Sunday, October 12, 2008

we're a real team again

Consider the season rescued. No, there's still no guarantee of any kind of good result from this season at all. But two short weeks - actually a span of less than seven full days - have rescued our 'Hoos from football purgatory, which on October 3rd we were sharing with the Washington States and Syracuses of the world. Now visions of bowl games, exotic trips to fancy places like Boise and Washington, DC, again fill our heads.

That is the good news. The bad news is that was the easy part of the schedule. The real meat and potatoes of the ACC schedule is coming up, including all three currently ranked ACC teams. There is a real chance of not winning a single one of these and finishing the season 3-9.

But until then, we get to nitpick, which is the happy realm of victors who expect more. Last week I was too busy doing the happy dance of surprise victory and pretty much declared every single play a whopping success. This week, now that we have both victory in hand and restored expectations, it's time to point out a few things. Nitpicks numbers one, two, and three are consistency, the lack of which is probably to be expected in a team this young; still, that's no excuse not to stamp it out. One stat illustrates this for me: at some point late in the second quarter, a graphic flashed on the screen that showed Ced Peerman had something like 177 yards rushing on 8 carries. Obviously this was largely due to the spectacular runs he busted loose on, but what's disturbing to me is that he finished with 173 yards rushing. Indeed, the second half saw the running game largely disappear; Simpson got the majority of the carries in the second half and was largely bottled up. Fortunately, the damage had been done. ECU feared the run all day and thus allowed Verica to carve them up through the air.

And therein lies the hope: Verica has been remarkably consistent. I hear all this talk about how he's "really come into his own" or some such during these last two games. Nonsense: Verica looked damn sharp in the UConn game and again during most of the Duke game too. His accuracy is his calling card; I say it's Schaub-like, and it's been on display nearly every time he cocks his arm. You want to know the difference between the first two games and the last two? Here it is: 31, 110, 201, 202. Those are the rushing yards. Extremely rare indeed is the redshirt sophomore who can step cold into his first game and succeed without a running game backing him up. If the team can look to Verica as an example, then we're in great shape.

Let's go to the adjusted statistics for Verica. I procrastinated at looking at the Maryland game, but I got around to it today, so now we have two in one. As a reminder - the adjusted stats are what "should" have happened based on the throw that was made, and the stats are altered when a penalty call negates a pass or if I think the receiver "should" or "should not" have had the catch. The usefulness of this I think is demonstrated very nicely in both these games below; Verica had some pretty gaudy stats but played even better than the stat sheet shows.

Starting with the Maryland game. Verica completed 73.5 percent and the scary thing is that should have been a lot higher....

Actual stats: 25/34, 226 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT
Adjusted stats: 30/36, 264 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT

7th throw: Add a completion and 10 yards. Either the ball bounced off Ogletree's hands or the defender made a play above and beyond the call of duty to knock it away; either way you can't blame Verica, the throw was there.

21st throw: A screen pass that ended up going only back to the line of scrimmage. Wiped out by a holding call. Add a completion, an attempt, and zero yards.

26th throw: I think pass interference should have been called here, and so apparently did a large portion of the crowd. Add a completion and 7 yards.

31st throw: Pass interference means the pass doesn't appear on the stat sheet, but add a completion, attempt, and 7 more yards.

32nd throw: Jared Green dropped a beauty that would have been a 15 yard pickup. Give him a completion and those 15 yards.

Now the ECU game. Very little here. Only two throws were changed.

Actual stats: 25/32, 216 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT
Adjusted stats: 27/32, 231 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT

3rd throw: Come on. Verica throws an on-the-money pass that catches Rashawn Jackson in perfect stride.....and apparently by surprise, as the pass bounces through his hands and straight to an ECU defender. We take away the pick, add a completion, and 6 yards. Not at all the fault of the quarterback.

6th throw: Threw a nice pass to Andrew Devlin, but Devlin got popped in the back of the head going down to make the catch, and dropped it. Add a completion and 9 yards.

Verica's high completion percentage is in part the result of a lot of screens, shovel passes, and 5-yard tosses to the tight end or slot receiver out in a soft spot in the zone. But don't be fooled. The long touchdown passes Schaub I mean Verica has thrown to Billy McMullen I mean Kevin Ogletree have been things of absolute beauty. Yes, I'm comparing Marc Verica to UVA's all time passing leader in just about everything. Because another fun thing about winning besides all the nitpicking is going overboard with expectations.

No comments: