I was having a great vacation until I heard the score from the Navy game over the radio. Needless to say, it ruined my day.
I maintain what I have said before—I will support the current regime, just as I have the previous ones. And I will support the future ones, whenever they come to be. In all honesty, this loss should be pinned on the team—not just the players, but the coaches too.
I am not going to engage in the replacement coach discussion and will withhold my opinion until the season is over. With three games (plus a bowl) left, there is still plenty of time for this team to reach its potential.
Splitting the regular season into quarters, they have gone 2-1 (destroy Nevada, lose to an ever-worsening Michigan team, squeak past Michigan State), 2-1 (survive Purdue and Washington, lose to USC), and 2-1 (survive BC, beat a poor Washington State team, lose to Navy). Anyone else notice the trend here?
Do I think that they can win out and finish 10-3?
Do I think this is likely?
No, I figure they lose one more game somewhere along the line. But I will continue to hope for the best.
Here are a few thoughts for the remaining four games:
On the surface, it’s hard to find a lot of fault with the No. six total offense in the country. But when you also rank No. 36 in scoring offense (at just over 30 pts/game) and No. 75 in red zone efficiency, there are some issues to be addressed. Quite simply, when you only score 21 TDs in 40 trips to inside the opponent’s 20-yard-line, something has to change. The running game still struggles in short yardage situations, and the passing game looks too predictable. I have seen a few too many fade passes for my liking.
From an opposing defense’s standpoint, it’s pretty easy to plan for this offense come first and goal. Expect a dive out of the two tight end set, a fade to Tate, Floyd or Rudolph (when healthy), and if one of those don’t work, try them again. What about the quick throw out to the slot receiver, giving a one-on-one match-up to score or a screen pass or two? I like those odds a bit more.
Whether Charlie is back for year six or there is a new horse in town next year, one thing is for certain—there had better be a new defensive coordinator next year. Towards the end of the 2007 season, I would have put money on the fact that by now, Corwin Brown would have a top 30 defense. With the hiring of Tenuta last season and the change in defensive philosophy this year (again), this unit has no identity. The top of the priority list for next year has to be to go out and hire an elite defensive coordinator.
I also think it’s only a matter of time before Corwin Brown gets a head coaching gig at a mid-tier school. He is a young, high energy guy that ADs love. That and let’s face it—no offense, but Mike Haywood got a job (Miami, OH) after the poor offensive showing as the coordinator last year.
I am not sure what the game plan was for the Navy game, but when you play that kind of offense the defensive scheme should be pretty simple—play assignment football. Having finally watched the game last night (yes, I put it off that long), one thing was pretty obvious—there were way too many missed assignments. The defense did a great job gang tackling; only it wasn’t the ball carrier.
Also, this team is pretty thin at the safety position. With one verbal for 2010, let’s hope there is at least one more come signing day.
On Special Teams:
Two missed field goals in a two point loss. Blocked extra points. Poor punting. Regression in kick-off and punt coverage. Somebody help, please. One positive is that David Ruffer has really blossomed as the kick off guy.
I am not going to get into all of this here and now, but one thing I will say is this—how they respond on Saturday night will tell me everything I need to know. I expect them to come out focused and fired up, taking out their frustration on a Pitt team that has moved up the polls simply by attrition. If not, well, I think everyone knows the rest.
On the Notre Dame Stadium:
I am not sure who wrote the article this week (in all honesty I tried to avoid as many as possible), but I agree that playing at ND Stadium is more of a crutch than an advantage. The opposing team comes in fired up because of the history and national coverage, while the Irish intensity just isn’t there. I don’t think it is the same place as it was pre-expansion (for the 1997 season, which also correlates to the recent lack of great head coaches), and the fans are polite and quiet for way too much of the game.
I, for one, am calling out the fans. I will be at the UConn game next weekend and you can guarantee that I will be yelling the whole time and cheering the team on. I think there are way too many wealthy fans that go to the games not to support the team, but as a status symbol. As a Cubs fan, this has happened to Wrigley over the past 10+ years and it has to stop. If you aren’t going to be fired up for the game and walk out at the end hoarse for the next few days, then stay home. Enough is enough.
One final thought—has anyone else watched practice videos this fall? What kind of surface does this team practice on? You guessed it—artificial turf. That, in a nutshell, tells me why they have so many problems playing on the bluegrass come Saturday afternoons.
On the remaining schedule:
Simply, win out (and win out convincingly) and everyone comes back for a title run next year. Lose another one and it will start to erode at the psyche of the team. Maybe they are emotionally exhausted from the toll of playing so many close games through the year. Maybe they just aren’t that good. Either way, this is the toughest three game stretch of the season. Wake up the echoes and shake some of that thunder down over the next three Saturdays. Please.
On possible Bowl Match-ups:
Right now, it looks like a date with Miami (FL) in the Gator Bowl is almost inevitable. Right now, on paper, that would be one of the top five bowl match-ups, and could be a preview of two BCS teams next season.
Then again, lose a couple and they make a short road trip to Detroit to play a MAC team and gear up for that Western Michigan match-up next fall. I don’t see any way to get excited about that one.