Sunday, September 21, 2008

Sam Houston State React

I think it’s pretty safe to say that we were all hoping for a little more out of the non-conference slate. That’s what an Orange Bowl win and a lot of returning starters will do for you. But when you take a step back and look at what’s going on, you have to admit, we got spoiled really fast. There are plenty of unresolved issues, and I’m still not positive what to expect the rest of the way, but don’t go jumping ship just yet.

The outcome was: underwhelming. you’re facing a FCS team that hasn’t played in three weeks you expect to beat them by more than 24. You expect to score more than 38. And you certainly don’t expect to allow them over 300 yards passing. Like I said, there’s plenty to shore up before the competition stiffens. But on the other side of that, (and believe me, I know nothing about FCS teams), there’s plenty of reason to believe that Sam Houston State will compete for the national championship of their division. I would all but guarantee they have a better offense than we’ll see in Ames. There’s a reason Rhett Bomar was the highest rated QB in his class and it was on display last night (not so much on Stuckey’s pick, but you get the point). And let’s be honest, we didn’t see Kansas take them very seriously last night. In fact, given the personnel and play calling we saw, I’d guess last week was spent concentrating 95% on Kansas and 5% on SHSU. So while we all hoped for more, I think it’s also worth noting that we didn’t exactly see KU lay it all out there either.

The offensive MVP was: Todd Reesing. Are you starting to feel like we may not see another name in this space all year? Through 4 games, he is on pace (in 12 games) to throw for nearly 4200 yards, 33 TDs and 6 INTs. He was more off last night than he’s been all year and he still completed 23-38 (61%) for 356 yards and 2 TDs (+1 running). The pass to Dez may have been the single best play I’ve ever seen. But unfortunately, he needs some help. As you saw last week, he can certainly keep the points coming by himself, but he can’t necessarily win by himself (and he’s already trying to do too much). Last year, he averaged 34 attempts per game. This year, he’s averaging 32 completions (on 45 att.). That’s too much and it’s not going to work in the Big XII.

The Defensive MVP was: Darrell Stuckey. While Todd has been the guy on offense, Darrell has certainly been the most consistent on his side of the ball. Last night was no exception as he grabbed an interception for himself, while also punching one loose for Thornton to grab. He also racked up 7 tackles, though that number should have been higher but he let a couple get away from him. As did pretty much everyone else on defense last night.

The offensive LVP was: the o-line. I really hope I can put someone else in this spot sometime soon. And I don’t think the backs are free from fault. But they’ve shown plenty of ability to break some tackles and do some things in space, especially at the second level. Unfortunately, they don’t see a lot of space and they almost never see the second level. 3.4 yards per carry on Sam Houston State is unacceptable and changes may be imminent (pure speculation). You should be able to pick up 4th and inches on USC, let alone the Sam Houston State Bearkats.

Similarly, I really have to wonder what Ed Warinner is doing here. Is there a logical explanation why we rarely see a run outside of the tackles. While Jocques and Angus might be built to bounce off a few inside, they’re both plenty capable of hitting the corner. Perhaps they’re holding back. Perhaps they’re trying things out on the inside. Perhaps they have even less faith in the receivers than the line. Whatever the reason, we need to see more here and I’d prefer it be sooner than later.

The defensive LVP was: the 2nd corner trio of Barfield, Murphy and Powell. I knew losing Kendrick would hurt. I didn’t realize it would have this kind of impact. Not one of them is challenging the receiver, yet they’re also all getting beat deep. None of them are nearly up to speed and you can almost see them thinking through their assignments. Meanwhile, their man is either sitting in front of them and making a catch or running right by them. We either need one to figure it out or Kendrick to get back in there or we’re in for a lot of shootouts this year.

Running game watch: remained a disappointment. We’ve covered this plenty already, but suffice it to say that 3.4 yards per carry is not going to work, regardless of the opponent.

The skill position blocking was: hard to gauge. It was pretty apparent that Mangino wanted to send a message to Dez and Daymond (by starting Brown and Pendleton), but to be honest I really didn’t notice a huge difference either way (though I did see a few downfield blocks), because we really didn’t ever run behind the receivers (was that a record for least bubble screens thrown?). We’re obviously going to see an improvement here once Dex gets back, but until we really run on the outside or into the second level, it’s hard to tell.

The pass rush was: still pretty non-existent. Russell and RJJ combined for a sack and Laptad got one of his own. But in reality, Jake appears to be the only one capable of generating one consistently. Much like these other items we’ve been addressing, this issue only figures to increase exponentially as the competition does the same. Perhaps more alarming is that many of the others seem fixable; I’m not sure that’s the case here.

Iowa State Fear Factor is: 4 out of 10. Base line of 5. (+1) for having to go to Ames. (-1) because they’re Iowa State. (+1) because of our line play. (-1) because of this. And (-1) for this. Gotta love a Hot Toddy!

Going into next week I feel: ecstatic that it’s a bye week. Unlike last year at this time when there was nary a chink in the armor, this year the sky is falling. You think expectations have changed much around Lawrence? But expectations aside, some issues have definitely surfaced and don’t appear to be easily rectified. That said, we’ve seen enough over the last 17 games to know that this team is plenty capable of putting together another great season. Heading into Big XII play I’m happy to know the Big Man has two weeks to tinker with things and get some shit straightened out.

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