Second viewing thoughts and grade report: Florida State
I don't know how things were where you watched, but pacing returned to the ATLeagle house this weekend. That is a good thing. It was nice to have game that was still in doubt in the 4th quarter. But we are well beyond moral victories and need to play better. I also hated watching Florida State eat eight minutes of clock to put the game away, especially after we killed clock on them the past two years. There were lots of positive notes and accolades to go around, but the big story is what Rettig didn't do. He didn't force many bad passes. That is a good sign for a QB. I don't know how fast he will mature and if he can save the season, but I think we can all agree the right QB is finally playing.
As I mentioned Rettig was poised. Even on the second play of offense he and Harris had some sort of miscommunication and he took the sack. It was a bit of a drive killer but a turnover would have been worse. And as the game progressed he started to buy a little time (the long pass to Swigert). His throws weren't bad in general. He missed a few open guys but overall showed good decision making and decent accuracy against one of the better defenses will will face this year. It is still way too early to tell much about his future but I do think he showed glimpses of competence. He also needs to throw more of those intermediate balls over the middle. They were there and he has the accuracy. And he and Tranq need to let him run once or twice a game on those zone-option plays. They are wide open for him to get positive runs and will help Montel overall.
I can't believe that some people are getting on Harris for getting caught from behind. The guy carried the team on Saturday and had his best game in weeks. Aside from the long runs, he had some tough carries where he pushed for extra yards. He also did a good job in pass protection. Phifer dropped a catchable ball. Williams had a nice run. We used less I-formation so McCluskey wasn't on the field as often.
While others have been calling our WRs mediocre, I've been one of the few claiming they are a deep and talented group. This game didn't help my argument. Florida State's defense is good, but I think the WRs could have done more. Sharper breaks. Adjusting a route. Coming back to the ball. All the little things that might have helped Rettig. Momah had two different redzone passes that he should have come back for. Swigert was okay and probably did the best job of creating space. Phillips looked okay in limited action. Pantale was good and needs to be one of Rettig's main targets. Anderson was okay when running routes but he had a rough day blocking. There were a few different plays when Anderson either got blown up or beat by FSU LBs and DBs.
Due to injuries this was our offensive line for most of the game (LT-Castonzo, LG-Cleary, C-Spinney, RG-Claiborne, RT-Lapham). That should probably be our lineup going forward. They played better than they have in weeks. They got good push. They got to the second level. The tackles still had trouble in pass protection but did well enough to give Rettig a little time. Claiborne had a stupid penalty but he was crisper than he's been. I expected more holding calls with their pass rush, but our guys did a good job. Spaz has talked a lot about the Center change having huge impact. Not to slight Richman, but maybe Spinney should keep the spot and shuffle Richman back to G.
I appreciated the simplicity of the game plan. We played to our strengths (not much I). We used the zone option and the stretch runs where he can pick his hole. We also gave Rettig many safe plays. Yet we also had a few new wrinkles (like the Pistol). As for in game management, I didn't mind sticking with the run. I've been calling for ultra conservative gameplans for weeks and it worked for the most part. My problem though is in adjustments. Florida State started crashing down on the runs and we didn't really counter. They also jammed our WRs and we didn't run many combos or routes that might get the a little space. And our redzone play calling remains really ineffective. Why not have Rettig roll a bit or play fake?
Albright's comeback continued (although he faded a bit in the second half). Ramsey was good. O'Neal was good. Newman was active (and solid on special teams). The real surprise was Edebali. He chased down Ponder and showed good contain. Holloway was okay, but he lost contain on FSU's big reverse on the final drive. Quinn is hustling but didn't make a big impact.
Kuechly played really well -- although he bit on the play action again. KPL also let his man run free on FSU's first TD, while he tried to close on Ponder. I understand that both of these guys are fast and aggressive, but they need to be bit careful on those sorts of pass plays. Herzy is still making an impact. Aside from the tip there were a few other balls he forced bad throws on. I actually like the idea of him ruining a QB's line of sight and think it will produce more opportunities as we face bad QBs. Morrissey played a bit and missed a tackle. Devitto didn't see much time. Clancy and Thompson were playing on special teams again but not much live action.
The DBs were outstanding. Davis was good in run support and didn't allow any big plays. Gause had some nice tackles, but the game belonged to Fletcher and Noel. Fletcher was in Ponder's head most of the game, because he was reading those short outs very well. His INT was a great one on one play. Noel made some big hits and obviously had great instincts on the turnovers.
For years we complained about our vanilla scheme. That is changing a bit this year. We had numerous sets with just three down linemen with Albright and Herzy in two point stances on the ends. Sometimes they would both rush. Sometimes one would drop into coverage. It kept FSU off set and force Ponder into bad passes. We also played our normal zone behind it and made some plays there. My biggest frustration with the defense came when we couldn't stop them in the fourth quarter. As a DC, you've got to try something high risk and hope for the best.
Special Teams: C-
I criticized Momah earlier, but he was very good on special teams and made multiple plays on our short kickoffs.
Gause has guts and isn't fair catchig everything...just wish he was more elusive.
Quigley had an inconsistent day, but I think his positives outweighed his two shanks.
Freese was money and is a nice asset.
The biggest problem was giving Florida State a short field. I understand wanted to keep it away from Reid, but clearly Florida State adjusted and by the fourth quarter Reid was catching the pooches.
Things were better but as I've said still not good enough. We still need better redzone play and I still wonder about Spaz's game management. Like the pooch kicks. Don't you want the other team to have to drive the whole field when you have a lead? Don't you trust your special teams enough? I think starting Rettig and keeping him in there was the right move. Now he just needs to get him better play calling.
Even with all the disappointment, we still have plenty to play for. Spaz has to show that he can stop the bleeding.