Around 7pm on Saturday evening, I was wandering around the Scott Stadium parking lot, lost, drinking a corona, with blood dripping down my leg. I cannot come up with a more apt comparison to the Wahoo football team on Saturday. Also, I do not like Corona.
The Hoos did almost nothing right for much of the game, and yet had a chance to win. This game hurt, because we were more talented, and we did just enough right to make it clear that a few less mistakes and we would've won easily.
So what happened?
There were some big plays that pretty clearly sum up the game. The main one is the fake punt. Last year, we had a few big plays on special teams were we caught the other team napping. It happens. That's why those plays exist, because they work sometimes. When you pull it off, it's great. When it happens to you, it's annoying. But it's not that big a deal in my opinion.
The next one was the 3rd and 23 late in the game that Southern Miss picked up with the screen. This one bothers me. You've got them pinned back, you've got them in long yardage. Just play a nice simple defense, and make your tackle. That play only works against the perfect defense and we played right into their hands. The chances of that play working against the defense we called are a lot better than the chances of completing a deep pass against a soft defense. I thought that was a case of being overaggressive when it wasn't necessary.
The final one was the big drop by Kris Burd on 4th down on our final drive. Again, dropped passes happen. It shouldn't have come down to that.
I would also be remiss if I didn't mention the failed two point conversion on our first TD. I don't really know what to say. It was bizarre. Even if it had worked, it would've been bizarre. This would be the kind of thing you try in a game when you are an underdog. Against a team you should beat (and I truly think USM is a team we should beat), it was unnecessary and stupid.
There has been much discussion about whether or not we got outcoached in this game. I think we did, and I don't think it was close. We outcoached ourselves. Early in the game, we were playing well off their receivers, which let them get into a rhythm. Austin Davis is a good QB, but we made it way to easy for him. On the game's opening drive, the Eagles converted a 3rd and 7 and a 3rd and 10, each with relatively simple passes, because our cornerbacks were playing so far off the ball. Were we scared of getting beat deep? I maintain that our CBs are talented enough (especially Chase) that it shouldn't have been a concern. We should've been playing press coverage, and daring Austin Davis to beat us deep. This is not the strength of his game.
Southern Miss had 61 yards rushing. More often than not, if you hold a team to 61 yards on 35 rushes, you are going to win. But our pass coverage was so poor that it didn't matter. I put this on the coaching staff, and specifically on Jim Reid.
Michael Rocco threw 3 interceptions. You can make an argument that each one, in and of itself, wasn't a horrible play. But, this is becoming a theme. Rocco, at times, looks like a college QB, but I think that look is misleading. He currently has 1 TD pass (to go along with 2 TD runs) and 6 interceptions. A year ago, we were hating on Marc Verica because he had a 1:1 TD:INT ratio. Rocco is 1:6. Where is the hate? I was 100% in favor of having Rocco as our QB. I am beginning to change my mind. Don't get me wrong, I still have high hopes for Rocco. But it seems like Rocco needs everything to go right to be successful. We aren't that kind of team. There are dropped passes, there are offensive line breakdowns. Rocco would be a great QB on a good team. He is a poor QB on a poor team. On a good team, David Watford could be a liability. On a poor team, Watford gives us an unpredictable element on offense, and gives us the ability to make broken plays turn into positives.
For the second week in a row, I feel like there is a lot more I could say, but I don't have the patience to write it. That game hurt, and I don't particularly like reliving it. Also, I was pretty drunk by the end, so my memory is fuzzy. Suffice it to say that I remain disappointed that we haven't come further in the Mike London era.
As usual, some random thoughts from the game:
- A week after dominating one of the best front 7s in the country, our OL was poor this week. 384 total yards is good, but we struggled to run the ball especially in short yardage situations, and Rocco was under pressure so much he was knocked from the game. We had 10 runs stuffed, and gave up 9 QB hits, and this is against a DL that is nothing special.
- If we are going to use Watford (and it looks like with Rocco injured, Watford might start against Idaho), we need to use him properly. He isn't Rocco, so let's run some plays designed to get Watford going on the ground. I've been disappointed with the playcalling that Watford has seen.
- We are near the bottom nationally in both kick returns and punt returns. What happened to all the dynamic skill position players we have? Have we seen a single exciting play on a punt or kickoff return? Robert Randolph aside, our special teams have been a disaster this season. Anthony Poindexter, I'm looking at you.
- I like Steve Greer, he plays hard, and he plays smart. But he is a liability in pass coverage, especially against a quicker receiver. Against a team like USM, with small quick WRs and a spread offense, it is debatable if Greer should be in the game at all. Unfortunately, we might not have any better options.
- As I predicted, Perry Jones had a big game. He should've had more touches. Kevin Parks stayed in the game after leaving with an apparent injury. Jones was running better anyway, and should've remained in the game. This, in my opinion, is yet another example of the coaching staff outthinking themselves.