Monday, November 9, 2009

Back to the Ol' Drawing Board

Well I hope you enjoyed the feelings of happiness, hope, and the promise of something better after the Michigan State win, because apparently Tim Brewster and the Gopher football team went right back to the maddening and frustrating group we'd come to know and love.

Good gracious- WHAT HAPPENED? The Michigan State game did happen, right? We had an offense that scored 42 points (not on the season, but in one whole game) and put up 500 yards of offense (again, not on the season but in one whole game). That DID happen right? Just checking, because Minnesota played like that game didn't happen, and many of the struggles we'd seen all season long, on both sides of the ball, decided to make a comeback at the worst possible time.

We didn't lapse back into every problem we'd been having, but there were plenty of the "old familiars":
Adam Weber
This should probably be its only weekly post. The Weber Apologists will point to another shaky performance from the offensive line and more dropped passes. True on both accounts, but Weber is also accountable for missing open receivers, and taking some really, really dumb sacks. We can win with the Weber that we saw against Michigan State, but we cannot win with the guy we've seen in pretty much every game except that win over the Spartans, and when he returned against Illinois, we were sunk.

The dropped passes were bad. And the big plays were lacking. No catches for Troy Stoudermire. One for Da'Jon McKnight. It's apparent that because of Weber's inability to throw timing routes, that if the big plays downfield don't happen, the Gophers chances of winning are slim.

MarQueis Gray
Two carries for two yards and 0-1 passing. That's it. That's all. With as poorly as Weber played as as the offense was performing, Gray barely got off the sideline. Being a Gray Apologist, he definitely needs to hit a WIDE open McKnight on that pass, but at the same time, the kid is getting yanked in and out of the game, and has no chance to get into a rhythm. Give him a full series to get comfortable and get some timing. Or just keep him on the bench because the way Fisch used him is pretty much pointless.

Jed Fisch
Speaking of Wonderboy, his playcalling was lacking. Again. Too much Weber, and believe it or not, not enough trust in the running game. And I know what you're saying- we ran for 50 yards at 1.6 yards per carry. WHY WOULD WE KEEP RUNNING?!?! Well, because the running backs were actually moving the ball. Kevin Whaley, or as I like to call him "our best running back", averaged 5.1 yards per carry, and DeLeon Eskridge averaged 4.3 YPC , but between them they only carried the ball 17 times. The reason the run stats looked awful are because of Weber's eight rushes for -60. Yep, some of those are the offensive line, but again, some are Weber hanging onto the ball too long and not making a decision. When we actually gave the ball to our running backs, we were doing quite ok moving the ball. We just for whatever reason didn't give it to the enough.

Passing Defense and 3rd Downs
After a strong showing against a good passing team in Michigan State, our defense allowed the worst passing team in the Big Ten to throw for 238 yards on 9.5 per pass, and convert 9-17 third downs (52%). I continued to see WAY too much zone, especially on third downs. I continued to see way too much zone and a total lack of a pass rush. We had no picks and very few hurries on the Illini's third string freshman QB. Maybe Jacob Charest will be good, but he's not THAT good, at least not yet.

That isn't to say everything went wrong for us though. Among the positives were that we continued to perform well on third down offensively (8-15, which is much better than the mid-thirties percentage we'd been converting), and part of this can be attributed to having some third and shorts instead of third and longs. Our run defense was once again awesome, holding the 20th best rushing team in the nation to just 113 yards on 2.7 YPC. Obviously when Juice went out they lost a big part of their rushing attack (he was their leading rusher on the season after all), but they still have three good running backs that we shut down. Finally, and perhaps most promising- we only committed three penalties. Not in a half, not in a quarter, not on one drive, but in the ENTIRE game!! To go from a Big Ten record 17 two weeks ago to just three against Illinois is incredible, and our coaching staff should be applauded for finally getting the message across.

So it wasn't all bad, but it was still a really painful loss, especially considering what happened around the rest of the conference. With a win we would have been sitting fifth at 4-3, with a real shot at the Alamo Bowl in San Antonio (a better bowl than Mason ever got us to), but instead we're now eighth and are staring the Pizza! Pizza! Bowl in beautiful Detroit square in the face. Not exactly what we had in mind. Still, with as poorly as Iowa played in losing to Northwestern, and coupled with the fact their QB Ricky Stanzi will miss the rest of the regular season, the season finale down in Iowa City is absolutely winnable for the Gophers. Iowa was playing with fire all season long, and without Stanzi (and top back Adam Robinson), they REALLY struggled to move the ball in the second half on Northwestern. You remember Northwestern, right? The team we hung 35 points on and ran for 166 yards? Yep, that Northwestern. Iowa managed just 65 yards rushing and 281 total yards AT HOME. The Hawkeyes were riding a good defense and an opportunistic offense all season. Their D has a lot of takeaways, but their offense wasn't even ranked in the top half of the Big Ten WITH Stanzi. Without him, it's going to be interesting to see how they move the ball. If the Gophers bring the offense we saw against Michigan State to Iowa City and leave the penalties at home, we can absolutely win that game.

Of course, that's a BIG if, and it's still two weeks away. If you haven't heard, South Dakota State should not be taken lightly, and will not be a pushover. The season isn't over, and seven regular season wins is still in our sights, but we need to play a lot better than we did against Illinois to make that happen. With the way the Gophers have played this season, your guess is as good as mine which team will show up to The Bank on Saturday.

1 comment:

Frederic said...

Actually, I do not enjoy watching football. On the other hand, my father very likes it. He had been happy when he heard that Michigan won.