I sure was at halftime, and the 50-odd yarder that EMU busted off early in the second half didn't help my mood.
But it's against the rules to be mad at your team for winning 48-21. Just can't do it. After three weeks where nothing went right, watching the team break away and make some plays was refreshing. You're not going to believe me, and that's OK, but I swear I knew Terence Fells-Danzer was going to take that kickoff to the house about seven yards after he caught it. (I wish I could call it a product of vastly improved special teams, but a return like that has a lot more to do with how shitty EMU is.)
So it's Optimism Time, yay. Well, you are allowed to be a little bit concerned for the future even after a win, especially when the run defense is gashed time and time again. Credit where credit's due: if there's such a thing as halftime adjustments, they worked and the defense played up to expectations in the second half. But they're just too....I dunno....blockable, most of the time. I was re-watching the game to see if I could find anyone out of position on some of these long runs. Seems like a likely explanation, what with our OLBs all learning new positions. It didn't seem to be a problem. Tackling and shedding blocks was the problem. On a play that went for 13 yards and let EMU out from the shadow of their own end zone, Aaron Taliaferro was in prime position to make the tackle at the line, and totally whiffed. (Interestingly, on that play he was the outside linebacker.) On the long runs, the problem wasn't so much a lack of pursuit, as a lack of aggressive pursuit. Guys are letting themselves get chopped to the ground, and the line isn't being disruptive.
It's troubling, because these are mostly the same guys that allowed 5 yards per play last year, which was good for 30th in the country. 30th is pretty good for a 3-9 team. Now they're allowing almost a yard extra, good for 82nd. That's despite the presence of two of the country's most godawful teams on the schedule. The revival of the offense is why we might see more wins this year, despite the beating Marc Verica takes from the fans.
No change on the outlook for the rest of the season, really. I mean, did you expect one? Other than if we lost, I mean. A loss would have meant playing out the string to 2-10 in front of family and friends, about 1,500 of them each week. The win gives reporters something to talk about in that UVA can finally say they beat a I-A team.....whatever, EMU barely qualifies. And it means Miami will still smash our face, and then we can finally watch some competitive, winnable games, and no I still don't consider Maryland a "good team" even at 5-2, they're still beatable too.
Stuff that didn't fit:
- Hey, the fake punt again. That's a really cool-looking play, and it was even better to watch Ron English call timeout so he could get busy earning an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. He must've watched the tape from USC and then forgotten about the aftermath. I don't mind using it against Eastern Michigan, no. I don't think it's a waste of a play, I think it's the coaches looking at the tape, checking out how EMU plays punts, and deciding they're ripe for the fake. They'll keep doing it if teams keep sending the house like that.
- Perry Jones looks decent, but Keith Payne ought to be the feature back.
- Special teams were all-around excellent. Besides earning a QB rating of 900.4, Jimmy Howell had an excellent day punting, averaging 44.3 yards with two inside the 20, zero touchbacks, and only one return for just four yards. The punt team had a banner day.
- Don't forget to take a look at my poll ballot, below. Because, let the record show that that was submitted before the BCS copycats also put Auburn on top of their poll.