Second viewing thoughts and grade report: Maryland
Some have said that I pin too much blame on Spaz and the coaching staff and not enough on the players. Watching the game back could certainly lead one to believe the players are at fault. They made numerous mistakes and got beat at key points. But some of those mistakes are because the coaches are not putting them in winning opportunities. And five straight losses are not because of talent or a killer schedule (see Notre Dame-Navy). Losing like this is mostly coaching. But there were some good individual efforts and a few nice moments from the coaches. However, I still think our in-game coaching, including pacing on offense and 3rd down defense are problems.
Rettig's INTs weren't his fault. Momah tipped the first and according to the Globe, Swigert broke the wrong way on the second. But even though he was blameless on those, he still had some bad throws. As noted repeatedly he was behind on the slants and floated some other balls. He is also missing some open men and not going over the middle enough. But he is showing good progress and, in general, making smart plays. He also has good pocket presence. He was only sacked once and did a good job to step up and look to make something out of a broken play.
Harris didn't have any big plays like last week, but put together a solid effort. Yes, the fumble was costly, but his overall contributions were more important. He made cuts when holes collapsed and also did his usually job of pushing the first tackle. His pass protection was good too. McCluskey got a carry! (It was actually a nice change of pace.) Williams and Phifer also got carries.
Momah made a big catch in our comeback but is still letting too many catchable balls bounce off his hands. Swigert's catch off one of those tips was amazing. I keep hearing that our receivers have trouble with separation. It is not that simple. If you watch it back, you will see guys get a little space (like Swigert). But the windows are closed quickly, which means the WRs are just going to have to win one on one battles. Pantale had a solid day and could have been thrown too more. Coleman was fine. Phillips was involved in kick returns but didn't get a catch. Amidon was also silent.
The offensive line was okay. The problem now is consistency. They will look good on one play and overmatched on the next. Castonzo gave up a rare sack. Claiborne played well but was also blown up on Harris' fourth down run. Spinney airmailed a snap that killed a drive. Yet even with those problems they were better. Castonzo-Richman-Spinney-Claiborne-Lapham is probably our best combo going forward.
I actually didn't hate Tranq's playcalling. There were some good moments and he is finally using run plays that play to Harris and the line's strengths (like zones). He also had Rettig run out of the option. The passing routes still leave a lot to be desired. Calling the slants over and over when we had trouble executing was curious. I will have a post later today about our predictability on offense. My biggest problem with Tranq and our offense was tempo and pace. We were still very methodical down 14. I know we got it close, but we should have been passing earlier. This is my simple logic: 1. BC has trouble scoring points. 2. We've shown no ability to overcome a big deficit. 3. Increasing the tempo when down gives us more chances to comeback. Essentially we ran out of time. I also didn't like the fourth down calls in the fourth. You have to view those as 4-down possessions, so mixing things up on third down would have been more appropriate.
I feel for Alex Albright. He was having a great season and now his career ends in crutches. If he had been healthy during his career, he might have been one of BC's all-time greats. In his place Holloway played well. Scafe also had a good game. Newman was very quiet. The rotations was tighter and hence the backups didn't get much attention.
The LBs are now becoming a liability in the pass game. Herzy's great when he can rush the passer and disrupt the throwing lane, but I think he's having trouble covering space large spaces (like he did so well before his medical issues. He's a step slower so Maryland was able to get some short passes. With Albright out, I think we should use him as more of a stand up DE. His instincts around the QB are still amazing. KPL let some short passes keep drives alive. Kuechly didn't get burned this week and was very solid in tackling. Devitto played but most of the game was just the first teams LBs.
After having such a great game, the DBs had a bit of a letdown. No big plays and too many short completions allowed. First I hope Davis is back quickly. BC needs him in the backfield directing traffic. Noel was quiet this week. Okoroha was fine. Gause was okay, but for some reason giving the other team too much space. Fletcher wasn't tested as much. Fox looked good in limited play time.
There are conflicting reports over who is actually running the defense but whoever it is did not do much to help the team out this week. I know that they were left with a short field on some of the scoring drives, but in general, this scheme was in effective and also the adjustments weren't great. We couldn't get them off the field and couldn't really get pressure on O'Brien. Where were the different looks from last week? Why weren't we disrupting him more in the pocket. This is a guy who threw three picks last week. It is almost as if we said "let's play base and watch him fold." Instead he proved to be pretty accurate.
Special Teams: C
Quilgey was fine. Freese was fine. We improved our kick coverage. Our punt coverage allowed one long return.
I also liked seeing Montel on PRs and Shakim Philips on kickoffs. Might as well give our best players more touches!
Once again we got down early. I am glad we came back but I wish we had increased the tempo early in the game. Methodical against Florida State makes sense. Against Maryland? Not so much. Plus once we started passing more, Rettig adjusted and started to get the offense to move. In my opinion the defense was as much of a problem. I know we only allowed 222 yards, but their efficiency on third and fourth down was frustrating. We have different looks, it is just a matter of when and how to use them. Spaz has been a DC for a long time. He knows that more than anyone.
I the post game Spaz mentioned our razor thin margin of error and not having a winning edge. I hope those are just cliches he throws to the press and not what he really believes. This was not some Maryland powerhouse. If our in game approach is to play ultra conservative because or our "thin margin of error" this guy will never win. We have some play makers and smart players (just look at Swigert's instincts on the tip). We need to give them more opportunities at big plays and open things up a bit on both sides of the ball.
There are plenty of factors that led us to this point, but there is really only one person who can save Spaz - himself. As lost as this season seems, there is still plenty to play for. I think he needs to do something with our approach to games. It is October and he's emptied the bench. Any player who could make an impact is on the field. Now let's find out what they can do well and do it over and over until then other team stops us. These kids are playing hard and deserve that much from the staff.