Thursday, November 11, 2010

All is Right With the Universe...

If BG had a season with a bunch of losses on the last play of the game, and one of them wasn't to Miami, we would lose trust in the stability of the universe.  We'd be convinced that it was the end of days, that dogs would soon sleep with cats, the world would spin in an opposite direction, that the heavens would open up and it would rain plague and pestilence on us.

Relax.  All's right with the world.

That this reassuring sign would come in the most bizarre of nights at the Doyt is only fitting, given the history of this series.

It was a disappointing loss.  Coach Clawson called it "bad football" after the game, and refused to hide behind his team being young, saying that after 10 games you have to quit being young.  Instead, he said we just played a bad game.

It is hard to know where to start.  I guess we can look at the game flow.   Miami got out to a lead when they scored a TD in the first quarter.  They drove deep in our territory on their first drive, and fumbled, but scored shortly thereafter.

From there, BG's defense held Miami only to 10 more points, not counting a bad snap on a punt that gave the RedHawks the ball deep in our territory.  And, you have to say that the defense held us in the game until the offense could start going.  You also have to say that the defense created the 4th quarter turnover that coaches dream about with the score tied, only to see it die there.

It was far from a great defensive performance.  First of all, Miami, the second-to-worst rushing team in the FBS looked instead like a top 20 rushing team, gaining 181 sack adjusted yards on 25 carries for a 5.25 average.  Miami averaged 6.1 yards per play, and completed 19 of 25 passes, and was 7 of 14 on 3rd down conversions.

Coach also mentioned in the post-game that the team had worked carefully on the Nick Harwell double move and then gave up a big play the very first time it was run.

Looking at those stats, it is a little surprising that Miami did not score more.

But the real lost opportunities were in our continuing inability to move the ball consistently.  Miami didn't run like the 119th rushing team in FBS, but BG ran like the 120th.  BG was 24 for 67, a 2.8 average (sack adjusted).  Further, of those 67 yards, 25 came on one run by Calvin Wiley, so the remaining 23 carries netted 42 yards.

It seems like a lot of rushing attempts for a team that is doing that poorly, and I know some fans were frustrated at our continued attempts to run the ball.  The problem is that the team wasn't moving the ball much better through the air.

BG was 17 of 29 passing for 153 sack-adjusted yards, none of which is a great figure.  With 3 sacks and 2 INTs, that means we gave up 5 negative plays on 32 passing attempts.  Finally, we had a 76 yard completion, which means that the only 28 passes got us only 87 yards.

The passes seemed to be mostly short.  Our screen passes were blown up a number of times.  Alex Bayer made some nice plays in traffic with some catches, but by and large, the passing game was inconsistent, and not there when we needed it.  More later on that.

In the end, BG had only 11 first downs, had 3.9 yards per play, converted only 3 first downs in 12 attempts, and was fortunate to still be in the game at the end.

Which we were.  BG had scored two 4th quarter TDs, one after hitting a long ball to Kamar Jorden behind the Miami defense, and one after taking over on the Miami 34 due to a penalty and then getting a pass interference call after overthrowing a double covered receiver in the end zone.

The very next play from scrimmage, Chris Givens caught a pass and was near midfield.  He fumbled, and Champ Fells brought it back to the Miami 23 with 6:37 left.  Freeze frame it right there, and you have to like our chances of winning the game.

Then all the laughter turned to sadness.

First, BG was called for holding on the fumble return, putting us on the 35.  Still, we're in pretty good shape and if we score and eat some clock, we can win.  We handed the ball to Willie Geter, and Geter was tackled the very millisecond he touched the ball for a 5 yard loss.  That one is on the line.  Then, Matt Schilz was sacked for a 5 yard loss (also mostly on the line, maybe all).  Now, we're on the 45, and Schilz is sacked again on a play where he seemed to have nothing happening on the entire side of the field where he scrambled.  That loss was for 10 yards and what started with the ball on the Miami 23 ends with the ball on the BG 45.

That's 3 offensive plays for -20 yards.  (For the game we had 5 drives that netted negative yards).

BG punts.  For their struggles, the defense does the job again.  The RedHawks get 2 first downs but then take a huge sack on a second down play from their own 49 and have to punt.

BG gets the ball back with 2:09 left on its own 23 in a tie game.  You have to like our chances of winning.  At worst, you have to think we are in position for OT.  We don't know what we have distance wise in our kicker, but if we make 50 yards we're probably in range to have a decent shot.

We tried a pass to the left, and you'll have to forgive me for not having more specific descriptions, but we could hardly see a thing by this point.  According to Coach, Kamar thought he was supposed to run an out and Schilz thought it was supposed to be a slant.  So he threw the slant, and the only player there was DJ Brown who made a scooping interception.

I have heard that the replays showed that the ball hit the ground, and Coach Clawson reported that the players were convinced it hit the ground.  I'm not sure how you miss that on replay, but replays were certainly complicated by the difficulty of shooting a game in that fog.  (UPDATE:  Just watched the play on the espn3 replay.  Obviously, this isn't a high-def situation...the announcers doing the game thought it looked like it hit the ground but the videos I saw are really hard to see and I can see where it might not have been indisputable).

We should be careful about talking about how that cost us the game, though.  It is far from certain that BG was going to drive the 50 yards we needed and far from certain that we would have made the FG.  We did have some momentum on our side, but you can't claim that victory was ripped from our hands.

So, another close loss in what is a disappointing season.  Miami is in the top half of the MAC and clearly outplayed us for most of the game, and yet, the chances were there at the end.  This team has some work to do.  Let's hope that they stay with it, and continue to work to improve, even though there is little to play for in the games coming home.

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