Sunday, December 29, 2013

BG loses throwback tussle

Scene from today's BG-Wright State game as Dr. Naismith
Returned to the earth to deliver a peach basket

Ouch.  For a bunch of reasons.  Ouch because BG had its second worst offensive game of the year not due to shooting but due to 21 turnovers on only 58 possessions and 50% FT shooting.  Ouch because Wright State was not a lot better.  And ouch because after all that, BG had a possession with less than 15 seconds and a 2 point deficit and it ended, of course, in a turnover and then Holmes had a 3 at the buzzer that would not fall either.

So ouch.  It was probably the first time I have been disappointed in BG's performance since the South Florida game...maybe Oral Roberts, but that's a pretty good team.  Anyway, this one was winnable and instead college basketball was reset to peach baskets.

I certainly give our guys credit for fortitude.  Playing a depth-oriented team with six players (Sealey did not play once again), BG was down 7 at the half and 14 points with 11 minutes left in the game and it would have been easy for BG to say "it isn't our night." but they did battle back.  With 8 minutes left BG was down 11 and went on a 12-5 run to get the game to 4 with 4:30.

It was still a game coming home.

Much of this rally was on the back of Richaun Holmes who simply fantastic down the stretch.  He's a special player and getting better.

With about 2 minutes left, BG was down 6 and Holmes converted an old-school 3 to bring the lead to 3.  On the next possession BG got a stop and then Holmes was fouled on the other end.  Holmes split the pair--he is shooting FTs well this year--and it was a 2-point lead.

BG got another stop and had a chance to tie the game.  They ran some offense, but Clarke drove himself into trouble and the Raiders slapped the ball away.  BG foul, Wright State hits 1 of 2 and then Holmes missed the 3 to end the game.


Anyway, BG scored .74 points per possession, which is their second worst of the season, which is fine except the best was against St. Louis, which is a pretty good team.  BG's defense was effective, allowing .79 points per possession (2nd best D1 this year after Presbyterian) and it is usually a winning number.

There is no mystery how BG ended up at .74 points per possession.  More than one-third (36%) of BG's possessions were turnovers, meaning there was no chance of getting a basket at all.  BG shot 44% and 20% when it did get a shot off, which is passable if you had more shots.  They had an average night on the offensive boards and only converted 50% of its FTs, and that's the anatomy of how it happens.

On defense, Wright State had almost as much trouble but got there by taking care of the ball but shooting poorly.  They were slightly better than BG at the line (59%) and that ended up being the difference in a game with a close finish.

Individually, Richaun Holmes had a really nice night, as mentioned.  He scored 15 points (5 of 10 shooting, 5 of 7 at the line), 10 rebounds, and 3 steals.  He did have 4 turnovers.

Spencer Parker had 11 points (5 of 11 shooting) and 3 turnovers.

BG has struggled with efficient guard play and it was no different against the Raiders.  Clarke was 3-9 shooting with 4 assists and 6 turnovers.  Henderson shot 2-6 (and seemingly missed badly) though he did have 9 rebounds, and Tisdale had 1 assist and 5 turnovers in 17 minutes.

When you only play 6 guys and three of them are that inefficient, it just makes it really difficult for the team to win.

So BG falls to 6-6.  The next 4 games are at home and it would have been great to enter that with this win, but it was not to be.  Looking forward, BG needs to take advantage of these 4 home games, 3 of which are in MAC play.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Men's Basketball Preview--Wright State

So, now we turn our attention back to the men's basketball team, which was 6-5 when we left them.  They are now heading to Dayton to play Wright State...a game that certainly appears winnable on paper.

The Raiders are 7-7 with 2 non-DI wins.  Their other 5 wins are relatively undistinguished, with probably the best one coming in the last game against Missouri-KC.  They lost to Georgetown, but also @Morehead State and @Miami.  They are undefeated at home.

The two teams played last year at the Stroh.  BG won 54-41 on the strength of a strong second half.

There were two things Wright State was doing at that time.  Substituting at an incredibly fast pace and playing at an incredibly slow pace.

They are still doing one of those things.  Wright State has 11 players averaging 10 minutes a game or more...and no player averaging more than 25.

The other they are not doing so much.  The BG game last year featured only 57 possessions, which is next to nothing.  They are playing at a pretty normal mid-high 60s pace this year, with some higher numbers against uptempo teams like VMI and Morehead.

Remembering that according to current RPI Wright State has played among the five softest schedules to date, they have decent numbers.  They are scoring 1.04 points per possession, shooting 48% for all FGS and 36% from 3s.  They are decent on turnovers and shooting 74% from the line, but not good on the offensive boards at all.

On defense, they have been very efficient.  They are .93 points per possession, which is excellent.  They allow 43% FG shooting, which is good, especially when combined with forcing a turnover on 26.7% of their possessions.  They do an average job protecting the offensive boards.

Individually, they have only one guy in double figures, which is not surprising given that no one plays big minutes.  The big scorer is AJ Pacher, a 6'10" Sr. who is scoring 10 points in 19 minutes on 71% shooting.   He also leads the team with 4.4 rebounds.  JT Yoho is scoring 9.6 and Miles Dixon 9.5.

Anyway, this is an interesting team to watch, because they have no real dominant players and spread everything out over a wide number of players.

This is a game BG has a decent shot to win.  Wright State has played well at home, however, and while BG is above expectations so far, they are nowhere near a position to be able to count on winning.  Even so, this is a winnable game and a nice chance to build some confidence on the road. 

Friday, December 27, 2013

Sadness Accrues...Pizza Edition...Special Teams...

Actually, the news was pretty good on special teams.  Two seniors went out with a high powered bang...

The first was Boo Boo Gates, who returned a kickoff for a TD.  He is really a great KO returner, especially for a guy his size.  He returned 10 kicks this year and had 1 TD, which is remarkable.  Usually we sent Moore back, I assume because he's so fast and because Boo Boo plays so many snaps already.  In total, Gates for his career returned 87 kicks and had 3 TDs, which is 3.4%.  That seems like a high number to me, though I don't have anything to compare it to.

Anyway, it had the potential to be a game-changing play.  BG had scored at the end of the half to get the lead to 7 and then to tie the game on the first play of the 3rd Quarter was just huge.  It didn't end up being enough, but it was a huge play at the time.

I'm going to do more in appreciation of this senior class as time rolls on, but for now, that was a hell of a big play just when you had to have it.

The other senior who shined was Brian Schmeidebusch.  He was just ridiculous.  He had punts of 60, 56,46, 44, and 67, putting the last one on the 2 yard line and setting up BG's best opportunity to put the game away.  Brian has had a good career for us and this was just one day on that road, but he definitely saved a huge game for his final one.

The only downside to the special teams was the punt return TD they got.  That was costly.  They were already getting decent field position, but it made the game 17-3 and really put BG on its heels.  The Falcons responded and I suppose the two return TDs cancel each other out, but in a close game you hate to see you team give one up like that.  Also, Boyd is a player.  He is a huge recruit that Chryst kept come.  This kid is a playmaker.  And he made a play.

Sadness style...the offense

I have focused on the Pitt offense so far because I think that had BG been able to contain Conner, then BG scored enough points to win.  We should not lose sight of the fact, however, that Pitt's defense did a very good job of containing a BG offense that had been red hot throughout November and early December.

BG averaged only 4.3 yards per play and scored only 20 offensive points.  It started on the ground.  Pitt simply would not allow BG to establish a run game.  Even removing sacks, BG had 65 yards on 27 carries, which is 2.4 yards per carry.  Both Greene and Coppet carried the ball, but to little success.  The longest run by a BG RB last night was 8 yards.

Forced to pass, BG did come up with production but often at a cost.  BG was 21-33 for 279 passing yards, but when you deduct the 55 yards lost on 7 sacks, BG had 224 passing yards on 40 attempts, which is 5.6 yards per attempt and a long night.

BG made some plays in the passing game...a great run-after-catch for a TD by Alex Bayer, a leaping grab by Heath Jackson, a nice scrambling throw to Ryan Burbrink...what BG completed was good but when you net it out against the issues with protecting the QB, it runs into pretty rough territory.

The game had no turnovers, so BG did take care of the ball.

Finally, painful though it is, you can't talk about the offense in the Pizza Bowl without talking about the last drive.  BG got the ball on the 15 (after a penalty on the KO return) with 1:17 left and 2 timeouts.  Basically, you need 55 yards to get to the 30 for a long FG attempt.  BG made a nice gain to the 31 on the first play and it looked like the game was on, but on the drive's 3rd play they got a holding penalty and then BG was sacked to lose 20 yards on the next two plays, narrowly avoiding a safety.  It certainly wasn't pretty.

Aaron Donald had 5 tackles, 2 for loss, 1 sack and he knocked a pass down. Overall, Pitt had 7 sacks and 12 total TFL for the game.

More on the special teams later.  For now, though, that's the story of the BG offense.  Remember, however, where BG was last year at the end of the season.  This offense made great strides with some young players.  I think the future is looking up.  Coach said after last year we needed more offense to have a special season, and we got it.

Shaun Joplin Works out with Men's Hoops, per Jordan Strack

So here is something interesting....

Sadness style...the defense....

So, had a night to sleep on it and still proud of our Falcons.  It was a very entertaining game last night--both sides were there to play hard--and the game had plenty of drama and excitement.  Maybe a little too much for BG fans, but it was still a very solid effort.  Pitt is an emerging program.  Most of their top players are Freshman.  In a year or two, Chryst is going to have that place humming.

I don't think BG played as well as it was capable of.  Pitt did not bring a high octane offense into the game--and then one of their top WRs, Devin Street, did not play and their QB only played half the game--and yet the Panthers averaged 8 yards a play, which I suspect is the most allowed by BG this season.

That starts with James Conner.  He is just a freshman....a true freshman, I think...from Erie, PA.  He was highly productive in HS and was highly recruited.  Clearly, the guy is a talent.  I have not seen BG tacklers fall off a RB like that in some time.  At one time it was a common occurrence, but we have gotten used to sure tackling, until last night.
Also, the Pitt line won a lot of battles up front.  Conner had some huge holes to run through.  Ryland Ward and BooBoo Gates were BG's leading tacklers, which is a worrying sign.  

Conner gained 8.8 yards per carry on 26 carries, which was 43% of Pitt's total plays.  That's going to make you hard to beat.  As I mentioned last night, the rest of the big Pitt plays all came off faking the run action.  The big pass down the sideline to Boyd was a bootleg.  Anyway, Pitt had huge success with Conner because when he was 1-1 with one of our defenders, he usually won the battle.

The Pitt passing game was efficient.  Overall, they were 13 of 22, but for 232 yards.  That's 10.5 yards per attempt and 17.8 yards per reception, both eye popping numbers.  Even more importantly, when they needed the big pass play--either on 3rd down deep in their own territory or the big bomb that followed it--they were able to get it.

BG's defense did get its share of wins.  For a team to get 8.8 yards per play and only 23 offensive points is actually decent.  Much as in the NIU game, BG's defense did eventually stop some drives, forcing 4 Pitt FG attempts.  BG got a huge 3rd down stop in the last minute of the game to force an immediate FG and preserve any chance for a BG drive to tie the game.  BG also held Pitt to only 3 of 12 3rd down conversions...again, a key in keeping the game close.

It was a second superlative season for the BG defense.  I'll have closer looks at that once the dust settles, but they had a great season.  Last night, they ran into a guy who had an incredible night and did a good job to keep the game close.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Defeat at Ford Field

BG lost 30-27 to Pitt tonight.  More tomorrow and in coming days about the game, just some general impressions for tonight before heading to bed.

Obviously, it was disappointing not to win.  I was pleased with the effort...I thought we played a good if not great game and certainly had the chance to win the game.  In retrospect, I think our only shot was to score with less than 1:30 left in the 4th...we left them just too much time on the clock.

The game really came down to one thing and that was BG's inability to stop James Conner.  Conner had huge holes and when BG did have a mean there, Conner was (in Scheier's words) a "bear to bring down."  He just broke tackle after tackle on his way to 229 rushing yards.

That wasn't the only effect.  Pitt got most of their offense in the 4th quarter off boot action.  The long pass to Boyd, the TD run by Voytik and the other big run he had...all came off a run fake.

The key exchange of the game came when BG down Pitt on their own 2 with the score tied 20-20.  You can see this turning the game.  BG's defense gets them off the field, gets good field position and punches in a decisive score.

Instead, Pitt converted a third-and-five and then went for 62 yards on the next play and then scored shortly after that, and what was supposed to be one thing was suddenly (and I mean suddenly) another.

BG did answer with a touchdown of its own, but, as mentioned, there was too much time on the clock and Pitt was able to get into field goal range and then convert the field goal.

It was a great season.  Double-digit wins, a conference was a special year.  I know the bowl result is not what anyone was hoping for, but it was a good effort from our guys and we are proud.  Thanks for a great season, and looking forward to next year.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

25 Questions for Pizza

I always liked how they
gave the guy a hairy chest.
What is their body of work?

They are having a decent season.  They are 6-6, with wins over Duke and Notre Dame.  They lost 4 of their last 6.  Overall, the program has struggled with coaching issues since Wannstedt was here.

How many seniors and juniors on the two-deep?

26, which is an average number.  13 of the 44 players are freshmen, which is a lot, showing that Chryst recruits are filling the talent gap.

Who are their statistical leaders?

Aaron Donald leads the nation in tackles for loss and is 10th in forced fumbles and 13 in sacks.

What is their turnover ratio?

They are +1.  This improved over the back half of the year as their QB quit throwing picks.


 How is their QB Play?

Tom Savage is a senior and improved through the year.  He finished #6 in passing efficiency.  He is a drop-back style passer.

What is their scoring and yards per play?

They scored 26 points a game, which is 85th in the FBS.  They punched above their weight, ranking 102nd in total offense.  They made 5.3 yards per play, which is pretty average.

Can they run the ball?

Their stats are misleading.  It looks like they average 3.3 yards per carry, which is crappy.  However, most of that is lost yardage for Savage.  Their top two runners average 4.8 yards per carry, which is not great but it is better than you might have expected seeing the overall number.

Do they pass the ball?

They are decent.  Savage completes 61% of his passes for 7.5 yards per attempt and 12 yards per reception, both of which are pretty good.  He also has tamed his INT problem.  They have two very good receivers in Tyler Boyd and Devin Street.

How is their run/pass balance?

Once you take the sacks out, they run on 47% of their plays, which is a pretty typical ratio in today's game.

Do they convert on 3rd Down?

They are above average at 39%

Do they score in the red zone?

This explains why their scoring is stronger than their yards.  Pitt is very good in the red zone, with 5.25 points per trip.

Do they protect the quarterback?

Negative.  They have given up 41 sacks on 420 attempts, nearly 10%.

Pizza!  Pizza!

Topline: Scoring and yards per play.

They allowed 27 points per game, which was 11th in the ACC.  However, they were 8th in total defense, so we will probably see something below that indicates why that is.

Do they defend the run effectively?

They are pretty good. allowing 4.3 yards per carry, a little more if you eliminate the sacks.

Can they be passed on?

Their passing efficiency defense is in the middle of the pack nationally.  They allow only 58% completions, which is really strong.  They are susceptible on yards, allowing 7.2 per attempt and 12.5 per reception.  18 TDs over 8 INT.

Do they get off the field on 3rd down?

Opponents get 39% which is around the average.

Do they defend in the red zone?

Not very well.  They have only 3 red zone stops all year and one of them is a missed FG.  They allow 5.2 points per red zone trip, which accounts for why their yardage numbers are better than their scoring numbers.

Do they pressure the QB?

Despite having Aaron Donald, they do not get a lot of pressure on the QB.  They have only 18 sacks and that 4.9% of passing attempts.

BCS Quality Cheerleading
Special Teams:


Punting is not a strong point.  Their net punting is among the worst in FBS.  The punter seems pretty good.  Part of that is the return game...they gave up 16 yards a return and 3 TDs.

Punt Return?

They are average, getting about 8 yards a return, no TDs.


He's good.  11-14 overall, 5-9 outside 40 with a 47 long.  One blocked.  Should thrive in Ford Field.


Teams are starting around the 26.

Kickoff Return?

They are starting on the 26.   Which is average.

Tony Dorsett ain't walking through the door

Miscellaneous: Overall atmospherics and intangibles.

Intangibly, there are a couple things that seem to be interesting.

First, BG is playing without its head coach.  However, the rest of the coaches will be there, this is a senior-dominated team with a strong routine developed.  I don't believe this will be that much of an issue.  Teams win bowl games this way every year and I don't think this will be any different.  We may win or lose, but I don't expect the coaching to be the issue.

Second, you have a BCS team playing in a minor bowl.  The question here is whether Pitt feels like playing in this game is a punishment or a burden, or whether they are ready to play football.  You never know on these things.  My guess is they are ready to play.

It is an interesting matchup in that you have a 10-3 BG team against a 6-6 ACC team.  Most of the computer projections show BG winning and most of the people show Pitt winning.  I think it will be a very good game.  If BG plays they way it did since the Toledo game, I don't see any reason why we won't win this game.

Neither are these guys

Merry Christmas to the Falcon Nation!!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to the Falcon Nation.  May the day bring you Peace...

The Magi (The Heart of Man is a Palace)

Oh the magi were the prophets
And they wandered through the desert
They saw the star above them
And they knew they'd find their way
Through the valley of the shadow
With the hope of human kindness
They were strengthened by the vision
Of a new and brighter day.

And the wisemen spoke of peace on earth,
Of harmony and struggle
Know you now a cycle's gone and a new one is revealed.
In the weaving of your fingers
In the whisper of a love that's born again
In the weaving of your fingers
In a promise that we made that never ends.

Well now each man is a pilgrim,
Yes, we all must make the journey
And it seems that time is telling us to be all that we can
To help lift up the fallen, we must sow the seeds of goodness
The torch is passed among us now to light the way of man.

For the heart of man's a palace
And his dreams are as the sunlight
They burn away the darkness, as they warm the freezing cold
As an eagle flying higher, as a river through the canyon
The diamond star shines down upon, a pathway to the soul


In a promise that we made that never ends.
In a promise that we made that never ends.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Preview! Preview! BG Bowl History


1961 - Mercy Bowl (Los Angeles, Calif.)
Fresno State 36, Bowling Green 6

This is one no one knows about...there was a plane crash after BG played Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and 16 players from Cal were killed.  This game was a benefit for their survivors and was played at the LA Coliseum.

1982 - California Bowl (Fresno, Calif.)
Fresno State 29, Bowling Green 28

This one still hurts.  BG led the Bulldogs 28-7 entering the 4th quarter and then watched while the Bulldogs, playing on their home field, rally for over 200 4th quarter yards and a soul-crushing defeat.  The QB for Fresno State?  Jeff Tedford.

1985 - California Bowl (Fresno, Calif.)
Fresno State 51, Bowling Green 7

This is one we will never forget.  BG was undefeated that season and we were very excited.  Very.  Then, in the week leading up to the game our Head Coach, Denny Stolz, was busy lining up a job at San Diego State instead of getting us ready to play.  I know, a common occurrence now but very rare then.  Anyway, it was one of the most colossal ass kickings in our history.  Also, I took the GRE exam that day (this was my senior year) and let's just say I was the only person on the BG campus who had a worse day than the football team.

1991 - California Raisin Bowl (Fresno, Calif.)
Bowling Green 28, Fresno State 21

BG's first bowl win, this one was a thriller.  This is the first of two Blackney bowl wins and is most remembered for a crazed Phil Villipiano getting himself a penalty, despite having no actual role in the game.

1992 - Las Vegas Bowl (Las Vegas, Nev.)
Bowling Green 35, Nevada 34

Memorable in that BG pulled out victory when the Nevada punter tried to catch a late snap with his facemask.

2003 - Motor City Bowl (Detroit, Mich.)
Bowling Green 28, Northwestern 24

A top moment in the program's history.  First, it included beating a Big 10 team, always a proud moment for the folks, and then it was a bowl game a lot of fans could make.  It was a pretty good environment and a tough game but also a great way to send Josh Harris out.

2004 - GMAC Bowl (Mobile, Ala.)
Bowling Green 52, Memphis 35

Welcome Omar Jacobs to the scene as BG beats a pretty good Memphis team in Mobile.  I wasn't there, but I think Mobile has the best bowl week experience of anywhere we regularly go.  BG scored 52, could have scored more.

2007 - GMAC Bowl (Mobile, Ala.)
Tulsa 63, Bowling Green 7

Yeah.  1985 all over again, total catastrophe.  I believe this still stands as the worst bowl loss ever by any team.

2009 - Humanitarian Bowl (Boise, ID)
Idaho 43, Bowling Green 42

Idaho rallies late to win game BG should never lost.  Vandals go for 2 instead of tie to win game.

2012 - Military Bowl (Washington, DC)
San Jose State 29, Bowling Green 20

BG was down 22-20 when Matt Schilz was sacked and fumbled, leading the Spartans to the clinching touchdown.  QB David Fales was too much for BG defense.  Note...Spartans playing for an interim coach.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Falcons Win Tight One Over Titans (See what I did there?)

Bowling Green picked up another win yesterday. That's 3 in a row and 5 out of 8.  Yes, I know they are not playing the world's best competition, but I am happy for the wins and I continue to contend that this team is better than it was expected to be...especially when you consider they have played most of the way without Craig Sealey and without Chauncey Orr.

The first half certainly did not start off very well.  Detroit bolted out to a 10-2 lead and then with 8 left had stretched that to 11, at 26-15.  BG was playing very poorly, which has been unusual, especially at home.

BG then went on a 11-1 run over the next three minutes to get the lead back to 1, tied the game a  couple of times without leading and went into halftime trailing by 1.

BG took the lead about 5 minutes into the second half as part of a run that stretched the lead up to 7.  Then Detroit erased the lead and went up 4 with 9 minutes left, setting up a very entertaining final minutes when neither team led by more than 3 the remainder of the way.

Spencer Parker split a pair of FTs to put BG up by 1 with about 2:40 to play.  A minute later, Anthony Henderson picked up a key offensive rebound and stuck it back and BG was up 3.  With 1:22 left, Juwan Howard, Jr. got a FG to cut it  back to 1.

Parker missed two shots in the paint and then Detroit had the ball back.  Pretty big defensive posession here, and BG got a break when Bruinsma travelled in the key, giving the ball back to BG.  Holmes split a pair of free throws, stretching the lead back to 2 with :22 left.

The Titans came down, missed a relatively open 3 but had Howard with the offensive board.  His putback was attempted inside a lot of arms and he missed and Holmes ripped the board down and outletted the ball to Parker before he could be fouled, and BG had found two stops at the end of the game for the win.

Consistent with those two stops, the key difference for BG was on shooting.  BG shot 48% from the field and Detroit shot 38%, which pretty much accounts for the different right there.  Detroit made 8 3s which helped to even out the FG scoring.

Rebounds were relatively even and Detroit was much stronger on the offensive boards.  BG got to the line a lot more, but had another awful FT shooting night at 58%, turning a 12 shot advantage in attempts into 4 for made FTs.

Detroit scored only .93 points per possession, which is significantly below their normal record.  BG was below par as well at .96, so the credit for the win probably goes to the BG defense, which has been pretty good.

I have pointed out BG's inefficient guard play so far this year, so it should be pointed out that this was not the case for this game.  Clarke had 14 points on 5 of 10 shooting and 1-2 from beyond the arc, with 8 assists over 4 turnovers, a very solid line.  Henderson had 15 point on 5 of 10 shooting and 1-2 from 3, adding 4 rebounds and 2 blocked shots.

Holmes was also very effective at 13 points on 5 of 10 shooting, 5 rebounds and 2 blocks.  Black had 8 points on 4-4 shooting paired with 8 rebounds.

Spencer Parker has been playing well, but he had an off night with 7 points, all at the free throw line.  He missed all 7 FG attempts.

JD Tisdale is improving a lot.  If Orr and Sealey were healthy I am relatively sure he would not be getting these minutes, but he is making the most of them and the team will eventually benefit.  His game is certainly spotty, but he is making better and better plays, including a Sportscenter quality dunk.

So, BG is now 6-5 with a very winnable game coming up Sunday at Wright State.  Following that it is IPFW at home.  BG stands a very good chance of entering conference play at 7-5 and playing decent basketball.

Preview! Preview! The legacy of quick Pitt Coaching triggers

Coaching at Pitt has been a little messy since the last 80s.

Pitt had been a dominant football program under Johnny Majors and Jackie Sherrill.  Just seems to me that Pitt is always trying to recapture that greatness, and it has resulted in them giving up on some pretty good situations...not unlike the Cincinnati Reds, who spent 20 years trying to rebuild the Big Red Machine.

They fired Foge Fazio for winning 58% of this games and then fired Mike Gottfried after he won 62%.  They hired Walt Harris and he did worse than both of them, winning only 54% of his games and he was gone, too.

Next they brought in Dave Wannstedt, a pro coach and local boy who there was tremendous optimism about.  In this 4th and 5th seasons he had big years but he was 7-5 in his 6th year and they fired him, too with a 58% record.

Things only got worse.  They brought in Todd Graham.  He went 6-6 and then HE LEFT THEM, oh yeah, in the middle of the night, with a text message to his players.

Todd Graham on twitter in Az State tie
shortly after leaving Pittt in the middle
of the night
They hired Mike Haywood from Miami (the coach of the fog bowl game at the Doyt), but before he could start he was charged with domestic violence in South Bend and was let go by Pitt.  They then went out and got Paul Chryst, a respected assistant at Wisconsin.

I suspect somewhere in there Dave Wannstedt and Mike Gottfried started to look pretty good.

Anyway, Chryst was 6-7 last year and 6-6 this year.  I don't know, but I get the sense that Pitt has grown up a little bit and decided to live in the present, so they aren't expecting world-beating results.  They are now an ACC team...the ACC is certainly tougher than the old Big East was, even if it is the weakest BCS conference.

Chryst played like a dozen true freshman this year.  That tells me he is recruiting the kind of players who can turn the program around in a sustainable way.  With the recruiting talent there, there is no reason for Pitt not to be good every season if they would just give up on being great every season.

Nuggets on Pitt from Game Notes

Notes from Pitt Games notes

Pitt 29-3 vs. MAC.  Losses to BG, OU and UT.

Not many people view Detroit as a nice change of pace (and, hey, the city has been poorly led for a long time but there's fun stuff to do there and it doesn't deserve the scorn it gets), but Pitt has played in the BBVA Compass the last three years.  That's in Birmingham, AL.  Which is probably a better place than I think it is.

They have played 124 years of football at Pitt.

Pitt played 12 true freshman this season.

That includes WR Tyler Boyd who had 77 catches, beating the current freshman record of a guy named Larry Fitzgerald.

I have long touted the virtues of recruiting guys from Pittsburgh.  That's a football culture.  Pitt has a bunch of those guys...and Matt Johnson played in the WPIAL too.

Savage (QB) had 11 TDs over 3 INT over last 8 games.  Was INT-prone early in the year.

Bobby Engram, star Penn State WR, is now a coach at Pitt.

Brooks Bollinger, former WI QB is coaching QBs.

Their d-coordinator, Matt House, is from Harrison, MI, and was an assistant coach for Buffalo during the "crowd was pitiful" game.

10-year NFL veteran Hank Poteat coaches the d-backs.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Preview! Preview! All-American Aaron Donald

Pitt has one player that stands above all the others....Aaron Donald.  He's an All-American defensive tackle and then some...let's take a look.

Donald with an uncharacteristically gentle hold
on the leg of Bronco Nagurski
Outland Trophy (2013)
Bronko Nagurski Trophy (2013)
Rotary Lombardi Award (2013)
Chuck Bednarik Award (2013)
AP First Team All-American (2013)
ACC Defensive Player of the Year (2013)
First-team All-ACC (2013) Defensive Player of the Year (2013)

Which is pretty good.

In case you were wondering, the Outland is for best interior lineman, the Nagurski and Bednarik are for the best defensive player, and the Lombardi is for the best defensive lineman or linebacker. Seems like a lot of overlap there, but no reason to lose sight of the overall point.  By consensus, he is one of the best defensive players in the game today.

One thing we noted last year with Chris Jones was that you don't often see D-tackles rack up big numbers.  They are kind of trapped in there with all the other big guys and just eating up 2 blocks is considered a victory for the defense as a whole.  That being said, here are the guy's numbers....

10th in the nation in forced fumbles (1st in ACC)
13th in sacks, (4th in ACC)
1st in nation in TFL

Dude has a ridiculous 26.5 TFL.  First place, not close....Shazier is next with 22.5.  That's not the whole story, though.  The next interior lineman only had 18.

Check out that statline from the Georgia Tech game. (From Pitt game notes)

Donald compiled 11 tackles (all solo), six TFLs, two forced fumbles and a sack against the Yellow Jackets. The six TFLs are the most by an FBS player this season.  Perhaps the most impressive stat of the night: Georgia Tech ran 63 offensive plays, nearly 10% of which ended in a TFL by Donald.

And for those of you who salivate over recruiting rankings...he was a three-star on Rivals with BCS offers from Pitt and Rutgers.  He was undersized and considered a mid-major player.

Same thing for Chris Jones, who started for the NE Patriots as a rookie after being cut twice.

He is 6'0", 285.

Curiously, the NFL seems to be taking the same position.  ESPN has him ranked as the 4th best DT entering the draft and the 33rd best player.  Depending on whether guys come out, you could see him be an early second round pick.

And one I would be thrilled for my team to make.  He's an achiever.  For reference, Khalil Mack is projected by ESPN to be an OLB in the NFL and is expected to be a top 10 draft pick.  They rank him as the 5th best player in the draft.

He seems to appreciate where he is, based on this story from the Post-Gazette and this one from CBSSports.

Mr. Donald, sir.  It is an honor to face you.

Babers Retains Two Falcon Assistants

Coach Babers is assembling his coaching staff with two hold-overs from the existing staff.

He is keeping John McDaniel and Nick Monroe, according to the Blade.  Monroe will be a popular choice, he is well-liked by the fan base and the d-backs have been outstanding on his watch.  Larry McDaniel is the d-line coach...certainly have to like what was accomplished there, too....continuity on defense is a good thing for what BG is doing moving forward.

According to the Blade, John Hunter was offered a position but opted to head to Wake Forest.  Hunter is a BG grad who coached the RBs and had been at the school since the Brandon years.  Best of luck to him in the future, he's contributed great things to the program twice now.

Here's more...

If true, here are the rest of the guys...note separate coaches for inside and outside receivers.  Also, I read somewhere that Dino calls his own plays.

Sterlin Gilbert
Offensive Coordinator/QB's
2nd year
(Angelo State, 2002)

Kim McCloud
Defensive Coordinator
2nd year
(Hawai'i, 1991)

Tom Kaufman
2nd year
(John Carroll, 2003)

Sean Lewis
Inside Receivers
2nd year
(Wisconsin, 2007)

Mike Lynch
Running Backs
9th year
(Montana, 2000)

Matt Mattox
Offensive Line
1st year
(Houston, 2005)

Andrew Sowder
Outside Receivers
2nd year
(Baylor, 2011)

Titan Preview--No More Ray Jr

OK, kids, men's basketballl again.  The final home game of 2013 comes your way...the Detroit Titans, a common BG opponent will be coming to town.

Things are a little different for UDM.  First of all, their star player (Ray McCallum, Jr) is now a Portland Trailblazer.  Their #3 and #4 scorers also graduated, which left Jason Calliste, the #2 scorer to carry the load, except he decided very late to transfer to Oregon (where he is scoring in double figures), leaving the Titans really short-handed.

They were picked to finish 2nd-last in the Horizon.

For all that, they are 5-7 this year, 4-7 against D1 competition.  They are 0-3 in the MAC, losing at home to UT after having a huge lead, then losing @Savage and @the JAR, both in double figures.  They also have losses to UConn and NC State.  Their best win was a 5-point win @South Florida, a team that beat BG and then 3 team with RPIs over 200.  They are 2-5 on the road this year.

The Titans play relatively upbeat ball at 72 possessions per game.  They are scoring 1.04 points per possession which is about average, but they are also allowing 1.04 points per possession.

On offense, they are simply not a good shooting team.  At 41%/31%, their effective FG% is worse than BG's.  They help make up for this by taking very good care of the ball, being a decent offensive rebounding percentage and shooting FTs very effectively, at 77%.

Defensively, they are holding teams to 43% shooting overall, but that includes 38% against the 3.  Sadly, this is weakness BG is probably ill-suited to exploit.  They are averaging protecting the offensive glass and do force a decent number of turnovers.  They are averaging over 21 fouls per game, which is an excellent opportunity for the Falcons if the foul shots are falling.

Individually, they are led in scoring by Juwan Howard, Jr, with 17 very inefficient points per game (38% FG shooting)...deadly at the line though.  Evan Bruinsma is their second double digit scorer at 12 PPG and he adds 7.7 RPG.  Michigan transfer Carlton Brundige is scoring 9 points a game on 33% shooting.  Ugochukwu Njoku, a 6'10" C, is averaging 7 rebounds per game.

One thing this team has is length.  They have some tall guys and a lot of mid-range guys.

This should be a very interesting game.  Detroit has played well in a couple of spots and BG is playing better than expected and especially well at home.  BG is the superior defensive team, and if they can assert that against the Titans, BG should be able to score enough to win.  BG will need to shoot FTs well and keep UDM off the line.

Overall, I'm pretty optimistic BG can get the win.  They have won the last two over the Titans, both at the Stroh.  A win would put them over .500 for the first meaningful time this year.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Jordon Crawford News...

If you click this link, you will see Jordon signing his contract to be a member of the...Harlem Globetrotters.  No kidding.  Enjoy Jordon!  Knock 'em dead.

Johnson: Tall Enough to Win

Here's a pretty cool article from the Pittsburgh papers on Matt Johnson.  Starts with Greg Schiano saying that he made a mistake not recruiting Johnson.  Much of the story is built on the idea that if Johnson was 6'2" he would be at a BCS school, and that bigger schools went for other guys who have not panned out as well.

Johnson is the #8 passer in PA HS history, and he is about to have an opportunity to put up some Playstation numbers for the next two years.

Here is Matt's HS Coach:

“I have coached some great players,” he said. “I'm not sure Matt isn't the most competitive kid I ever coached. Matt wants to be the best in everything.”

Anyway, Matt's now famous tweet is mentioned to...he's ready for Pitt and I am sure they will be ready for him.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Baylor Offense at the Doyt

So, as reported in the Sentinel...

Ronnie Moore went up to Coach Babers and asked him what kind of offense he ran.

Coach Babers said "Have you seen Baylor play."

Ronnie said that he had.

"That offense," Coach said.

Ronnie smiled.  Suspect he considers this a pretty good day.

So what is the Baylor offense?  We're talking uptempo, quick snap, super spread.  Big time spread...not all pass though.  Lots of running yards available.

They led the nation in scoring with 53.3 points per game and it total offense, with 624 yards per game, with is almost 50 yards a game over the next team.

Do we have the people.  I'd say Johnson and Moore and Greene are perfectly fit for the offense, Gallon and Dieter will be back,  along with Jackson.  Also, we had a bunch of TBs who came in who could be candidates to move to WR as well.

Coach was very, very confident that this would work here.  It should be exciting.  No one in the MAC has taken this approach.  To learn more about the Xs and Os--and it is a radical offense--watch this.

Preview! Preview! The last time BG played Pitt....

So, we played Pitt in 2008 and I wanted to take a minute and reminisce.  BG won that game at Heinz Field for an early upset.  Still remember the sweet feeling of walking back to my car through all the sullen Pitt fans at their tailgates, staring into their beers, a season ruined right out of the gate.  Nice!  Here's the post I did back then...note that the LaSean McCoy mentioned in the article is the same LeSean McCoy who is with Philadelphia.  He didn't get much done against the orange and brown.  This would be the bright beginning of the season that ended the Brandon tenure at BG...on a snowy night in front of a "pitiful" crowd.  Few weeks makes a big difference.

Oh the Sweet Smell of Victory!

Here, you see (from the Blade) Tyler Sheehan racing into the end zone with what ended up being the winning touchdown in yesterday's thrilling win at Pitt.

I'll have more--much more--coming up in the next two days, but first a post on some overall impressions.

It was a great day to be a Falcon. On this Sunday morning, I am hoarse from yelling for our team. I am very, very proud of the effort our team put forward, even with the suspensions and the issues. And let's not forget, but for an inadvertent whistle, this game is a laugher.

There were a few keys to the game. The most obvious was the three critical turnovers Pitt made (I know there were four, but the last was while the game was over.) Pitt won most of the stat battles, but the early fumble in their own territory that allowed BG to tie the game and the late fumble deep in their own territory that allowed BG to take the lead were both very costly and BG made them pay.

Even the Kenny Lewis fumble--absent the TD--was critical, because it stopped a Pitt drive.

So, turnovers were probably the difference. BG took care of the ball, turning it over once.

I am so proud of our team for the adjustments we made. The first few minutes of this game were AWFUL. Pitt ran right over us, took at 14-0 lead, and you were beginning to feel like it was BC and Tulsa all over again. And, the offense was stagnant as anything.

But, things turned around. First, we did what all the best offenses in the Brandon/Meyer era have done when we took the ball off the second touchdown, and stuck it right down the field into the end zone. That drive was vital for re-establishing the game.

On offense, we found some things that worked, and we got it done. On the whole, it was not a great offensive performance. We only made 15 first downs, and had only 254 yards. That's only 3.6 yards per play. Running, we were only 24-81 (if you take the four sacks out), which is obviously not particularly strong, and when you take out a 36 yard run by Bullock, you have 23-45 for the rest of them.

But, Bullock DID break that run and put us in a position to score, we were able to run the option for third and fourth down conversions, and the direct snap played worked a few times, AT scored in the red zone and so did Tyler. So, the overall numbers weren't eye-boggling, but we had the runs when we needed them.

Tyler was just over 50% passing. There were some drops. Obviously, we hope to see that number improve in the future, but again, on key drives when we needed it, he was making the throws. We had 24 completions to 9 receivers.....are you kidding me?

Best of all, we were very resourceful. We ran a flood right in the red zone, but drifted the TE the opposite way. We have used this play often to score, and it is almost always wide open. And it was again.

We also had Freddie in the direct snap, but used him to throw twice, sucking everyone in for the run and then making a little shovel pass to the TE for the TD. We ran the option-pitch a few times, then (again in the red zone) when Pitt over committed to the outside, Sheehan ran for an untouched 12 yard TD.

I can't say anything but this---our coaching staff maximized the players we had on the field, and we were ready to make plays when we needed them. Given the new OC team, I am very proud of our effort. Again, not overpowering. But winning.

On defense, one word sticks out.....PLAYMAKERS. We had guys who made plays on defense.

Is Kenny Lewis incredible or what? Did it help he was playing in his hometown--maybe, but he has done this before. Six tackles, one INT, one FR, and a defensive TD called back on an inadvertent whistle.

How about Jahmal Brown? 11 solo tackles, 14 total, and a pass break up.

Antonio Smith--12 tackles, 9 solo. Caused the key play of the game on a crushing corner blitz and a Stull fumble. Also two tackles for loss and a pass break up.

How about two sacks for Diryal Briggs? And three hurries. And I know he won't celebrate again.

How about Dozier? Six tackles, forced a fumble, broke up two passes, and had a QB hurry.

Just remember, it was 14-0 and Pitt only got 3 after that. We adjusted on D, starting tackling, and yes, our playmakers got loose. It was an incredible performance.

Certainly, we got an assist from Wannstedt, who punted twice inside our 40 when they had the momentum. And, they rarely if ever threw downfield until late in the game, though when they did, I think you could see why....Stull's deep throws were wild and ineffective. And, their receivers had a lot of balls run through their hands. But, our defense made lots of plays and can only be thrilled with their effort.

LaSean McCoy only averaged 3.1 yards per carry, and had no run over 12 yards. That's impressive. Stephens was ripping us apart (7-71) but luckily, Wannstedt decided to stop using him. It helped immensely that the passing game was short, because we could crowd up to stop the run and the short pass.

Stull threw 51 times (I'm sure that wasn't included in any winning game plans for Pitt), was sacked four times and hurried 8, based on the stats. BG was resourceful and found ways to pressure the QB, even though our D-Line was thin.

Pitt did not complete a pass over 18 yards the whole game.

Special teams...we won that battle too. Pitt's kicker missed a key FG, and Iovenelli was great punting. He had a 79 yarder that was kind of lucky, but nailed them deep twice and backed the returner up a couple times. Our only special teams miscue was coaching related, when we gave Pitt the field position for their 2Q FG on a squib kick I don't understand. We covered kicks real well all day and Vrvilio ripped a couple.

One last note for now. A team which is (in theory) less deep is aided by the game being on TV. Those TV timeouts give everyone a chance to rest, especially when it is as hot as it was.

So, much credit all around. We were better than Pitt on their field. Tyler Sheehan could play for Pitt tomorrow. Our worrisome line play showed signs of hope on both sides of the ball. We were resourceful and found ways to move the ball and make plays on defense. We took the opponent's mistakes, and turned them to our advantage.

A great day to be a Falcon. More to come.

Babers Message to EIU players....

As you know, I think coaches who leave one school without talking to their team first, face to face, are beneath contempt.  This time of year, there's another issue, though, and it was faced by Dino Babers.  EIU is out of school and the players are all home for winter break.  No way to talk to he did this, which is the next best thing and shows a little bit more about Coach Babers.

Babers Presser...KEYWORD: Short

Somehow I remember Coach Clawson being a lot more loquacious at this opening presser...

Anyway, 12 minutes, start to finish.

I think the thing we learned most was his style.

He said he came into the player's meeting this morning and all the guys were sitting up, hands in their laps, feet on the floor...he said it looked "military."  He said the first thing he told the players was they needed to "loosen up a little bit."

He says you can be disciplined and tough without being "straight military."  He views himself as a player's coach, and says you can be engaging while holding high standards.  He says players will be comfortable talking to him about what is going on in their lives.

In that vein, he cited Art Briles as an influence.  Briles, who is very hot right now, follows the trending "positive reinforcement" method of coaching.  See the positive, don't focus on the negative.  Doesn't mean you can't improve.  It just means you don't build the team up by tearing guys down.

In his opening statement, he said that "I don't settle."  Continuing, "why do you want to be average?"

Anyway, other than Dan Cummins telling him it was his first head coaching job, there were just a couple questions and away you go.

My overall impression is that this is a guy with a lot of charisma.  I absolutely cannot believe he is not an effective recruiter with that kind of presence.  I personally believe that too much coaching is focused on the negative, so I like that, so long as you are able to keep the team under control.

Anyway, 12 minutes and that was all, but a good start, I think.  He has the bearing of a head coach, which is part of the job but not all of it.  Looking forward to seeing him get to work against WKU next Fall!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Dino it is...

And so the search is over.  Dino Babers of Eastern Illinois will be BG's next football coach.

I like the hire for a lot of reasons.

He is a proven head coach.  If you go for the big-time coordinator, you don't know if they are prepared to be a head coach.  Yes, I know, Urban Meyer, but the program was certainly in a different place when that hire was made.  We're poised for a run and I like that we aren't providing on the job training.

He is a winner.  EIU was a last place team when he got there, and he won the OVC title the next season and the season after that, his only two years there.  They outscored their opponents 675-319.  No, really.  They were ranked #2 in FCS this year, beat San Diego State 40-19 (Aztecs made a bowl game) and came with 4 of beating NIU.

He has high pedigree experience as an assistant.  Baylor, UCLA, Pitt, Arizona, SD State, Purdue.  He was OC at A&M and Arizona.  He was assistant head coach at UCLA.

He has a high-powered offense modeled on Art Briles.  At EIU, he featured the best offense in FCS.  Also, they used a mixed pass and run attack, which is perfect for the skilled players he is inheriting at BGSU.

EIU was also top 30 in scoring defense, along with other categories.

He is our first African-American Head Coach for football...though I think it is a credit to the society that this hardly seems to be a big deal.

So, what is not to like?

I can hear the more crochety members of the nation saying one thing in particular...these are people who want to make a "statement" hire, most notably with DJ Durkin or some OSU dude (didn't seem to matter which one)...what I can hear them saying is that he was considered at EMU and they picked another guy.  Why do we want EMU's leftovers?

All I can say to that is EMU had its own situation.  After what they went through, they felt they needed a guy who doesn't swear and doesn't let the players swear.  It is a different situation.  Just judge our guy on his own merits and ultimately on his results.

He has only been a head coach for two years.  Obviously, no coach has everything.  It would be nice to see him have a couple more recruiting classes under his belt, no doubt.  I assume we were able to check in how he did recruiting as an assistant at all those schools.  The proof will be in the pudding.

I think this is the right hire for us.  I like the FCS route.  We get good football coaches we can afford, and coaches who are used to making do with less.  Obviously, no one knows the future.  He might succeed, he might not.  Based on what we have seen, it is hard to believe he will fail, but the thing is not done until it is done.

Welcome to the Falcon Family, Dino.  Presser tomorrow at 10.

It is Babers...

Just a quick note with more to follow.  The coach is Dino Babers of Eastern Illinois.  I advised you to keep your eye on the FCS guys.  They have head coaching experience and we can afford them.  And it worked last time.  Anymore, more to come.

Preview! Preview! Pitt Game by Game, Part II

So we restart the game-game review of the Pitt Panthers.  They were 4-2 after 6, and (spoiler alert) they finished 6-6 which means they went 2-4 coming home.  Let's look.

Game 7:  @Navy 21, Pitt 21

Navy ended the season 7-4.  This is one I am sure Pitt would be glad to have back, given they had a lead and Navy lost to UT and WKU.  Pitt was up 21-14 with 8 minutes left in the game and then gave the Midshipmen 10 points in the last 8 minutes and lost the game on a last second field goal.  Pitt had the ball between scores with the game tied, but went 3 and out.

They did a decent job with the Navy option, holding them to 4.7 yards per rush.  The stats were pretty even, with Pitt having the game's only turnover, but I'd say they played them pretty even.  Pitt did struggle to run the ball against Navy.

Tom Savage was 20 of 23 for 202 yards and 2 TDs.

Game 8:  @Georgia Tech 21, Pitt 10

Georgia Tech finished 7-5 for the year.  They did it by putting a pretty big hurt onto the Pitt offensive unit.

Pitt's running backs had 19 yards in 14 carries.  Savage was sacked 5 times for 32 yards.  Taking sacks out, they had only 200 yards of offense to show for 42 passing attempts, which is not going to get it done, especially when you aren't running the ball.

Interestingly, playing Navy and Georgia Tech back to back is like a double play, since they both play the triple option offense.  Pitt did not have the same success with Tech's attack, as they averaged 5.2 yards a rush and decent yards when they did pass.

Even so, the game was close until the last minutes when Georgia Tech scored to ice the game.

Game 9:  @Pitt 28, Notre Dame 21

A win over Notre Dame makes anyone's season, even if this wasn't exactly the Four Horseman.  The game was tie entering the final quarter.  ND threw 2 pics in the quarter, the 2nd of which dumped out Pitt on the ND 5, and from there the Panthers engineered a scoring drive for the winning TD.

Notre Dame outgained Pitt by 101 yards for the game, but had 7.2 yards per play as compared to 4.7 for Pitt.  The Panthers were +3 for the game in turnovers, marking a significant part of the advantage.  ND also had a lot of big passing plays, but overall a low completion percentage.

Ray Vinopal had both INTs for Pitt.

Game 10:  North Carolina 34, @Pitt 27.

This one had to sting pretty bad, too.  The game was tied with about 5 minutes left and Pitt punted and UNC had a 61 yard punt return for the winning score...and it was the 2nd PR TD of the game.

They wasted a 100 yard day by James Conner (with 1 TD), and a 300+ yard game by Savage.  In addition to the poor punt coverage, Pitt hurt themselves with 7 sacks for 86 yards.  For a number of games, they appeared to have this under control, but the Tar Heels had open season on Savage.

On defense, they held UNC to 5.2 yards per play, which is average.  It would only have been 20 points allowed if they had covered punts.

Game 11:  Pittsburgh 17, @Syracuse 16

Bowl eligibility was narrowly achieved as the Panthers took a 17-16 lead and then hung on through a scoreless 4th quarter to get their 6th win.

Syracuse missed a 4th Q FG and stalled out their final drive on the Pitt 36.

Pittsburgh struggled on offense, getting no running game going.  Savage was 28 of 41, but that was for only 213 yards, and with 3 sacks deducting 25 yards, that left them with 193 yards of production on 44 pass plays, which is not very good.

Syracuse outgained Pitt by 68 yards on similar plays, but were unable to convert that into 2 more points.  Oh, and an early blocked XP made a difference.

Game 12: Miami 41, @Pitt 31

This one was probably not as close as it appears.  The U led 31-10 at halftime and Pitt never got the score within 10 points in the 2nd half.

By the end, Pitt had actually outgained Miami, but 2 turnovers to none for the Hurricanes helped to negate that advantage.

They had a big day on the ground, with Bennett gaining 141 yards on 21 carries.  Savage was 24 of 43 for 281, with only 1 sack and 1 INT.

Their early start was caused, according to their coach, a fumble on a kickoff, a blown coverage on defense and some untimely penalties, though they finished with only 4 for the game.


They have not played since November 29.

That's the story.  A couple games they could have won, a couple they could have lost. They certainly appear inconsistent on offense and sack-prone, while their defense had their games in both columns as well.  We will look at the aggregate numbers late as we get closer to the game, but for now this was the narrative of the Pitt season.

Preview! Preview! The Pitt Panthers...Game By Game...Part I

And now, the Little Caesar's Pizza Bowl.

Pizza Pizza.

We will spend the next couple of days learning about our opponent, the 6-6 Pitt Panthers, starting today with a game by game review of their season.

Pre-season, they were picked to finish 5th in the Coastal Division of the ACC....their first season in the new conference.  As it turns out, they finished 6th, with a 3-5 record inside the conference.

Game One:  Florida State 41, @Pitt 13

They had a rough introduction to the ACC, playing the team that ended up being #1 in the country.  Pitt scored the first TD and led 7-0 but then Winston and the rest of the boys outscored them 41-6 the rest of the way.  Winston was 25 of 27 (!) for 356 and 4 TDs and he ran for one too.

Their QB, Tom Savage, made his Pitt debut.  He was is a transfer from Rutgers.  Pitt managed 5.4 yards per play on offense.

Game Two:  @Pitt 49, New Mexico 27.

Pitt blasted a New Mexico team that finished the season 3-9.  Pitt scored on their first eight possessions and led 35-6 at halftime, getting a ridiculous 10.1 yards per play for the game.  The Panthers had 2 rushers over 100 yards (and 2 TDs each) and Savage was 13 of 17, but had 2 picks in those 17 attempts, which is not good.

Game is also notable as New Mexico had 11 players with a rushing attempt.

Game Three:  Pitt 58, @Duke 55

This was a wild one.  Didn't really generate any headlines at the time, since beating Duke is a traditional going back years, but looking back this was a nice win, especially on the road.

This was not an overtime game, by the way.

Savage tied an ACC record with 6 TD passes, 3 to Tyler Boyd.  James Conner had 173 yards rushing.

Pitt allowed Duke 7.7 yards per play.

Game Four: @Pitt 14, Virginia 3

The Pitt offense must have been tired after the previous week, as they only ground out a 14-3 win over Virginia, which finished 0-8 and 2-10.

Pitt scored their 14 points in the first quarter and averaged 3 yards per play for the game.  Their passing game was awful.  Savage was 13 of 31 with 2 picks and he was sack 7 times, meaning of the 38 times they dropped back, 9 times they had a negative result.  When you deduct the sacks, those 38 plays contributed only 122 yards.

The running game was not much better, as James Conner ran for 1.8 yards per carry.

Obviously, the Pitt defense rebounded, holding the Cavs to 2.7 yards per play and no TDs.

Game Five:  @Virginia Tech 19, Pitt 9

Second low scoring game in a row.  Va Tech ended up 8-4, though this program is clearly not what it once was.

The Hokies set the tone for the game with 10 first quarter points and led 16-3 entering the 4th.  Pitt scored a TD with 2 minutes left (down 19-3) and missed the 2xp to create the final score.

Another rough day for the passing game.  Savage was 13 of 28 with no INT but was sacked 8 times.  They only managed 18 non-sack rushing attempts for the game.

On the other side, you have to mention the defense.  Va Tech averaged only 4.4 yards per play and they had no turnovers, so the defense did this strictly getting stops.

Game Six:  @Pitt 35, ODU 24

ODU finished 8-4 with Idaho as their only D1 win, as they are transitioning to FBS football.  This game was uncomfortably close--UNC beat them 80-20 and they lost to Maryland 47-10.  The score in this one was 28-24 heading into the 4th.

They had the opportunity to run and did, with Jacob Bennett getting 240 yards on 30 carries.  Savage passed only 18 times with 11 completions and 104 yards.

Pitt gave up over 300 yards passing to ODU.

More to come

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Bayer to East-West Shrine Bowl

Exciting news for Alex Bayer, who has been invited to play in the East-West Shrine Bowl.  This is a huge honor.  The Shine Bowl is actually the longest-running all-star game and it is a great thing for Alex to be playing.

He was all-MAC for the second consecutive year this year and was second on the BG team with 34 receptions.  He had a career game in the MAC Championship Game, and I'm 100% convinced he will do a great job representing BGSU.  He's been a warrior for the orange and brown.

Congrats, Alex.

Falcons Land New Football Verbal

Yeah, you read that right.  A couple days ago Coach Scheier had tweeted that BG had landed a new verbal, which is highly unusual.  You don't see guys committing to programs that don't have a coach.  I mean, theoretically you should be interested in the school and everything, but most guys want to know who the coach will be.

The young man, as reported in The Blade today, is named Brock Hinkel.  He is a TE, 6'5" and 250, who played at Iowa Western Community College.  He was all-league, had 9 receptions for 155 yards a 1 TD, which doesn't sound like a lot but with his size, there is a good chance he was a more traditional blocking TE.

This school is a serious operation.  He red-shirted, for one thing, and they were the national junior college champions last year.  20 players from last year's team transferred to play FBS ball, and while that was a high number, they transfer multiple guys to D1 every year, consistently.  They were 11-1 this season.

On a football level, this signing is important because BG is graduating its two primary TEs.  There is one TE in the class as constituted today.  Scott Davis (will be R-So) and Logan Larson (will be R-FR) remain on the roster as scholarship players.  Davis saw some snaps this year.  (Met his parents at the Kent game).  Anyway, there's a shot for Hinkel to contribute right away.

Welcome to the Falcons, Brock.

Baseline Report, MAC Championship Edition

So, final post on the MAC Championship.  Here's the story.  On offense, BG had an average run game but lit the field up with big passing plays.  When you can get almost 18 yards per reception after sacks are deducted and you're still completing 78% of your passes, you are going to be difficult to beat.  On defense, NIU made some plays, but BG was able to keep the run game near the league average and overall NIU was unable to get a pass game going--even as they played at a very fast pace.

Monday, December 16, 2013

BG #12 in nation in blocked shots per game

Seems like BG has been blocking a lot of shots far, they are 12th in the nation in blocked shots at 6.7 per game.  Interestingly, that equals out to 2nd in the MAC, as EMU is #3.  St. John's is the #1 team at 9.9 blocks per game.

On an individual basis, Holmes is #12 in the nation as well...with 3.5 blocks per game for the season as a whole. He trails Da'Shonte Riley of EMU in the MAC standings.

For a tempo-free perspective, BG is actually #10 in blocked shot% (taking into account the number of possessions the team has faced--ie, the number of opportunities to block shots).  EMU, which plays at a famously glacial pace, is #2 in the nation on this measure.

ICSTR For MAC Championship Game

OK, so we have fallen a little bit behind schedule.  With the coaching stuff and some basketball.  So a couple mop-up posts on the MAC title game and then we'll spend a few days getting ready for the Pitt Panthers.

BG has now had 13 straight positive games.  Special teams have been very good this year, excelling early with big plays but then also excelling with the little things that do make a big difference.  BG was +3 and NIU -1.  At +3, it was one of BG's 3 lowest ranked games of the year, with no major plays for or against...though the onside kick certainly could have been a different story had it gone the other way. (The whole dumb thing is explained here.)

BG Positive Plays: (+7)
BG KO TB (+1)
NIU KO return <20 (+1)
48 yd net punt (+1)
BG KO TB (+1)
BG KO TB (+1)
52 yd FG (+1)
NIU KO return <20 (+1)

BG Negative plays (-4)
BG KO return <20 (-1)
NIU KOR >35 (-1)
Missed FG inside 40 (-1)
Missed XP (-1)

NIU Positive Plays (+7)
NIU KO TB (+1)
NIU KO TB (+1)
51 yd FG (+1)
45 yd FG (+1)
NIU KOR >35 (+1)
NIU KO TB (+1)
Blocked XP (+1)

NIU Negative Plays (-8)
NIU KO return <20 (-1)
Onside Fail (-3)
Onside Fail (-3)
NIU KO return <20 (-1)

Holmes MAC East Player of the Week

No secret that Richaun Holmes has been playing at a very high level of late and this week he waw awarded the MAC East player of the week for the second straight week.

On the week, Holmes averaged 19 points, on 55 percent shooting from the floor and 78.9 percent shooting from the free throw line, 9.5 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.0 steals and 7.0 blocks per outing.

I think we all had an idea that he was a very talented player, but he has really adapted to the increased minutes he is getting this year. I look forward to seeing how he competes in conference competition.

A little juice for your Monday morning...MAC CHAMPS!!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Falcons Pick Up Road Win, Defeat Morehead

February 6, if you are curious.

That was how long it took BG to pick up its first (and only) road win last year.  This year, it came today, December 15.  It is BG's first non-conference road win since December of 2011, when BG defeated FIU in Miami.

That's something.  I have said this before...I think this team is better than I expected, and even by those low standards, it is something to be pleased about.

Based on the descriptions provided by Todd Walker, much of it was pretty ugly.  Which is long as it is an ugly win.

Here's an halftime, BG had given up 14 turnovers and had committed 12 fouls.  Those are not far off the totals you would expect for an entire game.  With 3 minutes left, MSU was up 35-26, but BG finished the half with a minor +5 run to get the lead to 4, and things were actually in far better shape than BG probably deserved.

BG made two baskets in the first minute and the game was tied.  From there, it bounced back and forth for while, with BG finally taking the lead with about 11 left.  On another modest run, BG took an 8-2 run and lead by 6 with 7 left.  They would, in fact, not trail again, though that was far from the end of the story.

MSU pushed it to 2 a couple times--once answered by an Anthony Henderson trey and once on 2 Richaun Holmes FTs.  Finally, up 2, Holmes hit a jumper to put BG up 4,

On a key possession, MSU missed a 3, got the board and were fouled.  They missed both FTs and then got the rebound again, and Spencer Parker blocked a shot and BG came down and missed but also got the offensive board and then Holmes was fouled and hit both FTs, putting BG up 6 with :52 to play

The drama was not quite over.  Parker missed the front end of a 1-1 and MSU drained a 3 and the deficit was 3 points.  From there, Holmes made 3 out of 4 FTs in the final seconds and the Falcons had the road win.

The game is a tribute to the virtue of being able to make baskets.  Remember, Dr. Naismith had the idea that the object of the game was to put the ball into the peach basket.  Below are the 4 factors, remembering that they move from left to right in order of importance.

See that ridiculous offensive rebounding number?  I cued you to that in the preview...they are really good on the offensive boards.  They had 24 offensive rebounds (46% of the available shots) which resulted in the Eagles taking 25 more shots than BG did...and making one FG less than BG.

BG 23-47.  MSU 22-72.  Wow.

So, BG overcome a poor night with turnovers (and poorer than MSU) and a disasterous rebounding performance to win with FG shooting and FT shooting.  BG had a decent night at the line, shooting nearly 70% and holding a +5 FT advantage.

It is both good shooting and defense.  BG shot 48.9% from the field overall, which is pretty good in any book.  Granted, it was a 2-rich shot selection, as BG attempted only 8 3s...making 5 of them however.

On the other side, MSU shot 31% and 24%, lousy in anyone's book.

You can overestimate the importance of blocking shots.  BG blocked 14 of them...Holmes with 7, Black with 5 and Parker with 2.That ties Holmes' career high and sets one for Black.  I'm usually not a huge fan of blocked shots--I think they are big dramatic plays but a lot of the time the ball just goes out of bounds or gets made anyway.  What you can't estimate is the intimidation value.  Obviously, something worked and BG kept the ball out of the peach basket.

BG played both man and zone.  They spent more time in zone because Coach said he was afraid of foul trouble, but BG's man to man defense was good early in the 2nd half as well.

BG is playing short-handed.  Orr is out for the season and Sealey did not play either.  Richaun Holmes is just having a great stretch...17 points....4 of 10 shooting, which is not great, but he was 8-11 from the line, with 5 boards and 7 blocks.  Spencer Parker had 12 points (5 of 7 shooting) and 6 rebounds.  He continues to struggle with turnovers, but as the coaches work that out, he is a very solid MAC player.

Cam Black had 11 points on 5 of 8 shooting, 12 rebounds and 5 blocks, and held the Eagle big man (Posthumous) to 1-9 shooting.  Boom.

BG's guard play was less effective.  Collectively, Henderson and Clarke shot 8 of 19 but were 4 of 5 from 3.  Henderson finished with 11 and Clarke with 12.  Clarke had 3 assists and 3 turnovers.

So again, for much of the time an ugly effort, but BG worked their way through it and ended up with a road win.  BG is now 5-5 (4-5 in D1) and, as mentioned, is probably better than expected.  That's coming from the front line.  Holmes is playing great, and doesn't seem to get shut down like Calhoun.  Add to that the emergence of Black and Parker, and that's how it is happening.