Sunday, November 13, 2005

Second viewing thoughts and grade report: NC State

This is the performance the team and the fans needed. Winning covers a lot of sins and mistakes. Here is what I think after watching the game a second time (all except for the first minute and a half. Thanks ESPN 2.).

Offense: B

Trueblood and Marten get most of the attention from the press. In this game their counterparts on the right side of the line (Cherilus and Beekman) dominated. They were blowing their men away in running plays and providing good protection on pass plays. After a few shaky games, Pat Ross played well too. Trueblood got off to a rough start. It looked like NC State’s speed was going to give him trouble. After the Ryan fumble they all calmed down and controlled the game the rest of the way.

We only completed eight passes, so I am going to give everyone but Miller and Blackmon and incomplete. Will gets an easy A. It was nice to see him break a few long ones. The screen was a great combination of him breaking tackles and his teammates blocking downfield. The long catch where they caught him short of the TD was a great route. It was sort of a bow. His man followed him inside and as Will ran back towards the corner Ryan hit him in stride. Miller’s TD catch was nice. He had to make an adjustment and held on.

A nice game for Whitworth. He read his blocks well and made cuts when they were there. His long run late showed that he doesn’t have breakaway speed. Callender’s day was more ho hum. He had a few nice runs but was stopped at contact a few times. Both got involved in the passing game for minimal gains. Toal was injured early and both Andre and L.V. were giving chances on the goal line. L.V. scored, but neither was a force. I don’t like our goal line strategy but will get to that later. Lynch did a good job opening holes. Palmer returned for one reception.

Ryan’s 8 for 16 was more impressive than it sounds. First his misses were not about errant passes. I only counted two that were on him (including one near interception). Everything else was either dropped or wisely thrown away. His completed passes were really impressive. The game changed on the 3rd and 21. Ryan had plenty of time, stood in the pocket and then made a beautiful throw to Blackmon for the first down. That was when I was glad he was starting. I don’t think Porter would’ve shown the same patience or been able to make the same throw. Having the long ball back in the arsenal changed the makeup of the game. It kept the Wolfpack honest and prevented them from keeping eight in the box. Ryan’s second bomb to Blackmon was another throw I don’t think our previous Quarterback would try or make. Finally the Miller TD was an example of how high Ryan’s football IQ is. Miller was jammed really well at the line. When that happened to Porter he would abandon that receiver. Ryan didn’t. Instead he waited in the pocket. Saw the linebackers release Miller and then hit him with a dart between the zones. He was patient and made a strong throw. It was off of Miller’s wrong shoulder, but Miller had enough space to make the play and get in the endzone. Ryan also had two TD runs. The first was more impressive than the second. He’s not pretty when he runs, but you got to like the results.

Bible didn’t go anyone any favors. He really kept Ryan in check. I am all in favor of running the ball, but only throwing 16 times? Then there was the option call. What? As you would guess it was blown up. Fortunately Ryan covered the fumble and then responded with the great 3rd and 21. But why are we even running the option? Then there are our problems around the goal line. We go ultra conservative. There is no one in the building that doesn’t know what we are doing. Up the middle. Up the middle. Up the middle. Kick the field goal. Even with Toal, I think we have problems. At least one play per series we should use play action or put Ryan in the shot gun. It would work. Right now the opponents crash the line knowing we are going that way. One pass would keep them honest. I also thought Bible went ultra conservative way to early. We started killing clock half way through the third quarter. Run. Run. Screen pass. NC State was on the ropes, our D was killing them and we sort of let them hang around. Go for the knock out punch! Heck, just throw on second down. Anything to keep them guessing. I was giving Bible the benefit of the doubt early in the year. He hasn’t called a good game since Virginia.

Defense: A-

It is a shame the defense gave up the 96 yard TD, because it skewed the yardage and score -- neither of which were indicative of how dominant this performance was.

The D line was outstanding. Kiwi was beating double teams for the first time all year. He was spinning, crashing the line on runs, motoring downfield. He was everywhere. Raji was also killing them inside. What most impresses me about him is that, like Kiwi, he makes plays downfield. That shows hustle and speed. I expect it from Kiwi, but Raji is a house. It amazes me to watch him move like that. Washington had a good game too. Larkin had a sack, but still has trouble getting off blocks. The second teamers were not as effective. They allowed some yardage. We had to bring in the first team to apply pressure again. The only time the first teamers didn’t do there job was on the Stone touchdown. Everything else was nearly perfect. If the 3rd and 21 changed the game on offense. Kiwi tripping up Stone from behind in the 2nd quarter was the turning point on D. Stone and the O-line were never the same after that. They were constantly jumping and getting beat.

Toal went down early and we hardly suffered. We have a lot of depth with the linebackers and as I’ve said all season, the backups are better against the run. Pruitt, Francois and Dunbar we key to shutting down NC States vaunted ground game. Henderson also had one of his better games. He didn’t miss many tackles and his interception was a classic Ray play. He is great at reading the QB and has good hands. Brown was all over the place too.

The DBs didn’t do much. This season they’ve had to do a lot of tackling in run support. This week, most of the plays were over before they got there. Tribble got beat on the long TD. There wasn’t a safety in sight either. Sure Tribble messed up, but it was really a breakdown by the whole team. No pressure. No safeties, etc. Other than that the DBs were strong. Stone helped too. He was scattering his throws. However, you could tell the coverage was good because Stone was looking downfield and couldn’t find anyone open. Williams made a few good tackles. His move honoring McGillis was very classy. NC State’s drops also helped the DBs’ efforts.

Spaz called a pretty good game. We didn’t blitz much until the second half. Then it was a blitz and run blitz mix. All of it was effective. Earlier this week in my exchange with StateFansNation, I questioned Marc Trestman. This game did nothing to change my mind. Our D was clogging the line at the first sign of run. Why didn’t NC State try more play action off of that? Regardless, Spaz wasn’t super creative, but the team was very effective.

Special teams: B-

The returns are getting better. It is just a matter of time before we break one. The coverage was good, but it looks like Ohliger is losing his length. A few of his kick offs were short. We had one blocked PAT. It was more on the line than on Troost. Ayers has really come around. He has shortened his motion and is booming some of his kicks. The real bonehead play was Anam’s roughing the kicker. We were fortunate to get the INT on the same drive, but that could’ve been a game changer.

Overall: B

NC State came in hot and needed this game. Their defense was the talk of the conference. BC regrouped well and played a complete game. Now let’s finish the regular season on a high note.

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