Sunday, 4 September 2011

Utah State Review: Growing Pains Show In Close Win

Going into yesterday's game I knew we would give up a few points, my original prediction for this game was 42-24 but at half-time I wouldn't have minded giving up 50 if we could have come away with the win.

Last season we gave up 26 against Arkansas State and then went on to win a National Championship. That isn't going to happen this season, but I can still hope that we can grow as a team and win a few games, which I still think we will. Did yesterday's game have vanilla tactics? I really don't know, I certainly hope so.

So where did it go wrong yesterday? Because even though we still won you and I both know that the entire performance as a whole wasn't impressive. Although I have to say even though the offence struggled at times I don't think the performance on that side of the ball was that bad, the only thing that nudged me was that when the run wasn't working we just kept on running the ball. The offensive line is new so we knew there would be issues but I think Trotter needs to throw the ball more. 17 for 23 attempts and 3 TD's is a pretty impressive stat-line. Yesterday he looked good throwing the ball and our receivers certainly impressed me as well. Travante Stallworth caught pretty much everything, not to mention Blake and Lutzenkirchen are reliable as well.

Overall, I don't think our offence had that many problems yesterday and I don't anticipate us having many more issues, but that isn't where the main problems lie.

Defensively we were less than impressive yesterday, even though I could use a much worse description of the defence I still understand that as a whole the unit is very young and in-experienced. The only guys who played yesterday that have a good amount of college experience are Thorpe, Eguae and Bell. The defence is experiencing some major growing pains. Especially on the defensive line, where they got man-handled yesterday.

Daren Bates was one player that I can't make any more excuses for, he has been here three years and still has issues tackling the ball. One excuse that I WILL make is that he does seem to be in all the right places, and if he could tackle better he could be a hell of an SEC linebacker, but right now that doesn't seem likely. He always wants to go for the big hit, and although it gets the crowd fired up and rather him get a tackle-for-loss.

The linebacker unit as a whole was not impressive yesterday, but people do forget that we have had attrition/injury problems there as of lately. Jessel Curry transferred, Jawara White suffered a really bad injury last season, Kris Frost is out for the year and LaDarius Owens recently moved from linebacker to defensive end, which was his high school position. However this is not a good excuse. There are certainly slim pickings at that position, but one man that I do hope can make a difference is Eltoro Freeman. Freeman has worlds of potential physically but mentally he hasn't been able to put it all together as of yet, I guess we will wait and see.

I'm no coach, nor am I an expert at tactics but I don't like the constant use of zone defence. On 3rd and 4 giving the wide receivers an 8 yard cushion will do us no favours. I'd like to see us blitz more on 3rd down and play man-to-man to prevent giving up the inevitable first down. We didn't look too bad in a man-to-man scheme. Like I asked earlier was this a vanilla defensive scheme? Will we play more man-to-man next week against the Bulldogs? Getting slashed through the middle on the run is something else that needs to be worked on. Last season we had the luxury of having good run-stoppers in Bynes, Blanc, Fairley and Clayton and right now we are looking young and exposed in that area.

We weren't perfect yesterday but I'm still shocked at how we managed to come out with the win. Being down by 10 with two minutes to go pretty much means you are going to lose, but when it came down to it, that onside kick that was a thing of beauty. Chris Brooks got the ball up high and Blake just nipped it out of the air and ran with it. Special Teams seems to be a strength, what with Parkey's leg of steel and Tre Mason looking like Devin Hester on kick returns. That should be a bright spot for us this year.

Oh and for those who left early shame on you all. I'd KILL to be able to see an Auburn game this year and even if we were down 35-0 I still wouldn't leave. The players need the support if they are to win more games this year. Kudos to those who did stay and support your school. The team pulled out the last minute comeback which I was and always have been impressed with. This never-say-die attitude has been installed in this team, which is why we won the National Championship last year and it's why we won yesterdays game.

Next week we play against a pretty impressive looking Mississippi State offence, and if we don't make the correct changes we could be making Vick Ballard look like a Heisman candidate by the end of the game. We play at home in another 11am game so I hope we can come out firing on all cylinders and play a consistent and better game. Some say we will get blown out next week but I don't think we will. I'm not saying we will win the game but the last time we got blown out was in 2009 against LSU. I certainly think we will be in every game we play in.

Chizik and Roof know that there are tweaks to made on defence and I trust them both to make them. We won the game yesterday and no matter what people are thinking we aren't in a disastrous position. We are 1-0, the season's heart is still beating and we have a chance to keep on winning if the correct changes are made. Perhaps I will feel better about next weeks game as the week rolls on. We can win next week, but I can't say right now that we definitely will. If we don't make the right changes, it could be a long season. I think we will get a better idea of our season by next saturday.

Let's get our season really started next week, lets be as loud as we can and support our team in our own stadium. We need to enforce the stereotype of a HOME-FIELD ADVANTAGE.

Don't forget, we are still undefeated.