Second viewing thoughts and grade report: Northwestern
My gut reaction to Saturday's loss was: "we are going to lose every game." The defense gave up a lot of yardage and we only managed 17 points. It felt just like last year. But I have hope after watching things back. As usual things aren't as bad as they appeared live. This frustrating loss can be contained. There were only a few issues (which are mostly fixable). If the coaching staff does its job, we should be okay.
Rettig won't be the issue this year. You could see it from how he reacted to the decisions he made. The defensive pressure mounted (as did the emotional pressure) and he kept getting up. While some of his throws were off, there weren't many mental errors. I am not going to give him too much blame for the sacks/intentional groundings. Those will decrease as our play calling becomes more honed. Oh, did you notice he threw for 375 yards? I felt really good about Rettig prior to the season and feel like yesterday validated most of my optimism. If he can stay upright and get a little more accurate on all his throws, he can have a big year and a big career.
Andre Williams reminds me a lot of William Green. While that sounds like hype, from me it is a backhanded compliment. Like Green, Williams is a powerful runner who can be great in space. However, one thing Green never became great at was patience on holes and feeling traffic. Green ran behind a better line than Williams, but I do think he needs to improve as a runner between the tackles. Watching the game, I felt much better about Williams as a pass blocker. He did a good job picking up the blitzers and late rushers. Kimble wasn't as good in his limited opportunities to pass block. Kimble also didn't do much with his chances to carry the ball.
Momah had some drops but that shouldn't smudge his career day as a WR. He showed good ability to adjust his routes and he made some big plays. With his size, I feel like we are finally taking advantage of what he should be doing. Larmond doesn't look 100%, but it was still a very good first day back. Swigert's hands remain impressive although, I think he needs to work on his blocking a bit. Amidon looked good. Coleman only go one ball thrown his way and couldn't pull it in.
When I spoke of things that could be fixed, the Offensive Line was one of my primary points. Put aside the mental mistakes, I actually think we have decent talent here. The problem is they are being asked to do things they can't do well. When things were kept simple, they actually executed well. I think if we simplify the game plan, the guys will be okay. Use less pulling and movement. Use a few more zone runs and see what happens. Whatever is done, as a group they need to do a better job getting to the second level. If they don't, our running game will never be consistently explosive. Individually, I thought White had the best day. Spinney looked good early but then seemed lost on some plays where he was pulling. He also had the killer penalty (more on that later). Cleary was okay. Richman got in for a bit but was ineffective. Wetzel was fine. Gallick had the toughest day. He got blown up a few times and caught in traffic a few other times. Some are calling it one of the worst OL days they've seen at BC. I wouldn't say it was that bad, but it wasn't good. Now the questions is can Devine, Rogers and the five guys on the field get on one page? I think they can and the key will be to keep it simple.
Considering we only scored 17, I actually liked the way Rogers called the game. In the redzone he mixed up the play calling instead of the run, run, run, kick pattern we are so used to. Rogers tried to revisit plays that worked. He mixed in a good amount of run and pass, which made the play action more effective. The variety of plays seemed pretty deep considering it is a new offense and this was game 1. I also appreciate that he made adjustments. For example, the line couldn't sustain some of the pass protection as the game drew on, so he used more shotgun and short drops.
The defensive tackles were a big part of our problem. Not only did they not make one big play, but they didn't even do what they are required to do in BC's scheme -- clog the middle. The guys got pushed and contained. It is my biggest worry since I don't see any new DTs coming to save the day. The defensive ends were actually decent. Holloway had a sack, but was also fairly disruptive. Edebali also made some nice plays. The big surprises were Wujciak and Abdesmad. They didn't get as many snaps, but both showed good motors and good contain. Wujciak actually got into the backfield a few times too.
KPL covered a lot of space and made some nice tackles. He needs to time his blitzes a bit better. Kuechly played well. The interception was him taking advantage of a bad throw. However, he couldn't do it all and most of their big plays happened when he was blocked downfield. Clancy played well and should probably get more playing time. Devitto had some great moments but also had some problems. In part because of playing the field side, he is asked to cover a lot of space (which became a problem that I will explain in a bit). He is probably best playing closer to the line and rushing the passer on occasion. He's got great strength -- as he showed on the sack.
Albert Louis-Jean got hammered by some BC fans for playing so far off. That's not really his fault. He's asked to do that. What becomes a problem is when he, Devitto and Williams all played very deep and left a ton of open space on their side of the field. There has to be better coordination on the field side. The biggest issue with ALJ was the inconsistent tackling. Our corners don't need great speed but they do need to be great tacklers. That's just how we've designed it and it is where we missed Fletcher. On the other side Jones was very good. Hughes was somewhat hesitant. Syvlia made some nice plays in limited time. I bet he will get even more time next week. Noel wasn't near much of the action but also didn't make a big impact on D (although he made a nice special teams play).
What is there to say about our defensive scheme? It was the standard Spaz/McG D. We just faced a team that executed well and played against our weaknesses. My concern and criticism is that some of the guys didn't seem ready (field side) and we didn't have any solutions to shore up the DTs.
Special Teams: D
The missed FGs were killers. I hope it was just a one-time issue for Freese. Quigley had some nice kickoffs and good punting. I appreciate Swigert being fairly aggressive with the punt returns. Kimble's kick returns were solid.
I guess what frustrates me most is that we were close. 479 total offensive yards! But I feel the big Spaz issues remain. We butchered the clock at the end of the half. Came out with no momentum and then ran a sloppy two-minute drill in the final drive. Just take the last sequence. We get the first down with 18 seconds left. We have one timeout. The best move is to kill the clock. But because NU had an injured player we went ahead wasted time and then had a penalty. Mental mistake for sure, but it is too common under Spaz. He lacks feel for the game. Killing the clock my of kept Spinney from being jumpy.
I am not without hope. We have potential in many places and we've shown we can move the ball. If Spaz can help the defense and figure out how to cover for our lack of talent at DT and lack of experience at CB, we should be okay.