Coach Mike London surely was happy with the Hoos 43-19 win over the Spiders. How happy is another story.
We scored the first 22 points of the game, we won by 24, we had over 500 yards of offense, and gave up just 20 yards on the ground. So, why was I not thrilled with the game?
For one thing the game was boring. I suppose that was predictable. There was no reason for our coaches to dig deep into the playbook on either offense or defense, so the gameplan on both sides of the ball was awfully vanilla.
But it was more than that. The offensive line wasn't great. They weren't bad, as evidenced by 184 yards rushing, and zero sacks. But there was never a point when I thought the OL was dominating the game. The failed 4th and 1 conversion was disappointing to be sure.
The defensive line held their own against Richmond's OL, surrendering only 28 yards rushing at 1.3 yards per rush. The read option never made an impact. But there was precious little pressure put on Richmond's QBs.
There were, of course, high points. I can't be too disappointed with 43 points, although we certainly left points on the field. I certainly am not disappointed with 545 yards of total offense. A 300 yard passing game from the starting QB is pretty good. Three separate RBs with over 50 yards and a TD is pretty cool.
So, did this game teach us anything about this team? Not really. We knew coming in that the offense could be explosive. A 51 yard TD strike to Darius Jennings showed that to be true. We knew coming in that the defense could struggle against the pass. Richmond threw for 238 yards, and 3 of the top 4 tackles on our defense were DBs. Richmond was able to get the ball into the secondary time and time again. Of course, their 2:1 pass-to-rush ratio helps that.
While the 238 yards is a lot, Richmond completed just 55% of their passes for about 5.5 yards per attempt. (The Hoos, on the other hand, completed nearly 70% of their passes and went for nearly 8.5 yards per attempt. Those are both fantastic numbers.) The thing is, Richmond's gameplan is something we are likely to see a lot this year. Our secondary is young and untested. So, teams are going to test them. Richmond wasn't really able to put a lot of pressure on them deep, so they went with short stuff, which worked often enough. Better teams will use play action, and double moves and try to get big plays against our DBs. After one week, there is no way to tell if they are ready.
Again, the game was kind of boring. We didn't learn much, other than that we are better than Richmond. Which, to be honest, we kind of knew coming in.
Back again this season, some random notes and comments from the game, in no particular order.
- A few times prior to this game, I was asked who I thought the breakout players might be. One guy I mentioned every time was Darius Jennings. His 51 yard catch-and-run TD was exactly the kind of thing he can do all year long. He is still so young, but he's very good. He was open all game long and 5 catches for 84 yards is a good start to his sophomore season.
- Tim Smith was also open all game long, and led the team with 6 catches and 96 yards. To be honest, a lot of our receivers looked good. E.J. Scott looked good, with 3 catches for 54 yards. Three different TEs caught passes, with Jake McGee looking the most dangerous. McGee's one handed catch was particularly impressive.
- Khalek Shepherd might've been the most impressive Hoo this week. He finished with 52 yards rushing, 12 yards receiving and 90 yards in the return game. A lot of credit goes to the blockers for his 61 yard KO return, but he did exactly what he was supposed to do and made it into the big play it was. His PRs weren't as good, but at least he didn't fumble.
- One of the big questions coming in was the kicking game. This will still be a question mark coming into the season, but Drew Jarrett made both of his FG and all 5 of his XPs. This includes a 45 yard FG. It is nice to know that we can make a 45 yard FG. Coming into the game, I wasn't so sure. And Ian Frye had 5 touchbacks.
- Punter Alec Vozenilek also had a solid game, with 3 punts for a 41 yard average. He left two inside the Richmond 20 and only 1 punt was returned.
- Phillip Sims played one drive, and completed 5 of 6 for 50 yards and led the team to a TD. Did we learn much from that? Not really. However, he looked comfortable, his arm looked strong and he didn't make any mistakes. That's really all you could ask from him in that situation.
- I still think Michael Rocco is unquestionably our starting QB. Rocco wasn't great, but he made no mistakes, he did a good job of getting the ball to his skill position guys, which is what needs to happen for this offense to be successful.