16 October 2011
First, Go Rangers! World Series, baby!
Now, about yesterday.
MSU lost a game they could have won against a better football team. There is both good and bad in that statement, but it is what it is. Tyler Russell had an okay game. Would Relf had done better? I don't know, probably not because Russell has a heck of an arm and good instincts.
I've said before that State's offensive problems don't begin nor end with the QB and I think yesterday proved my point. When Russell had time to throw he was spot on with most of his passes except for a few mis-thrown deep balls. The problem is, Russell rarely had time to throw. The kid was running for his life. Every snap seemed to be a South Carolina D-line jail break. Russell showed some mobility skills, and really showed his ability to take a hit. But, good grief, if that continues there won't be any debate about who should start because Russell won't be healthy enough for the job.
And even though the receivers were better than usual, there were still some big yards left on the field. There were some good catches and some drops, most notably Ricco Sanders not snagging a beautifully thrown deep pass down the sidelines that hit him in stride and would have been 6. We gotta have those.
So our offense remains plagued by the same problems despite the change at QB. Our O-Line isn't blocking and our receivers aren't making plays. That being said, I will tip my hat to Chris Smith for his TD catch (the EXACT same play that he deflected to a DB in Athens to swing the entire game) and a spectacular catch while being upended at midfield. Hopefully, it's a sign he is turning around and others will follow.
One thing is clear to me, Russell's mere ability to throw the ball well opens up the running game. That alone is probably enough in my opinion for Russell to be the starter from here on out. But we have to protect him or someone is gonna break him in half, and we have to give him time to throw or his confidence will wane quickly. Do those things, and Russell is our guy. I'm a Relf fan. But, sadly, he just wasn't getting it done and opposing defenses were cheating against the run way too much. Had Relf been able to burn them on it a few times and kept them honest I think he is still our starter.
A few observations:
-- Key Moment: State is up 7-0, SC shanks a punt and we get the ball at their 48. State calls three straight up-the-middle runs and punts. I don't get it.
-- Key Moment: Third and goal. SC down by three. Alshon Jeffrey has been shut down by Johnthan Banks the entire game and suddenly Jeffrey finds himself covered by Corey Broomfield, who is 6 inches shorter than Jeffrey. Fade pass, jump ball, TD South Carolina.
-- Key Moment: State has 1st and Goal at the SC 4. They have a 240 lb QB on the bench who is very good at executing the option and power running game. Yet, he never sees the field and State once again fails in the red zone and settles for three only to eventually lose on the aforementioned fade pass.
-- On just about every passing down the South Carolina D-Line comes after Russell with fury. Russell was hit a lot. The pursuit was relentless. And yet, not one RB screen was called. If anyone has an explanation for these things I am all ears.
The pundits are making a lot about Jeffrey having a bad game yesterday, yet no one is saying why. This is an All-American WR who will score a lot of TDs in the NFL and he was shut down by a relatively unknown and under-recognized CB. I praise Johnthan Banks a lot on this site because it is well-deserved. He is second in the nation in INTs and that doesn't include the spectacular play he made on the deep ball that was intercepted by Nickoe Whitley. I think he has All-American talent, that he's a shut-down corner who may not be here next year if this continues. Hopefully, he plans to be here next year and get another season under his belt. But, if I'm the defensive coach, I put him on their best WR and let the rest of the defense handle the rest of the offense. Yesterday's game was Banks' best, and I think he has many to give. Too bad he wasn't on Jeffrey for that last play. I think it would have made a difference.
Also, I watched the Texas game yesterday. I saw the highlights of their game with OU. It appears that we're doing just fine with our defensive coaches. My concerns about Manny Diaz were that he takes a lot of risks on defense. Yes, this leads to negative plays but also makes you prone to giving up the big play. It was big plays that killed us against Arky and Bama last year, and yesterday that Diaz defense gave up a lot of them.
Chris Wilson seems to bring a similar defensive strategy only he doesn't take those risks and doesn't seem to be nearly as vulnerable to the big play. We struggled early this season on D, mainly because we had some new guys stepping in who needed game-situation experience in order to grow. They had a tough time against Memphis and Auburn, but once those guys got comfortable in their positions they really blossomed. I couldn't be happier with our Defense. Wilson has done a great job and I think we're better off now than we would be had Diaz stayed.
Helmet Stickers: Chris Smith showed good hands and boy do we need that. Malcolm Johnson had a few big catches and his presence at TE is looking good. Fletcher Cox had 2 sacks and 2 other tackles for loss. Josh Boyd had 7 tackles, including one sack. Brandon Wilson had 8 tackles including many key stops on Lattimore. Cam Lawrence had 11 tackles. Banks had another pick, a brilliant deflection to Whitley for a pick and shut down Jeffrey. Whitley had a pick and some big negative tackles. Brian Egan is doing well on kickoffs, with two into the endzone.
As for the helmets, I don't really mind the matte finish. Either way, it doesn't matter. I just want them to win. Personally, I think the timing of these matte-finish helmets and Tex A&Ms entry in the SEC are related. The two teams have identical uniforms and maybe State is trying to distinguish itself.
Kentucky is next. It's a must win.