Happy Saturday Cougs, and once again a huge tip of the hat to those waving the flag at ESPN Gameday! Ol Crimson has a Twitter account by the way, which you can check out here. See, even after a rough night in Provo and all that came with it, the show must go on!
Like many of you, we here at the blog have been going back and forth as to what we saw unfold on Thursday. Longball was at the game and weighed in on his thoughts on email yesterday, where he came away seriously questioning the offensive game plan as a whole (as in, what were they doing??). But for the most part, I think we are all in agreement that it was a heck of a disappointment, and next Saturday can't get here fast enough to help wash this feeling away!
One thing that I came away from Thursday night is that initially I felt the offensive line didn't do that great of a job. Tuel took a lot of shots, and seemed to be running for his life. But then yesterday many of you in comments said that you believed the O-line did in fact do a good job, and that Tuel just held the ball too long. Well, I went back and watched some of our offensive possessions again, and to be fair I the perception I had wasn't really right after all, but then I think we are both right - in the first half anyway, the offensive line did in fact do a good job in giving Tuel and the offense time to set up and do his thing. He took some hits and scrambled around a little bit, but for the most part he had what appeared to be enough time to get it done, but it just didn't happen. Why that happened, who knows, I mean it could be a breakdown of many things - the WR's and QB weren't on the same page, BYU did a great job of disguising things and maybe the offense just wasn't expecting to see so many blue shirts in coverage? Whatever the case may be, it just didn't happen.
But the second half was a different story for the O-line, as BYU was able to do the old "pin their ears back" up front and really attack rushing the passer, and Tuel took many more shots with a lot less time to set up and throw. But the score was getting out of hand at that point, it was obvious we were going to throw it to try and get back into it, and they could cut it loose up front. But the area that just didn't work at any point was the running game, which I know isn't exactly breaking news! Even with BYU dropping at least 7 into coverage, taking up a lot of space, they were still able to completely shut down any attempt at running the ball. They did a great job with their 3-man front, and also having the extra "spy" linebacker sitting behind the line, waiting to see if there would be a draw play or run of some kind. If we ran it, the LB filled things up fantastically and we never got untracked. If it was a pass, the spy would either rush the passer in a delay blitz type thing, or drop into coverage. The running plays just looked slow to develop I guess, where either the backs weren't hitting it hard enough aside from a few rushing attempts, or the O-line wasn't firing off well enough? I don't know, but it just wasn't pretty. But it has to be said that it was a great job by BYU though, their defense was absolutely ready for everything we were going to do.
One other thing to think about however, is the criticism of Tuel and the passing game overall. Yes, it was ugly, the numbers bear that out. But there has been this idea that the Cougs are absolutely "loaded" with big-time skill guys, like we have five Marquess Wilson's running around and we should be virtually unstoppable through the air.....but is that actually true? Sure, there's talented kids out there, we've all seen the scrimmages and highlights and all that. But aside from Wilson, all I know is that there are a lot of frosh and sophomore's on the 2-deep in the skill positions, and the depth chart is filled with guys who really haven't done anything in an actual FOOTBALL GAME coming in to 2012.
For example, Marquess Wilson is back and should have a great year. Take away those holding calls on Thursday night, he's over 100 yards receiving on Thursday with one amazing TD catch. But when we look back to last year and see a top-10 passing attack, do we realize what we actually LOST from that team? Aside from Marshall Lobbestael, who was a servicable backup QB who did what he could, we lost Jared Karstetter and Isiah Barton from the WR position. Both starters with Wilson from last year, and they helped create a strong passing attack that could beat you with size and decent speed.
But subtracting Karstetter and Barton from last year's team, you are removing 109 catches, 1338 yards and 11 TD's from just those two guys alone. Karstetter had been a mainstay in the passing game since the 2008 Apple Cup, and Barton had a solid year last year as a starter and contributed perfectly as the third guy behind Wilson and Karstetter (49 catches, 638 yards, 5 TD's, plus led the team in all-purpose yards when you add in his kickoff return yardage).
But look at the replacements, and think about how young and extremely inexperienced these guys really are:
Kristoff Williams (2 career starts)
Henry Eaddy (1 start)
Dominique Williams (0 starts, redshirt last year)
Gabe Marks (true frosh, now 1 career start after Thursday)
Andrei Lintz (might be a senior, but just 8 career starts, and first-ever at WR on Thursday)
Rickey Galvin (6 career starts, all at running back, and his first-ever game action at WR on Thursday)
Bobby Ratliff (4 career starts)
Gino Simone (12 career starts over 3 years, zero starts from last year)
Brett Bartolone (0 starts, frosh)
Yeah, we heard a lot about how deep and talented these guys looked.....from practices and scrimmages. We're not talking about games, we're talking about practice! But what have they really done on gameday??
Now take all these guys who don't have a lot of game experience or success, and then add in a brand new head coach with a completely different scheme, a scheme predicated on the QB and the WR's reading coverages and adjusting routes accordingly and doing it without hesitation.
And then open up the season on the road on ESPN in a hostile environment, with a well-coached defensive team in BYU. A BYU team that some beat writers who have been following them for years were saying last week that this might be the best defense Bronco Mendenhall has ever had in Provo, a roster stocked with older, stronger players than anything WSU has seen since last season anyway (Cal's 3-4 defense might be the closest thing to what they saw on Thursday?).
Should we really be all that surprised that they didn't go out and play great right out of the box!?!?
I sure ate up the offseason hype on the skill guys, and brushed off the loss of Karstetter and Barton. And maybe over a full season in 2012, some of these youngsters like Marks or Williams or Ratliff will really emerge to help take the heat off of Wilson in the passing game. But they just aren't there yet.
Anyway, I'm as disappointed as you are in all this, but it is just one flippin' game. Let's see how it all shakes out and not start calling this a 3-win team just yet. Next week is just another chance to turn it all around. This one is now out of the way, the opening-game "YIPS" are history, and it's time to move forward. And I still contend that they have a legit shot at getting to 3-1 heading into the Oregon game, and hopefully this opening performance will be long in the rear-view by then.
All for now. Enjoy college football Saturday, and of course, GO COUGS!