We don’t have a good football team. We knew this before this game, but maybe the win over a now 1-8 UTSA team distracted us from the problems on this team. As a collective hive mind we were unsettling okay with the idea of Mike Canales as head coach. Sure, the win last week was cathartic and notable. Sure, we looked amazing defensively, and potent offensively but Louisiana Tech is better defensively and better rushing offensively than WKU.
The rain didn’t help us on a day where we needed every break we could. DaMarcus Smith already has ball security problems and the wet ball helped Jeffery Wilson fumble also. Add to that the back-to-back snap problems on special teams and we handicapped ourselves against the second-best team in the conference.
Oh man. I mentioned the rain, but let’s mention the weight of being the Future of the offense causing Jeff Wilson trouble. To my eyes he tried to make A Big Play a couple of times and paid for it by fumbling. The quick screen that he tried to reverse ended with a fumble and a negative yardage play. He fights for every yard, and the Bulldog defense stood him up and forced a fumble on another play. That said, the run game showed signs of potency. Wilson had 70 yards, including 54 in the first half. That punt snafu lost 35 yards. Smith was sacked / lost 20 yards and Wilson only 3.
The pass game was very poor. Although DaMarcus Smith ended with a reasonable stat line, he missed some open throws early that could have kept drives alive, or got scores. For some reason he needs to have the pressure in his face to complete a short throw accurately. There were more than a few times that short passes were tossed incomplete because they were wide open. It’s weird but understandable. Hopefully it is the kind of thing that repetitions and practice time will fix. If not, then the new coach will have to find a guy on the roster or elsewhere to make those. DaMarcus is explosive while running, can make a killer deep throw, but is iffy when throwing short. You can win with a guy like that — look at Cam Newton — but the team needs to be built around that kind of offense.
|@ Louisiana Tech
The good news: When LT’s Driskel dropped back to pass, they looked vulnerable. When they lined up to run at us with All-Conference RB Dixon? Well they cut through this team easily. Obviously the headlines are all about Kennth Dixons 195 yards and six touchdowns, as they should be. He exceeded his previous 2-game composite against us by a very large margin. It should be noted that this was the second-highest yards-per-rush allowed this season, and the fourth 270+ yard game allowed, and the fifth time there were 3+ rushing TDs allowed this season (every game we’ve allowed at least 2). That is to say, if you want to set records running the ball this team is the one to do it against.
There really isn’t much to say. The defense has real struggles stopping the run — or even containing it. Whatever you think of the offense, no team can win games against decent teams with defending like this. Chris Cosh has a handful of injuries and young players running his scheme so you might be inclined to cut him some slack. The occasional confusion or occasional blown assignment would be reasonable or expected but a consistent series of destructions are demoralizing to everyone.
Canales mentioned the physical differences in his press conference.
“They’re a big, strong football team that has great speed, and we don’t. We’re going to have to develop to give ourselves a chance in this conference.”
That’s frustrating to hear again, after hearing it so much during Dan McCarney’s first couple of seasons. Recruiting and development have been two of the main criticisms of this coaching staff these last four years. The next guy — and there will be a next guy — will likely use this as an excuse for the first couple of years also. Let’s hope he addresses it and we never have to refer to this subject again.
All Hail Tre’ Johnson. The dude hasn’t had the opportunity to show much of his abilities. He took over return duties from Darvin Kidsy a few weeks back and we finally saw why. He nearly broke a couple of returns. It is very unfortunate that he had so many kick returns. We briefly saw Jeff Wilson back there, and that was encouraging but after his fumble, I think we’ll stick with Johnson for a long while. He looks likely to break one soon.
Less encouraging was the punt snap team. The ball nearly sailed on the first punt of the game and then actually did the second time. That unit allowed a scoop and score TD and that simply should be unacceptable.
We praised Canales for his motivation last week so we should criticize him this week. How much of last week was simply playing a bad team at home? How much was Mike Canales limiting practice reps during the week, holding the chain up, giving inspirational quotes, limiting cursing on the sidelines, and putting on the helmet and jumping up and down? How much of that affected the Louisiana Tech loss? Did any of that make us lose by less points?
There is no way to reasonably know whether Mike Canales is helping or hurting this team right now. How can we point to last week and say “here is the evidence that he should be coach” and not do the same with this week’s embarrassment?
Let’s give credit to the winners. La Tech is a good team and good teams make you look bad. TCU also lost to a very good team this week. Their Heisman candidate Trevone Boykin looked like a Sun Belt QB yesterday. I’d normally say that this game should require some perspective, but putting this game into context tells me that this game was more in line with our previous performances than last week’s. That doesn’t give me warm and fuzzy feelings about next week’s matchup in the annual Money Game. I’ll be in Neyland Stadium ready to watch it all first hand.