This is going to be slightly modified to highlight the positive and abbreviated due to a) me starting a new job Monday and b) there's almost nothing new to say about this team since the first game.
I'm putting this first, because it was the highlight of the evening. On our first weekend as Chicago residents, the wife and I took the bus up to Lincoln Park to catch the game at The Derby, which was a great decision. The Derby brands itself as Chicago's Mizzou bar, and true to form, almost the entire crowd was in black and gold, and the Chicago chapter of the Mizzou alumni association was selling raffle tickets. Just as importantly, there were plenty of TVs, and the food was fantastic. The wife and I split two orders of buffalo wings and two burgers, The Derby and The Buffalo Bison Burger. The Buffalo Bison was the clear winner of the two.
Both teams showed an awful lot of Cover 1. I'm not sure what Odom saw on film that made him favor that; I imagine Jeremy Pruitt saw a young quarterback that likes to throw on time and figured he could jam and play man against our receivers to disrupt Lock's timing and maybe bait him into holding on to the ball too long. Plus, it gave him an extra defender further stifle our sputtering running attack.
I just feel bad for the defense all around, holding any team to nine points should be enough to win (right, Connecticut?).
We're running out of superlatives, aren't we? Charles Harris is an animal. His sack on third-and-13 in the third quarter was spectacular -- it was on a 3-man rush and he ran right by the left tackle with a rip move that was almost perfunctory.
As impressive as Kentrell Brothers' tackle on fourth-and-1 in the first was, the play that set it up was perhaps more so: 190-pound Aarion Penton held his ground and redirected all 251 pounds of fullback Quayvon Hicks. The defensive linemen held their ground and kept the offensive line off the linebackers. Charles Harris played so far down the line that he off-balanced fullback Glenn Welch. That left Brendan Douglas all alone with Brothers, who had scraped over into the hole, which is a battle he wasn't going to win.
It's worth noting that they considered handing the ball to Hicks, but he's still having flashbacks from 2013...
Ah... happier days.
I was consistently impressed by our corners stacking up blockers on bubble screens and still sliding off to make tackles. Bubble screens are designed to pick up easy yards where they exist, but more importantly they pull nickel backs and linebackers out of the box to open up the inside run or to suck safeties up to open up deep passes. Being able to only play one defender wide against 2 receivers, without being forced to walk a linebacker out or a safety down is an amazing luxury for Barry Odom.
It's a peculiar situation to be asking defensive backs to haul in defensed passes for interceptions, or to lay out for the pylon to turn interception returns to the 1 into touchdowns, but honestly, our defense is coming closer to scoring touchdowns than our offense, so that's the situation we find ourselves in.
Another week, another pair of traded missed field goals. While it was darn neighborly of Florida and Georgia to shank one each to keep things even, and Baggett's missed 53-yarder against Florida was perfectly understandable, pushing a 37-yarder that could have been the difference in the game hurts.
The template I use to write these fills this space with [words go here], and I seriously considered leaving it that way. It's hard to call plays when nothing works, and I'm all out of ideas. I'm encouraged by the news that the coaching staff is going to play with different line combinations, because honestly, I don't know how an OL with so much experience can struggle so much.
Offensive Line, H-Backs & Running Backs
Russell Hansbrough looked as close to 100% has he has since his injury, which is encouraging.
Quarterbacks & Receivers
The flashes of brilliance in Drew Lock's passes to Cam Hilton and Nate Brown (one of which he threw while staring down an entirely unblocked Leonard Floyd, who twisted inside from his left end position while Taylor Chappell and Mitch Hall obligingly stuck to Trenton Thompson) are the hope of which Bane spoke.
This has been covered, but in a game decided by three points when we really needed a win, it also hurts.