Sunday, September 02, 2007

Second viewing thoughts and grade report: Wake Forest

Great win and a very solid effort overall. Initial reports from Alumni said that the stadium was full (nearly), loud and people are excited. Others have said and written this already, but I am very glad that Steve Logan is around to be Jags’ mentor and sounding board. Many coaches could have panicked down 14-0, but Jags got on his headset and got the reassurance he needed. After watching the game again, I am more excited about our offense and more concerned about our defense.

Offense: B+

From the looks of things, Matt Ryan called an audible on the very first play of the game. INT. So much for that. Watching back, Ryan might have made the right call, but Robinson and Purvis were not on the same page. Both broke routes weirdly and neither were where Ryan thought they would be. It could have been a crushing blow to a new offense and a QB given the reigns for the first time. But Ryan showed he’s as mentally tough as he is physically. As in the past, it took him a series or two to get on target. Once he did he looked great. His throws were on time and he did a good job scanning the field. He also did a great job selling the play action and developing the screens. The best throw was his TD to Robinson. He got the player he wanted in the right situation, threw the ball before the corner was ready, and put it only where BR could get it. Ryan also did a good job of running the no huddle/hurry up offense. Great day and a great start to the season.

Although their stats were unimpressive and Brooks fumbled, I think the Running Backs played pretty well. Both AC and Brooks made things happen off of screen passes. Nothing exploded from the ground game, but both seemed comfortable reading and reacting to the new running scheme. Brooks’ fumble could have been a killer, but he didn’t let it bother him and in a refreshing change the coaching staff did not bench him. New fullback McCluskey didn’t play much (we used a lot of single back sets) but made a few nice blocks.

The receivers were great. Beating their men. Hanging onto passes. Not dropping easy catches. The personnel hasn’t changed but our WRs were explosive for the first time in years. Robinson stood out with this routes and with his toughness over the middle. Challenger did his usual job of finding soft spots. The younger guys did well too.

The Tight Ends were not factors. Purvis had a few catches, but that was it. Loyte saw a little playing time and but didn’t get anything thrown his way. What was interesting is that for the first time in a few years, the Tight Ends were not liabilities to our run blocking (another benefit of the zone scheme).

Speaking of the zone scheme, the line was excellent. You wouldn’t have known that three of the guys were first time starters. In fact, the right side of the line outperformed their more experienced counterparts on the left. Both Poles and Cherilus got beat leading to two Ryan sacks. But Poles also deserves credit for coming back and laying a guy out on Ryan’s second TD. I didn’t notice any issues with the zone blocking on the run plays. Nothing broke for a long run, but Wake was also unable to penetrate and no one was tripping over each other. The pass blocking was excellent. Ryan had time. The best part: no false starts and no holding penalties. I think the line will be the best surprise of the season.

I think the Steve Logan hire might have been the best move Jags made in his career. In addition the mentor role I mentioned in the intro, Logan called a great game. I love the aggressiveness. I loved the variety of sets, from traditional I, two TEs, three wide, to empty backfield. Down 14-7, he attacks with a deep TD bomb. Time running out in the first half, he attacks and got another TD. My favorite series was with six minutes left in the half and BC had the ball deep in its own end. Ryan threw a deep ball on a go route to the left side with Challenger in single coverage. Challenger couldn’t hang on and it was nearly pass interference. Next play Logan went back to the same route, against the same corner. Another no call. Next play? Deep go route on the left against the same corner. Complete for a first down. The drive didn’t even end in a score but the mentality of exploiting matchups and remaining unpredictable was fantastic. Even as our talent graduates, Logan is creative enough to keep us effective. Plus we scored in the red zone without just trying to push it in with Toal. Great job. Any QB prospect and or wide receiver should be lining up to play for Logan.

Defense: B

The defensive line concerned me watching back a second time. They were great against the run and kept Wake from effectively using their misdirection run plays. But they were unable to generate any pass rush at all. Both Wake QBs had plenty of time to throw when we didn’t blitz. This is where we missed Raji. When he is on, he can get to the QB once or twice on his own. Scafe looked good in Raji’s place. Brace was quiet. Larkin played well, but his only sack came from an inside move when Herzy and Akins forced the QB right into Larkin’s lap. Ramella looked a step slow but held contain well. Albright probably had the best game of the linemen.

The Linebackers had some very good pluses yet gave me one cause for concern. First, the good. For the first time in five years, they held their positions and effectively shut down Wake’s misdirection and stretch plays. The bad: pass coverage. Dunbar, Pruitt and McLaughlin all seemed lost or slow on their coverage assignments. Dunbar did well in the other areas. Pruitt was quiet. Akins, while still one dimensional, did a good job creating pressure. He was one of the few weapons that actually disrupted Wake’s offense. The best all around game among the Linebackers was easily Herzlich. He created pressure from the edge, had some flawless tackling and did the best job in coverage.

The DBs are getting some flak on the message boards, but overall I don’t think they were the reason Wake tore us apart in the passing game. There was no pressure upfront and less than average coverage from the LBs. Tribble obviously stood out. Not only was his coverage and ballhawking good but he’s also become a very good tackler. Silva, unlike last year, held his position and contain and helped stop Wake’s run game. Morris looked better than he has in the past. Rollins played well too. Anderson struggled in one on one coverage but did pretty well against the run.

Spaz did okay. We were aggressive (I counted twelve blitzes). He adjusted due to the loss of Raji with at least five 3-down lineman sets. He continued dropping linemen into zone coverage. He tried a variety of men in the middle of the line. Yet with all the adjustments we still got picked apart by a non-passing team. I will give him credit for finally keeping Wake from making a big play. For some reason, we didn’t rotate nearly as much as we did last season. Guys who played big minutes last year like Giles and Davis didn’t get much playing time yesterday. In spite of all the yardage, the defense made stops when they had to and only allowed two TDs. We know what we’re getting in Spaziani. We’ll be frustrated this year, but in the end, the performance will be good enough for us to win the majority of our games.

Special Teams: B-

Great punt coverage. Robinson seemed to embrace the gunner role and Ayers should be thankful.

The kick returns were a little lacking, but I think we’ll improve when Smith returns.

Punt returns…eh. Not much to go on. It seemed like Tribble was more than happy to allow fair catches.

The kickoffs were cringe inducing. Something has to be done ASAP. Aponavicius is a great story and should continue with short field goals and extra points, but unless something changes, he doesn’t have the leg for kickoffs. The squibs will come back to haunt us. This should be priority number 1 for the next week. Get Bennett on the field. He must be better than this.

Overall: B

What a difference. Down early and not panicking. Players excited on the sidelines. A coach showing just a little personality (Jags getting handsy with the line judge). It’s what we’ve all longed for. If this continues, we’ll all be saying “TOB who?” The game wasn’t perfect but we made good adjustments and won with excitement and passion. BC football is fun again! Very good start


BC fan in Mizzou said...

Enjoy the grades and analysis, as always. Maybe I'm missing something, but it seems a cause of concern to me that BC makes no effort to establish the running game. There will be teams that BC has trouble throwing against, or Ryan is off, or the defense needs a rest. BC has two experienced backs. Why not try to run more? Is Ryan going to throw 50 times/game? That would certainly increase his chances of getting hurt.

And the running plays looked bad -- the telegraphed, slow-developing stretch play rarely seems the best way to get yards on the ground.

I'd love some insight.

tow2nd2none said...

Mizzou- While I share your concern for the lack of running game, I think it's too early to criticize the pass heavy play calling. Until it becomes a trend instead of a one time occurrence, I would chalk it up to Logan taking what Wake's defense was giving.

This game reminded me a lot of the BC-FSU game two years ago in Alumni. Down 14-0 early, the strong comeback, but instead of abandoning what was working so well (we were getting 7-8 yards a carry every down against FSU until the game was tied, then started throwing the ball on 1st and 2nd down), we stayed with the passing that got us back in the game. I really hope we run up the score on NC State, TOB deserves it.

Bravesbill said...

While Calender had a decent game, Brooks did not. He was way to hesitant to make quick cuts and explode through holes. He danced behind the line of scrimmage on numerous runs for no apparent reason. He seemed to keep second guessing himself which led to his poor runs and even his crucial fumble. For the defense, Spaz needs to stop the zone coverage. Wake's receivers found way too many open seams and when BC's linebackers dropped back, Wake's receivers and backs became open for short dumpoffs. Spaz should think about playing more man to man and having the safeties provide more help in coverage. Further, he should have the BC DB's bump the receivers on the line of scrimmage to throw off timing and rhythm of the short passes (which are timing dependent).

BCDisco said...

The running game is a concern for me as well, but I will remain optimistic since both LV and Smith were out last week.

I have to disagree with Bill on this one. The running game was pathetic. Calander and Brooks both looked like they were running thru maple syrup. I hope they use Smith and LV more next week. And as far as abandoning the run, I am so glad Logon went with the pass heavy offense. It was working well against Wake and it kept us in the game.

If Ryan gets hurt or Crane can't step up and the running game can't get established, we're in for a world of hurt IMHO.

eagleboston said...

I'm not concerned about the defense. Spaz defenses always start slow. Remember how many points we gave up to Central Michigan, Clemson and BYU last year? I don't know if the scheme is difficult to learn or if they just need a few games to mesh as a unit, but if last year is any indication, they'll settle down by Week 3.

What is different about this year is that Spaz's team only allowed 14 points and only gave up 2 yards on the ground. 2 yards! When you commit that much to stopping the run, you are going to give up a lot of yards in the air. I'm fine with that. Get your opponent tossing the ball around and they are more prone to mistakes (Skinner threw 3 INT's at critical times). Keep in mind, Wake may be the toughest offense to defend against we will face all year.

flutie22phelan20 said...

Bill, great work on the grades. I've probably watched Ryan's TD pass to Robinson 10 times, and I'm more impressed every time. He threw that threw a small window at the absolutely perfect time.

I also think that our TEs deserve a little more credit than you gave them in the passing game. Especially when they put Purvis in the backfield as a split back; I think that formation resuted in at least one (but prob. 2) easy first down passes.

The running game must improve. Brooks is the only guy on the team that actually looks like a running back when he gets the ball--as he did the play before his fumble. But that fumbling problem--heck, it doesn't take anything to pop the ball out with him--will be fatal to him becoming a decent back. I felt more comfortable with Matty winging it to run out the clock than AJ running it, and that's a real bad sign.

Finally, I cannot wait to watch #94 for three more years. He was EVERYWHERE. And he was about 1/2 a step slow for two sacks, but he still landed some serious hits. What a beast out there.

bceagle08 said...

Great analysis but I think sometimes you can be too hesitant to criticize the new coaching staff. I thought the lack of a running game Saturday was alarming. I know we were not at full strength but we also play a number of defenses this year that are far more quick and athletic (FSU, VaTech etc.). My other big concern is what I call our "Madden play calling" best exemplified by our drive early in the fourth quarter. I think most coaches would have attempted to run at least a little time off the clock but Jags/Logan continued the no huddle, attempted only one rush and began plays with more than 20 seconds on the play clock. Starting at our own 27 and driving as far as (1st and 10) at the Wake 30 we should have been able get more than a punt and just 2:01 off the game clock. Don't get me wrong, I think our offense as a whole was far more effective than the TOB era but it seemed overly agressive at times.

ATL_eagle said...

You guys are probably right. I was not too critical of the new staff. But given that this was their first game, I am giving them a lot of leeway. Plus we scored 38 points...if we struggle running the ball all year yet keep up that pace, I won't be critical. I also think we know what we are getting with Spaz. Sure teams will move the ball on us, but his bend but don't break style has won plenty of games for us.

I also say give the stretch running style time. It will work.

Erik said...

The defense? The defense was an A. Our offense gave Wake 2 of its 4 touchdowns. Both Wake quarterbacks looked great and the defense still held. They worked with a short field EVERY possession and still held.... 3 INTs from Tribble.... For the defense to give up only 14 points to the defending ACC Champions in a perfect weather setting, I'll take that any day.