Watching the game live was more tense than I would like to admit. After they scored on the fake punt, I started to worry. Perhaps that left my live assessment a little too critical. When I watched the game back, the team did not look as bad as my initial impression. Things were still a little sloppy but there were some encouraging signs for the season ahead.
Rettig played very well. His decision making was pretty good. He moved well on the rollouts and bootlegs. He stepped up in the pocket. A few of the passes were forced but nothing was picked. The only thing we didn't see was a true run. If we keep using the option, he will have to tuck and run eventually. He also seemed to have a good feel for the offense.
Andre Williams ran hard and he ran through people. It wasn't the prettiest showing but he did result in one explosive play -- the TD. I still think he's got to get a better feel for the holes and when to cut. As the announcers pointed out, he would run laterally for to long...essentially allowing the defenders to cut him off. It is clear he is going to get a lot of carries and it is clear that he is tough. Now we just need him to make a few more explosive plays and avoid traffic. Wolford was the real surprise of the day. Lots of guys can catch open passes, but he also was able to run after the pass. Dudeck was fine. Rouse had limited carries, but seemed to have a good feel for the spacing.
Amidon did a great job getting open and with his run after the catches. He also did a good job catching anything thrown towards him. The only real blemish was the fumble. Spiffy had drop and a catch. Crimmins was fine. The Tight Ends were asked to do a lot of blocking but it was tough for me to judge how effective they were on the rewatch (via ESPN3 on my laptop).
As a unit the Offensive Line played well. They provided enough protection when Rettig needed it. They didn't dominate like you might expect, but that was in part because of how Villanova loaded the box. There was a lot of pulling and movement and the timing was much better than it was last year. There was also a good deal of downfield blocking. Williams had a great one on the Amidon TD that was called back. Patchan was solid -- although he allowed a sack. Vardaro had two stupid penalties. As I mentioned earlier, Williams was good. White was good. Gallik was fine.
As I said in my first recap, I didn't love the offensive play calling. It was so run heavy even when we weren't getting big plays on the ground. It felt like we were forcing something that wasn't there. Nova was also prepared for it. The good news was that we adjusted. Later in the game we used play action to set up effective passing -- both short and downfield.
Edebali was the best of the front four. He looked fast and was able to cover a lot of ground on stunts. I liked what I saw from Mihalik and Wujciak. I had hoped to see more activity from the other DLs but Appaih, Ramsey, Rudolph and Abdesmad were relatively quiet.
KPL looked really good. He was active and made big plays. Keyes also looked good (in limited snaps). Daniels and Divitto had more issues. Daniels got swallowed up too often on blocks, and had real problems in coverage. Divitto also had issues in coverage. I don't know how much was due to communication breakdowns or confusion, but we need to fix it soon.
Asprilla was great. He made good tackles -- like the old days. He also did well in coverage. Sylvia played well too. Rositano was good near the line but allowed big plays at other times. I don't know if we got caught gambling or if he was just slow to recover.
What I liked about the defense: good tackling (better than the final Spaz years). We also got to the QB for the first time in years. We attacked from various points. And the guys forced turnovers. All were great signs for the future. My concerns were about positioning, big plays and assignments. I don't know yet if these were player mistakes or Villanova exploiting issues. I did like the strategy of crashing the QB exchange in the second half. It really disrupted their offense.
Special Teams: C
Starting the season by allowing a TD off of a fake punt is not a good omen. Give Villanova credit. The design was beautiful and left us totally flustered. My hope is that we are ready -- and scout -- any other fakes this year.
Spiffy wasn't particularly aggressive on the punt returns. In fact, we allowed a few potential returns to roll too far and cost us field position. Dudeck joined Spiffy on kick returns and looked fine.
Freese's kickoffs were nice. The punting was ok. We didn't shank any but were unable to pin them in the redzone.
Addazio said we would play to our strengths, but it didn't feel that way in our first game. He wants to run the ball, so we ran the ball. Even after it was clear that Villanova was prepared for that. If we remain that stubborn, I think our offense will have some of the same scoring issues we had under Spaz.
Overall though it was a win. We didn't always seem prepared and we didn't look pretty, but we stayed composed and made adjustments. It wasn't a clinic, but was a nice building block.