Second viewing thoughts and grade report: Boise State
Watching this game for a second time was as confusing as the first viewing. The game never should have been as close as it was, yet how were we ahead with poor games from Trueblood, Marten, Silva, Tribble, Brown, and Miller? The coordinators called a good game for the most part, yet still did some questionable things. As I said yesterday, the thing that made it interesting was our specials teams. Here are my thoughts on each unit.
I usually start with the offensive line in these evaluations. Usually it is all good news. In this game it wasn’t. The pass blocking was very good. Ryan had time to throw throughout most of the game. The run blocking was a mixed bag. Beekman and Cherilus played well. Ross played well too (aside from the bad snap). Trueblood and Marten did not. They both had a few ole blocks and did not clear out there men when pulling. I don’t know if it was because they were too slow for the smaller Boise guys or just tired, but their so so efforts killed some runs.
Miller and the other Tight Ends were non-factors. Miller let his man break free and tackle Whitworth on one early run. We did go with two tight end formations more than we normally do but it was all for the protection (which Purvis and Thompson looked good blocking).
The receivers were probably the best part of the offense. Blackmon was a man among boys in the open field. Will had mercurial career at the Heights. I am glad it all came together in this game. His instincts and ability to avoid tackles on his screen was Bush-like. Lester left his drops behind him. Once again, I am glad he went out strong. Gonzo -- great hands and routes on the TDs. I hope he has a big year next season.
The running backs provided their usual frustration. Neither broke anything long and had trouble making the initial tackler miss. I will give credit to Callender for making some key clock-killing runs in the fourth quarter. But Boise St. did everything to stop the run with a loaded box. (BSU’s scheme was actually pretty good in the second half. They loaded the box. If it was a run they aggressively crashed the gaps. Once they read pass, they dropped five and rushed three.) Both backs didn’t get much help on some of the blocking from the o-line. We also went away from the “I”…so they were hitting the holes without their lead blockers. Speaking of lead blockers, Mark Palmer played well. The way we used him reminded me of the Clemson game. We would leave him in there presumably to get BSU thinking run and then would send him out to the slot, or lined as a second Tight End. Glad to see him healthy, out of the doghouse and playing well.
Ryan’s numbers mixed, but I really thought he played well. His decision making was very good. His deep balls were great considering the weather. I felt he was only really off on six passes. He ran when he should have. He stayed cool on the bobbled snap. The INT was a bad call, but he got lucky on some other plays, so that evened out. The only thing I would have liked is for him to run more late in the game. BSU started dropping eight guys and no one was open. Matt continued to look pass when slideing for a two-yard gain would have kept the clocks moving. Matt has things to work on in the offseason, but he continues to do what he needs to do to win.
Bible called a good game. Other might doubt it, but look at the game logs and tell me which call he should take back. Boise showed how quickly they can score, so I don’t think we should have started killing clock earlier. Hell, I loved seeing us continue to go deep. The Hail Mary to Blackmon before the half was so un-BCish and so great. My only gripe with the passing in the second half was going max-protect. It protected Ryan but gave him no options on his throws. This is where play calling becomes a guessing game. Bible protected his QB and went with conservative passing while up 20. BSU, instead of pressuring, guessed correctly and dropped guys into coverage. As I said earlier, the Broncos did this all while effectively stopping the run with a loaded box. Both sides made adjustments…BSU’s were better. But overall Bible did well.
This unit held one of the most explosive offenses in football to two touchdowns on their home field. But the day was not perfect.
I felt for Kiwi. He had a roller coaster season and he went out with a ho-hum game. He saw a variety of looks and seemed just a step too late the whole day. He still deserves credit for pursuing and for freeing up his linemates. Washington had a solid effort. Raji once again disrupted their running game. The big surprise was Larkin. He made some key tackles and showed the ability to fight through blocks and continue pursuit. He probably had his best game of the season…very encouraging for next season. One of the reasons I think the intensity of this group waivered in the second half is that the second unit was ineffective. Because Brace, Ramella, and Willis were only given spot duty, the starters played more than usual. The young ones have been very good this season, not sure why they had so much trouble Wednesday. The backups couldn’t get much penetration and were pulled quickly.
Henderson saved his best for last. The return was really heads up. He did a great job reading and reacting to the run. The only thing keeping it from a perfect game was not coming up with the INT on the final drive. Ricky Brown did not play as well. He got lost with the misdirection early and never got back on track. Dunbar was great. Yes, he got a stupid unsportsmanlike penalty, but the guy was all over the field. Toal was only in for part of the game and got pushed around on one key play. Pruitt also overreacted to the misdirection during his downs.
Williams had a great game (his tackle on Boise’s first fourth down was a key play from the first half). His counterpart did not. Tribble got picked on and was missing tackles. He also was beat of two deep plays…one for a TD and the other that put BSU on the 10. Silva also had a rough game. He is a great run supporter, but was lost in coverage more than once in this game. One example was right before Boise’s second TD. Zabransky play faked and had a man wide open in the end zone. Of course he overthrew him, but the receiver was Silva’s responsibility. You could even see Glasper correct Jamie after the play. Glasper shouldn’t have been pointed too many fingers since he should have helped Tribble on the first TD. Ryan made up for it with two picks. Anam had one of his better games. (I wonder if they will consider moving him to corner next year?)
Spaz had the team prepared and like I said, he held one of the best defenses in the country to two touchdowns. I think his plan was somewhat hurt by the young guys struggling. I was also disappointed to see senior guys like Brown bite on the misdirection (this surely was a pregame focus). The vanilla scheme was working for most of the game. We only blitzed once in the first half and were often dropping lineman into coverage and sending three. We only went to the blitz late in the game and it worked. It flustered Zabransky and helped keep them from scoring. Because it was so effective, it made me wonder: why didn’t we go to it more often and earlier in the game? I understand and even called for a conservative gameplan against a unique offense. Who knows? We won…but the successful blitzing late left me wondering if we could have completely shut them down with continued pressure.
Special teams: C-
First the good. Williams made some great plays as the gunner. Ohliger kicked without problems. Ayers booted some beauties.
The bad. Obviously the punt return for TD. Here is what I cannot figure out…on the return, Tribble, Silva, Dunbar, Glasper, Pruitt and Ayers all missed tackles. These guys are some of our smartest, most instinctive players. What happens on returns? Hell, Dunbar is usually crashing into anything that moves, yet with the game in question he was lackadaisical on this punt return. Are the coaches telling him to be patient? Are they telling him to maintain his lane to the extreme? Was it just a one-time unit meltdown? I don’t know. But I do know that it keeps happening. The players change. The opponents change. Yet we continue to allow big plays. I don’t know the solution because I don’t have access to the instructions. That return made this game closer than it should have been. When will we fix this?
The other thing that turned into a near choke were our returns in the second half. Will fumbled a punt (thank god for Jazzmen paying attention). Tribble and Blackmon both bobbled the wet balls on kick returns. They were probably pressing and the weather was bad. But this has happened in the past too. I think the time has come for a “hands” return man for when the weather is bad or when the game is tight. Sure it might take away the big play, but maybe someone like Toal wouldn’t get butterflies late in a close game. I don’t know who to use, but think a “hands” return man in tight situations is a valid solution.
If you had told me the score before the game I probably would have been okay with it. But the way it played out left a bad taste in my mouth. I am happy that the Seniors went out with a win, but this game should never have been as close as it was. Regardless, it certainly beats losing.