Sunday, November 30, 2008

Second viewing thoughts and grade report: Maryland

As much as I tried, I had a hard time watching this back with an unbiased eye. I am still very proud of this team for their accomplishments and proud to be part of BC. All that said, this performance wasn’t as perfect as it felt Saturday night. There were some issues and they will need to be addressed next week.

Offense: B

His stats weren’t great and he didn’t provide highlight reel material, but Davis played well. He was more decisive and his passes were much tighter and more on target than last week. His still missed two critical passes that could have been for big plays but overall only had five really bad passes. I also felt he was too quick to give the ball to Harris on the zone option read. The play becomes much less effective if he refuses to keep it. He was at his best when moving the pocket. He also showed the ability to take a snap from under center and take a clean drop (something that has been missing with Crane). At the end of the day, he did what was asked, took advantage of a few big plays and avoided mistakes. That was arguably the second best QB performance of the season (after Crane’s NC State game).

Haden was effective early and is looking much more comfortable in the offense. His acceleration and ability to read a hole is much improved. Harris is tough to bring down and repeatedly made something out of nothing or turned a two yard carry into a six yard carry. The best part is we have a back who can ice the game for us. My one complaint with Harris was his blitz pick up. He left Davis exposed a few times.

The WRs were limited in their involvement. Solid game from Jarvis with a very nice grab on the TD. Gunnell played well. Robinson could have had two more catches but played well. Good blocking from this group too. Purvis was only thrown to once but was very good in his blocking. McMichael saw a pass come his way for the first time and certainly made the most of it.

When people look back on this season they will say that BC overachieved because of the defense. That will only tell part of the story. The reason we’ve had success with raw QBs and true freshmen running backs has been the offensive line. They once again dominated Saturday night. Can you think of one time when Davis didn’t have at least a few seconds? Turner got planted on the turf a few different times. Did it ever happen to our QB? Have there even been any major breakdowns since UNC? The offensive line was nearly perfect Saturday night. The left side of Castonzo and Ramsey were flawless (although Ramsey did get flagged once). Tennant was very good and had clean snaps. The rightside played well too.

Logan designed and called a great game. He established Davis as a credible passing threat early. He struck for big plays when they were there. He grounded the ball when the situation and the line play merited it. But the real credit he deserves is as QB tutor. Davis didn’t dominate but he was ready and looked comfortable. That is because his QB coach and offensive coordinator had him ready.

Defense: B

One of the reasons I started doing this feature was to give some recognition to unsung folks who had strong games. With Raji and Brace earning most of the spotlight (and snaps) this year, there hasn’t been much notice of Scafe. He had another strong night Saturday. Willette played well too in his first extended time in weeks. Newman (who also played on offense) got first line snaps with Ramella, Brace and Raji. He played well. Ramella had a decent game and did well in pass coverage, however, he did have a stupid penalty. Giles was limted. Raji had a monster game in both run stuffing and pass rushing. Brace looked good prior to going down with his injury. Ramsey was good in limited action.

Not much needs to be said about the linebackers. All three were very good. If I am going to get nitpicky, there were a few contain breakdowns and a few missed tackles, but all three had game-changing moments.

The secondary got picked on but they didn’t play as bad as it appeared. Honestly, in many cases they are just doing what they were told. The design of the D allows for a cushion. This is effective when we are getting pressure or facing an errant QB. But I’ll get to the scheme in a minute. As for actual performance, Fletcher had the roughest night of his young career. His man burned us at various times. However, one of the big completions that set up their first score was actually Bowman’s responsibility. Bowman was out of place a few times, but had some nice tackles. Davis was very good. Anderson was less active for the second week in a row. Akins had a few tackling issues. Gause also played way off his assignments but recovered well. Rollins wasn’t as active as last week.

Let me first state that Spaz has done a great job this year and Saturday night the game turned on his defensive stars. That said for the second straight year Maryland accumulated a lot of yardage on us. The most frustrating part of the game was that our blitzes were working. We were flustering Turner or actually sacking him. When we gave him even a little time, he was very accurate and moved the ball. Yet we backed off?! I know in part because we were protecting the lead but it is also in Spaz’s nature as a play caller. Play calling is a bit like rock paper scissors. Sometimes I wish Spaz would just keep throwing rock if it is working instead of backing off because he is trying to keep the other guy off balance. I think this especially holds true if the QB on the other side has proven to be accurate when given time.

Special teams: B-

This is why I find our special teams play so confounding. Punt block has been excellent this year. Our fake punts worked to perfection. Saturday night we ran a beautiful fake field goal. All of those types of plays call for special practice, good coaching and good execution. Yet our kickoff coverage remains poor (and that is being generous). It gave Maryland good field position again on Saturday.

The punting was decent.

Gunnell made good decisions on the punt return.

Kick returns were okay. Harris had decent vision.

The hands team made the right decision on the onsides. But I think Maryland helped by kicking it towards our bench where our coaches could shout instructions, read the bounce and scream “let it go!”

Overall: A

This is where the objectivity of this grading system goes out the window. Despite none of the units having their best performance, this team and staff deserve an A. The did the little things and the big things to win this game. This was a heck of a three game run. Now let’s finish the job next week in Tampa.


Sr.Atlanta said...

Didn't see any media mention that the ACC was 3-1 vs the SEC this weekend.

Go Eagles!

CHI_Eagle said...

Any update on Brace???

Big Jack Krack said...

First of all, thanks ATL for your analysis - we appreciate it very much.

I have a different feeling about our chances in the Championship Game this year than last year - I'm more optimistic. The game in JAX was much closer than the final score would indicate. We had a few glaring problems - injuries (what's new) and an offensive line trying to hold off one of the best defenses in the nation. We gave them some nice gifts. Hopefully, our PK game will not haunt us this year and our O-line should perform much better.

One thing about Virginia Tech - we have to make sure we don't give up a big play at a crucial stage - even in the first half - they will build all of their momentum from such a play. The blocked extra point was the turning point last year in my mind. I think the VT players really raised their game after that play. It happened mid-way through the 2nd quater or later and VT came out and slammed the door shut in the beginning of the 3rd quarter. It's amazing how the Hokies can do that type of stuff and just thrive on it.

I think our coaches and players understand better what they need to do in order to win this game. Hopefully, the VT defense will not be as stiff as it was last year - every little bit helps. A lesser quarterback than Matt Ryan would have been overwhelmed last year. Even though we have freshman running backs, our ground game is better this year - so hopefully we can mix it up better. 'Dre picked up his blocks much better than Hayden and Harris, however - this is a big concern.

It's an awful lot of responsibility for Dominique, but we will have a different game plan this time around. Let's hope our D can keep this thing going and frustrate VT into making a few mistakes.

We mismanaged the clock at the end of the first half last year, and VT took full advantage - can't do that this time.

Last year we were without Brian Toal, B.J. Raji, Ryan Poles, DeJuan Tribble, Alex Albright, Jeff Smith, our long snapper Jack Geiser, PK Billy Bennett, Wes Davis, Marty Bowman and linebackers Dunbar and Pruitt were playing on guts alone, through ankle injuries etc. We still had a chance with 2 minutes to go.

We know we can play even with all of our injuries this year - we're on a winning streak, and we believe.

Go BC - Beat Virginia Tech

Big Jack Krack said...

Brace has a toe injury - one paper said he would be available - another said questionable.

He'll have to play with a lot of pain I think.