Monday, October 04, 2010

Second viewing thoughts and grade report: Notre Dame

The Spaz issue is going to grow, so I will not use this post to discuss how we got here and how to fix it. But I will sprinkle in some thoughts on Spaz as a head coach in my grading. How can I not? We had another horrid performance in a big game and he doesn't seem to have the skills or insight into how to fix it. This is not a second year coach rebuilding a program in his own image. It is a lifelong assistant letting other guys' work fall apart.

After watching the game back, I am even more frustrated. There were some bad breaks and bad calls from the officials, but this game was winnable. The talent difference between the teams is not that big. And in game management could have turned the game at different points. Getting six points off of two turnovers and blowing the last possession of the first half and the first possession of the second half, killed us.

Offense: D

It is too early to declare anything about Rettig. After starting rough, he settled in and looked promising. I hope he recovers quickly, because I would like to see more from him and still think he has great potential. Miike Marscovertra played ok, all things considered. He made some horrible passes, still doesn't have great pocket awareness, but showed enough to let me know we can beat bad teams with hi as QB. He seems okay on the slants. The deep and intermediate stuff is a killer though. He also needs to get rid of the ball faster.

I can't really fault Harris. The other teams are keying on him, so there is not much he could do. Phifer was okay. On the third down play after the second fumble, McCluskey pass blocked on the left while the pressure came from the right. I don't know if he should have been right to help Marsco, but is sure looked like he made a mistake that cost us a TD.

I can see why Matt Millen is confused. With the way most of the WRs played, you would think we would have a tough time beating a flag football team. But this group of WRs is better than nearly any combo BC has had in the last 15 years. They are not all stars but they are good enough to beat a bad Notre Dame team. Saturday night was not their best night. Swigert stepped up, but Lee, Momah, and Coleman all had drops. The TEs were fine and perhaps a little underused.

Notre Dame loaded the box. That was going to put a lot of pressure on the OL regardless of who was the QB. I understand that and good teams have done it to our great OLs in the past. My problem with this line is two fold. The penalties (AC, Spinney and Lapham all got flagged for costly mistakes). The repeated mistakes (when are we going to give Lapham help with speed rushers? Letting delayed blitzers waltz through the middle of the line). I know it is tough to run against a crowded box, but our push is not up to BC standards. I also don't like the shuffling. Claiborne was on the bench, then came in while Cleary sat. In the 4th quarter the left side of the line used second teamers. What's going on? I've said this in other places, so let me put in on record here: this is on Sean Devine. I hear different excuses -- "he's not teaching his system," "it's Tranq's fault," "the talent level has dropped off" etc. Devine may be a great coach shackled by other bad coaches. I don't know. What I do know is that the line has not performed to BC standards or consistently for two years. There is talent there. Regardless of system, Devine needs to get these guys going and performing. The BC OL job is one of the best on staff. We've had great OL coaches in the past and it can be a springboard to better things. We need a better coaching for these guys ASAP.

I am not going to rehash all the gripes about Tranq. I will simply state the obvious and the disappointing. We don't have even five plays that we can execute under any circumstances for positive yards. It is pathetic. The other issue is Tranq's inability to adjust. Notre Dame was stacking the box waiting for use to throw on them. But we couldn't. Simple passes. Short slants. Curls for the TEs. That is a coaching issue. Also, he kept trying things that didn't work -- like screens instead of things that did -- bootlegs. And then there are simple, pop warner level issues. We run the zone-option read consistently. Yet the QB never, ever keeps it to run. That makes the play useless. Don't get me started on the bazooka/wildcat. Notre Dame got killed by Denard Robinson running in space, yet we only Wildcat once and in the first series?!?

Defense: C

I feel for Alex Albright. He's been one of the nice surprises of the season so far (although he did get swallowed up on Crist's TD run). He put decent pressure on Crist. I like Edebali. He is showing good instincts and hustle. Quinn was a little jumpy and didn't do much. Newman was okay. Scafe was good, although they did gut us up the middle with shovels and draws. Newman was fine.

I saw some chipiness from Kuechly early in the game. I don't know what that was all about. Luke was good but missed a few tackles (which is rare) and got blocked out a few times. Millen captured Herzy situation well -- he's still a little stiff, but getting better every week. In pass coverage he seems a step slow. And on his blitzes he almost got there. But he still has great instincts and seems to know where the play is going. KPL wasn't as good as past weeks. He missed some tackles. Devitto saw action but didn't do a whole lot. I remain disappointed we are not doing more with our LB depth. Why not use more 3-4 packages? Or why not rotate more? Kuechly doesn't need to come out, but Herzy and KPL could use some breathers and you never know if one of the backups might make a play.

Donnie Fletcher played well. He wrapped up and did well in coverage. People were blaming Gause but two of those calls against him were bad. Also he didn't get much safety help. Wes Davis -- who I like -- left Gause hanging a few times and also lost Ruddolph on the TD. Noel looked very good. LeGrande was okay. Fox was good.

We actually blitzed a fair amount and when Crist had to scramble his throws were off the mark. Yet we still had trouble getting to him. Also our goaline defense -- usually a strength -- looked lost. As I mentioned, I don't think the safeties did a great job helping out the corners. I don't think the defense is the problem but Saturday night was not their best.

Special Teams: C

The kick off coverage was poor and gave Notre Dame a huge boost in field position. Quigley got a few lucky bounces, but still kicked well. Gause was okay on returns. So is Swigert.

Glad to see Freese nail long FGs. He may end up being our only offensive weapon.

Overall: F
In my post game reactions, I said Spaz was either cowardly or incompetent with how he handled the final possession before the half. He sent a message to everyone in the Stadium that he didn't believe his team could win. He can pass blame to the players and say they screwed up, but he was letting the clock just run. If we score there we enter the half done five and have the ball to start the second half. Despite all the issues, the game wasn't over. The other bad move was going with the second teamers with about 10 minutes left. The comeback would have been a long shot, but Spaz didn't even go hurry up or do anything to get us back in. Whatever lesson he is teaching the team with this stuff is lost. Whatever strategy he is imposing is not a winning one. I won't even get into how flat the team looked to start the game and on the sidelines. This is Notre Dame. In prime time. Most BC teams would need to be calmed down by their head coach. Why was ours so dead?

This is going to be the toughest week of Spaz's coaching career. His fledgling head coaching career is at a crossroads. He needs to rally the team and win or else this year could fall apart.


eagle1331 said...

ATL - do you think the offensive game management mistakes are Spaz, or are the Tranquil? The old(er) man was known for being a boring OC that wasn't willing to take many chances and was known for laying down early in games.

Spaz's D always came out ready to play when he wasn't HC. I think Tranq is the huge problem and we need a very young OC to change it up before we completely lump in on Spaz. Tranquil's boring, uninspiring offense may be rubbing off on the D until they remember they have to win games for us after the 1st quarter of every game.

Gause was the HUGE problem on D this game, in my mind. Two terrible games in a row from him. All three ND TDs in Q1 can be mostly attributed to him giving too much space, blowing coverage, not getting his hands up, etc. After the 3rd TD I couldn't believe he was still in the game.

While this game was awful to have our top recruits at, from a score perspective, hopefully the WR, Linemen, and DBs see the opportunity to play EARLY.

The Big Guy said...

I'd like to hear your opinion ATL on whether Shinskie should of entered the game after is was evident Marscovertra simply could move the ball. I could be mistaken but I believe out of the 10 series he directed until garbage time, there were 7 3 and outs. 9 of the those series ended with a punt and the 10th with an INT. I think your review of Marscovertra isn't harsh enough to reflect this. Yes, I do know some of that falls on Tranq's shoulders but Marscovertra simply is not an ACC QB.

By the 5th series or so, I would have given Shinskie a chance. The game was still within reach at this point. And to recall, last year he almost led us to a win @ ND. Shinskie is far from perfect but he might of given us a small chance at win. Marscovertra gave us none.

eagle1331 said...

The Big Guy -

I think Shinski won't see another down at BC unless injury occurs. Marsco was plagued by drop passes. More than I could count. I don't think Marsco is better than Rettig, but the game was different if we didn't drop so many.

Shinskie had more than enough opportunity to prove himself and failed. As this season looks more and more lost, we have to move on to the future.

People were calling us the Giants in my section.. Clyde Lee was Toomer I believe..

Eddierock said...

What a contrast: One team comes out jacked, ready to go, first 20 plays scripted, playing with passion, discipline and aggression, led by a fully engaged, demanding head coach who is running the game and constantly communictaing his expectations. On the other side, the team comes out "flat" according to Kuechly (Let's ruminate on that little gem for one masochistic minute: playing big time Catholic rival? Check. Playing on national TV? Check. Playing on a Saturday night? Check. Playing at home? Check. Coming off a week where you were shut out and now presumably have something to prove? Check.--And you came out flat? ARE YOU KIDDING ME?), tentative on both sides of the ball, unispired and predictable play calling, with a stonefaced head coach who simply watches from the sideline like a spectator…Wow, tough to watch.

One of my bosses many years ago had a saying he used to describe the hiring decisions of managers: "Just remember, A's hire other A's, B's hire C's". And so there we have it, Gene hired a B (at best) in Spaz, who as his first act as a HC hired a "C" in Nyquil. That is really all you need to know. The rest was predictable. If you wanted to see "A" coaching Saturday night, all you had to do was look across the field at the other sideline.

I was around for those dark days in the late 1970's early 1980's, let's not go back there, Gene.

Andrew said...

Why you still think this group of receivers is one of the best in the last 15 years is beyond me. They proved absolutely nothing before this season and have consistently failed.

Last year we had Gunnell + a deep threat in Larmond. Losing both of these guys left a huge void and I think this is the biggest reason why our offense hasn't even looked one-dimensional this season. Shinskie has taken a step back not because he's playing much worse but because his lack of weapons to has exposed his (significant) weaknesses.

Don't get me wrong- there are many other issues (oline + QB) that are huge issues as well but I just dont understand why you keep hyping these WR's as one of the great groups in BC history when all the evidence points to the opposite.

Defensively, we haven't had a true pass rusher since Kiwi and our secondary isn't talented enough to compensate. Raji + Brace somewhat filled this role even though they were predominantly run stoppers. Albright has been solid but he's not enough.

In summary, I think our issues start and end at skill positions/athletes. We have no receivers, below average QB, no top DB's or pass rushing presence. Unless we significantly change our style of play (very unlikely) I see a lot of issues and I think we will struggle to make a bowl game this season.

mod34b said...

eagle1331 -- I fear that Spaz shares your view of Shinskie ("I'm done with Shinskie no matter how bad the other options are") and will stick with Marsco until Rettig can come back -- which, as is obvious to most, is a big mistake.

We have won with Shinskie before and we can win again.

Hell, I think if Shinskie comes back, he'd be pretty fired up to get a second chance and will tighten up his game and excel. Shinskie will never be an "A" QB, but he can be a solid "B." Marsco is a "D."

mod34b said...

ATL -- Interesting that you defend Gause as not being so bad. He looked bad to me.

While you are right that the 3rd ND TD was not on Gause, but on Fox (really McGovern too), and 2 of the interference calls were bad calls, Gause still seems to be a problem.

It seems that most teams are throwing to whoever Gause is covering. In other words, teams know Gause is the weak link and are going after him. I guess its not all on Gause given how much time opposing QB usually have.

Herzy is not -- quite understandably -- what he used to be. He seems lumbering and a step late throughout the game, whether in coverage, stopping the run, or on blitzes. Too bad. We all hoped for better.

Ramsey's absence was felt. I think he clogs the middle well.

Big Jack Krack said...

I'm not going to say much right now. This is sad, Gene. We are in a quagmire of sh-- until coaching changes are made.

I was at both the VT and ND games as well as the at Clemson game last year. I have now witnessed 3 of the worst offensive performances in my 45 + years of watching BC football.

Was really surprised how easily ND scored 3 TDs.

Rettig brought high hopes and energy to the crowd and his TD pass was great - especially when compared to Shinskie or Marsco.

Once Rettig got hurt, I (and I think everyone) knew that we had NO CHANCE of winning that game or even scoring again. That is sad. You could see the players get more and more deflated. We now have a morale problem on this team because of coaching.

I agree with Big Guy - Shinskie should have entered the game once Rettig got hurt. Marsco is not a D-I QB and should be relegated to the practice squad. Retting, Shinkie and maybe burn Bodner's redshirt. Try Codi Boek or Billy Flutie - Marsco is out.

Spaz needs to make changes - many assistant coaches are in the spotlight.

Tranquill needs to be let go NOW - YESTERDAY. Promote Ryan Day.

What's up with Devine - the effort in the O Line is not acceptable. I think Nyquil is killing him, especially because he quits and doesn't call the play adjustment that are required.

If you are going to run Harris up the middle, let McCluskie block for him.

McGovern is now officially on the suspect/watch list.

mod34b said...

ATL -- You hit the nail on the head with this "[Spaz] sent a message to everyone in the Stadium that he didn't believe his team could win."

So true, and so evidenced by all Spaz's in-game decisions and doofus comments at the half.

Andrew said...

Not many college corners can cover Michael Floyd 1 on 1. I would have maybe liked to try Fletcher on him, but Gause was not as awful as advertised. He got no help and jobbed on a few of those calls.

It needs to be Shinskie, Marsco is awful.

The WRs have promise but had a terrible game and have no QB. Marsco hangs the ball up there and gets them killed.

Won't get into the coaches, but they have to go. All of them.

Doornekamp! said...

A few thoughts -

Shinskie should have been the backup. At the very least, he should have come in after Marsco proved ineffective. If he was benched due to poor performance, then what does it say to leave the other guy in who is doing just as bad as he was (against a far worse defense than Va Tech.) Shinksie's not very good, but he at least has moved the ball on occasion in his career. I think the reason he was benched wasn't because he can't play as much as that he makes incredibly poor decisions in big situations, especially in the red zone. Clearly the decision to start Rettig was a good one. But in this kind of game, where we were playing from behind and when Rettig was injured, we needed to take some risks. I think Shinskie had a much better chance of directing multiple scoring drives than Marsco. There were bad coaching decisions throughout this game, but I would say the failure to insert Shinskie was the worst. It demonstrated Spaz's inability to adjust to the situation at hand. He went into the game with Marsco as backup, and he wasn't going to change.

Another thing - the pass interference in the end zone was an incredibly poor call by the ref that pretty much ended our chances.

Finally, watching Kelly yelling at his players while Spaz did nothing of the sort was an interesting thing to see, given who was winning and who was losing the entire game. ND was quoted in the papers all week talking about playing with urgency and as if was life-or-death. They sure played like it.

Kevin Schohl said...

Thank goodness the rivalry was extended... If this were the last game between these two teams for a decade, would have really ended on a sour note.

Erik said...

I didn't observe any individual performances on the O-Line while watching, but I can imagine Castonzo is losing money each game he plays. Luckily for him he's smart.

Erik said...

Looking to the next two weeks, our away record has been poor, and even worse on grass.

I'd be thrilled going 1-1 here.

mod34b said...

Shinskie's stats compare well to the big names in the division -- he is not that bad! Imagine if he gains a little more confidence! Also note Marsco's very high sacked to attempts #s.

Shinskie QBr 123.1; 39/72 (54.2%) for 529 yards; 4 TD 4 Int, sacked 2

Marsco QBr 102.5; 30/50 (60%) for 285 yards; 1 TD; 3 Int; sacked 8

Wilson QBr 140.3 106/191 (55%) for 1474 yards; 14 TD 4 int; sacked 12

Ponder QBr 131.2 78/129 (60%) for 844 yards; 8 TD 3 int; sacked 11

Parker QBr 124.3 49/93 (52%) for 652 yards; 6 TD 4 Int; sacked 6

John said...

Can you believe we were favored by 2 points by the Vegas experts. ND has lost, barely, to some pretty good teams this year while we had beaten the Little Sisters of the Poor twice.
What were the oddsmakers thinking?

mod10aeagle said...

My initial impression of Kelly's ranting on the sideline was that he was an asshole. That still may be correct, but after a while I realized that what he was really doing was letting each player know that he has high expectations of them on every single play, no matter the outcome of the play. He's watching your performance, and he's going to nail your ass if you screw up. Not because he's an asshole, but because he knows you can do better. I think that gives a player a certain clarity of focus on every play.

On the other hand, I don't remember ever seeing Spaz, or any of his assistants, chew anybody out on the sideline. Sure, it's not everything, but I think it's something.

campy said...

What were the oddsmakers thinking?

You do realize that oddsmakers aren't trying to predict the outcome, right? All they care about is getting equal $ bet on both teams.