[For those new to the blog this season, after every televised game, I watch the game back on TiVo, log the plays and grade out the players. It sounds really dorky (and it is) but you really do see a lot more the second time around.]
Matty Ryan looked great. My only complaint was the bad intentional grounding penalty. Other than that his passes looked sharp. His reads were good. He was missing some downfield options early, but made great adjustments as the game moved on. Down field routes that he overlooked early become touchdowns to Challenger and Gonzo later. Despite a gimpy ankle he moved well in the pocket. Overall a very strong performance. He remains my biggest source of hope.
The running backs picked up where they left off...with nothing brilliant. Neither outshined the other. No explosiveness. Their best play were when they had good run blocking. Neither made something happen on their own. Both had drops. Whitworth fumbled. The only real brightspot is that both showed improvements in their blitz pick up and protection. Since we look like we are going to have to pass a lot this season, protection will be important. Palmer was solid. Good receptions and much improved on his overall blocking.
The Receivers and Tight Ends were a pleasant surprise. Gonzo was sure handed as always. Challenger looked good (a good route runner, not great once he has the ball in open field). The freshman worked into the lineup and acquitted themselves well. Many hoped for a breakout game from Robinson. This wasn’t it. But he’ll get better. I loved the Tight Ends working the seem routes over the middle. They won’t run free like that against Clemson, but both Thompson and Purvis will cause matchup problems for the less talented teams on our schedule. My biggest critique of the pass catchers -- dropping catchable balls. By my count they missed on seven good throws.
The offensive line was the most troubling part of the game. First the good. The pass protection was pretty good and they worked well out of the no huddle and out of the shotgun. The problems -- where to begin? First Sheridan and Poles couldn’t block anyone when pulling. Sheridan was either getting blown up our running without purpose. (Get in front of someone!) Their struggles left AC and LV out to dry. Marten looked slow and weak at Left Tackle. If he was having trouble against the MAC, imagine what it is going to be like in conference play. The good news, Beekman moved over to Center at two different times without missing a beat. The most confounding situation:
1. Avenski and Hall both got time on the field.
2. Avenski and Hall played well.
3. Yet we brought back both Poles and Sheridan late in the game. Why?
Either stick it out with Poles and Sheridan or play the guys you think are better. Giving the subs a shot only to yank them out later (despite their solid performance) doesn’t make sense and certainly isn’t fair or morale building. My bet is that Hall is in the starting lineup by BYU.
As for Bible…despite the score and the yardage it was a very uneven game for BC’s Offensive Coordinator. The first touchdown drive was really well called. Our design and play selection for the first three quarter were also strong. I liked going up-tempo, no huddle. I like that the staff has confidence level in Ryan to let him throw downfield. Bible’s game plan went to shit when CMU scored with 8 minutes left and cut the lead to 14. So here’s the scenario:
1. You’re on the road. You have a two touchdown lead with eight minutes remaining.
2. Your QB is over 300 yards and has passed at will.
3. You’ve struggled running the ball and your line has looked much better in pass protection.
4. You need to move the ball, kill some clock and potentially add a few more points.
If you are stubborn and/or foolish you say “let’s run the ball” (even though it hasn’t worked) and dump a few passes to the flats. What happened with that strategy? No first downs. Barely taking a minute off per drive. The play calling was ultra conservative with the game on the line and it nearly cost us. What TOB and Bible need to realize is that with the new clock rules, successful passing can kill chunks of time. Get first downs, keep the ball and move the chains. That will work just as well as run, run, dump, punt. Ryan only threw three passes in the final eight minutes. Terrible. One other thing about the game alarmed me. Coming out of a CMU timeout, BC couldn’t get their play in on time and had to burn a timeout. Fortunately they didn’t end up needing the TOs. It is frustrating watching BC waste them in a tight game. I don’t hate Bible like others, but his late game management is mediocre at best.
No one unit stood out, but each had a few stars and each had guys who seemed lost or under motivated.
The defensive line was a mixed bag. The very first drive Raji and Brace were collapsing the line and causing problems. However, knocking out Brunner and CMU adjustments changed that quickly. The Chips went exclusively spread with short drops and our first team DTs became non-factors. Giles doesn’t have Kiwi’s closing speed, but showed good hustle and understanding of his responsibilities. Larkin was key late in the game, but MIA for the rest of it. The biggest surprise on the second viewing -- how well Willis and, to a slightly lesser extent, Brady Smith played. They were better able to handle the spacing and speed of the CMU spread. Raji didn’t play like a 300-pounder last year. He was a good tackler and had a great motor. Thursday night, he looked slow. And then to make matters worse he lost his cool late and got kicked out. An auspicious start.
The linebackers really let me down. These guys need to carry the team and only some of them showed up on Thursday. Pruitt looked great. He had a solid tackling night and did a real good job pealing off of blocks. Francois didn’t see as much time, but he was also strong. Before the season, I thought Dunbar would be All-ACC. He didn’t make me look very smart Thursday. Yes, he led the team in tackles, but he missed a few and was really out of position on a few plays. Toal took three quarters off and was in a fog. He pulled it together late, thankfully. Akins and McLaughlin looked good in limited time. Toal and Dunbar are the two most talented guys on the defense. They need to play much, much better.
The secondary was a near disaster. In the past against the spread offenses our front seven was so strong that the secondary in turn looked good as well. Thursday was not as impressive. Silva played well, but Bowman was lost in coverage and let people get by him twice. Without Glasper, Silva is going to need to step up and direct traffic. Anam -- great speed, still no game sense and he still thinks tackling is flinging his body at the guy with the ball. How has the coaching staff not reinforced wrapping up after four years? Morris and Tribble played okay. Still too much cushion in match ups where they were favored. Anderson was a non-factor.
I didn’t like Spaz’s gameplan. He was mixing linebacker combos and who was playing with whom and I think it hurt cohesiveness. The three man front was ineffective. The prevent didn’t prevent anything. Goalline defense -- even with two guys over 330 on our side -- saw CMU get a good push. We have a lot to accomplish defensively before Clemson.
Special teams: C+
Ohliger looked good. The miss was a long kick and nearly through. Ayers got good distance but still needs to get the punt off faster. The kick coverage looked great. The kick returns were solid and I think Tribble will break something big this year. But we could never have a flawless special teams outing. How do we not stop the fake field goal? The fumbled punt was sloppy too and, finally, Dunbar losing his cool on the final punt was stupid. Just stupid.
Yeah, I know the grades don’t even out, but this was a bad effort overall. I am still a believer in this team, but there is a lot of work to do before Clemson.