Hello Followers. Hope you had a great weekend.
As for me, well, after punching the clock for several hours this morning, I had the opportunity to hop on the old treadmill and take in the 60 minute rewind of our 19-6 loss this past Saturday to the Beavs.
For that, and a whole lot less, read on.
Followers, in my brief post on Saturday, I lauded the defense and cursed the offense. And, as I watched the game on replay this morning, my sentiment didn’t change one bit. In fact, in the main, the defense actually played even better than I had thought. Couple of quick thoughts:
The big play which set up their touchdown at the start of the Turd Quarter was the result of blown coverage, not the result of guys getting beat. And truly, when you look at the vast improvement of the Hair Raid over the past couple of weeks, what we’re seeing are guys getting lined up and keeping with their assignments. The result: We actually have a defense that is something other than offensive.
Our safety play in the game was superb. Not only was Buchanan fantastic, but Casey Locker played exceptionally well.
Simmons is getting better every week, while Horton still has a ways to go. Most of the difference between the two appears mental: Simmons looks like he’s attacking the ball, Horton looks like he’s reacting—his weight always seems back. If we can find a way to get Horton back to feeling like he can be a ball-hawker, we will take another MAJOR step forward.
On offense, well, much was made about our line play—how bad it was—and about our receivers’ lack of physicality. But let me tell you something, after watching the receivers principally through the rewind, I came to a slightly different conclusion: Our problems on offense appear to be the direct result of bad quarterback play and bad play-calling/coaching. I’ll start with the playcalling/coaching.
Anyone who has read Mike Leach’s stuff or Chip Brown’s documentation of the Air Raid know the centrality of Leach’s “mesh” concept to his offense. And in case you don’t know (Like me, because I’m dumb), the Mesh play is the one where you see the two inside WR’s cross/pick off each other underneath.
Well, we ran the mesh probably 10 or 11 out of our 51 or so plays and guess what? It NEVER worked. All that play did was jam up the middle of the field, keep the linebackers/spies near the line of scrimmage, while our WRs who were running deep remained gobbled up due to safety help. So, to be clear, whenever we ran that stinking mesh play, there was NO ONE open, and the result was either sacks, throw-aways, incompletions, or 1 yard gains. Simply put, it has been an AWFUL play for us—especially when other teams are dropping 8 guys into coverage.
On the other hand, whenever we ran something other than the mesh play there was ALWAYS a guy or two who was wide open. And when I say WIDE OPEN. I mean WIDE OPEN. And when I’m talking about WIDE OPEN, I’m not referring to the guy who is standing in Albany Oregon when the stadium is in Corvalllis. I’m talking about check downs or second reads where guys literally had no one around them, be it in the flat (a la Halliday’s first INT), down the middle (as in Tuel’s final INT), or the running back flaring to the outside when everyone else is going vertical.
So, to be clear, the options are THERE folks, but our quarterbacks just aren’t making the reads or making them quick enough. And so, while it’s tempting to blast the WRs and/or the offensive line, the bottom line in my book is that our quarterback play is at-best erratic and at worst, well, it’s probably is the worst in the conference to date (Colorado notwithstanding).
And so whether its Halliday or Tuel that gets the snaps this weekend and thereafter, the bottom line is simple: The playcalling needs to be better, more creative, and more adaptive, and the quarterback play needs to be kicked up several notches.
Finally, a few random notes moving forward. First, if we want to gain bowl eligibility the path is really clear: Win the remaining home games and win one of three on the road (probably Utah). So, if anyone out there still is courageous enough to harbor bowl ambitions for this bunch, Saturday is a must win.
Second, the team that is currently ranked #10 in the country…
..won a whopping 3 games last year—the first of which came in Week 5 against Arizona followed by wins against WSU and Washington in weeks 7 and 11, respectively. In all three of those wins, opposing teams were able to mount minimal pressure on a first year starting quarterback, Sean Mannion. And in the other games? Well, whenever Mannion felt pressure, he fell completely apart.
And so, given the news that we can expect to see Mr. Halliday in action this Saturday, we can all prepare for this reality: Young quarterbacks in past-first offenses tend to struggle mightily in their first year. Leach seems content to let those growing pains play themselves out THIS year. And because of that, we can all look toward the rest of the year with some optimism, but also with a heavy wince and potentially a heavy sigh.
"Whoa Mindy, Heavy Sigh"
All for now. Go Cougs.