Tuesday, September 29, 2009
I'm sitting here as PTI wraps up and the bottom border of ESPN flashes "COLLEGE FOOTBALL LIVE NEXT." I'm not going to watch it, I know Penn State will only be discussed in the context of Saturday evening's game, and I've had that conversation as honestly as I can with myself about 10 times since the game. Here's where I'm at:
There's really only one short bright stretch to this game, right? The first 10 minutes. 3 and out, first offensive play from scrimmage TD, tack on a field goal to that and we have a double digit lead. At this point, I'm thinking, "We look good," the coaches were thinking, "Let's slow this down," and Iowa was thinking, "This is familiar." From that point on we took the liberty of lowering the shotgun to the top of our foot and firing away. Not to say we didn't deserve to lose, we did, but the way we did made me sick to my stomach.
Firstly, before I proceed to make myself as miserable as possible with an in house analysis, Iowa is better than us. They abused us with the running game and capitalized off our turnovers and limited their own. When I say they deserved to win, I mean it.
Our offensive line is bad, every kind of bad. They were physically overmatched, communicated poorly, and they blew assignments. Iowa's D line had them for dinner, Clark had defenders in his face almost every time he dropped back and the run game looked like its 2009 familiar self. The 0 sacks surrendered is more of a testament to Daryll's mobility than to the line. About Daryll's mobility...
USE IT!!!! That 1st interception thrown absolutely killed me, it's 3rd and 2, hes rolling right, he weighs 245 and he has a good 5 yards of field in front of him. Tuck the ball and get it. Instead he opted to throw the short out (more on these later) and it got picked. He claims the ball slipped, and I might believe him, but the ball wouldn't have slipped if he had chosen to use his legs instead of forcing it. We are running Clark with more caution this year because of the absence of depth at QB, but if you can get a first down and then slide that's a play any QB should make, whether it's DC or Kerry Collins. The dual threat quarterback is DEADLY in college football and the "Spread HD" is at its best when we have a quarterback willing to run. Without one we are the predictable, containable offenses of 2006, 2007 and apparently 2009. That really showed on Saturday with all the passes to the sidelines, the "movement" of the pocket that looks fancy but doesn't fool anyone, the stubborn scheme that changes like the weather in Orlando. We did not challenge the middle of the field, we did little to impede Iowa's pass rush, and when we did Royster dropped the screen pass that would've gone for a first down. Shotgun! Clark has to throw the ball 20 yards laterally to gain 3 yards in this system. The safeties can cheat to the sidelines against this system. We can go 8-4 with this system.
This game was a nightmare from the past, a step backward. I wish we would've lost differently, all the usual gripes that went dormant last year resurfaced on Saturday. Last year we didn't know what we had in our offense and we played hungrier, calling whatever it took to win. This time we wanted to win on some bogus terms, we were determined to play a certain style of football and if that wasn't enough, so be it. I'm more upset with the coaches than anything here, we are so easy to play against in big regular season games. We have a few scripted plays and then we reel it in the rest of the game, trying to grind it out instead of going and getting the W. We ran a 3 back Power-I formation twice on Saturday, and both times we ran a counter with Chaz Powell. The first time it gained 8 yards and the second time it gained 0. That formation wasn't anywhere to be seen the rest of the game, the ONLY look the D had at it was the play that we ran twice. We could've play action passed, we could've faked the counter and ran Royster straight ahead, but we went with what was comfortable, what was familiar. That's the recurring theme that has killed me watching this team over the years. We won't always have the talent to comfortably beat teams the way that we want to, sometimes we have to adjust. And why wouldn't we? Why wouldn't we do everything in our power to win the game at hand and keep the title dream alive? I'm tired of playing not to lose. To show you how much this hurts I'm going to quote the original protagonist of this dressed up conservative offense Anthony Morelli when he said, "The defense isn't going to give us anything, we have to take it."