Sunday, October 15, 2006
I cannot remember ever watching a Bulldog game quite like yesterday's at Bulldog stadium. Not only did Hawaii completely outplay us in every possible way, but they did it in humiliating fashion. Fresno State had no answer for Hawaii's spread/run and shoot offense. Colt Brennan threw for 409 yards and five touchdowns as he was able to sit back and throw the ball to whomever he pleased. The Bulldogs were not able to pressure Brennan and when they did he eluded it with ease. To make matters worse for the Dogs the only offensive weapon that hadn't faultered all season did in the first quarter as Dwayne Wright fumbled two times leading to two touchdowns for the Rainbows.
What exactly went wrong for Fresno State yesterday? Well in one word: Everything. Our defense was the absolute worst I have ever seen in a Bulldog team. The defense put no pressure on Brennan, did not tackle, did not cover, and could not stop the run. It is becoming apparent that even Marcus McCauley is affected by the horrendous play of our defense. McCauley is often trying to make up for what the other db's and safeties don't have in coverage skills and is getting beat on deep passes because of it. The goals for this game were as follows:
1) Keep the ball and grind the clock: Failed
2) Win the turnover battle: Failed
3) Pressure Brennan into throwing the ball before he is ready to, leading to mistakes: Failed
I am sure there were plenty more goals for the Bulldogs in this game but I believe they did not achieve any of them. However, from a Bulldog fans standpoint many left the stadium in a much better mood than one might have expected. We were able to see Sean Norton play for the first time this season and he played exactly how we hoped he would. Norton finished 14-24 with 225 yards and three touchdowns in two and a half quarters of play. He threw one interception but he will learn not to make that type of throw in a game with more experience. Norton is very mobile and makes accurate throws on the run. He had ten incompletions but four of those were dropped balls that should have been caught by his receivers. At the same time Lonyae Miller came in and ran the ball very efficently. We hve a good strong nucleus of players on offense and if we can continue to get these young guys some playing time our offense is going to get back to the well oiled machine it was when David Carr was around. With Pascoe, Norton, Miller, Crawley, Ciccone, West (this guy is going to be amazing), and Moore returning next season I have to say our offense has a chance to be outstanding. If our offensive coordinator can figure out how to get Norton out of the pocket on roll outs and such he then becomes a dangerous weapon in more ways than one. However, all of this is a moot point if the defense does not figure out what they are doing.
One of the the major problems on defense seems to be this team just does not adjust to anything. If the offense for the opposite team is running plays between eight and ten yards on the average why are your corners off the receivers ten yards? Why do you not bring the corners up and bump the receiver off of the line? You are allowed five yards to "chuck" the receiver so why not do it? Not only can that ruin the route the receiver was going to run but it absolutely screws up the timing of the play as well. Another problem was one I mentioned this past week: The Bulldogs do not hit anymore. Yesterday was one missed tackle after another. I wil be the first to admit I might have errored in judgement on Jefferson as he was burned on the second touchdown Hawaii scored. I don't know if he is a bad cover man because he was there to make the tackle, he just didn't make it. Our Linebackers also seem to be in the complete wrong spot on every single play. Hawaii was throwing on us as if we had five men on defense instead of eleven. So if Hawaii was killing us with the pass and we weren't stopping them why did we not blitz? Why did we not try and change something on defense? We never brought anyone aside the normal four every down. Last week Nevada forced Hawaii into making bad decisions by blitzing Brennan often, a key reason why Nevada had a chance to tie that game with two minutes left. In the end it just might be time to say goodbye to Dan Brown. Our defense has never been anything to write home about and a change here might benefit the team next season.
As Bulldog fans what should we take from this game? Well for one that will depend on tomorrow and who Pat Hill decides to start against LSU. To me this decision should be easy because Norton directed four scoring drives in six attempts and had one drive end on a dropped pass by Fernandez. Brandstater directed a scoring drive on the first possession and did finish 4 for 5 for 79 yards but 75 of those yards came on one play. His other completions were all high and the receivers made very good catches to keep the plays going. I don't believe Brandstater came out because he tweaked his knee, he just doesn't have what it takes to get the job done. In the first quarter when he was sacked on second down he held on to the ball for six seconds. In college football you have a three-four second window to throw the ball. You need to get rid of the ball as soon as you possibly can and Brandstater just has not been able to do so. LSU will absolutely murder Brandstater in the backfield if he holds on to the ball for that long. I will walk away from this loss thinking that if we can fix our defense over the next six games and maybe bridge this season into next season then we will have a decent team for years to come. Our offense will become a scoring machine if Hill can figure out he needs a coordinator that likes to open it up. Look how well throwing the ball downfield to Pascoe worked yesterday. Pascoe had two catches of over 20 yards and Moore also made a great catch and run for a touchdown to start the second half. It was nice to have a quarterback who hits his receivers in the chest with the ball. I feel bad for Tom because of the reception Nortn received when he entered the game but it was time for a change. That is going to be the theme the rest of the season: What else can we change to make things work? The unfortunate thing is I just don't believe we have enough spare parts to put this team back together this season.