(Yeah, I know you're doing your write-up now, Steven - just getting a jump on it since I went to sleep early due to the beer & so woke up early, too...)
Overall, a solid if not spectacular effort by the Pack yesterday. I still feel like we're going to be very fortunate to hit 5 wins, but we are starting to show the typical mid-year improvement we've come to expect from TOB teams. Particularly with the team getting healthy over the next few weeks, we have a realistic chance to win a few games - but TOB talking bowls when we were 0-3 against FBS opponents was, quite honestly, disappointing and absurd.
With that, the rundown... and I'll start with positives for a change...
- The run game. While I HATE our playcalling (I would bet that we ran on 1st down 90% of the time, and we don't have a toss/sweep in the playbook), we were able to run it effectively again. The line didn't open many holes, and against CMU that's clearly a continuing concern, but Washington in particular did a good job of finding the gaps he had, and making the most of it. We never gave up on making the run our primary focus, and over time, it started to work the way it should.
- The secondary - well, at least in the second half. To open up, we made their receivers look like Randy Moss and their QB look like Tom Brady. Guys running loose in gaps in the zone, and the QB had nary a whiff of pressure on him. Once we made some halftime adjustments, we got just enough pressure on him to force throws he didn't want to make, and our DB's were ready and waiting. While it's easy to call them easy picks, we'd have dropped them a few years ago... so it's truly progress when we pick the balls that really need to be picked. And it's a damn good thing - the (+4) turnover margin was the ballgame... we don't win without it... which of course should scare the shit out of all of us.
- Glennon's arm. He is indeed highly accurate, with some "oomph" on the ball. Give him time and an open receiver, and he'll complete 90% of his passes. He still does not read a defense all THAT well... but there were two times yesterday where he clearly checked to his 2nd receiver... and then to his 3rd option at least once. That's progress. His disadvantage vs RW is his mobility, not his arm... and with our O-line's inability to protect him early in the season, that was a big deal. As the O-line gels, it's getting to be less of an issue. He remains far from our biggest concern.
And then, of course, the concerns...
- Coaching. We shouldn't need half a season to figure out how to play ball. And we shouldn't have to play the first half of a game against CMU to figure out how to effectively defend them. It's called summer workouts and game film. Use them. Develop game plans. Go kick someone in the teeth from the first kickoff on Labor Day weekend. Have some FIRE!!!! The next time I watch TOB actually coach a player in the middle of the game will be the first time... I saw him pluck grass more often yesterday (once) that I saw him coach a player (zero).
- Inability to put any pressure on any QB with just the front four. If this doesn't change, we are screwed for the balance of the season. Our DB's aren't honestly good enough to get stuck in man coverage, and if we have to bring six guys to get pressure, we're going to have a problem.
- #4 on CMU, whatever the hell that punk-ass's name was. Between the two head shots he took on receivers that didn't draw flags and his continual whooping despite taking an ass-whipping, I'm glad he wasn't on our team. He didn't do them proud.
- TJ's judgement on the fumbled punt return. I mean, come on, TJ... this is your Achilles heel. You know it. Don't try to field the damn thing on a dead run in the middle of traffic... use your damn head.
- The lack of any significant deep threat. Possibly the biggest issue we have offensively right now, since defenses can just stack the first 10-15 yards off the line... we are not even trying to go deep, despite having at least one guy (TJ) who can beat his defender. This one may go as much to coaching as anything, but if you have only one guy that's gotta get covered deep, it makes it easy to defend.
Overall, a truly beautiful day at Carter-Finley... the crowd was good (not great, particularly the student section had some visibly empty seats - fall break?), and the black unis... well, I have to say I liked them. I REALLY like the Ted Brown-era red helmets... wish we'd keep 'em. Between black unis and having a live wolf on the sidelines, people are really gonna stop having non-football stuff to whine about on gameday.