So I've got a lot to say, cause I've got a lot on my mind after that game. Whatever hopes or ambitions I had about this team a week ago are quickly fading, and it will take a mesmerizing performance at Commonwealth Stadium in 2 weeks to convince me we've got any shot at postseason play, and even then, if anybody says we've still got a chance, I'll look at them silly in public. Anyway, ridiculously, unnecessarily, over-the-top wordy analysis after the break.
Offense: Let’s face it; the offense looked horrible to start the game. Burke was throwing everything but a good pass, and the running game was decent, but couldn’t get a first down against a terrible team. But they settled down, and things finally started humming along. The running game was solid, and the receivers made some good plays, but they still had a problem with dropping passes on key possessions and downs (Beaumont in the end zone comes to mind).
But there were two major problems: penalties, and interceptions. While the first interception could be understood because this was still during Burke’s apparent “rust period,” the second was absolutely terrible, and for a guy as mobile as Burke to even be under the pressure that he was under by a team as bad as ISU is baffling. That whole play was a disaster from the moment Jurich said “Kragthorpe” three years ago, however, as I don’t understand why you don’t go for the field goal there. The way I see it, here are the possible outcomes in that situation: you get the touchdown (good), you throw the interception (bad), you get sacked and don’t have time to go for a field goal (bad), you throw short of the TD and don’t have time for a field goal (bad), or you get an incompletion but the clock runs out anyway (bad), or you get a quick incompletion and have a chance at a field goal (acceptable). Seems to me there’s more bad there than good, especially when you’re trying to get your kicker experience after last year’s field goal debacle.
The penalties were perhaps the worst part of this ridiculous game. 14-128? That’s absolutely atrocious, and only goes to provide further evidence of Kragthorpe’s apparent ineptitude at the game of football. This is the sloppiest game of football I can remember seeing the Cards play in a long time, and the fact that all the coordinators and trainers are now either Krag himself of “Krag’s guys” should tell you what the problem here is.
The only stat that I think is worse than 14-128, however, is 1-9. How can a team in the FBS possibly go 1-9 for third down against a team in the FCS? I have no idea, so I’m not even going to tackle that one.
Defense: I don’t know why everybody keeps saying “At least the defense was good.” Were we watching the same game? Sure, ISU only had 101 yards of offense. Only 19 of those came on the ground, and this is definitely where the Cards showed that they can be strong. They also managed to snag three interceptions and a fumble, which is great, but hardly unexpected against this team. But they also allowed 82 yards in the air, almost all on third down where ISU went 7-16. Man coverage is clearly not this team’s forte, but the linebackers also seem to be playing far too deep in zone coverage. I’m also not impressed at all with the new defensive coordinator’s play calling. Combining the talent that we have on the D-line and at linebacker with ISU’s middle-school offense of running between the tackles on first and second then throwing from the shotgun on third should have resulted in far more than one sack. There were very few blitzes, and there was much less pressure on the quarterback than there should have been with a team of this caliber. I can guarantee this: teams like UK, Cincinnati, and Rutgers will tear up this team through the air. Picture Rutgers last season, and expect to see that at least once this season.
Special teams: Trent Guy is back. That’s good. The rest: We were 3-4 on field goals, all within the 35, they were averaging as many yards per return as Trent Guy, and their punter had a higher average and long punt than ours. Superior talent what?
The Good: Victor Anderson not only doing the shuffle like always, but also showing his power by keeping his feet moving and getting extra yardage; Bilal Powell having a nice night and showing his obvious power; Burke making good plays outside the pocket (after the first quarter); getting some actual interceptions; we won by 20.
The Bad: Pretty much everything else besides the good, but in particular: penalties; third down conversions; penalties; QB pressure; penalties; Burke’s long ball; penalties; coaching and play calling; penalties; we won by 20. Did I mention penalties?
The Ugly: Besides the penalties and third down conversions? How about some of ISU’s throws? No wonder Wyoming dropped that guy like a hot potato.
Random thoughts: I still don’t understand this game. If you assume the first quarter was rust and that we didn’t really start playing well until the second quarter, then the stats look good: 419 offensive yards, 101 defensive yards, +2 turnovers. And yet you look at the score, and see just how many points we left on the field through bad decisions and penalties (like a pick-6 being called back and working your way out of FG position). These are simply the mistakes you can’t make if you want to pull some upsets. By the way, Burke: you need to cool it on the long ball. It’s not your thing. Stick to the short and intermediate passes for now, and we’ll come back to the airing-it-out when you get some more experience under your belt.