My Belated Summary of CSU

Brett RichinsSenior Analyst ISeptember 29, 2009

My Belated Summary of CSU

It’s a long one so bear with me.


Maximus had a decent game fellas.  He threw two interceptions that I’ll touch on later, but let’s look at the positives first.  There were multiple occasions where he scrambled out of the pocket and picked up the first down.  There were also a few occasions in which he scrambled and got sacked.  I wouldn’t mind seeing him throw the ball away a few times when things break down just because of the risk of ball security and injury though.  Nevertheless, even getting sacked a few time as he tucked the ball and tried to run is still a positive in my mind because we saw him go through his progressions, he didn’t like what he saw and made a smart choice in not trying to force things.  Bangarang Maximus!

I loved seeing the naked boot at the goal line.  What a nifty play call.  I really don’t recall us ever running that play in the past 4 years.  Innovation and even trickery keep the defense on it’s toes and honest.

Max has to realize that he doesn’t always have to be the one to make the play.  Don’t get me wrong, everyone likes the player that thinks he can make something out of nothing and can in turn “walk the walk”, but sometimes, other team members need to step up and make plays.  Luckily, the defense was able to make big plays early on and we didn’t have to play from behind.  When Max is playing from behind he puts a lot of weight on his own shoulders to make plays which consequentially turns into TO’s some of the time.

The two interceptions were disheartening.  On one occasion Mckay ran a 10 yard hook and the DB actually made a really good play.  It was decent timing on Max’s part, but he has to place the ball on the outside shoulder.  I’d also say that Mckay has to be aware of where the DB is and adjust his route a bit.  What I mean by this is his (stem)  A stem is the vertical angle at which the WR will run.  If he angles towards the middle of the field slightly, he is stemming inside and visa versa.  If the DB is inside shade (as the safety was) and you as a WR know that you are running a inside hook route, It would be prudent to keep somewhat square with him if you can and stem inside a bit.  This makes it so as the WR comes out of his inside break, the DB has to come over your back to get to the ball as opposed to having an inside angle and breaking in front of the receiver.

The Second INT came because of a miscommunication in body language.  The backs out of the backfield usually have an inside/outside option route or a spot route.   I believe it was Harvey in this case.  I feel he spotted correctly and Max threw to the spot that Harvey would have been had Harvey continued to run.  It’s tough to say who’s at fault here but I’d place it on both of their shoulders and the lack of full speed reps that these two have been getting in practice together due to Harvey’s hammy.

At any rate, I think it’s essential from here on out to win the toss and get ahead early.  Enough of this deferring to the second half malarkey…Those first few drives are critical to our emotional and psychological state as a football team.  And we need to get up on other teams early for the sake of Maximus.

Offensive line looked decent.   Although they didn’t get the push I expected they would against CSU.  I say this because most of Harvey’s longer runs were created by him having to move laterally a few times and making defenders miss rather than heading North/South and making a speed cut up field.  They opened up some running lanes for Unga to strut his stuff though and I’m elated to see Unga returning to form.

I was also glad to see Oneil step up and make some plays and I think the jail break screen to the shiftier more elusive Hafoka proved to be a good move.  He shook two defenders on his way into the endzone.

Let’s touch on the PI call on Mckay.  I know everyone thought it was a bunch of hogwash, but it was a good call.   Two things happened here.  One, Mckay shouldn’t have arm barred and extended so much.  Coach Higgins avidly teaches the arm bar because it works, but he also teaches the WR’s to lean with the shoulder then fade away to the outside.  Austin Collie is a superb example of how to use your body to create separation “legally”….  Number Two, the defensive back kind of flopped.  At any rate, it was a good call, but Mckay needs to be a bit more discrete.

Does anyone else notice my boy Pitta always falling down over the middle as he catches the ball?  It’s actually quite smart of him to do… most of the time.  It saves your body and gives the incoming missle like safeties and lb’s a tough target to lay into.  Max usually keeps the ball low.  That’s a sign of a good quarterback … a quarterback that wants to keep his TE’s and WR healthy.

Let’s talk defense:

If we can keep teams to 3 touchdowns we will win out!  I really think it’s feasible to hold opposing offenses to 21 points.  If we can do this, our high powered offense will keep things close and come out with the win.

The most important part of this game was the turnovers caused by our defense and the blocked punt by Matt Marshall!  Ata Boy Marshall , you’re making a fellow walk on proud.  Look for him to continue to make plays throughout his career.

We were at the right place at the right time.  That’s why you never stop churning the legs, because anything can happen.  Fortunately for us, we had two passes plop into our laps.

Initially you could tell that the coaches had laid into our defensive front because of the lackluster performance on the run game against FSU and the passive nature in which our linebackers played that game.  The first few snaps the linebacking crew was flying down hill like bats out of hell.  CSU completed some boot’s and play action because of this, but it’s effectiveness quickly subsided, due to their inability to run the football (allowing us to be more passive).

Something that I loved seeing in the CSU game that we didn’t see in the FSU game, was the run support that our safeties provided.  Not one time in the entire FSU game did I see a safety meet the running back at 3 to 5 yards from the LOS.  This week we had our quarterback Scottie J back and that made Andrew much more comfortable.  Rich was more aggressive and Scottie’s run/pass reads are always really good.  As I explained last week, the J technique is abhorred by running backs.  They will get lit up when safeties execute it “at a high level”.

In the secondary I was happy with Bradley and his pass coverage.  I’m still down on his run support when he has a closed side tight end to his side (no WR to his side)  we call it a “nag” position.  Coach Hill has made him so worried about getting beat deep that he never flies up to make a solid tackle at or near the line of scrimmage.

I loved the Safety help.  There were a few times that I thought Scottie back pedaled too quickly which opened up a game in our quarters coverage, which in turn lead to 15 to 20 yard post or dig passing plays.  A dig is a horizontal or 90 degree angle at about 8-12 yards as opposed to a diagonal angle which you see on the post route.

A lot of people have been harping on Logan.  This kid is explosive and strong.  Watch him come down hill and toss the WR on his back.  Granted he missed some opened field tackles vs FSU and Tulane, but he is always in position to make a play or make the tackle.  He had 3 PI’s in this game, but each time he was in decent position to make a play.  Everyone is getting on him for not looking and turning his head.

The fact is though, he did not have control of the routes (he did not have his hip on the WR’s hip therefore he did not feel the risk outweighed the benefit of looking.   Instead he just grabbed the WR and got a PI called on him.  If you are gonna PI… PI for the love of pete.. That’s my only advice on that.

Anyways, every once in a while on a fade route that is underthrown you can look early while you do not have the route controlled and the ball will plop in your lap.  But against decent quarterbacks, it’s hard to take that risk as a player.

Due to his lack of height he has to institute what I call the “One Hook” technique So when he finds himself in that uncomfortable situation.. when he does not have the route controlled.  I found this to be effective during my career, especially as I went against taller WR’s or TE’s (which he finds himself going against almost every down).  As you are running with the WR and he has a step or half step on you.  There were two things I would focus on.  First I would focus on his general body language.  I’d glance at the hands, arms and eyes.  It’s difficult to do while sprinting but it’s learnable through watching film and through physical reps.   The WR will always tell you when the ball is actually coming.  The next thing I would do was, as soon as I knew the ball was coming. I would just dive or jump up to his dominate arm or nearest arm to me. and pull down will all my might.  I’d make him catch the ball with one arm, unless your Johnny Harline against weddle….it usually works.  But, there is a risk of getting PI called on you if you don’t time it just right.

Given that Logan will never be able to reach the highest point against these taller receivers, it’s only logical to go to the nearest limb that will disrupt the WR from catching the ball.   Which is a good foot and a half lower than the WR’s outreached hands.  With those yoked out arms of his… it shoudn’t be a problem.

Logan will continue to make plays and he will continue to get beat sometimes.  We must understand that he is still learning and people will continue to pick on him.  He had 6 or 7 post’s and or dig routes completed on him throughout the game.  He gave up two touchdown passes as well.  But, he has a swagger to him and a short memory.  Which are essential ingredients to being a great corner.  I see him bettering his game and becoming a great defensive back by the end of this year and on into the next.

Many people have been pointing out that Jan isn’t what he used to be.  I will candidly tell you that he is actually better than he has ever been.  The last two years have been very frustrating for him because he doesn’t have as many talented pass rushers around him.  The only other decent pass rusher on the team is Coleby.  The fact is, Jan only gets 4 to 5 chances a game to have a true pass rush opportunity.  And out of those 5 this last game, he hurried the quarterback three times people.  That’s pretty dang good.  What you don’t see on film is where they have Jan lined up each play.  They have him playing inside shade most of the game in gap control.  The other factor of note is the inability of our middle backers to pass rush.  Even when we send the middle backers on zone pressures they hardly ever beat their man.   Nor do they disguise their blitzes all that well.  The two years when Jan thrived he had Kehl, Nixon, Jensen, Wagner, Then Kehl, Nixon, Poppinga, and Staffieri/Bauman.   You can also add Ian Dulan, who is a good pass rusher, and Russel before his injury.

Despite all that he has a had a decent year.  And will continue to do a great job in the trenches for us.

Something I would like to see more of from our defensive front is “raking the pocket”.   We don’t emphasize it enough in practice!  When we have opportunities for sacks we need to go after the dang ball.  Sacks don’t do anything for us unless they are on third down.  We need to get the ball on the ground and jump on it.  Romney did a great job of this and hopefully others will follow suite.  Much of it has to do with mental preparation and visualization before the game even begins.

Wow this article has gotten long.  Let me finish it up with special teams.

You may have noticed on kick offs that we are slowly improving.  Part of that has to do with the initial placement of the ball.  For the past few years we have usually called “deep left avoid left”.  We then line up the ball on the left hash and have the kicker kick it into the back left portion of the field.  This creates good tackling angles for the kick off team and minimizes the amount of field the kick return team can use.  The problem with this is that our kickers lose a whole lot of distance and accuracy when they try to put it in the back left portion of the field.  Even Sorenson who has a huge leg struggled sometimes last year with it.  The remedy is to put the ball in the middle of the field (which they have now done) and have the kicker just boot the crud out of it and the kick off team cover down field in their respective lanes.  I think we will continue to see better kick offs with this new initial alignment now changed to the middle of the field.

Sorry for the length.  Tell me what you think and thanks for reading.