1. Bobby is back
I'm not sure I've anticipated a play call as much as the first play of the Miami game. Not just the off-season but the entire Petrino homecoming thing, anything short of a double wheel route with actual sparks flying out of James Quick's shoes was going to be a letdown. As it was, a quick out to the TE made a lot of sense, and I think it was the same first pass he called for Brohm in the UK game in 2006. The biggest vibe in the parking lot and pre-game was just not knowing what to expect. Would we score 50? How much will we miss Teddy? An extremely knowledgeable founder on this site told me before the game that 3-4 got shredded all weekend and he was really worried. That got me worried. The first 3-and-out kept things nervous, and the relief and excitement on that first TD was palpable.
So, while the offense started slow, there were definitely reminders about why Bobby is Bobby. Like Mark and Mario said on the post-game show on ESPN 680 last night, that was Bobby's version of vanilla, which, compared to the vanilla we've seen the last few years, should be called French Vanilla with caramel sea salt swirls or something. This is reminiscent of Bobby's first tenure as well, and I would expect a lot of the newcomers, freshman, other running backs, big play action plays, etc., to start getting put in this Saturday and next.
For me though the best thing about Bobby being back is the in-game decisions. Comparisons are going to be inevitable for awhile (maybe forever?) but one of the biggest areas Charlie Strong will need to improve to succeed in Texas is in-game management, although maybe some of the differences are philosophical. As an example: when Miami got in 3rd and medium with about 40 seconds left in the 2nd quarter last night, I was conditioned to expect both teams to just run into the locker room. But Petrino called time out, made them run a play (which Johnson almost picked off and in which their freshman QB got nailed by a blitzer) and we got the ball at midfield with about 20 seconds and 2 TOs after a nice long pass play to James Quick. Strong never, ever, ever would have done that. Going for it on 4th down in the right times was also pretty great to see. You could almost hear him, "You didn't re-hire Bobby MFer Petrino to punt did you? Let's go."
So in poker, the rise of online poker in the mid-2000s changed the game because people could experience X number of hands in such a short amount of time - I can't remember the estimated stats but in a decade of live poker you would see X number of hands but it would only take like 6 months to do it online or whatever. The point is, with the rise of NCAA and Madden and whatnot, I think more coaches should be forced to play 120 games per year on there because that's as much coaching and play calling and situational experience as 10 years of real game coaching.
I guess my point: we are getting Bobby 2.0, and one of the things I was curious about was the whole "late game collapse / in-game adjustment" part, and while 1 game is obviously too soon to draw any conclusions, I think a couple seasons in the SEC has helped him. That 4th quarter, 8 minute drive was all Charlie Strong - until the PA TD pass, which I think shows one of the areas where Bobby is a better coach than Strong. There are so many facets to being a coach that a blanket statement is impossible as to who is a "better" coach - but in terms of in-game strategy, I think Bobby is better than Strong, but that's to be expected by someone who has been a head coach for 6 more years.
So, Bobby is back. We learned a lot but there's still a lot to see.
2. DJ K-Dogg
Wow, that was awesome. The pre-game music, the music during the game, him showing up on the scoreboard video with a couple random women hanging out at the DJ Booth, the tailgate mix (https://www.facebook.com/KDoggDJ) I'm listening to while I write this. Everything about DJ K-Dogg is awesome. I wonder how the conversation went to finalize that decision. Had to be made by Jurich right? So it went one of two ways: a nervous, sweaty athletic department person brought the idea to him and had this long explanation about it and was all nervous because I mean obviously, and at the end Jurich was like, "yup, do it." Or, the idea came up and Jurich was like, "hold on" and reached into his desk and pulled out a file with a list of the top 5 DJs in the country and was like, "Well K-Dogg is at the top of my list so let's call him first."
The only thing I'm struggling with right now is whether to have DJ K-Dogg play my visitation, funeral, wake or all three. Not really kidding - I think that would be nice.
3. The defense
If Charlie Strong could justifiably blame Kragthorpe for the UK loss in 2010, then I think Strong deserves a lot of credit for the defense last night. Obviously the current coaching staff deserves praise as well, but that defense we saw last night didn't look a ton different than last year in terms of big hits, solid tackling, toughness (that 2 offensive fumbles inside the 20 led to 3 total points for Miami is a testament to the defense's toughness and talent.
Lots of individuals stood out: James Burgess is awesome, Mauldin looked outstanding, James Sample played out of his mind, Floyd had a couple of good passes defended, and Keith Kelsey looked great (why doesn't he get more hype?) and made my irrational excitement about him look pretty rational tbh.
The run defense was outstanding, and Duke Johnson only broke a couple of long runs. No shame on letting him get open on the Wheel Route because the Wheel Route is a play that works 12 times out of 10, and that's a scientific fact. I think every offensive coaching staff should have a 10th man whose only job is to, before every play, chime in on the headset with "hey, maybe this is a good spot for a wheel route?"
Anyway, the defense played really well. Some of that is on Miami since we have no idea how good they are or will be (my guess - not very). But overall, the defense was exciting and we have a lot of talent out there. Depth/injuries always a concern, as well as playing against an experienced QB. There were a lot of open guys in open space on the field but obviously selling out to stop Duke Johnson both worked and left us vulnerable to that.
The only slight concern was that the defense seemed to have a little trouble substituting or getting plays in and Miami took advantage a couple times by being lined up ready to snap while our guys were not. First game, and hopefully something easy to fix, but could have been a lot worse. Also pretty sure we had 15 guys on the field on the Miami fumble/lateral play.
4. Weird Second Quarter
Things got really weird in the 2nd quarter and I think some of the offensive woes can be tied to that. First, they did the stunt card thing during the 1st and 2nd quarter break, which was fine, except that by timing the 2nd one for ESPN most of the stadium (and the players apparently) weren't ready for Miami's play that led to their TD. Then Gardner's fumble and Miami's pass that the refs stupidly ruled incomplete, then the no-call when the LB clocked Eli, and the repeated timeouts - the first couple minutes of the 2nd quarter look about 30 minutes to play. There was no rhythm and the offense suffered because of that.
Also, maybe my favorite thing from the entire night happened at halftime. With about 5 minutes left before the half was over, a couple fireworks started going off. There was a music mix that seemed to maybe be connected to the fireworks? Then more fireworks, and more, and then it seemed like after a minute an obvious "finale" burst....then more fireworks. I don't know how long it went but it was at least 4-5 minutes and they just kept going.
I loved this because, as you may know if you've ever been to a UofL game, they aren't shy about sponsorships for every halftime and even in-game video things, and using every time out to talk about SOMETHING or introduce SOMEONE. But this fireworks show happened with no announcement, no sponsorship, no corresponding video board information, just no explanation whatsoever. Seriously, there was a random 5 minute long fireworks show at halftime that went completely unexplained. Was it celebrating the ACC move? Is this a new tradition? What is happening here, Sean Moth?
5. "It might have all been different, Jack." - Willie Stark, All The Kings Men
So many ways the outcome last night could have been different. Miami's fumble/lateral play obviously was huge in a lot of ways. But the ineligible downfield on the wheel route was another turning point. And Miami's playcalling in the red zone helped - coming away with 3 points on 2 fumbles inside the 20 was probably the substantial contributing factor to the outcome of the game. Corvin Lamb's kickoff return, Michalee's drop when he was about to get laid out, both of those plays were inches away from it being completely different game.
All in all, we were the better team but lots of things about that game are reminders about the small margins in these games - and college football - and life - and how seasons can turn on individual plays and split second decisions. We won, but a lot of things could have been different. And I think a loft of things would have had to go a lot differently to flat out lose the game, but it isn't that far-fetched. Now, though, we have a real shot to go into Clemson 6-0 and are just as equally likely to be 5-1 or worse. There's still a lot of room for growth and a lot of things that need to go right.
But in this Post-Expectations era, a win is a win is a win, and last night was a good win.
We rehired Bobby MFer Petrino, and we more or less got what we wanted. Let's go.