I don't even know what to say about this Wahoo team anymore. They've certainly been playing much better since the Boise St debacle, and yet they can't ever seem to put it all together.
It's the same problems that have been hampering this team from the getgo. The defense gives up far too many big plays (6 plays of over 20 yards, including a 67 yard TD). There are far too many penalties, especially of the pre-snap variety (8 penalties for 80 yards). Seriously, the first play of the game was a false start.
Once again, despite repeated blitzing, the Hoos were unable to get much pressure on Brad Kaaya. Ask Peyton Manning or Tom Brady how they feel about blitzes. They know they're getting single coverage on the outside, and that somebody is probably going to be open. When you blitz good QBs, you get beat. Kaaya was 20/26 for 286 yards and 2 TDs with 1 INT. (The INT did not come on a blitz and was just a tremendous play by Darious Latimore).
I'm not sure how you define "good QB", but let's use the top 40 QBs in the nation, by passing efficiency. (Stats on espn.com have 40 players per page.) The Hoos have faced 5 QBs in that range. Those 5 guys have a combined line of 93/134 for 1276 yards with 10 TDs and 2 INTs. That's a QB efficiency of 171, which would rank 5th in the nation. (And we're not even counting Malik Zaire, who torched the Hoos before getting hurt. Zaire doesn't have enough passes to qualify but his QB efficiency was 188 through nearly 2 full games, which would be 2nd in the nation if he qualified.)
Of course, the Hoos have been torched by the other QBs they've faced as well. In fact, they are 119th nationally against the pass. The run defense has been much improved of late, as they're now up to 57th against the run. Not great, but at least in the top half of the NCAA. And this is a team with a pair of senior CBs and an All-American SS. The problem, however, is not the players. As I've been saying all year long, the problem is the scheme. When your defense is led by the secondary, let them make plays. We should not be blitzing on every play because we're putting our DBs under intense pressure, and yet we're not getting to the QB. I don't care who your CBs are, Deion Sanders, Rod Woodson or Darrell Green; if you put them in single coverage over and over again, they are going to get beat. Especially when you can't pressure the QB.
The Hoos are tied for 73rd in the nation in sacks. They are tied for 56th in the nation in TFLs. Neither of those are all that bad, except when you consider that Jon Tenuta's defense is entirely about getting sacks and negative plays. Despite what Coach London may say, this is not a bend-but-don't-break defense. This defense is predicated on getting pressure on the QB, generating negative plays and forcing TOs. This year, the Hoos have done none of those things, and thus are one of the worst defenses in the nation.
Of course, the offense is no better. Though the Hoos somehow rank 10th nationally in red zone offense, they once again left too many points on the board. Twice, the Hoos kicked FGs from inside the red zone. In a 6 point loss, leaving 8 potential points off the board hurts.
Some of these problems are fixable. Certainly, the schematic problems are. However, nobody has any confidence that the Hoos coaching staff can or will fix anything. These are the same problems that have plagued this team since August 31st. And frankly, many of these problems are the same ones that have plagued the team for 3 years now.
Unless the Hoos manage to win out, many of these problems will be in the past beginning next year, as a new coaching staff will be on board.
As always some notes:
- Smoke Mizzell, over the past few weeks, has proven the ability to be an every down running back. In college, at least. His NFL future is almost certainly as a 3rd down back, but his receiving skills will certainly get him an NFL job. He leads the nation in catches by a RB.
- Olamide Zaccheaus has also proven to be a very valuable weapon. The true freshman might be the most dynamic player on the team. How good can he be in a couple of years?
- Micah Kiser and Quin Blanding are 1-2 in the ACC in tackles. Some of that is due to the scheme, and some of that is due to the number of plays that the Hoos have faced. But a big part of it is that both of those guys are very good tacklers. Especially against the run, both of those guys have a nose for the football and do not miss many tackles.
- Kelvin Rainey is 3rd on the team in tackles, though he is far behind the other 2. Still, he's also proven to be very good at coming up and making plays against the run. He's also a big hitter. Still a liability in pass coverage, but as an in the box safety he's very good.
- The OL has been playing much better of late, even with a number of injuries. Three of the 5 starters return for next season and 5 of the 7 OLs who played return.
- All of the above are basically just saying that though this team is struggling, and though the coaching staff is likely to be replaced in another month or so, there is talent on this team. Whoever takes over will be inheriting a pretty decent roster, with talent on both sides of the ball. The number one job will be convincing all of those guys to stay onboard and help rebuild the program.