting on the bus to Athens."

This is, of course, the biggest indictment, and the biggest frustration of Falcon fans. We simply did not play hard.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

"Deer in the Headlights."

The longest day in the Falcon Nation in many years. A fourth conference loss in five games at the Doyt. The lowest point total since a game against Penn State a lifetime ago. Our worst home loss (at least in our current stadium). And all of this to Kent, touted to be one of the worst teams in I-A football.

I don't know what to say. Kent 38, BG 3. The Falcon nation is in an uproar. Brandon must go, etc. I'd like to chip in with some thoughts--and I hope a little perspective...but with this caveat. We're young, but what happened today should not have happened.

I'm going to make my first post from the transcripts of Coach's post game press conference. My commentary in orange.

"Well, you can't turn the ball over six times and expect to beat anybody. Anyhow, I am not going to lie or try to paint a rosy picture, but I saw this coming. I saw it coming two weeks ago, we barely beat Buffalo then went on the road and beat an FIU team that was okay."

The Falcon Nation is driven to absolute distraction by comments like this. No, not the first sentence. No one thinks that six turnovers (when the opposition makes none) is a formula for winning.

No, we're talking about the second statement, where he saw it coming two weeks ago. Never mind that when we beat Buffalo and FIU, Coach talked about how they were both good teams on the comeback trail. Cut the guy a break. That's what you say.

No, we're talking about the fact that he saw it coming two weeks ago, and didn't do anything about it. We certainly seemed to be taking the "A win is a win" philosophy. Mine is somewhat different. Tesla once said that "nothing deceives like success." John Wooden said you had to evaluate deeper than winning or losing. And, when we barely beat Buffalo and FIU, a lot of people thought we were in trouble. You'd think a Coach would have tried something.

"Our youth has been exposed, so that's what we are talking about, to line up with as many freshmen as we are playing and expect these kids to execute consistently, that's what we are asking them to do, but we aren't getting it done. We just have to hang in there, keep coaching them, and do the best we can with them, because they are good young players."

This is a common theme of the coach. Indeed, if you go back on this blog, I have written a lot about it. We have a ton of freshmen on our two deep. We played a R-FR QB and then replaced him with a true FR QB. Our defense is really young.

Now, whether they really are good young players remains to be seen, and cannot be taken on faith. It seems like they might be, but we are going to have to see it.

"Kent's tempo early on caught our guys off balance, which is really shocking because our offense does it everyday in practice."

Sounds like we weren't ready to play. And we were not. We were flat, unfocused and poor more or less right from the start....especially on defense.

"We are a deer in the headlights team right now, we have a lot of young guys that don't know how to win right now, we just have to fight through that and we will."

I hope we do. We didn't show any desire to fight through anything today...much like the WMU and Akron games last year.

What can you take from this game?
"We are in the middle of the football season, we are playing a lot of young players who haven't been in there in crunch time, but it's hard to look for the encouraging things out there today, but there were some, I will have to watch the film to see if I see any of those."

I heard this part of the interview live. The last sentence was intended as a joke. Coach was generally testy. The question was, "what can you do about it?" The answer was "We are in the middle of the football season"--ie, nothing.

"There were some guys who stepped up and played hard, we just don't have enough right now. We don't have enough guys who understand the tempo to win at this level, and you just don't show up and do that, that's what it is right now." < "We are going to continue to stay the course, we have won a lot of football games here, that's certainly not Bowling Green football that you saw there today, it was embarrassing."

No disagreement there.

"I am going to look at that as a temporary setback, that's what today was, and I know that my coaches will do that, and I hope most of our players will look at it that way."

I hope that proves to be true.

OK, that's the entire transcript. Back to me again. I heard more than this on the radio. One of the killers was that we really moved the ball in the first and second quarter, and couldn't score. Here is a scenario from the first half.

Anthony Turner is injured and not dressed to play tackle football. So, Freddie gets the start. We hold the ball from the opening kick for 6 minutes down to the Kent 25. But, on 4-6, we run Freddie and they are wise to that.

Kent gets the ball and runs a reverse for a 79 yard TD run.

We get the ball. We drive for five more minutes, but stall out on the Kent 40.

You get the idea. We tried to open up the offense, but Freddie just isn't there. He completely overthrew Corey on one pass (he was wide open), and then we called the same play and were intercepted. Following that, it was clear to Kent that we were one-dimensional. (In Cleveland, Coach said you couldn't make a living running Freddie all the time, and then preceded to try and make a living doing just that for three weeks). They held Freddie to 28 yards. He was unable to get the passing going--and was not helped by dropped pass from our WRs. Meanwhile, as we turned the ball over, we reached the point where Kent was ahead in the third at 24-3.

Then, Coach Brandon showed how badly we needed the game. We ripped the redshirt off Tyler Sheehan, true freshmen, and put him in for a little bit of diversity in the audience. At first, the attack moved a little bit, but he threw an INT and fumbled twice. This is a pretty surprising decision. We basically gave up a year of playing for the guy to come into a game we were a long shot to compete in. Unless, of course, AT is going to be out longer than we expect. (Sheehan could always be redshirted next year).

Special teams were improved, except for one bad rugby punt.

The defense was awful, especially against the pass. We had nothing, and Kent's QB drifted some real weak passes and "our guys stood there are watched them catch it" as Coach said in the post-game.

This was as long a game as I can imagine. We will be lucky to draw flies over the next and final two home games. A couple points.

  • We are young. We have a big hole in our recruiting--at a minimum.
  • We are not healthy. In additon to AT. safety Mahomes, CB Antonio Smith, and our starting NG did not play. We don't have depth on defense to start with.
  • We can expect a young team to have set backs, but right now we have played three bad teams since we left Cleveland, and we have two close wins and a blow out loss to show for it.
A couple posts ago I wondered whether we were rebuilding or in a slide that started a couple years ago as the Meyer influence began to leave the program. I think the meter tipped back toward the slide theory today. It is increasingly hard to see signs of progress.

Case in point: can you imagine this happening to a Meyer team?

Didn't think so.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Blade Notes

Two interesting pieces in the Blade story today.

If Turner is kept out of Saturday's game, Brandon said true freshman Tyler Sheehan will back up Barnes at quarterback. The plan is for Sheehan, who prepped at LaSalle High School in Cincinnati, to redshirt this season.

Brandon didn't have an answer when asked what he believed led to the Pittsburgh Steelers cutting former BG quarterback Omar Jacobs, but Brandon maintains that Jacobs would have benefited from another year in college.

Lots of Falcon fans have Tyler Sheehan love, and to see him one injury away from playing as a true freshmen will just fuel the fire. As for the Omar quote, it is interesting how that did not make the official BGSU transcript. It is also the first time I have seen a quote like that from Coach.

For the record, no one has moved to pick Omar up since he was cut.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Brandon Presser

Coach Brandon held his weekly presser this week. The Coach of the 2-1 Falcons had little to say this week, but here you go! As always, wise ass remarks are in orange.

It must have been nice to get Corey Partridge back on the field for the Florida International game.
"Yes, it's pretty big. Corey is a proven player. I like him back there as a punt returner as well; I think that is very important for us. It is very encouraging he played well down at Miami and now the key is that he sustains that."

Having Corey back made a big difference to our team. With Ruiz and Brantley, we get three pretty solid targets for young QBs.

How is Anthony Turner doing?
"He is day to day. We will see how he does tonight and see the things he can do. He separated it when he hit the ground, and I don't know exactly what grade it is, because they have different grades on how bad."

"We are going to evaluate him, and if he can't go, we will go with Freddie like we did with Wisconsin, but open the passing game a little bit more than we did with Wisconsin. Right now we are game-planning with both of them."

I think we can go either way. We are better with AT, but this team can win with Freddie. I think he is rapidly improving his air game.

Chris Bullock got some carries down at FIU. Was there anything wrong with Dan Macon at that time, or was it just a good chance to get Chris on the field?
"It was a chance to get Chris in the game at an important time. We are going to need both Dan and Chris throughout the season. To put Chris in when the game was still on the line, for him to run the ball and have a couple good carries, I think that was something. We have to continue to work Chris Bullock into the game."

I wondered this myself. Macon was not there when the chips were down. I think Macon has had trouble getting untracked, and the coaches don't seem to have confidence in him. I even wondered if he was healthy. But, we need Bullock for the future, too.

What concerns you about Kent State?
"Their quarterback (Julian Edelman). He is a good little player."

What did the films from the Miami game show you about Kent State? What did they do to win that game?

"Well, they played very well defensively. They put great pressure on Miami's quarterback; they hit him a dozen times and sacked him five or six times. Ultimately, though, their quarterback won that game for them. He had some big throws and he made some scrambles. He is a legitimate play maker. That's always a concern for a defense, to control a running quarterback."

"They are doing some things that we have been doing with some designed runs that they did against Army. Other than the Minnesota game, they have been in both of the other games. They beat Miami and had a chance in overtime against Army. Kent is a much improved football team."

Edelman is dangerous. He will present problems for us. Mobile QBs generally do. Kent has to be improved--a win at Miami would have been unthinkable before. The game Saturday will be a challenge, and we will have to play well to end up winning, in my opinion. It will be especially important to keep the ball and convert on third down.

Jerett Sanderson, obviously, seemed to play well on Saturday.
"He did a nice job on the kickoff. Loren Hargrove knocked the ball out and Jerett scooped it up; it was great hustle by those two. And then, Jerett had the two interceptions late in the game, with the last one coming on their Hail Mary, to seal the win. He is in the right place at the right time most of the time.

Sanderson was the MAC East Defensive POTW. Obviously, Falcon fans are ebullient at their freshman DB (who does have a year in prep school under his belt). With him, Smith, and Lewis, we could have an absolutely lock down, turn out the lights d-backfield in three years.

How big is Saturday's game vs. Kent State?
"We have to win the game. It's a MAC East game, and we only have two more home games after this. The weather is supposed to be nice and you never know what the weather is going to be like late in the year. It should be a great day for the students and the community to come out and support us. It should be a good crowd; I know our students will come out. They do a good job of supporting us."

We'll be there!

What improvements need to be made if you want to win the MAC?
"Well, we have to find a way to keep from giving up the big plays in the kicking game. We still let a kickoff (run back for a TD) Saturday night, and that allowed them to stay in the game. One thing that was disappointing was that defensively, we pretty much contained Wisconsin and Buffalo from big plays. Well, we got 'big played' on defense Saturday night with a run that was almost 80 yards -- which is unacceptable -- and then a screen play that went 40 or 50 yards. So, they had 130 yards on two plays. If we are going to be in the hunt in November, we have to fix that. We can't give big plays like that. We need to limit the explosion plays and keep from turning the ball over; if we continue to work on improving those things, then I think we have a shot. I think to continue to run the ball like we are doing will help us, and time of possession which we are doing a nice job in will help us. We have to keep doing those things."

Seems like a good analysis to me. Trick is to keep winning while you do it.

Are you worried about giving Freddie Barnes too much too soon?
"I think he can handle it, but it is something that makes you think. I think, as the season progresses we have to think about putting too much on him. For us to be in the hunt, I think it's going to be execution down the stretch, so if those guys have a lot on their plate you just set yourself up for more mistakes. But, Freddie has demonstrated to us that he can handle all this. And, as long as he keeps doing it, I am going to keep pouring it on him because he is a playmaker."

Another good call. Hopefully, AT will be healthy enough to keep the pressure off.

What have you seen from Kent State defensively?
"I think the Muir kid (Daniel Muir) is one of the premier defensive linemen in the league. He was good last year, and they had a couple good guys there last year that were hard to block. Those guys are gone, but the kids in there now play just as hard. Muir is a force; he is one of the better guys in the league. Their secondary is experienced; I like the way they run back there. Their safeties are very athletic. They have a pretty salty defense. We have to block well and make sure we take care of the ball."

Their defense is "salty." Interesting phrase, I guess I know what it means. I think we can block and move the ball on these guys.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

BlogPoll Week 3

1 Ohio State --
2 Auburn 1
3 Southern Cal 1
4 Texas --
5 Florida 1
6 Georgia 2
7 Michigan 4
8 Louisiana State 3
9 West Virginia --
10 Louisville 2
11 Notre Dame 4
12 Virginia Tech 4
13 Florida State 3
14 Tennessee 1
15 Cal --
16 Iowa 2
17 Oregon 5
18 Oklahoma 4
19 Penn State --
20 Arizona State 1
21 Boston College 2
22 Clemson 3
23 Nebraska 3
24 Boise State --
25 Michigan State 1

Dropped Out: Miami (Florida) (#17).

Falcons Win Another Close One

I'm slowing moving into the "a win is a win" camp. It is clear we are not going to beat anybody badly (except maybe Temple), and have no safe games anywhere on our schedule. Having said that, we managed to win that game instead of losing it, and that's about all we can do right now.

The story of the game was at QB--again. Anthony Turner dislocated his shoulder with about 1 minute left in the third quarter. Enter Freddie Barnes, who engineered the team to enough fourth quarter offense to put the game away against Florida International---considered one of the poorest teams in I-A football.

When the injury occurred, we were leading 23-21. The defense got FIU to punt, and we took over on our 39. Barnes led an 11 play drive that included seven rushing plays by Freddie (including for the TD), and, perhaps just as importantly, a 16 yard completion to Brantley on 3-13 from their 37 to keep the drive alive.

FIU answered with a four play TD drive to get it back to 30-28. BG took the kickoff with 9:08 left. BG held the ball for over six minutes, ran 13 plays, and hit the FG that put the game pretty much out of reach, again led by Freddie and Fr. RB Chris Bullock. Again, for all his running, Freddie completed a key pass on third and nine on our 21, and third and 8 from the FIU 16 to keep the clock moving and the drive alive.

Contrast this to how the team performed last year when Omar went down.

The other story line this season is special teams. While not a strength, this was much improved this week. To begin with the positive:

  • No punts were blocked.
  • Rojas punted four times for an average of 47 yards, a long of 61 and one touchback. (that's what we're talking about!).
  • Sean Ellis drilled two field goals.
  • Loren Hargrove caused a fumble on a first half kickoff, and Jarrett Sanderson picked it up and scored a TD--that was the difference in the game.

On the improvement side of the scale, we gave up a KO return for a TD, and had an XP apparently blocked at the line.

Hopefully, this can build some confidence and get this part of the game shored up.

Offensively, it was much the same as we have seen all season. On one hand, we all complain about not seeing more plays. On the other hand, it seems to continue to work. We ran 45 times (and threw 34). This was even more balanced while Turner was still in the game. AT ran 17-59 yards, and Freddie was 16-70. Our running backs carried only 12 times, for a total of 32 yards. (Dan Macon is not making the contribution we kind of expected, and I wonder if he's healthy).

On the passing game, we were 18-34 with 2 Tds and 2 INTs and 242. Not a bad days work if you can run the ball.

AT was 12-22-1INT and 1 TD and 185 yards, and Barnes was 6-12, 1 INT and 1 TD for 57 yards.

Freddie ran a TD, caught a TD, and threw a TD pass. Welcome to your MAC East offensive player of the week.

Corey Partridge caught five passes. It was great to see him on the field again.

As a team, our rushing average was 3.6--a little under what this offense needs to be really effective. We averaged 7.1 yards per pass attempt, which reflects cautious playcalling.

On the defensive side off the ball, we didn't see the success that we have seen in other weeks. FIU had 332 yards total O (we had 403), and had a higher per play yield (6.5) than we did (5.1). They were very effective on the ground (6.7 per carry). We really need to be able to watch this, because this game plan we are using is dependent on not letting the other team eat up the clock when they have the ball.

From what I could see on the webcast, we seemed to tackle really poorly. We're a young team, so maybe some variance is to be expected.

To capture a positive note, FIU was only 3 of 11 on third down. A defense that makes plays on third downs can make up for a lot of soft numbers in between. (BG was 10 of 18).

Finally, in the second half BG had the ball for 21:07.

So, where does that leave us...especially concerning my previous post? We still don't know what we have, really. We have a team which is 2-1 with wins over teams that probably aren't very good. At the same time, clutch fourth quarter play has kept those from being losses.

The MAC East is completely overturned. Akron lost @ CMU, and Kent beat Miami in Oxford. It is going to be crazy, and right now, winning is enough. The Kent game next Saturday--considered a gimmee at one time--now has to be taken seriously. If we can win our next two games, we will control our own destiny to win the East.

This team seems to have flaws, but I'm not sure anyone has made the case that they are better. One week at a time--and if we can improve by November, it might all come together.

Note: Post updated due to comically bad stats from FIU on web. Had reserve QB Tony Hunter (who was probably in BG) catching a pass, Barnes returning punts, wrong number of BG plays. Hilarious commentary of public education in Florida.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Two Directions

Falcon fans are struggling with the question of what we are seeing on the field right now.

Are we a young, rebuilding team, with the talent base on the field that can compete with the talent we had from the UM classes? Are the struggles merely a young team looking to build itself up well enough to compete? Will Coach Brandon eventually build what we see on the field today into a MAC Championship.


Is our program in a decline? Is the narrow win over Buffalo, matched with last year's underachieving team proof that once that UM influence on the program left, what we had was a team run by the latest incarnation of Gary Blackney?

I lean about 70% to the first one, based on what we know now. This question is part of why Falcon fans watch everything so closely. For example, a loss to Florida International today--a team we should beat--would be evidence on the second claim. A close win could fuel either fire, depending on your outlook.

A big win helps convince us it's the first.

This is why the close win over Buffalo was not good enough--because we are looking to see we are better than bad teams. Also, we have tough games coming up on the road---we play at OU and at CMU--and need to get wins in at least one to stay in the race.

I've adjusted a little bit. I'll be happy just to win today. But I will be relieved if we can get a comfortable win.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Brandon presser

We're back today with another edition of Coach Brandon's press conference. In orange, find smart ass, snarky, and sometimes supportive comments.

BGSU HEAD COACH Gregg Brandon(On moving Erique Dozier to linebacker)"'Bull' Dozier -- that's what my wife called him. He had a really good game (vs. Buffalo), as did Terrel White. I just think he is very athletic and fast, and we wanted to get him closer to the ball -- same thing with (Loren) Hargrove -- and use their athleticism. I like faster linebackers; not necessarily smaller, but I like the speed they bring. They are a little undersized, but I am more into speed than size.

"Dozier is stepping up, Adrian Baker... I have two (potential) redshirt kids in (Brandon) Jackson and (Eugene) Fells that I may end up playing, Jon Jakubowski is a steady guy and can play a couple spots there for us. John Haneline; you know, he started in the middle against Wisconsin and did a good job. The secondary is the problem because they are really young there."

The fact that he's thinking of taking the redshirts off two more guys continues to point toward our efforts to improve the LB corps. I assume the reinforcements are targetted to Hargove's spot. In my opinion, the LB play has been a nice surprise, aided by a good Dline that is eating up some blocks. I am not disappointed in the D at all.

(On the play of Ruben Ruiz)"Yeah, he did a nice job Saturday night. (In addition to the two TD receptions), he had 12 knock-down blocks, which is pretty a good night's work. He filled the need that we had with a loss of Steve Navarro. Then, when he got here, we saw how well he moved in space and caught the ball with the big body that we ended up putting him out there (at receiver). We didn't get a chance to red-shirt him. Had we found him as a freshman, shoot; the time he will get really good is when he is about to graduate."

Ruiz is a player, and a guy we need. The passing was OK on Saturday, and I hope with Corey and Ruben at WR we can do a little better. Didn't notice the blocks, but that is awesome. With our running attack, it is clear that we are getting good blocks from the line, along with Ruiz and Winovich (mentioned later)

(On special teams and the punting game in particular)"We are talking about the obvious stuff, how to do a better job of protecting. The one that got blocked the other night was a high snap; we didn't do a good job at blocking that guy. We have to look at how we are doing that. The same thing happened against Wisconsin, so if we need to tweak the scheme then we will do it. But we blocked the same way last year and that particular deal never showed up. (Alonso) Rojas will keep getting better; he is a talented kid. To put the double duty on him (kicking and punting) Saturday, I think, might have been too much. And then, we don't protect him -- we need to protect on him."

Not much to say here. It is obvious stuff. If was obvious stuff last year, and the fact that the other teams are exploiting a different hole (or "deal") than they did last year isn't really very reassuring. Most teams go game after game with "that particular deal" (ie, blocked punts). As for Rojas taking on double duty, no doubt, that's a tall assignment for a guy in his second game. I don't blame him for what has happened.

(On preaching special teams)"We don't spend an inordinate time on special teams, but we spend enough time on special teams to execute, and what's frustrating is that we're not executing. I don't know if more time is the answer; I think it's a personnel thing that we have to work through. Our kickers have to continue to improve. We need to kick the ball -- on the kickoff they returned (for a score), the kid caught it on a dead run. When the ball was in his hands we had only one guy across the 40. I am just stating the obvious. We have to do a better job in the kicking game, and we will."

It is obvious we have to do a better job. I hope we actually do. This statement could have come from one of last year's press conferences.

(On Florida International)"They are 0-2, but they are right there. They had a couple missed extra points that may have cost them two games. They lost to Middle Tennessee, 7-6, and had a chance to beat South Florida, but lost that one by a point, too. They have a very quick, aggressive defensive. They run a lot of different fronts; they are a very athletic defense."
"Offensively, they tried to run the all against South Florida and didn't have much success. I think they would like to establish the run and they are starting to do that right now. But they have a nice passing game. Their quarterback does a nice job in the west coast system they are running. They have a big-time receiver (Chandler Williams). He returned a punt against South Florida for a touchdown and he caught 10 balls in that game. He is an explosive player and a game-breaking type guy."
"They have some athletes -- they can run around, wreak some havoc on defense and make some plays on offense. We will go down there, look to establish the run like we have and keep working the passing game. I think defensively, we have to keep the ball in front of us and keep tackling."

We should win this game easily, but this team has no gimmees, especially on the road. When FIU sees us on the schedule, they think win as much as we do. An 0-2 with two close losses at home is not an easy assignment, ever.

(Does it surprise you that the running game is ranked among the national leaders?)"We talked about it in the offseason. After Omar (Jacobs) went down, we needed to run the football late in the year and we couldn't. I think that contributed to losing the Akron game; we were so reliant on his ability to throw the football that the running game became an afterthought. Then, P.J. Pope got hurt, and added to it. In the spring, we knew we had to be a physical team again and establish the run."

"We also felt like it really helped our defense (both in terms of) time of possession and the fact that we practiced against it all the time. The deal in the spring was that we were going to become a more physical team overall, because we had difficulty at times last year defending running-oriented teams. To be able to step up against the run and hold Buffalo to 105 yards and Wisconsin to 300 total yards offense (shows) that plan is coming around, which is encouraging."
(Obviously, Freddie Barnes and Anthony Turner have had great success running the ball in the first two games. Does it help that you have other weapons in Dan Macon and Pete Winovich?)"Yes, it gives us more horses. We will continue to involve Macon and give him more carries as we progress. Pete is just such a good blocker; he was just taking guys out, especially when Freddie and AT were in there taking the snap and running. That is a package that has shown up. Whether it is Freddie or AT in there, it's the blocking that we need to have in there (from Pete), but he did get a few carries and did a nice job."

"I think the run Dan had, on the one play on the boundary, really showed his speed, which is why we need to get the ball in his hands. As soon as he got out there, he was past his defender. We need to get him the ball and utilize that speed."

Finally, the positive. We are really running the ball, and Coach deserves credit for developing a running attack that plays on our strength this year. He is right. We lost to Akron because we did not have a running attack that would let us take a new approach with Omar injured. Clearly, we don't have to worry about that this season. In fact, this is the more typical spread attack we will see over the years. If we can put together special teams, pick up a W at CMU or at OU, and go to Akron with only one loss, we got a heck of a shot.

Steelers Cut Omar

The Steelers cut Omar off the practice squad, and event I don't think anyone could have seen coming that cold day in December when Omar decided to go pro. It is a shame, and I hope he catches on with someone else, though I believe he will be badly stigmatized by this. (Labelled "left too early.")

Of course, the debate now rages about whether he DID leave to early. My basic opinion has been that it is his life--it is his decision to make, and he will have to live with the consequences. I also felt that in the world of potential, that another average year in college would have hurt him and taken him out of draft potential--and, with his receivers this year, he was not likely to have a great year.

In retrospect, of course, it is hard to imagine him doing worse than this with another year in college.

Again, I hope he catches on. I am sure that was a long ride home from the practice field.

Finally, Bruce Gradkowski remains on an NFL roster, with NFL game experience. Who would have thought it?

Sunday, September 10, 2006

More on Buffalo

Two additional quick hits.

If it is bad for dbacks to make all the tackles, then BG had another strong point. Terrell White had 22 tackles and Erique Dozier had 19. Pretty good. Obviously, they almost never came off the field.

Second, the defensive performance was without Antonio Smith, perhaps our best DB, but injured in Cleveland. Terrel Lewis played in his spot and was in on some plays, no doubt.

This week's Blog Poll

1 Ohio State --
2 Southern Cal --
3 Auburn 1
4 Texas 1
5 Louisiana State --
6 Florida --
7 Notre Dame 3
8 Georgia --
9 West Virginia 2
10 Florida State 1
11 Michigan 1
12 Louisville 1
13 Tennessee 2
14 Oklahoma --
15 Cal --
16 Virginia Tech 3
17 Miami (Florida) 1
18 Iowa 1
19 Penn State 1
20 Nebraska 1
21 Arizona State 1
22 Oregon 1
23 Boston College 3
24 Boise State --
25 Clemson 5

Dropped Out: Wisconsin (#25).