Sunday, September 20, 2009

What we learned, week 3

The Tally: 14-10 overall, 3-8 v. the cartel, 3-4 v. '08 bowl teams, 6-0 v. 2A teams.
(2008 tally: 17-5 overall, 6-3 v. the cartel, 4-1 v. '07 bowl teams, 5-1 v. 2A teams;
2007 tally: 9-12 overall, 5-8 v. the cartel, 1-9 v. '06 bowl teams, 1-0 v. 2A teams.)

Air Force: 37-13 win at New Mexico. AFA is glad to have safety and kick returner Reggie Rembert back-- and hopes it hasn't lost Tim Jefferson for too long. Suddenly Coach Calhoun looks more than brilliant for practicing Asher Clark at QB in the spring; how the Falcons respond to a new signal caller, be it Clark or Connor Dietz, is the critical issue in the Academy's immediate future. In Albuquerque, so be sure, AFA outclassed its hosts from the first whistle, holding the ball almost twice as long as the Lobos, and forcing three turnovers. Key stat: newbie QB Dietz was 2-4 through the air, including a touchdown pass to Kevin Fogler. As long as Dietz successfully runs both dimensions of the Falcons' attack, Jefferson's absence won't derail the Falcon's third run to a bowl in three years.

BYU: 28-54 loss v. Florida State. Words don't fail a blogger often, but this one is simply inexplicable. The answer is not that Florida State woke up Saturday and decided to run the ball all over BYU; nor is it that BYU is slow, or untalented. More likely the answer lies somewhere in the Cougars' misperception that the Seminoles that nearly lost to Jacksonville State were coming to Provo. Instead, a hungry, physical team tribe of Seminoles showed up, and played with more intensity and mental sharpness than the Cougars, controlling the line of scrimmage and forcing five turnovers. Key stat: Florida State converted 13 of 15 third downs. That, my friends, is how you put Boise State back ahead in the race to the BCS.

Colorado State: 35-20 win v. Nevada. Don't look now, but Colorado State has put together its second complete team in as many years. While yet unwilling to pronounce the Rams old-fashioned good, the Wimple recognizes that CSU is the conference's only 3-0 team, and rides a six-game winning streak. Yesterday's win over Nevada featured a late lead so large that the Rams put in their second and third teams, against which the Wolfpack promptly scored twice. CSU scored once on a lateral to WR Dion Morton, who then tossed the ball to TE Eric Peitz. Key stat: CSU forced five turnovers. DC Larry Kerr said, "Our guys play with confidence. What we added today is the guys played smart. They didn't make dumb mistakes."

New Mexico: 13-37 loss at Air Force. The slide continues, although the Lobos did score their first offensive touchdown this season. AFA deliberately manhandled the bigger New Mexico: aside from James Wright's two long TD runs, New Mexico managed only 2.3 ypc. B. R. Holbrook played extensively, and performed lukewarmly, except for two interceptions. Key stat: New Mexico converted only three of 14 third or fourth downs. Until the Lobos can sustain drives, their season appears to be irredeemably in the tank, puddling as motivation for improvement in '10.

San Diego State: 20-34 loss at Idaho. San Diego State doesn't remember how to win on the road. They haven't done it in a few years, and now have given up their best chance to relearn in 2009. Air Force, Colorado State, Utah, and UNLV likely will be much ruder hosts than Idaho was. But their bigger problem may be in the trenches, where SDSU averaged only 2.4 ypc. Against Idaho. What'd they give up on the ground? 3.6 ypc. This team is just not physical enough, and will flounder until it becomes such. Add an early pick-six, and SDSU never recovered. Key stat: -85 yards on penalties. Sustaining drives has to begin somewhere, and not shooting oneself in the foot would be a good first step for the Aztecs.

TCU: 56-21 win v. Texas State. TCU played flat, but not too flat to win. At the end of the first quarter and the beginning of the second, TCU kept Texas State from scoring for 12 consecutive plays in the red zone, but collapsed on the 13th. They'd never have been there had Andy Dalton not thrown a bad-decision interception, attempting to avoid a sack. Good rushing (and Bart Johnson) saved the day; TCU averaged 6.2 ypc. Johnson had a career-best 7 catches for 70 yards. Hughes and the defense were usually dominant, except for a persistent soft spot in the secondary that Texas State exploited. Key stat: Dalton completed 75% of his passes. He'll need to be in synch with his receivers in a week; Clemson will be a much tougher test.

UNLV: 34-33 win v. Hawaii. This one meant a lot, for recruiting, for town pride (UNLV has a high Hawaiian and Polynesian population), for a fledgling winning program, and for a defense that caved on the final drive last week. This week it stopped a relentless offense on its final drive, preserving a victory. The (formerly Rainbow-) Warriors drove at will most of the game, but the Rebels never panicked. The Clayton-Wolfe connection was vibrant; the run defense stout; the run-offense servicable (Trotter talled 68 yards on 15 carries); and despite two costly interceptions, the Rebels proved themselves superior. Key stat: Hawaii pounded UNLV's secondary for almost 500 yards. Unless UNLV can figure out how to stop a pass attack, it will sit at home for (another!) bowl season.

Utah: 24-31 loss at Oregon. Three words: first-year quarterback. Terrence Cain, who will do very well later this season and next year for the Utes, played like the first-year quarterback he is when challenged: inconsistently. He had a "dead spot" midway through the first half, missing 11 consecutive passes, while Oregon scored 21 points. He got his game back after halftime, but was too far behind to pull off the upset. Key stat: Duck runner LaMichael James broke off 152 yards on 27 carries against the once-mighty Ute rush defense.

Wyoming: 0-24 loss at Colorado. Wyoming is fulfilling the Wimple's very dire predictions of an offense-less season in 2009. After being shut out in Boulder, Coach Christensen jettisoned hopes of a JUCO-jumpstart, and announced he'll start the true freshman Austyn Carta-Samuels against UNLV this weekend. Carta-Samuels had been getting the majority of the snaps anyway, so this isn't too big a change. Key stat: only David Leonard caught more than two passes against the Buffs. Until his receivers brethren start hauling in more passes, the Wyoming blizzard game plan will keep floundering.

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