Where the heck was that all season? Why wait until the season is over to open up the playbook? Why are we throwing deep passes and running trick plays in a completely meaningless game with nothing on the line?
Well, that last sentence is probably the answer. With nothing on the line, Steve Fairchild has nothing to lose. When the games mattered, he was afraid to make a call like that because he doesn't want to get blamed when it goes wrong. Of course, he gets blamed for being too passive. So I guess he can't win.
Or is it Mike London who is stopping Fairchild from making those kinda of calls? After the game, London said "I told Steve just call it and let's go. There's no holds barred on this. We've had those plays in the arsenal for a while, and then sometimes you just gotta call them."
Maybe the problem hasn't been Fairchild all along.
You would've thought that Jon Tenuta learned his lesson against Notre Dame when he continued sending blitz after blitz late in the game when the Hoos simply needed to avoid giving up big plays. But, apparently not. Maybe Tenuta doesn't have any defensive play-calls that don't involve blitzes. With just seconds left in the game, and Duke 63 yards away from a potential tying score with no timeouts, you don't need to blitz. A blitz there makes no sense. You don't need a sack. The only think you have to do is avoid giving up a big play. So, Tenuta sends 5 pass rushers (and drops a DE into coverage), giving Duke a chance to pick up a big play. And sure enough, they hit a 49 yard pass along the sidelines. And if the ball was thrown a bit better, it would've been a TD.
People often complain about prevent defenses. But in that situation, you want to protect the sidelines, you want to protect deep and you cannot - CANNOT - give up a big play. I just can't fathom how our coaching staff doesn't understand this. It is coaching 101. Actually, it's a prerequisite to coaching 101. This coaching staff struggles with a lot of things. But late game management is, far and away, their worst attribute.
For one week at least, the offense was good enough to bail out the defense and special teams. But those units are going to have to be better next week if the Hoos are going to knock off their rivals.
As usual, some notes:
- Trent Corney is starting to figure it out. Just in time for his career to be over. Wouldn't it be nice if he had another year? Man, what a waste of talent! I've said this before, but if there are any NFL scouts or directors of player personnel reading this, sign him and move him to TE. Teach him how to run some routes. You'll thank me in a couple of years.
- Speaking of running routes, Olamide Zaccheaus still has some work to do there. But he has some things that you can't teach. He's going to be very good. Actually, he's already very good. David Eldridge isn't bad either. We're going to miss Severin and Thorpe but we're going to be OK at WR.
- We're also going to be OK at RB, where Smoke continues to get better and better. Early in the season, he wasn't finishing his runs and he was hesitant. He wasn't a RB as much as he was a WR lining up in the backfield. But he's turned his season around over the past month and he's now got 645 yards rushing and is averaging over 4 yards per carry. He's actually been more productive that Kevin Parks was last year. And he's still the best receiving RB in the nation.
- Yet another position that the Hoos are going to be OK at next year is CB. The loss of Nicholson and Canady will hurt no doubt. But Darious Latimore and Tim Harris are going to be OK. That is, assuming we have a new defensive coordinator. Because with Jon Tenuta at the helm, none of our CBs look very good.
- The Hoos had 8 penalties for 105 yards. The Hoos are now 107th in the nation in penalties and 98th in penalty yards. As if we needed one more, this is a sign of a poorly coached team.
- Hopefully, our collective nightmare ends in about a week.