Saturday, December 31, 2011

Miep Miep. UTSA Preview

The pre-season sparring, the non-conference part of the Falcon schedule comes to an end tomorrow in San Antonio as the Falcons play a return game against the University of Texas at San Antonio Roadrunners.

The two teams played last year at Anderson, and BG won by 11 points.  They went on from there to get hot, win the Southland Tournament as a #7 seed and then win a play-in/first round game against Alabama State before losing to OSU.  They entered the Dance as a #16 seed.

Broken record alert:  they have played 5 NCAA tournament games since 1988, which is 5 more than...well, you know how that sentence ends.

Out of 33 D1 conferences, the Southland is ranked #29.  On the other hand, UTSA is in the process of joining the WAC as part of conference realignment.

They were picked to win the Southland West Division this year.  To date they are 6-6 with 1 non-D1 win.  They have a couple nice wins--@Oral Roberts and Fresno State but they also lost at home to a struggling Pepperdine and UC-Riverside teams, as well as @Houston and @San Jose State.

Their current RPI is 192 against a SOS of 272.

They are coming off the loss to UC-Riverside, which their coach said was their worst loss of the season "by far."'

Last year's game was highlighted by BG getting 50% field goal shooting (in particular good shooting from JoeJak and Crawford) and forcing the Roadrunners into 20 turnovers.  Scott Thomas had a double-double.

On paper, UTSA looks like a small conference version of Duqusne.  USTA is averaging 74 points and 1.07 points per possession.  The primary weapon is the 3FG....their overall FG% is about the same as BG's, but they are getting almost 33% of their points from beyond the contrast, BG is getting about 19%.  They take pretty good care of the ball, and are nothing special on the offensive boards.

Like a lot of teams that have soem offensive firepower, they struggle a little bit on the defensive end, allowing 71 points per game and 1.03 points per possession.  Sadly for this matchup, their primary defensive weakness is defending the 3 and obviously, BG could exploit that kind of weakness but is not in the habit of regularly doing so.  They force turnovers on 23% of their possessions, which is exactly where BG is for the year.

They were expecting to be led by Jeromie Hill and Melvin Johnson III, both of whom were pre-season all-Southland.  Hill is their 3rd leading scorer, hitting 50% from 3 and leading the team in rebounding. Johnson III, who was also Southland freshman of the year last year, is the second leading scorer and is hitting 40% from 3.  The surprise in their lineup is Kannon Burrage, a JUCO transfer who is coming off the bench, playing 24 minutes a game and leading the team scoring 15 per game.  Even in limited minutes, he is using a high number of possessions.

Bottom line...UTSA is no pushover, if there is such a thing on the road.  Having said that, I don't think UTSA has shown anything other than that they would be an average to below average MAC team, especially this year.  To get a bye in the MAC tourney, BG is going to need road wins, and this will be a typical example of the kind of road games teams win when they are earning byes.

Stylistically, it is a tough matchup for BG, but this is not Duquesne from the A-10.  As we enter conference play, it would be reassuring to see this game end up as a win.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Tragic Story

We all remember Chris Jacquemain, who was a QB at Akron and then was kicked off the team early in one season.  He passed on recently in very sad circumstances.  I thought this article was excellent and it captured the incredible emotions something like this cause.  Chris didn't die because no one cared about him...lots of people did and they did a lot.   Addiction is just a terrible, terrible thing.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Duquesne...same story

Duquesne beat the Falcons last night for the fourth straight year, in pretty much the same way they always have.  I suppose you could say that (similar to the MSU game) that when their run came, BG wasn't able to rally back but did eventually hold the game within a semi-respectable score.

My pre-game analysis was pretty much right on.  Duquesne does not defend the shot well and they didn't against BG, as the Falcons shot almost 54% from the field.  Unfortunately, BG also had 18 turnovers, which meant that on over a quarter of our possessions, we didn't get a shot at all, wasting those opportunities to score.

Meanwhile, we had to keep the Dukes off the foul line, which also did not happen.  BG committed 20 fouls to Duquesne's 10, and the Dukes had a +8 advantage in free throws made.  They also turned the ball over only 7 times, so between the free throws and the 11 extra possessions, they were able to win the game.

The Falcons had no answer for the Dukes attack for most of the game.  Duquesne had torched BG's 2-3 zone last year, so I was hopeful that we might find something in the man to man, but we started in it, and the Dukes had old-school 3-point plays on their first 3 possessions, so BG went back into the zone.  That worked for a while and BG had a 12 point lead inside of 9:00 left in the first half, but Duquesne scored a blistering 28 in the remaining 9 minutes while holding BG to 10 and had a 6 point lead at the half.

BG actually nipped into the lead with about 15 left, but in a couple of minutes the Dukes were up 6 again and with 7 left the lead had gotten into double digits and from there it was just a matter of sorting out the damage.

This was actually the second time this year that a game has sort of followed this pattern...BG had a good offensive game at 1.12 points per possession but still lost because they couldn't hold the opposition to less.  The other game was Valpo.  Both away games, for whatever that might mean.  Anyway, Duquesne got 1.26 points per possession which is exactly what BG gave up to George Washington, and it is also almost exactly the efficiency the Dukes brought last year when they got 1.27 points per possession.

This would appear to be the kind of team that gives us trouble.  Duquesne is a small, athletic, guard oriented team and they present huge matchup issues for us, and it does not appear that it matters which kind of defense we use.

BG was able to do some things inside.  A'uston Calhoun had a great game, with 24 points on 10 of 15 shooting to go with 8 rebounds.  Coach said in his post-game that he felt like BG got away from getting touches in the post, which is too bad, because Calhoun appeared to provide matchups issues for them.  Scott Thomas added 20 points on 8 of 14 shooting and 4 of 8 from outside the arc.  Oglesby kept his shooting streak alive but attempting precisely 0 shots but added 8 rebounds.

One thing I don't understand is how Craig Sealey only gets 3 minutes when we are playing a team we have a hard time matching up with athletically.  I'm sure there is a good reason, but I don't understand it.

Scott Thomas also went over 1,000 points, so congrats to him.  He is our 38th player to reach that level.  He's been a remarkable and probably undervalued player at BG, and I'll be doing some things to try and remedy that as we head through his senior season.  Just a note:  I had wondered if his game would get stronger or if he had reached a plateau and I think he is clearly a stronger player this year than last year.

So, BG has one more game left in the road swing against UT-San Antonio on New Year's Day.  Then, the MAC wars start and they start fast, with Ohio coming to town.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Recruiting Class Review 2007

For all the energy spent evaluating recruiting classes on singing day, I have always contended that the best time to evaluate them is when they are done...high on the truth scale, low on the immediate gratification scale.  Of course, you have to wait until the class is 5 years past so the guys who redshirt get their senior year in.

I use the following scale...

STAR--ALL MAC, top flight starter and producer, etc.
Starter--player in starting lineup consistently at some point in career.
Role Player--Corn McGrady type. #4 WR or special teams player. You get the idea.
Finished, no footprints. Completed eligibility without doing much.
Washed out--Did not finish career.

It is admittedly subjective, but they are broad categories too.  Obviously, if you see any of it differently, I'd be interested in hearing that.

Essentially, the end results of this class are a disaster.  There were 20 players announced on that day, and of those, 60% did not  finish their career as Falcons.  Nothing against the guys who did succeed, including 2 very good players and 5 other guys who were consistent starters...they were just badly outnumbered.  Also, of the 5 starters, 2 of them were JUCO special teams players, which is a shorter putt, in my opinion.

This was talked about a lot...but if you want to know why BG was 7-17 over the past two seasons, this is it.

I have actually compiled some statistical numbers tracking this over time...I do understand there will be some attrition, but a ratio of 7 stars/starters to 12 washouts is terrible.  BG has, in recent memory, and should in the future, generate 1.5 - 2 stars and starters for every player who washes out.

Two more notes:  Eric Ransom is in the wash out category only with my reluctance, because he heroically battled through injuries to try and play at this level...

And Glen Stanley...remember him?  Yeah, he started here before committing verbally to nearly a half dozen top programs (including USC and Florida State).  No idea how it turned out, but here is a little chronicle that captures the story, though it fails to mention his start as a Falcon.  Obviously a talented player with some flaws...

Anyway, here is how it all works out...

STAR (2)
Ben Bojicic
Willie Geter

Starter (5)

Kevin Alvarado

Adrian Hodges

Nick Iovinelli

Nick Torresso
Sinisa Vrvilo

Role Player (1)

Ray Hutson

Finished, no footprints (0)

Washed out (12)
Darren Branch
Nate Brown
Preston Burrell
Jerrson Davis
Josh Dodge
Andrew Johnson IV
Eric Ransom
Anthony Smith
Glen Stanley
Mark Wooldridge
Gary Wright
Christopher Young

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Duquesne, the Dukes

So, the Falcons head to Pittsburgh to play the Dukes of Duquesne tomorrow.  I was searching online to find a team photo or something, and this is what I came up with.

So, I'm thinking we can take these guys.  Plus, they were outsmarted by Eddie Murphy, Dan Akroyd and a topless Jamie Curtis, so they are not only un-athletic but also lacking in guile.

In reality, in the Falcon-Duke relationship over the past 3 years, it has been the Falcons playing the role of Randolph and Mortimer Duke while Duquesne has been playing the role of, well, the side that wins.

This is year 4 in an annual series between BG and Duquesne, and Duquesne has won the first 3, by 18, 11 and 36 points.  Last year's 36 point drubbing on BG's home floor was one of the low points of last season.  It was the most points BG allowed in a game, the third least efficient defensive game paired with the third least efficient  offensive game.

Not to say Duquesne is a bad team, because they are a good team that plays in a very good conference.  Still, BG only lost by 19 @ Michigan so you'd think you could hold Duquesne somewhere south of a 36 point deficit on your own floor.  It was pretty ugly.  It was never close.  Duquesne was up 10-2 and never slowed down.  BG turned the ball over 25 times.

But that was last year....what about this year?  Can BG break the hex with a road win?

Of course they can.  It won't be easy.  The Dukes are 7-5 with an RPI of 78.  They have played the #59 schedule in the country.  One of their wins is non D-1, and, in games of interest to Falcon fans, they beat Akron  by 5 on a neutral floor and then lost by 16 @Valparaiso and lost @WMU by 14.  Their best win of the season was Green Bay and their worst loss is to WMU.  They have also lost to very good Arizona, Pitt and Robert Morris teams.

For whatever it is worth, Duquesne's coach was "incensed" at the WMU loss and shuffled the lineup around prior to the road win at George Mason.

This is a team built on upbeat play and offensive efficiency.  They are scoring 1.06 points per possession as compared to BG's .99, for example.  Their shooting is a little better than BG's, but they generate more points with a little richer mix of 3s and a much better track record of getting to the line though they are not great at FT shooting.  They take good care of the ball (17% turnovers) while creating turnovers on 27% of their defensive possessions which leads the country.

Like a lot of teams that play like this, they are not especially active on the offensive boards.  They are very strong on their own defensive boards, however.

They are giving up 1.02 points per possession, which is also not good.

Individually, they feature 4 players in double figures...Sean Johnson, BJ Monteiro, Eric Evans and TJ McConnell.  Johnson is leading with team with 15 points a game and only plays 25 minutes.  The tallest of those players is 6'5", however....this is an athletic, guard-oriented team.  Two of their bigs--Derrick Martin and Martins Abele hardly play at all, and Abele is now ineligible.

Andre Marhold at 6'7" is their second leading rebounder, and their lineup changes after the WMU loss gave Freshman Mamadou Datt (of the Senegal) a chance, and he had 8 points and 9 rebounds against Mason.

As always, I am interested to see how BG plays against this style.  As I have already noted, this has not typically worked out very well for us, but tomorrow is always another day.  I'd like to think the Falcons are as "incensed" about last year's game as the Dukes were to lose to WMU and maybe that brings some extra focus.

The first challenge will be to take care of the ball.  This will include everyone on the team.  They are at 1.02 points per possession WITH all the turnovers, which means that teams do score when they actually get a shot off.  We need to do that.

BG will need very strong guard play on both ends of the floor to compete with this team.  I think BG might be able to score inside on these guys, which means that we need to get Calhoun untracked and into the game early.

On defense, BG has to avoiding fouling first and foremost...and play very solid team defense.  One difference from last year is that the Falcons have added the man defense to our repertoire which could make a difference.

This would be a very nice road win for the Falcons to get, especially against a team we have struggled against. The keys will be forcing Duquesne to defend the shot and holding them well south of the 90 they got last year.

Redshirt Review

Every program hopes to be able to redshirt most of its freshman.  You only want to have a guy play right away if he is a special player, and not solely to fill a need.  Also, if they are going to use up the year, you want it to be worth it--not just a one-time fill-in.   For example, MAC freshman of the year Anthon Samuel played as a true freshman.

Let's look through the recruits announced in February and see how many of them played and how many red-shirted.  The list below is all of the signing day players, minus JUCO.  All of them were on the year-end roster.  (If I missed anyone, please let me know).

"Took the redshirt off" (5)
Hunter Maynard, DT, 7 games, 4 tackles, 1 TFL

Brian Sutton, DB, 11 games, 8 tackles, 1 PBrUp
Anthon Samuel, RB MAC Fr of Year.
Zach Colvin, DE, 10 games, 11 tackles, 1 sack
Darrell Hunter, DB, 7 starts, 32 tackles, 5 PBrup and an INT

RedShirted (13)
Tyler Tate, K,
Shaquille “Shaq” Hall, DE
Alex Huettel, OL,
Zach Steinmetz, TE,
Diontre Delk, WR,
Matt Johnson, QB,
Johnny Joseph, DB,
Travis Green, ATH,
Herve Coby, WR,
Bryan Baird, DE,
Fahn Cooper, OL,
Dernard Turner, DB
Christopher Gallon

Special Case
Jermal Hosley--As we noted in September, he had an injury over the summer, is enrolling in January and will start his eligibility clock then.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Hometown Paper Talks with Clarke and Rorie

Nice article from the Canton Repository about Jehvon Clarke and Desmond Rorie, BG's two freshmen who were teammates at Canton McKinley High--and never lost a league game in four years--are now learning the ropes of D1 basketball.

In the profile, they discuss how much different college ball is, how they adjusting to not getting as much playing time as they are used to, the Stroh Center, and their decision to play college basketball at BG.

Like I said, it is interesting.  Both players are patiently waiting for their chance, but not TOO patiently.  You want guys who are hungry to play.  Clarke has already made a contribution and will get more minutes in the games coming up.  He had two simply amazing drives to the hoop in East Lansing and Coach has talked about targeting him to be our next PG, while Rorie has yet to play in a game.  I have been assuming that he will redshirt and then start to play the role Oglesby plays, but all that still has to play itself out.

Past and Future Opponent Land

We last ran this on December 11, so let's check up on the teams we have played and how they have ared over the past two weeks.  Most of the teams have seen their RPI go up since the last time we looked.  The Georgia results are better than they look, Mercer is pretty good.  And, I was surprised to see Duquesne lose so badly to WMU...

Howard, 4-9, RPI up to 304 from 325

1-3 since last we looked.  Lost to Indiana 107-50.

Georgia 7-5, RPI 74 up from 108

Won their last 3 (USC, Mercer and Furman)

Austin Peay, 3-10, RPI falls from 256 to 261.

1-1 since last we looked, but the one win was non-D1.

Detroit, 6-8 RPI up to 261 from 297

1-2 but losses were to Alabama and Mississippi State.  Beat Alabama State.

George Washington 4-7, RPI down to 136 from 90

Lost to Bradley and James Madison.  Lost six straight, have not won since beating BG.

Temple  7-3, RPI up to 28 from 50

Lost to Texas and beat Rice.  Looking like an even better win for BG.

WKU 4-9, up to 194 from 222

Lost to Furman and Louisville.

MSU 11-2, 21

They have beaten Missouri-Kansas City and Lehigh.  The Lehigh game was somewhat similar to the BG game, as MSU was pushed in a game that should have been easier.

FIU 3-9, RPI up (a little) to 254 from 257

Off since BG game.

Duquesne 7-5, up to 78 from 98

Lost by 14 to WMU (in K-Zoo).

UTSA  RPI up to 157 from 163  6-5

Lost by 2 @Houston and beat Troy.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to everyone in the Falcon Nation and beyond.  Whatever your religious beliefs are, I hope the season brings you peace and joy, and that there are lots of championships under your tree.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Football Review: Mopping up, Sacks Against, Penalties

So, in our first pass through a review of the football season, we missed a thing or two.  We can take today to mop them up before a little break to enjoy the holiday.

Starting with sacks...remembering that in 2010 BG's offensive line was terrible and not healthy on top of it.  It showed up in the sack numbers, with BG allowing 20 sacks (MAC-only).  Only one team was worse, which was CMU at 22.  BG was sacked on 6% of its pass plays.

This year, BG reduced that number to 15, which was still 10th in the MAC.  (Miami gave up 37 sacks in 8 conference games!!).  That is a sack on 4.9% of passing plays.  So, a nice improvement in numbers, but relative to the competition, we stayed pretty much the same.

It also doesn't tell the whole story.  Pressure on the QB can also yield lower completion percentage, interceptions, and lower yards as team go to safer routes, and there really isn't a measure for that.

Moving to penalties, my impression has been that this has been a strong point for our team...we don't seem to get many penalties.  In 2010, BG was third in the MAC at 44 yards per game and in 2011 that strength continued as BG led the MAC with 35 penalty yards per game.  Yards per penalty fell form 9 to 8.4.

For whatever it is worth, BG's opponents had 59 penalty yards a game, the second highest total in the MAC.  BG netted out 24 yards per game on penalties.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Oglesby Not Missing

A couple odd little things for stats...

First, Torian Oglesby has made his last 16 field goal attempts.  Yes, it helps that he is rarely more than a foot from the basket--at the same time, BG has struggled with "zero footers" over the past years, and Oglesby has been doing very well.  He has actually developed into a pretty good player.  When he came from JUCO he sort of looked like a strong guy to eat up some minutes inside, but he is making a really nice contribution to the team this year.

One other note...FIU drew 835 people for that game last night.  I know it is in the middle of the holidays, but still....that's a major city and you have a hall-of-fame coach.  Shaking my head...

Falcons Enter Holidays With Road Win

The Falcons went down to South Beach, and while it sounded pretty ugly at times, eventually put together enough to beat FIU for the third straight season and enter a short holiday break with a 6-5 record and a first road win.

FIU entered the game short-handed, as their leading scorer and rebounder, DeJuan Wright, did not play. The first half was not pretty.  BG shot 28% from the field and FIU shot 50%.  BG was 2-11 from beyond the arc.  FIU led by 10 with 5 minutes left in the half, in fact, but BG went on a 10-4 run to cut the margin heading into the locker room.  FIU did have 8 first half turnovers and BG had 4 to go with a +4 FT advantage, which helps account for the closer than expected score.

In the second half, BG pushed the spread to 2 a couple of times, and then FIU blew it back up to 6 about four minutes in.  BG first got the game to even with 14 left when James Erger hit a jumper.  FIU took the lead back again, and BG did not actually take the lead until there was 10:30 left on a Dee Brown layup.  The lead bounced back and forth for a while, and then Scott Thomas hit a layup with 7 minutes left to give BG a lead it would never relinquish.

The key closing sequence came just after FIU had nailed a 3 to cut the lead to 3 with about 3 minutes left.  BG was really struggling running offense, and Jordan Crawford nailed a jumper to bail them out as the shot clock was running out.  FIU had similar struggles and a shot late in the clock was blocked by Oglesby.  On the other end, again deep in the clock, Thomas fired a 3 that missed, but A'uston Calhoun who had struggled all night, slammed the rebound home and the lead was 7 with 1:13 left and the game was over.

The second half was statistically much different from the first.  BG shot 58% and FIU shot 32%.  It was sloppy--BG made 12 turnovers and FIU 10--and the Falcons outrebounded FIU 20-12.

Neither team had a great deal offensively.  BG scored .94 points per possession, but FIU scored only .82.  As you can see, BG won most of the key statistical categories by the time it was all over.  BG was +7 at the free throw line and committed only 11 fouls (8 of them by two players, Calhoun and Oglesby).

Individually, it was a huge game for Scott Thomas.  There's been an interesting thread on about Thomas, who is going to end up as a statistical leader in numerous career categories.  It is remarkable to look at, because he seems to do much of it without being noticed.  He is such a steady player and so good in so many phases that I don't think people appreciate what a good player he is.

Anyway, Thomas had 18 points, 11 rebounds, 7 assists and 4 steals.  (He did make 5 turnovers).  That's a pretty good line for anyone.  Crawford had 15 with 3 assists and 4 steals and Oglesby had 11 points.  Calhoun had a rough game, playing only 16 minutes, but still contributed 7 points and 6 rebounds and made a play in the last 2 minutes when the team really needed it.

We had wondered after the MSU game if we would see any shifting in playing time to some younger players.  Jehvon Clarke got 17 minutes in the game as did Craig Sealey, while Dee Brown played 24 and Luke Kraus played only 5 minutes.

Next up for the Falcons is Duquesne, a team we have really struggled with the past two seasons.  The FIU win was nice, especially on the road.  They are not a great team and they were down a top guy, and you should beat a team like that and BG did.  Just two more games left before the conference season starts.

Football Depth Chart

Just a quick look at our depth chart to get a visual look at who is coming back.  As you can see, it is pretty clean...I put an orange line through the seniors and Hurley.  Aside from WR and one line position, this team is back almost entirely.  That's a start...and if they come back and stronger and better football players, it is even better.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Verbal Commit Roundup

Just a check up on news from around the web on our known (to me) verbal commits for football.

The player who makes the most news in any given week is James Knapke, the QB recruit from Bishop Luers in Fort Wayne, IN.

Photo from the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette
As seen to the left, Bishop Luers won the Indiana 2A championship this season, which is their 3rd straight title.  The won the title game easily--41-17.

Knapke threw for 190 yards and two touchdowns in the title game.

He is the all-time leading passer in their conference, and he won all-state honors.

LB Coy Brown, also from Indiana, was first-team all-state as well.

Jhalil Croley was also all-district.  

Late breaking news....JJ Beggan was all-state in PA on the O-line!

Usually, there are more of these, but remember that there are a ton of o-lineman in this class, and those guys don't get in the paper as much as the skilled players....through based on our experience at BG the last two years, they should.  If you ask me, they need stats...

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Football Review...special teams, kickoff coverage

Moving through special teams....BG's kickoff coverage was not especially good (11th in the MAC) in 2011.  However, as noted in our review of BG's kickoff returns, being just 2 yards better would have been 7th, and who really cares about 2 yards.  Touchbacks are good, but BG only had 2 of those (conference) play.

BG was 9th in depth of kicks, which is more where the problem was, and held teams to 20 yards per actual return.

One interesting thing I noticed...we had 3 guys kick off.  Burkhardt 49 times, Phillips 8 times and Stein 6 times.  Phillips was getting 66 yards on his kicks, Stein 62 and Burkhardt 58.  (Keep in mind that sometimes a kicker is told to kick it short).

Oh, and if touchbacks are good, then out of bound kicks are very bad, and BG had 6 kicks out of bounds, which is 10% of kickoffs.  Burkhardt alone put 5 O-B.

Based on this, I'd say the players doing the coverage were reasonably effective, and the kicking side of it was less than stellar, which has been typical over the past few years, although BG had a good kickoff game the year before.  The best coverage teams in the MAC are getting double figure touchbacks to start with, and going from there.

One last note that I haven't see anywhere else....Falcon Fodder reported in the notes for the OU game that the Falcons honored Jerry Phillips as a senior before the game.  It was only his junior year, but he may have opted to graduate.

Orr vs. Isiah---battle moves to South Beach

The Falcons are in Miami to play Florida International in game 3 of the Falcons 5 game road swing.  I just looked.  The temperature this morning was 80 degrees.

Anyway, we've talked in previous years about two things, one that FIU was essentially founded by Bowling Green people, and second, that this is a coaching matchup between two former NBA players--Orr and Isiah Thomas.

The two teams have played twice, and BG has won both times, although both games were in Bowling Green.

There is no way to say it other than that Thomas' tenure in Miami has not been successful to date.  I thought it was kind of a joke when he took the job, and he hasn't done much to dispel that, both by winning 28% of his games, and by meddling in the affairs of the Knicks. Last year, they finished with an RPI of 282.

Their last winning season was in 1999-2000.

This year, on paper, seems to be more of the same.  They are 3-8.  However, they have played one of the 100 (ish) toughest schedules in the country and their RPI is actually better than BG's, although those things can be notoriously dodgy early in the year.

Their three wins are over George Mason, Coastal Carolina (a nice win for them) and Stephen F. Austin.  They lost to very good Virginia Tech, Oral Roberts, Maryland and Dayton teams.  They also lost to not very good Georgia State, Alabama State, UA-Pine Bluff, and non D1 Texas Wesleyan.  This is only their 3rd home game....the Alabama State loss was on FIU's floor.

So, it is hard to tell what you are getting.  They did play Maryland tough, but for every game like that there is a 26 point loss to Georgia State.

BG has yet to win on the road this year.

I saw the Maryland game, and they appeared to be a very athletic team, which is what you would expect.  I was surprised to see that their games are generating only 63 possessions per game, which is one of the 30 slowest paces in D1 basketball.  They score only .95 points per possession, which is not very good.  This is because they don't shoot especially well and they turn the ball over.  They help themselves with good offensive rebounding and they are about average at getting to the free throw line.  Here's how they compare to BG...

On defense, they are allowing 1.05 points per possession, which is 290th in the country.  (This is a good ad for tempo-free stats....their points per game is 160th in the country, but they aren't playing as many possessions).  Teams have an effective FG% of 52 against them, which is 300th in the country.  They do force some turnovers but they also foul a lot--their free throw rate is actually higher than BG's.

Individually, they are led by DeJuan Wright, who is their leading scorer and rebounder.  At 15.9 points and 6.9 rebounds, he is a true threat, and although he doesn't shoot the 3 often, when he does he hits 52%.  He is a 6'4" senior.

They also are led by sophomore PG Phil Taylor, who is scoring 14 points and notching 4 assists per game.  Finally, 6'4" G Jeremy Allen is scoring 12 points per game and hitting 37% of his 3s.

They are not a big team.  They have a seven footer who plays 15 minutes a game, but their most used big man is 6'9" Dominique Ferguson, who is scoring 8 points and getting 6.6 rebounds per game.

This actually has all the trappings of an interesting game.  You have BG who has played well in spots but not on the road, against FIU, who has played well in spots and then awful in spots.  I think BG feels like they are better than their ranking might be at this time, and FIU might be a lot worse than theirs.  You don't know which FIU team will show up.  Also, we will be watching to see if Coach Orr shifts his player rotation any more based on the game at MSU...

As always, we work through the non-conference season trying to project how results would translate into MAC games.  Winning on the road is tough, but this is a winnable road game....just as some will be in the MAC.  This is a great time to see our guys bring their best game on the road, because I think the game is very winnable.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Football Review: Special Teams, Kickoff and Punt Returns

Moving through the special teams, we hit an area that I think had some significant improvement this year, which was kickoff returns this year.  We'll cover punt returns, but the way people punt in the college game today has largely removed the punt return as a major factor in games.

BG was 10th in the MAC in 2010 with about 18 yards per kickoff return (conference only).  This year, BG vaulted to 2nd with 22 yards per return.  This is largely the result of the work of Boo Boo Gates, who as an individual was 4th in the MAC and he was the second team kickoff return specialist

It didn't add to too much on the yard lines, as BG in 2011 started, on average, on the 29 yard line following a kickoff and the MAC average was 28.

Still, to me the more important issue is how many big returns did we get, and it seemed like more.  We had one touchdown both years, but kickoff returns can make a huge difference when you score (obviously) or give the offense a short field.

As for punt returns, BG's average fell from 8.9 to 7.3 yards per return, however we're only talking about 11-13 returns per year and even finishing second in the conference would only have yielded 2 yards per return.  There were only 2 punt returns for TD in the MAC in 2011.

As far as I'm concerned, if the punt returner catches the ball and doesn't fumble, I'm more or less happy.

Anyway, Boo Boo did a little punt returning for us, so he may handle both duties next year, or we have a some young guys who might be able to do it, too.  I'd say that the return game is rounding into shape as part of special teams that were--in total--solid this year.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Football Season in Review: Placekicking

Close your eyes, Falcon fans.  This has, of late, been a painful one.  It has been some years since the Falcons have had a consistent placekicking game, and this year was certainly in the same trend.  However it might have seemed, however, the placekicking game was probably better than in 2010....though nowhere near where it should be.

Yes, BG did lose a chance at OT vs. Wyoming on a missed XP, just as a missed FG cost BG the Buffalo game the year before.  But, in bulk numbers, how did things stack up?

In 2010, BG's two kickers were a collective 5 of 13, with the low number of attempts reflecting a strong lack of confidence in the kicking game.  Inside 40, where MAC kickers make 80% of their attempts, BG was 5-8, still below average.  The long FG for the season was 34 yards.  Perhaps even sadder, BG was only 24-28 on XPs.


In 2011, Kyle Burkhardt started the year, but was replaced by Stephen Stein following the Wyoming mess.  Stein did better, hitting 8-11 and 8-10 inside 40, both numbers that were at least adequate.  BG still did not make a FG over 40 yards, but the long did move up to 39 for the year.  Collectively, the two kickers were 9-13 and 9-11 inside 40.

A stronger offense got the kickers more extra point attempts (41) of which 37 were made.  Even with the higher number of attempts, missing four extra points is not acceptable.  Six MAC teams missed 0 or 1, and some of them had more opportunities than BG.

And I guess that brings things to the ultimate point.  OU had a good kicker.  UT did.  WMU did. CMU did.  Why can't BG?  It is clearly possible, but placekicking woes have not been addressed here going back to Shaun Suisham's last year and it is very frustrating.  FGs make a big difference...they can extend a lead or win a game.  And missing an XP that would force overtime is just embarrassing.

BG did have Tyler Tate redshirt this year, and he's on scholarship, so there have been attempts to invest in placekicking.  At this point, the issue is less accuracy, and now we'd like to add some reasonable range and get those extra point misses down.

But, for 2011, you have to say that placekicking was improved over 2010.

Football Review: Special Teams, punting

Next, we look at the special teams for the Falcon football team, which were improved over 2010 and really one deficient in one area.  We'll save that one for later today.

Let's start with punting, perhaps the bright spot for our team this year.  Brian Schmiedebusch was the All-MAC punter, and had a fantastic year for BG.  He's a football player--he went to Findlay as a LB--and we can look forward to his work for two more seasons.  The punt is a huge play, and he made numerous kicks this year that flipped field position and made a material impact on the game.

Last year, BG was 4th in net punting at 35.6 yards.  This year, we were second at 38.8.  Schemiedebusch was actually third in punting average, but his punts were difficult to return, and that helped to neutralize some of the opponent's best skilled players.

Here's the key stat.  In 2010, BG had 10 punts over 50 yards.  In 2011, BG had 19.

BG has not been blocked for the last two years.

So, put punting in the +1 category.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

MAC Football: Bowl Success!

So, I've certainly written a lot about the MAC's putrid record in bowl games over the past few years.  Yesterday was a good day--two wins--for the MAC, in a year where I think the matchups are pretty favorable to us and the conference has a shot at winning at least four and maybe all the games.

In the New Mexico bowl, Temple manhandled Wyoming pretty well.  You don't want to bring a true freshman against that lineup.  Anyway, it was also a bad day for common opponent analysis, where a team BG beat won easily against a team that beat BG.  Anyway, congrats to Temple.  It was a very nice win.

Then, the OU Bobcats, taking on a Utah State team that should have won at Auburn, had a great comeback, survived a clown-car officiating period at the end, and scored in the final seconds to rally and win that game.  I thought OU was, in many ways, the best team in the conference this year, and it was good to see them represent that conference well in Boise.

Great job.  Two thumbs up.

Falcons Fall to Spartans, Is Youth Served?

Very early in the second half last night, the BG game against MSU was starting to look a lot like last year's game.  In that game, BG played a very tight first half, was down 5 with 18 minutes left and then lost the game by 35 points.

Yesterday, BG played a very strong first half, outrebounding one of the nation's top rebounding teams, and heading to the locker room down only a bucket.

The Falcons even got the first bucket of the second half to tie the game.  The Spartans are not a winning team for no reason however, and they clearly had sorted themselves out in the locker room.  Following that basketball, MSU went on an 8-minute, 20-3 run to build up a huge lead.

At that point, however, something different happened from last year.  Coach went with a very young lineup, including Jehvon Clake and Chauncey Orr, and rather than see the lead continue to expand, BG actually won the last 11 minutes by 3 points.

Now, we're clearly playing a team that knows they have the game won, but that was true last year as well.  Coach gave the young guys some minutes, and they seemed to do pretty well.

Coach was asked about this at the press conference after the game, and he said that our veterans were the ones on the floor for the 20-3 run, so he decided to leave the younger players on the court.

Then, he was asked the question that is on the lips of many Falcon fans that I have talked to.  Coach clearly wants a veteran team--it is clearly very important to him.  But, this is basketball and not football...young players make a contribution sooner in many cases.  It seems to some people like BG has troubles with athletic teams and with scoring the ball, and there are guys on the bench (Clarke, Henderson, Sealey, Orr) who could help with those things, yet they rarely see many minutes.

So, Coach was asked the question...did he seem some things that might effect minutes in the future.  And he was quiet for a few seconds and said something like we're still going to rely on our veterans.

And then, rather than waiting to see if there were any further questions, he thanked everyone and ended the presser.  (That's how it sounded, it might not have been that abrupt in reality).

Jehvon Clarke was a good example. He had 14 points in 12 minutes.  He had two scintillating drives to the basket that ended up IN BASKETS.  He made all his free throws.  His offensive rating was 168.  And 3 assists.

So the question remains...will the experience lead to the Falcons putting a younger lineup onto the court over the coming games.  FIU and Duquesne are both very athletic teams...anyway, it will be interesting to see.  But, for people who think BG is leaving too much on the bench, last night's game will only make them wonder more.

Not that the veterans didn't contribute at all...A'uston Calhoun had 12 points and 7 rebounds, and Jordan Crawford, who seems to have his mojo back, had 11 points with 3 assists and 3 turnovers. Oglesby had 8 points and 9 rebounds.

I guess the ultimate point is that I always felt Coach Dakich had a blind spot on this issue--he liked veterans so much I don't think he was open to other possibilities.  I wonder the same about Coach Orr.  I know I don't see practices, and it was just one game, and the veteran lineup had played well in the first half...I get all that...but I don't understand why, if you are playing a game where you team can't score, you wouldn't at least give (for example) Clarke a run to see what might happen.

It will be interesting to watch this unfold.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Defense in Review, sacks

One last stop on the review of the defense....sacks.  Did BG do a better job of getting to the QB in 2010 than it did in 2011?  BG did have Chris Jones, MAC's #2 sack man, and went from 13 sacks in 2010 to 15 in 2011.  That moved the Falcons from a tie for 7th to sole possession of 7th.

Stats don't always tell the whole story and here it isn't really even close.  A true measure of QB pressure would also include hurries kept on some kind of objective scale...and possibly even include pocket escapes as well.

Football in Review: Defense, Red zone, 3rd downs

Continuing with our review of the BGSU football team for 2011, let's look at red zone and 3rd down plays, remembering that some plays mean more than others, and that we are ultimately trying to answer how much better BG was in 2011 than in 2010.

Conference games only.

Starting with the red zone...BG was pretty poor in 2010.  Opponents scored 5.29 points per trip (12th in the MAC), and BG only held the opponents without scoring 4 times and 2 of those were on missed field goals.  BG allowed 28 trips, which was in the middle of the pack.

For 2011, BG allowed more trips (33).  However, BG allowed only 4.94 points per trip, which was way up to 4th in the MAC.  (This probably partly accounts for something we have been seeing in the date, which is that BG's final scoring defense position (7th) was a lot higher than most of their stats.)  The improvement was mostly in having more field goals in the mix, as opposed to outright stops.

In terms of 3rd downs, in 2010 BG was 12th at 40.2%.  In a trend we have seen on a number of different measures this year, BG performed essentially the same in 2011 on 3rd down (40.7%) but moved up to 8th, relative to the competition.

So, on key plays that have more leverage than other key plays, BG was improved in real terms in the red zone and improved in relative terms on 3rd down, if not overall.

Friday, December 16, 2011

SPAR-tans, blah blah, What is your blah blah PROFESSION

The Falcons make their second trip in two years to the Breslin Center tomorrow to take on what is probably the best team they will play all season, the Michigan State Spartans.  They went 0-2 (one loss at sea to UNC and one to Duke is MSG) but then have been all "how you like me now" in the past few weeks, ripping off 8 straight wins, including beating EMU by 32, Florida State by 16, Milwaukee by 13 and then winning @Gonzaga.

Just as a reminder, the Spartans are slated to play in the Stroh next season.

They are 6-0 at home this year and were 12-3 last year.  They are very tough to beat on their floor.  Speaking of last year, BG did play there and the result was as painful as feared, with MSU beating BG 74-39.

With 18 left, it was 28-23 Spartans, and from there, it was, yeah, 46-16.  At .59 points per possession, it was BG's worst offensive game of the season by .14 points per possession (WKU).  It was the 65th worst offensive game in all of D1 that year and the worst for BG since 1998 when they lost 53-41 to UT.

Now, MSU was #6 at that time and they are ranked in the 20s this year.  Anyway.

Coach said in his presser this week that you know what you are getting from the Spartans, and you do.  They are 11th in the nation in defensive efficiency (.83 points per possession), 23rd in Effective FG% defense, and 13th in defensive rebounds.  They are also 17th in assists.  They get 39% of their available offensive rebounds, which is also in the top 50 in the country.

This is not a team that shoots the 3 very well, but their overall shooting is around 47% which is in the top 1/4 of the country.  On offense, these guys really do play in the paint and on defense, they play very good field goal defense, don't try to pressure for turnovers and limit second chances.

I'm sure you already know more about these guys than you did about Howard.

Individually, they are led by Draymond Green, the 6'7" F who leads the team in scoring, rebounding, assists and steals.

So G Keith Appling is also scoring in double figures and Brandon Wood is nearly in double figures from the other G position.  They really have two true bigs who split 35 minutes between them, but obviously they have guys like Green who are strong and beast-like on the inside.

Obviously, this is one of those games.  Every year, some of these games go to the underdog--not very often, but it does happen.  For it to happen, BG will need to play absolutely as well as they are capable of playing, especially on defense and then find a hot shooting hand or four.

Game will the on the Big Ten Network, and we'll be watching.

2011 Football Year in Review: Passing Defense

Having looked at the running game where we moved up a little by keeping our performance static while others fell behind us, we now turn our attention to the passing defense, remembering the passing offense was way up in the MAC in 2011 compared to 2010.

In 2010, BGth was 4th in passing yards allowed per game with 203.1, though that was largely influenced by our poor run defense.  The 212 attempts we allowed were the second lowest in the conference.  On pass efficiency defense, BG was 11th with 152.5.  BG allowed 65% completions, the worst in the MAC, 19 TD passes (12th) and had 7 INTS (10th).  BG allowed 7.7 yards per attempt (11th).

In other words, the yards per game figure is an illusion.  The pass defense was porous and the only reason in 2010 we didn't give up more yards passing is that it was easier to run.

So, were things better in 2011.  BG was, in fact, 4th again, and allowed 202 yards per game, so that number stayed almost exactly the same from one year to the next.  It took 221 attempts to get those yards.  BG had the 11th fewest passing attempts against.

In passing efficiency, BG took a big jump however, moving to 6th in the MAC.  Efficiency was down to 130.8, a significant improvement over the 150+ from the year before.  Completion percentage against BG fell from 65% to 61% (8th) and BG allowed only 8 TD passes (tied for 1st).  Interceptions fell in the conference as a whole, and BG fell from 7 to 4, which was 11th in the MAC.  BG reduced yards per attempt to 7.3 which was tied for 10th.

Two things...teams are not throwing on us very much.  When they do, we were stronger in 2011, but as in all areas of our program that we have looked at to date, we just moved from bad to below average, or in some cases average.  These are all steps in the right direction.  We had a very young secondary, and they will be more seasoned now.  If they continue to improve (hopefully at a slightly sharper vector), they are on track to be pretty good.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Hurley Leaving BG Program

Falcon Fodder (The Blade) has the news today, Trent Hurley has been granted his release and will transfer.  The Blade says a likely possibility is SE Missouri State.

I guess I'm not surprised and kind of expected it.  He was in a difficult position.  Clearly, the coaches feel Schilz is the starter, so he was either waiting for an opportunity due to an injury or Schilz to graduate, which would have left him only one year as the starter.  Being one year behind the starter is a tough place to be.

Coach had alluded to attrition at QB in his post-season presser and something in his body language suggested to me that he had some idea what might be happening.

Hurley red-shirted the year Schilz was injured, and played only mop up time this year.  He certainly looked good in the spring game, but you can't blame him for wanting to play and I'm sure everyone wishes him the best.

That would leave Matt Johnson, also of Pittsburgh, who red-shirted last season, as the probable back up.  Malik Stokes is also on the roster, as is true FR James Knapke, who today is just a verbal commit.

Football Review: Rushing Defense

As we work our way through the review of the Falcon football season, let's turn our attention to the rushing defense.

This has been the defense's fatal flaw for years.  We might play a team tight in the first half, but in the second half, they know they can adjust the game plan, put a heavy formation in and just run the ball over us.  Coach Clawson said in the post-season that this was a priority, especially as we were getting stronger in the middle of the D-line, able to rotate players, etc.

So, how did it work out?  My perception was that we were better, but far from where we might need to be.  Let's see.  (You know the drill, conference only stats).

In 2010, BG allowed 180.1 yards rushing per game and 4.7 yards per carry, both 12th in the MAC.

Remembering that rushing offense was up in the MAC overall, BG allowed 4.8 yards per carry in conference games and 218 yards per game, but moved "up" to 10th in both categories.  Teams actually attempted more runs against us than they did in 2010, which in a way is probably a compliment to our pass defense.

So, based on results, things are pretty static in the run defense.  Coach Clawson has talked about this...the team needs to get stronger and more physical, and he believes it will. Based on the numbers, BG was only slightly better relative to the competition and not better at all based on raw numbers.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Football Verbal #15

Via, The Falcons have another verbal commit, this one Erick Hallmon, a LB/S from Ft. Lauderdale.  He was at one time committed to Texas Tech, and then wasn't anymore.  ESPN says they pulled their offer, he says he decided to look elsewhere.  ESPN ranks him a 77 (3-star) recruit, which makes him a very good player for us to be recruiting.  He was the 20th ranked recruit in Broward County.

As a hybrid LB/S, he would appear to be perfect for the Rover position.

His father played at the U.

Welcome to the Falcons, Erick.

2011: Defense overall

Having concluded our review of the offense, we now turn to the defense, starting with the overall metrics.

We presented the entire offensive review with the context that scoring and offensive production was up overall in the MAC, and you had to do better just to stay even to your competition.  Since we are only using conference games, that means the defense has to have the reverse effect:  defensive production was down, and if you moved ahead, you were doing better than average.

In 2010, BG was 10th in scoring defense at 30.9 points per game.  Despite the fact that the defense FELT better, BG was actually only 1.5 points better at 29.4.  That was good, however, for 7th in the MAC.  This actually fits with everything we found about our team, which is that while 2011 was better than 2010, the team only progressed to an average or below average position.

BG allowed 5.9 yards per play in 2010, which was 11th in the MAC.  That actually improved only to 5.8 yards per play in 2011, good for 9th in the MAC.

So, overall, the defense did not improve as much as we might have thought from 2010 to 2011.  Other teams fell, and relative to the competition, there was more improvement.  In spots, they were much better, I think--Miami, and Temple, for example--but in other spots, they were no better--or no more productive--than before.

MAC Football Attendance Issues....

If you are a a fan of football at this level, I'm sure you are aware that there are attendance rules that determine whether teams can stay in the FBS or be relegated to FCS.  In fact, a long time ago, BG actually competed for part of a season in I-AA.

We have also been present as teams, including BG, have pulled various shenanigans and games to make the attendance requirement.  The Ball State student paper recently wrote a pretty solid piece on this subject that I wanted to recommend to you.  Titled "An Empty Rule" is details some of the things MAC teams have done to skirt the NCAA's attendance requirement...usually involving having a donor buy a big block of tickets no one intends to use or playing a Big 10 team in a neutral stadium as a "home" game as BG did when it played Wisconsin at the Browns Stadium.

Coach Clawson is quoted as saying that the ESPN games in November hurt attendance.  And while there is no doubt that they do, here is where I would quibble with Coach Clawson and the author of the piece (Teddy Cahill) who are both relative newcomers to the MAC.  Again, the weeknight games are not good for attendance.  At the same time, the attendance issues in the MAC have been endemic and stretch back waaaaaay farther than the ESPN contract.  The attendance requirement has been an issue for the MAC for as long as it has been in place, which goes back somewhere around 30 years.  I can remember plenty of frigid November Saturdays at the Doyt where the stands were as empty as they are on Tuesdays now.

The MAC no longer puts attendance figures on its website, at least that I could find.  However, some quick work with a spreadsheet allowed me to get the numbers.  Keeping in mind that these are ANNOUNCED attendance figures, subject to whatever they might be (but surely not solely the counting of actual people in the stadium), the MAC averaged 23,470 fans per home game.  Only EMU and Kent finished below 15,000.

Interestingly, six teams in the MAC finished between 15,000 and 16,000.  Two of the teams--Ball State and BG--finished between 15,000 and 15,100.  (BG averaged 15,006).  Coincidence?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Falcon Verbal #14

Another JUCO to report. has David Kekuewa, a native of Hawaii who was attending Arizona Western College.  He is 6'3" and 315, and played C  in JUCO.  Not only was  he was first-team all-conference at C.but he was also named a first-team all-American in the NJCAA.  He visited Arkansas State and apparently had D1 interest from Middle Tennessee and FCS interest.

A couple things.  Chip Robinson played a lot at C for us when Bojicic moved to T due to injuries, so he would be the heir apparent.  On the other hand, Coach has said that we will play our best 5 lineman, so either of them could also be shifted to G if need be.

Secondly....our 14 verbals now include 6 offensive lineman.

2011 Review: Offense, Big Plays

One last thing on the offense.  I know that Coach talks about explosive plays--plays that are over 20 yards.  I think it is exactly right...I don't know the math, but if you have to run 4 plays to get 20 yards, the chances of something going wrong are a lot higher and it only takes one penalty or lost yardage play or even dropped pass to set the whole thing off.

In fact, I think 20 yard plays should be an individual stat, as should first downs.

Anyway, for the team, in 2010 (all games), BG had 4 running plays over 20 yards (that's pretty amazing) and 30 passing plays.

In 2011, those numbers did improve.  BG had 11 running plays over 20 yards and 37 passing plays.  The running number was so low in 2010 that it almost had to shoot up just on the law of averages, put even the passing represents a 25% increase or so.

In total, BG went from 34 to 48 20 yard plays.  Because this isn't a uniformly kept statistic, I don't have any actual comparisons.  I just know that we did better in 2011.

Falcon Verbal #13 (JUCO)

At his season ending presser, Coach Clawson said that it was a possibility that BG would bring in a JUCO WR to add depth.  Currently, the Falcons will feature only Shaun Joplin and Je'Ron Stokes with any significant D1 game experience.

They went all the way to Southern California for this one....Nigel Westbrooks of Palomar has verbally committed to be a Falcon next season.

Here's a local media story...

Westbrooks, who had 52 receptions for over 700 yards and 11 touchdowns, said he made official visits to Colorado State and Nevada along with Bowling Green, but ultimately he chose Bowling Green because they are in a similar situation to Palomar’s team this year.

“They have a sophomore quarterback so he will be there (my) whole time, and they have a lot of people coming back,” Westbrooks said via text message. “I really just fit into their program and they are the best situation for me to come in and make the biggest impact.”

He's listed as 6'3" and 190 pounds.  He was first team All-Avocado league (I swear to god) in HS.  His QB at Palomar is heading to Kent, FWIW.

The Falcons have had success with this route.  Both of this year's top receivers were JUCO transfers.  I understand Coach doesn't want to build a program on JUCOs, but I also agree that for short-term gaps, it is a perfect viable approach.

Welcome to the Falcons, Nigel.

Monday, December 12, 2011

2011 Football Review: 3rd down and Red Zone

Having looked at running, passing, turnovers, and overall scoring and yardage statistics--where we saw the Falcons make decent gains that were partially swallowed up in a conference that had much more offense this year than it did in 2010, we now look at an area where BG did not get better:  3rd down and red zone offense.

Once again, MAC games only.

There is no question that football is harder to look at statistically because certain plays mean more than other plays, and 3rd down and red zone plays are the best example.  Good third down play can bail a team out.  Bad red zone play can sink you.

In 2010, BG was 12th in the MAC on 3rd down with a 31.2% conversion rate.  In 2011, that number was ever so slightly worse (30.8%) and while BG did tick up to 11th, the conclusion is not avoidable...the Falcons were not effective on 3rd down.  This will have to get better.  Part of it will come when (and if) the running game improves and BG can be on schedule, and then again, it will also come when BG can more reliably convert 3rd and 1 or 2 situations.

BG was also very shaky in the red zone.  (No surprise to anyone). In 2010, BG only generated 19 red zone trips in conference games, tied for 11th in the MAC.  When they got there, they were pretty good, scoring 5.1 points per trip.

In 2011, BG got there 30 times, obviously a huge improvement.  However, BG only scored 23 times in those trips, and had a 4.7 point/trip average.  Clearly, in bulk, red zone scoring was up for BG, however, BG did not maximize scoring opportunities they earned, which was very costly in a number of games.  BG was only one of three teams to have 5 "lost possessions" (turnover or downs) in the red zone.

You have to believe that as the rest of the team functions better, the red zone numbers will get better, and it did seem like the issue was largely resolved in the last couple games.  Having said that, just improving the running is not going to do it on its own.  BG has to execute in close quarters much better in order to help increase the overall scoring numbers.

2011 Football Review....Passing

So, having looked at modest improvements in our rushing game, now we turn to look at our passing game.  Here, I will take a slightly different approach than I did for the rushing game.  I don't really like evaluating players as individuals because it is a team game and it doesn't always seem fair.  However, when you evaluate the passing game, you kind of have to look at your QB, in this case, Matt Schilz.

Just a note:  I understand that jobs are always open.  Schilz is who we have to look at.  If you have someone else you think is going to start next year, than we'll truly be looking at a blank slate.

The question for him is the same as it is for the rest of the team.  Did he get better, and how much better, especially in relation to the rest of the MAC competition?

We use MAC-only stats, and the numbers listed here are not sack-adjusted.

In 2010, BG was actually 4th in passing yards per game.  That is a little bit misleading, however, because the Falcons had such an awful run game that they were forced to pass a lot, which inflates the yards per game.  BG averaged 219 yards per game.  In 2011, that number went up to 249 yards per game, which is a pretty significant increase.  However, the overall numbers in the MAC were much higher in 2011, and BG actually fell from 4th to 7th, despite the increase.

In terms of efficiency, BG was 11th in 2010 at 102.5 and made a nice jump to 129.1, only to end up in 9th--in other words, pretty big improvement, but more or less just keeping pace with the conference.

Now, looking at Matt Schilz specifically:

Matt Schilz Comparison, 2010-2011
Completion %INTINT/AttTDTD/AttYards/GameYards/ReceptionYards/AttemptEfficiency

As you can see, Schilz did make significant improvement in his sophomore season.  While his completion percentage was the same, there was a big improvement in his yards/reception, which means there were more downfield passes with a higher risk of incompletion.  Also, yards per attempt was up.  Interceptions were down a little and TD passes more than doubled.

As you can see, his passing efficiency was also up quite a bit.  However, in 2010, he was not in the Top 10 in passing efficiency and in 2011, despite the improved numbers, he was still not in the top 10 in efficiency.  Now, you can say that is an egghead number that doesn't matter if you want. He also fell from 4th to 6th in yards per game.

Don't get me wrong.  He was improved this year, and also benefited from a stronger line and a better running game.  As I said at the end of his freshman year, the line was so porous and the run game so poor that it was almost impossible to figure out how good he was.

So yes, he improved.  And yes, there is still room to improve in the future.  I thought there were times he was very effective, and times where he was out of rhythm and was very hit and miss.  (These are comments Coach Clawson has also made).

As a Junior, I think fans will be looking to see a high-level starting QB in Matt Schilz, which means his game needs to progress along this trend line.  In fact, only one QB in the Top 10 in MAC passing efficiency and two in passing yards per game are seniors, which means that most teams in the MAC are bringing back QBs more productive that our guy was.

The Falcon line should continue to improve, and with it the running game.  Schilz will have to break in new receivers.

Anyway, I think the story here is much the same as it is throughout our team.  We improved but remain in the bottom half of the conference in most measures, and still have considerable growth to go to be better than our competition.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Past and Future Opponent Land

Howard, 3-6, RPI 325

2 D1 wins (WM 341, DE state 279)

Georgia 4-5, 108

Lost last 4 games

Austin Peay, 2-9 256

Lost their first 9 games (3 losses to top 100 teams, 2 to 200+ teams).

Beat Tennessee

Have played only 2 home games.

Detroit, 5-6 297

3 D1 wins, all with RPI over 226 (WMU)

3 losses to teams over 200.

1-2 vs. MAC, lost by 18 @Akron.

George Washington 4-5, 90

Lost last 4, but 3 to top 100 RPI
Has not won since leaving BG

Temple  6-2, 50

Won against CMU and @UT since the BG game and then beat rival Villanova by 11.

WKU 4-7, 222

Beat SIU (328) and lost to IUPUI (263) since beating BG.

MSU 8-2, 28

Won @Gonzaga

FIU 2-6, 257

One non d1 loss.

Duquesne 6-4, 98

Beat Akron by 5.  One non d1 win.

UTSA  163  5-4

One non-D1 win.  Beat Fresno State

Falcons Lose Tight Road Game to Valpo

BG came close to getting its first road win of the season, but in the end was unable to pull off a victory over the Valpo Crusaders, losing 82-79.  It was a competitive effort, however, against a pretty good team, so perhaps the Falcons are building as the season goes along.  BG did score the ball on the road, which has been an issue, but at the same time, they failed to slow Valpo down enough to win.

Last year, BG only lost twice when getting 70 points.  In fact, BG has noted score 79 and lost a regulation game since a battle with Oakland in 2007.

The first 10 minutes were close and it was tied 15-15.  Then, in the next 10, the Crusaders outscored BG 20-10 and eventually led by 8 at the end of the half.

In the second half, they led by 11 with 13 minutes left.  To get back into a game when you are down, you have to get stops, and BG did string some stops together, going on a 9-0 run in less than 3 minutes to cut the lead to 2.  Seven of the 9 points came from A'uston Calhoun in that stretch.

From there, it was a very tight game, with close leads shuttling back and forth.  For the next 8 minutes, BG had the lead for most of the time, in fact.  With 2 minutes left, Calhoun hit a basket to give BG a 71-70 lead.  Valpo ended up making 3-4 free throws at that point for a 73-71 lead.  On the next possession, the teams traded possessions where they made and missed a FT, and on the next exchange Crawford missed 2 and Valpo made 2 and they were up 4 with :36 left.

Calhoun made 2 Fts to cut it back to 2, but then BG had a breakdown on defense when they needed a stop, and Valpo had an easy dunk and BG never had the ball again with the game with a possession.

It is fitting for there to be so many free throws coming down the stretch, because it was a game marred by fouls and free throws.  We knew Valpo shoots a  lot of free throws coming in, but this was crazy.  Valpo shot 33 free throws and BG shot 26.  There were 44 fouls in the game.  Unfortunately, Valpo made 79% of theirs and BG only made 65%, and that netted out to a +9 advantage.

BG shot the ball very well.  BG shot 54% and 56% on 2 FG.  They tried only 6 treys.  (This was the kind of offense BG sported during last year's mid-season run).  The Falcons scored 1.11 points per possession, which is very solid.  For some context, the game did feature 71 possessions, which is higher than normal, so you'd expect a little more scoring.

BG took very good care of the ball, and rebounding was pretty even.  BG shot well, but let Valpo shoot even better (54% and 76% on 2 FG though only 29% from 3)...the Crusaders won the game on better shooting from the field and from the line.

Individually, A'uston Calhoun had a great night, with 25 points and over 50% shooting and had a team-high 7 rebounds as well.  Jordan Crawford had a career high 22 points on 57% shooting.  Scott Thomas had 14 points (6-10 shooting), 7 assists and 3 steals as well.

So the Falcons fall to 5-4 with the MSU Spartans on the schedule next Saturday.  The Spartans pulled a big upset on the road against Gonzaga, late last night.  I think that BG's performance in this game was encouraging, though still a situation where the Falcons failed to close the game out.  I had thought that 3 wins in this five-game road trip would be huge and 2 would even be pretty good, and I still feel that way.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

2011 Football Review....Rushing

There was no horror greater for our Falcons than the 2010 running game.  Our 2.0 yards per carry (conference games only, not sack adjusted) was 1.2 yards behind the next ranked team.  We rushed for 59 yards per game, almost 40 yards per game less than the next ranked team.  That was dead last in the FBS.

We averaged 3.6 yards per carry, obviously significantly above the year before.  However, that was still 10th in the MAC.  We averaged 105 yards per game, which was 11th in the MAC and 93rd in the country.

The running game was better.  It was not, however, anywhere near where it can get or needs to get.  You have the MAC freshman of the year at running back, and with Martin and Hopgood, you have depth in case people aren't healthy.  Obviously, as coach said, the key is the continued improvement of the offensive line, which he ranked as "average to below average."  

Clawson's offense requires the ability to run the ball.  And, the conclusion is that while BG stepped up from awful to poor running the ball, there is still a long way to go before we are even an average MAC running team.

2011 Football Review: Turnovers....

Taking a look at turnovers now, which is an interesting thing in the MAC this year.  Once again, looking at conference games only, we have already established that turnovers were way down in the MAC this year.  Interceptions were down 47%, and lost fumbles were down 24%.  Keep that perspective in mind when we say that....

BG's turnover ratio fell from -4 to -5 from 2010 to 2011.  Now, relative to our competition, BG's performance on turnover ratio went from 8th in the conference in 2010 to tied for 11th this year.

BG actually had 8 fewer turnovers in 2011 than they did in 2010.  In '10, BG had 9 fumbles and 13 INT, and in 'll in was 6 fumbles and 8 INT.  With 6 fumbles, BG was in a 3-way tie for 6th and 8 INTS was tied with four other teams for last.

I checked.  Only 2 of BG's turnovers came in the red zone, which is pretty typical.

Of course, turnovers are a two-way street.  BG's gained turnovers fell from 18 (t-6th) to 9 (t-10th) a drop steeper than the conference as a whole.  Interceptions fell from 7 to 4 and fumbles from 11 to 5.

One note:  this isn't quite as bad as we might have anticipated because it is conference games only, so, for example, that Wyoming debacle gets dropped out of the analysis.

But, in the end, the following things are true:

BG was worse, relative to the competition, in winning the turnover battle.   However, while BG was among the worst teams in the conference BOTH years in turning the ball over, the defense sunk to the offense's level in creating turnovers.

Coach Clawson talked about this in the year end presser...he said that the defense had to make plays.  Clearly, there is room for improvement on both sides of the ball, but I think most Falcon fans would have assumed that the turnover issue was only on the offensive side of the ball, and that isn't true.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Falcon Verbal #12

The season is here where the number of verbals picks up between now and the holiday dead period and then later in January.  BG clearly believes in waiting out guys, and we can expect to see some more come in, even if this is a smaller class than normal.

Mikhail Dubose is the most recent verbal.  He's a 3-star (ESPN) D-end from Hubbard HS in Chicago.  ESPN says they think he might project to an ILB in college.  They also says he needs to work on "secure wrap up" tackling so he will feel right at home in BG (HA! Just kidding).  He had offers from several MAC schools and Illinois (ahem, ahem) showed interest.

Here are some video highlights....there is actually some football about :30 in after the very dramatic open.

Welcome to the Falcons!!

Crusader Preview....

The Falcons travel to Vaparaiso Saturday to take on the Crusaders in a return visit from the Bracket Buster game played at Anderson Arena a couple of years ago.

There's one notable change for Valpo, which is that Dr. Homer Drew is no longer coaching the team after 21 years.  He has been replaced by his son Bryce, who, in addition to being a Drew, is the best player Valpo over had.  He was a first-round NBA draft pick and played six seasons in the league.  He's 37 years old.  (His brother coaches Baylor).

Valpo is off to a surprising 6-3 start.  Because they had heavy losses and a young team (they have only one senior getting serious minutes), they were picked to finish 5th in the Horizon league this year.  Now, that 6-3 might be a little bit over-stated, as they have 2 non-D1 wins among the 6.  On the other hand, they did beat Akron (with Abreu) and Duquesne (a team BG has struggled to compete with), both games at home.  They also won @Butler (though they are rebuilding).  Their losses are to Arizona, OSU, (both high quality opponents) and IPFW, a poor loss, though on the road.

On offense, they appear to play a style very much like Bowling Green's, in that they don't shoot a lot of 3s.  They are shooting almost 48% for the year overall, and that will be the first issue for the Falcons to deal with.  They don't rebound especially well on the offensive end, but they are in the top 10% of the teams in the country thus far in getting to the free throw line and converting.  At 1.06 points per possession, they are a pretty effective offensive team.  They are scoring 74 a game.  The turn the ball over only on 21% of their possessions.

Defensively, they are very good on the boards, ranking among the top teams in D1.  They are only allowing .96 points per possession.  Teams are shooting about 42% against them and 34% from beyond the arc.  They do not force a lot of turnovers (19%), so it appears they most play solid shooting defense with few second chances.  They do foul a lot.  They average 17 fouls a game and their opponents average 21.

They have 4 regulars in double figures for scoring, two of them inside guys.  6'7" JR Ryan Broekoff  is scoring 14.8 points to go with 9 rebounds a game, and 6'8" Jr Kevin Van Wijk is scoring 14.2 points and 7 rebounds. They have 2 other regulars averaging 11 points, and one of those guys is 6'7".   So, while they are not tall per se, they have very effective long guys who are clearing scoring in the paint to be effective.

If you like tempo-free individual stats, all of those guys have offensive efficiency ratings over 100, or 1 point per possession.

This is a team BG beat two years ago at Anderson.  To win this one, the Falcons are going to have to play strong defense, which will mean both defending the shot and not fouling.  The Crusaders appear happy to take either one.  On offense, they are going to shoot better than they typically have been.  Valpo appears to be strong in the paint, so the Falcons may need to go inside-out to get the points they need.  Obviously, winning on the road is always tough and Valpo is 4-0 at home.  This is a good test for the Falcons, and a chance to mark the team's pre-MAC progress.  A win would be a quality win.