Monday, September 18, 2006

Time to Move Forward, Again?


It seems like we were just here, what, two weeks ago..? Another game we should have won, another special defensive effort, and another pathetic showing on offense in the second half.

Let's ignore the fumble on the kickoff return at the end of the Washington State game, it was meaningless. But against TCU and WSU, we turned the ball over three times combined on the opponents end of the field, twice inside the redzone. Not to mention that against WSU we grabbed a whopping 43 yards of offense.

OK, so now let's let it go.

The fact of the matter is that we are 1-2. We have a chance to get back to .500 against Army, and then it's into the conference schedule. What do we have to do to get back to our hopes for a bowl game this year?

1. Running Game
2. Passing Game

Yeah, so the offense.

And YES, I know that this is a pass-oriented scheme, but that doesn't "pass-oriented" doesn't mean "pass-only". Texas Tech rushed over 300 times in their first year in the system. They averaged 66.4 yards per game. That's not an overwhelming total, and they did only average 2.6 yards per carry, but the attempts themselves made the opposing defense make even an small effort at remembering that there is a rushing attack. This year Texas Tech is averaging 93 yards per game on 19 rushes per game. 12 of those rushes each game are by the starting running back.

And we have good running backs. It isn't showing up as much, but when you are only giving Mosley and Whitaker have combined to average 8.33 carries per game you can't exactly expect them to be setting the world on fire. If Mosley/Whitaker were getting an extra 3.66 carries per game, that equates to an extra 13.5 yards per game, and 39.5 yards overall. That might not sound like much, but each of those extra attempts is also another opportunity for Whitaker or Mosley to take it for a longer gain than their average of 3.6 yards per attempt.

And what about the passing attack?

Looking only at our D1-A opponents, the leading receiver is Zeigler with 50.5 yards per game on 4.5 catches. Brandon Whitaker is second, averaging 45 yards per game on 6 catches. Shelton comes in third with 43 yards per game on 5 catches. So what? That means that our three most productive receivers are combining for just 133.5 yards per game. Well, Texas Tech is averaging only 25 yards more than Baylor through the air, but their top three receivers are averaging 221.4 yards per game. And it's been a down year for them with a new QB (RSSO, not a senior).

The leading receivers, even in this offense, are what drives the consistency. And that might very well be one of the reasons we are having trouble moving the ball throughout the game. It IS important to spread the ball around, but we also need to get the ball to those that are producing the best for us, or who can produce the best for us.

Apparently the offensive captains called a team meeting on the off-day and they spent time watching film. That's fantastic news. It shows that they are willing to put some effort in off the field. Let's hope that translates into something on the field.

We desperately need something. The fan base is tearing itself apart (read: chicken little), we are quickly losing the grasp on what should be a very special season for us (and still can be), and we need to put the first three games behind us (don't pretend that NSU was all that pretty, either) and move forward.

The best way to do that is to simply dominate Army. I'm not talking a repeat of the NSU game. That won't make anyone feel any better. And I'm not saying it should be a perfect game. It's ok if Bell throws an interception. It's ok if he gets sacked. It's ok if the defense gives up a big play. But those need to be the exceptions to a great game.

We've got a Parent's Weekend crowd coming, meaning that it will likely be north of 40,000 people (I know I'll be there), and that's a lot of people to impress. In order for the game to be a full success, we need to:

  1. Win
  2. Be able to move the ball consistently and explosively
  3. Score 35+ points
  4. Pass for 300+ yards
  5. Run for 100+ yards
  6. Hold Army to less than 100 yards rushing and 200 yards passing
  7. Three or more turnovers
That will make the game a success. In order for us to make a statement, do all of that in the first AND second halves (except #6, that's a game-total, not a half-total, Steele's defense could "hold" people to those numbers for the half).

I also want to make something clear here:

I believe that Shawn Bell is our best option at QB. I in no way am calling for him to be replaced. I do think he needs to step up his game, and I'm glad he took responsibility for the Washington State game, whether or not it was his fault. He wasn't alone in responsibility, that's for sure, but it's a good sign of leadership for him to step up like that.

Tonight or tomorrow I will take a look at Army. I'm still trying to do an in-depth look at the running game, but I don't know when or if I'll be able to get to that this week.

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