... Dave “Fizzy” Weinraub’s views here could be considered contrary or constructive criticism … I will let you decide in the comments below ...
By: Dave (Fizzy) Weinraub
Two shutouts in a row, a five game winning streak, more talent than almost everyone we play, bowl game and conference championship possibilities, that’s not too shabby, right? The program is in great shape, so what’s to bitch about?
I’ll tell you what; it’s the play-calling in the first half.
Most every week before the game, Coach Rhule announces our game plan to the world. The plan is usually the same, we’re going to run the football and keep the other team’s offense off the field. (Even if we are going to do that, I sure as hell wouldn’t tell everyone else.) Of course, the opposing coaches then design their first and second down defenses to stop the run. Tulane certainly did that. Led by number 77 (Smart), Tulane gapped and run-blitzed the stuffing out of the Owls, and rendered our run game mostly ineffective in the first half. It ended at 10 – 0, and woulda, coulda, shoulda, been at least 24 – 0.
Until nearly the end of the first half we ran the ball on practically every first down, and usually on second down too. This puts tremendous pressure on Phillip Walker and our receivers, as they always seemed to be facing third and long. Of course, the defense then dials up some blitzes to put the heat on.
Walker and the receivers, especially Ventell Bryant, were phenomenal. Walker’s passes were mostly crisp and accurate, and our receivers seem to be gaining more confidence in each game. With Tulane playing man-to-man, it was obvious from the get-go, they couldn’t cover our guys.
Well, what was obvious to me, wasn’t obvious to Glenn Thomas and Matt Rhule. Sure, it ended up as a romp, but we didn’t know that in the first half. Twice, on first and twenty, we ran the ball on both first and second downs. At first and goal, three times, we ran the ball on first and second downs. When we lined up in I formation, I thought for sure they were going to run the play-action to our outstanding Nick Sharga in the flat. No dice! Speaking of play-action against a man-to-man pass coverage, OMG, how successful would that have been on first down?
All of the above may not seem important after a blow-out, but it is. In the three losses this year, all woulda, coulda, shouldas, it seems our coaches stubbornly stuck to the game plan until it was too late. More imaginative and flexible play calls, might have staved off those losses. But now, if we’re to win a championship and a bowl game against very good teams, we’re not going to have the luxury of out-manning our opponents in the second half. We have to be nimble and strike quickly. If we waste opportunities against good teams, we will lose.
In closing, I’d like to congratulate Phil Snow on putting together an exceptional defense. However, a word of caution. We couldn’t stop Army’s triple-option, and Navy runs it better. If we get to play Navy, I’d like to suggest he get together with Wayne Hardin. At our tailgate after a loss to Navy years ago, Coach Hardin, drew up his plan on how to stop it. If we can’t, we’d better score a lot of points.
Tomorrow: The Seniors