Monday, September 17, 2007

Onto the Conference

Happy Monday, Cougar Nation.

Hope you are all still basking in the glow of the 45-28 who-cares-fest that was Saturday night...Don't know about you all, but watching that game was like putting various body parts in a vice and just tightening, tightening, and tightening......

So, as we head into the conference slate and this weekend's game against CONQUEST, here are a few takes (and please add yours) regarding the upcoming game and conference tilt.

ON OFFENSE: This game is only worth watching because I think it will give us our first real look at how good this offense really is. As Brinkhater has noted, I believe that Wisconsin is a fraud. We also know that SDSU is terrible, and while Idaho's effort was superb, they just aren't very good either...USC clearly is...so it will be a great test for us..

Though stated many o time this year, Brinkhater STILL can't emphasize enough that in order to sniff mediocrity this year, the offense is going to HAVE TO put up a lot of points. My sense is that if we can put up some points against SC on the road, then we can feel pretty good about our chances against the Mildcats in a MUST WIN game the following week.

That noted, in addition to being #1, USC poses an interesting test for us based on Petey's continued use of the two-deep shell. As you all may know, the two-deep shell enables us to run the football with some success if the line is playing well. That said, it also really eliminates our ability to stretch the field vertically. Typically, when we play SC, you'll see the LBs and safeties work in tadem to jam the middle while the corners lay off to jump the short stuff. In other words, this game is REALLY going to be a test for Alex Brink...Brinkhater thinks that if Alex can hit his receivers a little earlier than in games and seasons past--and if we can generate some meaningful yards-after-catch, then that will bode VERY well for the rest of the season. In other words, score points this weekend, and I think we can be confident we'll score all year long...

On DEFENSE, well, I don't even know where to start. Although I am stealing a bit of Sedihawk's take on AOL, the one note from the Spuds game was how incredibly and ridiculously far back our safeties are playing. When you add an absolutely INCOMPETENT group of linebackers and a weak pass rush too boot, you have the recipe for a defense that very well could rank in the bottom 15 nationally. They really could be that bad.

That said, Brinkhater understands why Dobes would want to protect his young corners early, keep the game in front, and play "not to lose." The problem is that everyone is playing so far back that, absent a pass rush, its just pitch and catch with poor run support as well. Thus, we aren't stopping anybody, our d is spending lots of time on the field, and as a result, our offense is not getting enough time on the field.

Thus, this weekend must be the game that is all about PROTECTING THE MIDDLE OF THE FIELD. Doba MUST let his corners loose--even if that means that we get beaten deep 5 times a game. The bottom line: we need to get our offense on the field as much as possible and we need to be able to get some stops down the road...so, we need to go for broke, allow our kids to get beat down the sidelines a few times and let them learn to use their athleticism to recover.

Simply put: It is hard to imagine us giving up less than 35 points against most Pac-10 offenses no matter what we do. But, IF we continue our continued bend, bend, bend, bend, bend, touchdown scheme our offense will not have enough possessions to top that. In fact, our current scheme is so dour, that Brinkhater actually pondered whether or not Saturday night's win might be the last of the year.

So, pay attention to what the middle of the field looks like on Saturday..if you see a bunch of crimson helmets, then I think we will be witnessing the seeds of a potentially respectable campain. If not, LOOK out. It could get really ugly.

Finally: you saw earlier in the month, staff predictions regarding order of finish in the Pac. Now that the conference slate starts this weekend, here's Brinkhater's revised predicitons:

1) SC (Too much of the total package, but really could be challenged with a full slate of Conf games)
2) CAL (Offensive Speed just too much to handle)
3) Oregon (Cal Lite)
4) Arizona State (Denny wins early, but give him time to tear ASU down)
5) Oregon State ( Brinkhater still likes their running game and defense)
6) UCLA ("over-rated")
7) Washington (game versus UCLA this weekend crucial to Dawg season and verse vice-ah)
8) WSU (Safe pick, could go "up" or "down;" Arizona game is EVERYTHING!)
9) Arizona (Brinkhater's darkhorse no more)
10) Stanford (will not be a cupcake late......)

Give us your takes...

And have a great week.

11 comments:

Sedihawk said...

What I couldn't understand is our passive approach against a team like Idaho. We're talking a 100th-or-so ranked team in the country here, and what better place than to try some more creative things on D? Oh well. It's Doba's team and his defense, and he knows his guys better than anyone. If he thinks it's time to leave the young corners on an island and cut loose some fury with the front 7 and the safeties, well, then it'll happen. But methinks we're going to see a ton of 30-yard cushions this Saturday, ala Wisconsin. I think that's the poison Doba would rather ingest, suffering a slow, painful, 7 or 8 play death every possession vs. the 80-yard HR ball down the sidelines.

The other thing that is an issue is our depth behind Chima and Giles is breathtakingly thin. Ryan Kensok, bless his heart, he gets in there and fights....but he's undersized and, quite frankly, undertalented. You know Akey's heart rate accelerated the moment Kensok was in the game, because come on, if anyone knows that's a weakness it's Akey! Anyway, Kensok was beaten badly vs. Idaho, including a PI in the endzone that was both atrocious and sadly predictible, as our good buddy Talarico pointed out right before the play actually happened. Watching Kensok back-peddle was an exercise in choppiness that I don't think I've ever seen before on a division-1 level. AND THIS IS OUR 3rd corner!!??!? Let's hope Chima and Giles can stay healthy, and they are already both battling some nicks right now, because it's all going down the drain in a hurry if they aren't on the field.

I can't disagree with the idea of scoring points, period, to have a shot. But with our wonderful kicking game, it's scoring TOUCHDOWNS, not field goals, that will be the ticket, and the odds are long that as the conference season kicks in, that we'll be so proficient in actually getting into the end zone. Things always seem to tighten up once conference play starts, and everyone is just so familiar with each other's schemes, etc. But that's just more pressure on the offense, to not only have a green defense that is passive, but a kicking game where you hold your breath every single attempt. I wonder when it will be that we just go for it every time we are between the 20 and the 35. FUN stuff eh? :)

One other thing I failed to mention is the stadium itself. The bathrooms are great, and the concourse on our side was at least doubled from last year. You really felt like you could move around without to much crowding, which is cool when you've got a couple of little guys with you. The concessions were fantastic too, very short lines and many more options, so again, very little standing around. The downer though is that Stadium Way is still a construction zone. Not that it's too big a deal, but one big thing is missing and that's the stats scoreboard on that side of the field! We had no idea what any of the stats were without that board, and the jumbtron was so bad that at halftime all they showed initially was first half stats from "UW and WSU", and both sides had nothing but zero's! We did see Jackson had 74 yards rushing at the half, but that was all we saw. When we get our new scoreboard next year, they really need to stay on top of stuff like that, plus they need to give score updates more frequently from around the nation.

Anyway, I believe the most important thing right now is that we're still just 3 games in. It's important to look at the forest, and not just stare at our tree. It's been a wild 3 games for many pac-10 teams, and clearly everyone outside of the top 2 or, maybe, the top 3 of USC, Cal and Oregon right now, have some big issues. UCLA, Arizona, Oregon State, UW, WSU, I mean everyone outside the top 3 have major issues. And wait until teams start getting hit with injuries, which happens to basically everyone. We're simply just finishing the first quarter of a 4-quarter grind, and usually in a game the first quarter is all about feeling out the opponent, getting a read on what is going well and what isn't, etc. Then the adjustments start to happen once everything has settled down, so, I think that's our hope right now. You gotta crawl before you can walk, so let's hope the time for changes is coming on D!

longball said...

UCLA, Arizona and OSU are doing all they can to keep my hopes alive for a decent record in the Pac-10. Those 3 games combined with the wild card, anything can happen Apple Cup, an improving, but beatable Stanford and Oregon and ASU who are always capable of just NOT showing up on a given week... I am still optimistic that our offense can guide us to those 5 wins we need to get our rematch with Wisconsin in the Poland Weedeater Chik'Filet Meineke Muffler Sweet Onion Bowl in Walla Walla, WA. Brink will add the final numbers to his 75 career passing records on Drew Bledsoe's high school field. You can't stop destiny.

JimmyNeutron said...

I think SC continues to pound the ball to see if they can continue to get those, In Pete Carroll's words, "collosal" sized holes that were generated against the Corn.

Once Petey gets his lead then he may try to get his young receivers some work because from what I've seen, Patrick Turner can't catch a beach ball without dropping it, David Ausberry can't get open, and Vidal Hazleton only shows up on occasion. Now one thing they all can do is block down field. They are very good at that.

Defensively, unless the Cougs go to a 3 step drop, Sederick Ellis and company will eat Brink for breakfast lunch and dinner. Whats the over under for rushing yardage for the cougs? 35???

Sedihawk said...

Hey Nerd-Tron, (if you have seen Jimmy Neutron, you'd understand)

I actually think the USC passing game will be the key here, once they get a load of the WSU D on film. The Cougar D drops the safeties and corners back so deep that the area behind the linebackers is just green pasture. Last year SC exploited the WSU linebackers and their lack of underneath coverage skills in a huge way. Remember Steve Smith and his best game ever? Last year against WSU is was a constant stream of linebackers trying to cover him, and it was a disaster. We'll see more of that this week. If Idaho can exploit that early and often, then what will Booty do? In retrospect, the Cougs were lucky they were playing a less talented outfit like Idaho and a QB making his 3rd-ever start. He was very erratic, which you often see with young guns, so he did the WSU D a favor on many occasions. We'll probably see SC jump out big throwing the ball early, and then once they get the big lead it's student body left, student body right, blah, blah blah, all the way home.

But that's why they actually play these games and they don't just blog about them! Anything can happen.

Brinkhater said...

Ha!

You call yourself fat and it's okay...then Jimmy Neutron calls us fat and Brinkhater wants to fight.....

Let's put it this way: if the over under was 35 on the Cougs rushing yards, Brinkhater would put the farm on the over and walk away a millionaire. You look at the last two years and you will see that the Cougs WILL move the ball on Saturday. That really isn't the question.

What is in question is the redzone efficiency of the Cougar offense--which will really come into play because, in Brinkhater's view, speed REALLY starts to kill when the field gets small. And that, in years past, is where Alex Brink really starts to struggle--especially against fast defenses like SC.

But, what is not in question is how just darn pitiful our defense is. That said, I'd love to see SC do the ground game thing early and often. Let us stack the box and watch SC do the 3-4 yard per game thing all night, cuz that is invariably going to lead to some 3 and outs. It sure beats watching the opposition throw for 7-9 yards on every play like we have seen so far this year.

Again: what will be interesting to watch is the yards after catch for us on offense; and the position of our safeties on defense. I'm telling you all, we HAVE TO play the safeties up. We HAVE to.

But the bottom line is that our offense would have to play a perfect game for us to have a chance, and even then, I'm not sure we'd win, cuz given 7-8 chances, I think Romeen would miss an extra point.

Also, not to be too gloomy, but as we look ahead, don't overlook the fact that Arizona had 442 yards passing from Willy in Saturday's loss. It was the TOs that did them in, but they may be starting to hit their stride with that new offense. As many may remember from a couple years back, that N.M. defense is really gimicky and 442 is A LOT of yards against such a defense...

Sedihawk said...

Ditto Brinkhater. WSU ran it well last year against the same cast of characters, and they'll run it again this year. Not suggesting they'll "own" USC on the ground, but the WSU ground game has been strong for the last few years, and I don't see that suddenly changing. But it's all going to be about scoring TD's, something USC just doesn't allow unless they call off the dogs. I mean seriously, a ranked Nebraska team was down 42-10 in the 3rd quarter, in Lincoln. Even though Nebraska is down, you rarely walk into their house and push them around like that. Is Nebraska overrated? Probably. But it takes an elite level to embarrass them like that.

The scariest thing about USC is the many ways they can beat you. Want to get into a shoot-out? Fine, USC has Booty and the biggest set of WR's in the nation, guys that are all bigger and faster than anyone that will be covering them on the WSU D. Want to grind it out between the tackles? Fine, USC can dip into their 9 parade all-americans at running back and have them run you right outta LA. Their offense will be hard enough to hang with. But their defense has, according to Mel Kiper, 5 future first-round NFL draft picks starting for it, TODAY. The level of talent is mind-boggling. You think Ohio State had a good defense? Wait until USC strolls out onto the field this weekend, or next weekend at Husky Stadium and just see what they can do. Now I love the WSU offense, and 90 points and over 1,000 yards on offense the last two games is hard not to like. but Brinkhater is right, to win or even make it interesting WSU will have to be PERFECT on offense. They'll have to mix run and pass at just the right ratio to keep SC honest. Brink will have to be money. The o-line will have to give him time. And the WR's and TE will have to catch everything close. No INT's, no fumbles, no drops and no stupid penalties. Otherwise it could get completely out of hand, and quick.

But, again....that's why they actually play.

longball said...

If a miracle were to happen this weekend, one factor could make a difference is just the emptional intensity of the two teams. I am not ready to concede that Idaho had half the talent on the field that we did, but their intensity, combined with the coug's LACK of intensity made the first half of that game pretty even. If we can catch SC napping, just a bit (these are 18-21 year old KIDS afterall), our offense is good enough and experienced enough to make them pay. If USC is fired up to be back in the coluseum for a Pac-10 opener, then we really have no chance. We just don't have the horses to take away all the things you have to to beat USC. While i don't expect us to shock the world and win this weekend, i do expect to see our guys way, way up for this game. Pac-10 opener, on the road at the #1 team in the land... if they can't get excited about this, i don't expect them to win many games at all.

Still, i can't help but think that Rosey is working up a magic plan to awaken the ghosts of his '88 team that slayed #1 UCLA and Troy Aikman at the Rose Bowl. I will have visions of his TD pass to (was it Stallworth?) as well as the "Catch and the Block" from the '97 game at SC dancing in my head all week.

Anonymous said...

I truly believe that we have the best offense in the PAC-10. I know, ridiculous right? Well, look at the stats. We have the quarterback with the most total offense and passing yards in the PAC-10. Brandon Gibson is number 1 in the conference in recieving yardage and number 2 in receptions. Michael Bumpus is number 1 in receptions and 2 in yardage. We have a solid at worst O-line (minus a sub-par effort vs. Idaho). Our running tandem (especially Tardy) has been superb. Weak scheduling? We played Wisconsin (one CB being pre-season All-American and the other pre-season All-Big 10). The other Pac-10 teams? USC has faced Idaho (and scored less than us) and torched Nebraska who had (or at least appeared to have) a terrible defense. California beat up Tennessee who turned around and surrendered 59 points to Florida. Oregon scored 39 against Michigan (App. State scored 34). Anyone who watched Michigan those games could tell that they stink. By the way, anyone think Stanford could beat Notre Dame? Just asking.

Obviously our defense is the real concern. i know we hate on our secondary now but imagine in a couple years. By the time Chima and Devin are a junior and senior, they will be All-Pac 10 players. Undoubtedly. I'm sure they will grow this year. I really am starting to like Alfonso Jackson and Abdullah has been a started for a while now. Really it is our depth at CB that is worrisome. I agree that Kensok is hard to watch although I still love his heart.

If our defense plays well against USC expect a close game. Anyone remember last years game? #2 USC 28 WSU 22. Final.

notes:
How about our injury report? Some reason for optimism.

Did anyone else notice that Doba put in a different kicker around the third quarter. He's a freshman who might not solve our short-term kicking problems but maybe the long-term issue.

Brinkhater:
mediocre: of moderate or low quality, value, ability, or performance

mediocrity: the quality or state of being mediocre; moderate ability or value

Are you saying we have a chance of "sniffing" low quality or are you getting words mixed-up? Sorry, just bothered me a bit. :)

Brinkhater said...

Anony: Glad I am keeping you up regarding semantics.

If memory serves, I have talked about "sniffing mediocrity" which in my pea brain would refer to being of moderate ability or value within the context of the mighty Pacific-10 conference.

With that in mind, I have believed (and still do) that for us to be a .500 or 7-5 team, our offense would have to be superior. Why? Because our defense is that bad.

Taking Webster out of the equation, it is colloquial that "mediocrity" in sports refers to a middle of the road, .500 outfit. For me, that is our best case scenario. And yes, that makes us "low value." Ask the people at Cougfan.com about their rate of subscriptions following our last two seasons. The answer: not good. Why? Because our value has shrunk considerably.

Out.

Anonymous said...

Anon -
Are you out of your freaking mind? Best offense in the Pac? We played Idaho and SDSU! How about maybe, and I mean MAYBE fifth best.. SC, CAL, ORE, ASU, MAYBE WSU..

There's hope and there's false hope, anything other than us getting drubbed, and Alice Brink crapping his crimson pants all over the coliseum, is false hope.

Brinkhater said...

I think that if one was able to look at each offense in the Pac in isolation, I think a good case could be made that we should be #3. CAL would be #1 on my list based on sheer speed, with SC#2 based on their 8 player depth at RB plus Booty....I actually like the range of weapons that we have more than Oregon, although they looked so fast against FSU, I actually got scared...

The biggest thing, though, is that you can't look at an offense in isolation, because much of their performance, habits, and play-calling is determined by the performance of the defense.

As I suggested on the main post, I am not sure how in holy hell that we can expect our offense to deliver when the D spends so much stinkin time on the field. Without even a marginal ability to get a three and out, the offense is consistently in a position where they have to re-establish tempo nearly every stinkin' possession. When you tack on the need to get 6 every time you touch the ball, well, it gets even tougher.

For me, a "brilliant" game for us against a top flight D and team would be to score touchdowns on 50% of our possessions. If each possession in a game lasts an average of 3 minutes, you are are talking about averaging 5 possessions per half. Over the course of a game, that would mean that we would score on 5 out of 10 possessions--that's 35 points.

But, I wonder if that's realistic given a) the fact that our offense usually has much longer in between possessions and b) the added pressure of HAVING to score poses a potentially significant psychological burden.

Instead, what i think is more realistic is to think that we get six on every third possession (which would still be pretty good), which would give us 21 for the game a la Wisconsin.

Of course, this is a long winded way of saying that in order for the offense to show its mettle on the stat sheet, it needs as many possessions as possible.

And that will be determined by the play of the defense..

Of course, it its 1-2-3 sack all day long--all bets are off...