Saturday, October 16, 2010

you have to give al groh this

His defenses at least waited til the second half to fall to shit.

Yeah, normally I write this column on Sunday after I'm done with my Blogpoll ballot, but I don't have anything better to do right now, and why waste a perfectly good foul mood? This was supposed to be the most winnable of the three test games that just occurred, and instead it turns out to be Free Football Night at Scott Stadium. Wear your Carolina blue and white and get a complimentary souvenir courtesy of our friendly quarterback crew!

Or maybe I'm being too harsh. Here, let me try the rational, objective approach. Let's list some positives and negatives from the game. Surely we can find something to talk about.


- The new, more metallic blue helmets look really sharp during night games under the lights.


- The defense.
- The offense, other than Keith Payne.
- The special teams.
- The coaching, probably.
- Orange-on-orange uniform combo.
- The defense.

Well, that's quite a list. Let's tackle that one-by-one.

- First off, the players are fired from uniform selection duties, or they should be until they win. For the EMU game, simple old-fashioned blue-over-white. Need to remove distractions. And that's too bad, 'cause I'd really like to see the orange-over-white. But teams that lose by 34 don't need either the distraction or the privilege of frivolities like fashion design.

- Actually, the special teams weren't really a negative - not that they got much of a chance to flash their stuff. Except the kick return squad. Lot of field time, there. I should add that if we ever allow him to do his thing, instead of opting for the direct QB-to-defender method of transferring possession, that Jimmy Howell is really an excellent punter these days.

- I'll let the coaches' honeymoon last a little while longer, if they promise to do some tackling drills and never again call four straight Keith Payne runs up the gut that result in a turnover on downs. Like the whole state couldn't see that one coming. Ross Metheny was in at the time - if you're evaluating freshmen quarterbacks, anything other than an off-tackle handoff would be a good way to do it.

- The running game was actually not horrible. In fact it was perfectly functional, and had there been any kind of support from any other facet of the team, we'd be heaping praise upon Keith Payne for his effort tonight. As it is all he gets is to stop running gassers early.

Besides the obvious issues under center, I'll give one other player who had a very rough game and needs a lot of work: Morgan Moses. Big Mo moved side to side like he was standing in wet cement. I think I'd rather see him understudy at guard behind B.J. Cabbell (who played reasonably well and was the prime mover in opening that massive hole for Payne on Payne's touchdown) where he can be more of a mauler. I don't think a man that size is ever going to move side-to-side too well; at guard he won't have to, and he could probably be a holy terror when pulling to the other side.

- Alright. The defense. As if it wasn't obvious against Florida State, the "offense needs to stay on the field longer to rest the defense" excuse is as acceptable as a $3 bill anymore. When you're down 7-0 after the very first play from scrimmage, it's time to give that idea a rest. Now the defense is just bad.

And frankly, it's baffling. This is supposed to be an easier defense to learn, which means that the growing pains into a new system should be minimized. The linebackers are regressing, which I suppose you can chalk up to the fact that most of them are playing a new position in a new system. But why is the secondary so horrible? The responsibilities aren't that different, and that's supposedly the veteran core of the defense. It's officially time to worry about Devin Wallace - he got burned nice and toasty all night. The quarterback issue is frustrating but explainable. The defense is frustrating and completely baffling, which is a lot worse.

So what about the rest of the season? In order to get bowl-eligible, we'd have to beat one of either Miami or VT plus everyone else on the schedule. So that's the last time this year you'll see the word "bowl" around here. If next week is not a win, you might as well empty the bench; Eastern Michigan is one of the absolute worst teams in all of I-A football. Worse than Richmond. After that, I see two chances to put another number in the win column: Duke and Maryland. To take any measure of success at all from this season, both are must-wins. I shouldn't have to explain why.

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