I will keep blogging and certainly keep rooting, but I will not hold out hope for something more. It is just easier that way.
Now onto the grades. (Due to the move, I didn’t get a chance to watch the game twice.)
The rough night started with Ryan. As I’ve been saying, he is having problems with the touch passes to the flats. He also threw an ugly floater on the INT. He seemed confused all night (running more than ever, throwing into traffic, etc). He even missed deep opportunities on his scrambles (which is unlike him). When he had time in the pocket and was throwing darts (like on the first TD drive) or when he was pumping to Challenger, he looked good. Everything else, not so much. I think the coaches need to look at this game film and start trying to tailor things to what he does well (pocket passing) and forget these touch passes and the friggin’ option.
We wasted the best performance of the season from the running backs. Both LV and AC played really well. They hit their holes, read their blocks and ran with more authority than I’ve seen all year. Unfortunately neither is a game breaker. Both had moments where they were one move away from breaking a long one but couldn’t take advantage. They just don’t have that raw speed or allusiveness to breakaway.
The receivers -- not much to talk about here. We only complete 13 passes and four of those were to the backs. Robinson looked quick until he was knocked out. He did run short of first down marker on a crucial 3rd down, but he’ll learn. Challenger and Ryan are clearly in tune with one another. Gonzo’s TD was very pretty. I think the problem with this game and with these two as our leads, is that neither is big or fast enough to cause mismatch problems against a team like NC State. Ryan was flustered by the coverage and hence, fewer passes and less guys involved. I don’t know why we haven’t gone to the Tight Ends more in crossing routes or in posts. I would think that is one area where we can create favorable matchups (as Ed Cunningham pointed out, the TE route opened up the path for Gonzo’s TD).
The line was inconsistent. Perhaps their best run blocking effort of the year, but they also had some brutal collapses periodically. Beekman struggled. Poles had some ole’s. Avenski played well. Marten and Cherilus both looked good. Most of our running success was off tackle.
The play calling was not very good. I can’t figure Bible out. The scoring drives were great. But he’d screw up these other drives with all sorts of random stuff (the option?) or with plays that Ryan has struggled with. Also, and this is where I sound like I am never happy, but what is with the bomb to Gonzo that turned into an INT? Yes it was a bad pass, but he doesn’t have the speed to breakaway on something like that. And I don’t know if that is the type of play we need right there. We are moving the ball. The offense is clicking, why go high risk right then? The return of the deep ball has been an added bonus this year, but I would still like to see it used wisely. The other thing that drove me nuts about TOB/Bible’s call – the two point conversion. One, how can you not have the right people out there? Don’t you practice that all year? Two, we are running the ball very well at that point, why not go First and Toal or maybe even a draw with AC. Obviously the miss attempted proved costly.
Before I get into the units, let me say the tackling was atrocious. The usual culprits like Anam had plenty of misses, but guys like Razzie Smith, Brady Smith, Anderson, Albright, Pruitt, Dunbar and Morris all had their share of whiffs.
Defensive line was another letdown. I am so disappointed in B.J. Raji. NC State showed us the type of havoc a big, quick DT can do. Raji can play at the same level Tank Tyler. Tyler lost All-American teammates. Tyler is the focal point of blocking schemes, yet he still made a difference. Raji did not. The other guys played hard, but the only time Giles and Larkin made tackles were when Akins forced Evans in their direction. Willis was quiet.
Akins was the MVP. With him as the quasi-DE/rushing LB, we were able to generate a pass rush. Evans was flustered most of the night and didn’t convert a 3rd down until late in the game. Dunbar was solid. Pruitt was pretty good. Toal and Fracois were quiet. McLaughlin looked good in his time out there.
The secondary was a mixed bag. Some great plays – especially Davis breaking up a huge play, and Tribble made a great grab late (that should have won the game). Then there were some awful tackles: Smith, Anam, Morris, Anderson. And horrendous coverage. We let their guys get out of bounds. We let their guys out jump us. We let them break tackles. Breaking up anyone of those big plays would’ve won the game.
The poor tackling is on Spaz. It is a hallmark of his defense and there is no excuse for it at this point in his tenure. He called a pretty good game until the final drive. I thought we should have blitzed more throughout the game. Any time Evans had pressure he rushed his throws. So what do we do with the game on the line? Leave him alone and allow him to move the ball on our soft zone. Terrible. Cowardly.
Special Teams: D+
Ayers had a great game and is continuing a strong season. He also bailed out Geiser on two high snaps.
The punt coverage and kick coverage was pretty good, with the exception of Anam’s boneheaded play.
Smith had one nice return and wasn’t much of a factor beyond that.
So why the low grade? Because it is unacceptable to have a kicker that can’t make an extra point. TOB has been sending Ohliger out there for three years. At what point does he learn or make some sort of change. He says things like “Jerry Petercuskie is working with him.” Well let me ask: “how’s that working for you?” This is beyond sad at this point. But the buck stops with TOB. What amazes me about his consistent special teams ineptness, is that for years he’s watched Frank Beamer change games with good special teams, yet never once thought to emulate that. Stubborn and stupid.
The team probably deserves a C, but the coaching brings it down. What a shame. We outplayed them but still lost. This is how Clemson and BYU must have felt.