Monday, October 26, 2009

This Isn't All Adam Weber's Fault

Just so we're clear, I'm not putting all of the blame for how this season has gone on Adam Weber. Weber is certainly a problem, but he is far from being the only one. In no particular order:

The Offensive Line
Minnesota's total offense is not just the worst in the Big Ten, but is one of the worst in the country, as the average of 292.75 yards per game ranks 112th out of 120 1-A teams. The problems for the offense start up front, as the line has had difficulty run blocking and pass blocking, and the rare times they are able to hold a block seem to be because they cheated. Our backs have no holes to run through, Weber and Gray both don't get much time to throw (our QB's have been sacked 20 times, the second highest total in the league), and penalties are absolutely KILLING us!! I know there's never a good time for a penalty, but can you remember a team, pro or college, who makes as many boneheaded mistakes as our offensive line does? After two weeks against Syracuse and Air Force we said this was a problem that needed to be fixed, and six weeks later it's STILL a problem. Is it coaching or is it the players? I think the answer is yes.

Running Backs
Our rushing game is averaging a Big Ten worst 105.9 yards per game (105th nationally). Kevin Whaley is the only one of our backs living up to expectations by averaging 5.3 yards per carry, yet he's averaging barely four carries a game on the season!

Wide Receivers
Ok, so maybe the reason Weber only looks for Decker or Tow-Arnett is because they're the only two who can consistently catch the ball?!? When you remove Decker from the equation, no receiving core has had fewer catches, yards, and touchdowns than this one. That first half drop-fest was uglier than Fat Bastard in a halter top. And just to make things more difficult, there's a good chance we'll be without Decker on Saturday. Although, in the one series late in the game when they actually let MarQueis Gray throw the ball, Troy Stoudermire did have three catches for 34 yards and a touchdown. Not that I'm all that pleased with Mr. Stoudermire...

Special Teams
Stoudermire is incredibly talented on returns, but man did he stink Saturday. His fumble of the second half kickoff was where the game changed for the worse. He fumbled three other kickoffs and was finally yanked, and then proceeded to scream at our special teams coach because he was called for fair catch intereference on punt coverage. Not a good day for Troy, although even when he had good days returning kicks in previous games, the rest of our guys would screw it up with holding, clipping, or block-in-the-back penalties.

Our Pass Defense is Not Very Good
What on God's green earth has happened to our pass coverage? That's three straight weeks (and five of the past six dating all the way back to the California game) where we have really struggled to stop the pass. Come to think of it, the only three games where we haven't given up at least 252 yards through the air were against Syracuse (where QB Greg Paulus was playing in his first ever college football game- and his first football game of any kind in FIVE YEARS!?!?), Air Force (a wishbone option run team), and Wisconsin (they're Wisconsin. They don't have to throw when they rush for 295 yards at six yards per carry).

We held all three of those non-throwing teams to under 200 yards passing, but in the other five games we've been lit up like a Christmas Tree through the air. It's time to realize our pass defense is just not very good. Our defensive backs are average, or worse, in coverage, and I will no longer refer to Trey Simmons as "Big Play Trey" because the only big plays he makes are for the other team. Good gracious, Simmons and the rest of our secondary made Ohio State wideout DeVier Posey look like a combination of Ted Ginn, Anthony Gonzalez, David Boston, Joey Galloway, Cris Carter and Jesus. His first touchdown- you know, the one where he was open by 15 yards- was a total blown coverage, and his second had to be too, as when the closest player to him is plodding safety Kyle Theret, you know something went wrong. Of course we're not getting a pass rush to help out our beleaguered secondary either: the Gophers are third worst in the Big Ten in sacks with just 13 (so much for replacing Willie Van De Steeg's production from a year ago).

At Least Our Rush Defense is Good...oh wait
Yeah that's the thing- our rush defense isn't good either. We're 10th in the conference (and 96th nationally), giving up 177 yards a game. Our pass defense actually ranks ahead of our rush defense, and put them together and you get the second worst total defense ahead of only Illinois.

Third Downs Are Just Killing Us
On third down, our offense cannot stay on the field and our defense cannot get off it. We're dead last in the Big Ten in third down conversions by a pretty wide margin at 34.7% (90th nationally), and we're also dead last in opponents third down percentage by an even wider gap, as we're allowing teams to convert third downs at a 50.8% success rate (115th nationally).

Honestly, after looking at all of that, it's amazing to me we've won four games already. And even more amazing, with as bad as we've been, we can still win at least two of our next three games to be bowl eligible. But it's not going to happen without some improvements in some or all of these areas- and ALL of these areas covers the entire team. Every single guy in that locker room- well except Decker and he's hurt- needs to step up and play better, and it needs to start Saturday against Michigan State.

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