Like I mentioned in the Links Post yesterday, this is not going to be a full breakdown post. I will divide the game up into its three phases and list my thoughts on each after I had re-watched the game.
- Tackling. Tackling. Tackling. Improve, or our pretty damn good defense will begin to become as inept as our offense.
- Kicking. One horrendously shanked punt, at the most inopportune time (we punted from inside our own 20) really hurt. The kickoffs need to be 5 yards deep, not falling right on the goal line. First kickoff went past the end zone! Why couldn't the subsequent ones?
- Field Goal Unit. Batting 1000. in the game. Yay.....
- Sheldon Richardson is a man. He gave good pressure up front all game, helped keep Latimore in check (he really did not have a big gaining, 20+ run all game if memory serves me right). He also made some huge tackles down field too. Problem is, that's not his job, and he cannot be expected to do so every game. At this point, he really is our best defensive player.
- Rest of the DL.... Solid I guess? Got burned on a few screens, and there was hardly any pressure on Shaw. Pretty evident I'd say, 20 in a row does not mean that our ends had a good day.
- Linebackers....Solid. Ebner, I don't know how you do it. You just keep throwing yourself at the ball carrier. It looks so painful every single time you get up.
- Secondary. 20 in a row. Gaines had one blown coverage all game and it went for about 30 yards (and maybe a TD? Can't remember) Some guys were wide open. Now this is not because our secondary guys are bad. Spurrier has been making opposing defenses look inept for years. Our Cover 2 is something he's seen a million times. We weren't going to pitch a shut out, we all knew that.
- But we did have success. All the shifting and stunting our defense does in fact did give the offense trouble. But when SCAR spread us out, they took away the line and backer stunts and made us play into their strengths. And they kept it spread most of the game. 20 in a row guys. I bet that's burned into the defense's mind right now.
- I agree with Matter. Line gave James pretty good time actually. Problem was, every time we decided to push the ball down the field, James was hurried or sacked. Last game, we saw they pulled Culver into the game to pass block. It mystifies me as to why we didn't do so for this game. I would trade time to make a throw for one less route down field. But that's just me. They did keep some of our RB's back to block, but...those guys are 5'10" with their cleats on, all sub 200. That's asking a lot in terms of pass blocking. So what if SCAR knows whats coming, we need to be able to trust our system and players to beat the defense....Which brings me to my next point.
- There is something wrong with the offense right now. It is pretty evident. Besides the line play, I have nothing to say about the RBs and WRs, they all did great when they got the ball. But it is the QB and OC play right now that I believe is hampering the offense. Yost is one hell of a coach. No doubt about it. But he has his faults, like every coach, and when things aren't going well, those faults seem to loom larger. For most fans, its the play calling that upsets them. I'm going to give Yost credit on this point. The Franklin keepers are not his fault. Yost is calling literally the simplest play we run. It is James who is deciding to keep the ball most of the time. It is pretty obvious that James is thinking of last year when it was up to him to spark the offense, and he usually did so with some pretty big runs. Over the course of the past few games, we've seen him take more and more of the dives, hoping to get the spark. Unfortunately, our line, and top 10 SEC defenses, have hindered him. James is going to have to learn to give the ball away, or we will continue to waste downs.
- Hook and ladder play, in that situation, in our offense's current funk.....to paraphrase Pinkel "If it works, you are the hero. If not, the villain." I get it, if it had worked, hot damn, our offense is back. But when it didn't....it seemed like we were doomed, it looked desperate, and reaching for a spark, and in fact we were. And still are. Ugh
And now for me to start the debate.
I am actually of the persuasion that Berks should start.
Allow me to explain.
- If Franklin really is our best option, and the coaches know that, then they would have quashed the speculation. The beat writers would have gotten the message and it would have appeared in their writing. But I sense a lingering doubt in some of the write ups.
- Berks did great against ASU. Scored more points, had a better game and better stats in his first game against a better team than James did against Miami of Ohio. So by that comparison alone, fair or unfair, Berks is starting ahead of where Franklin did a year ago.
- In the ASU game, he made all the right decisions, I don't remember one bad read he had on the speed option, either handing off or keeping it, and he did so under worse line play than Franklin enjoyed against SCAR. He threw the ball well, the interception wasn't a bad decision, it was a poor throw, the guy was in fact open. The plays, in my opinion, developed faster, the ball got down field quicker (and more accurately). The offense just looked more fluid under him.
- I know its against ASU, not the two top 10 defenses Franklin has played. But at some point we have to stop blaming the defenses, the line, Yost, whoever, and start questioning the QB play. Outside of two blown coverages by GA, the offense under Franklin in the GA games was less than average. It was our defense that kept us in that game, and it was the offense that sabotaged their effort in the end, and didn't even give the defense a fighting chance against SCAR (with help from Special Teams too). How is it that our defense can compete at an SEC level, but our offense can't? Are we saying that our athletes on defense are better? That SEC offenses don't have freak athletes, only SEC defenses do? Something isn't adding up.
- If Franklin's shoulder is causing our offense to not be as fluid, or explosive, as we need it to be, then wouldn't it be better to put in the back up while he heals up? 75% of Franklin is really better than 100% Berkstresser? He is our (projected) future starter!! It's his second year on the team, same with Franklin when he started. Is he really such a bad option that we blame blind rage when someone says he should start?
- Berks has a quick release, something James does not. Under poor line play, that helps tremendously. Besides one rifle of a throw in the fist quarter last game, I haven't seen Franklin gun anything, honestly, ever. There's a reason we have stopped the throws to the flats. He doesn't have the arm strength. Berks does. If you are trying to negate a pass rush, throw quick to the flat, throw quick slants. Those happen better with a quick, strong throw.
- The coaches decisions aren't sacrosanct. Josey wasn't the started at the beginning of the year last year. Guess who quickly became one of, if not the, best RBs Mizzou has had under Pinkel? Players may excel in practice, or they may excel in games. Berks may be a guy who does best in games. That's just the way it is. We don't know that for sure, but I think it's worth a shot. Rest up James, let him get his shoulder right, and let's see what Berks can do.
- This may all be worth nothing after this weekend's game, but it's what we know now.