Sunday, September 27, 2009

What we learned, week 4

The Tally: 16-11 overall, 5-8 v. the cartel, 4-4 v. '08 bowl teams, 6-0 v. 2A teams.
(2008 tally: 20-6 overall, 7-3 v. the cartel, 5-2 v. '07 bowl teams, 5-1 v. 2A teams;
2007 tally: 13-13 overall, 5-8 v. the cartel, 2-10 v. '06 bowl teams, 3-0 v. 2A teams.)

Air Force: 26-14 win v. SDSU. Although not yet well tested, it appears Colorado Springs is not going to be an easy place for visitors to win games. SDSU held the Falcons' usual-gaudy ground game to a pedestrian 243 yards and no TDs (both of AFA's 6-point scores came on defense), and penalty-ridden (-75 yards on 9 flags). But AFA's defense won the day, holding the Aztecs to an embarrassing 1.6 ypc, and touchdown-less until late in the fourth quarter. Reggie Rembert showed his value, getting a pick-six, and Connor Dietz got 60 minutes' experience as a starter in place of Tim Jefferson. AFA continues to show it can win with big pieces missing. Key stat: Asher Clark had only five carries for 20 yards.

BYU: 42-23 win v. Colorado State. Ah, the uptick. Few things are more sure for established college football programs than the heart-warming win following a thoroughly bewildering loss. Florida State further added bewildering to the loss, losing for its first time to USF this week, while CSU provided the fodder for the recovery-win in Provo. Good defense provided the spark, getting two takeaways in the opening frame, and in the end, the bigger, stronger Cougars exhausted the Rams. An under-appreciated win over an under-appreciated program. Key stat: BYU converted 11 of 16 third downs. That's not quite driving at will, but it's close.

Colorado State: 23-42 loss at BYU. There're silver linings here: Grant Stucker had a pretty good day, passing 30-50 for 372 yards, 2 TDs, and 2 interceptions; short Tyson Liggett came from backup to Rashaun Greer to shining star, hauling in 11 passes for 156 yards and a score. But a slew of turnovers in the game's first minutes, and a weak showing from the ground game doomed- but without embarassment- the Rams in the end. Key stat: five CSU receivers grabbed three or more passes.

New Mexico: 17-20 loss v. New Mexico State. It feels like the wheels are falling (have fallen?) off in Albuquerque. When the Lobos' running game finally showed signs of life (6 ypc, but only 3.5 without Demond Dennis's 62-yard scamper), its defense gave its rival a better day on the ground (113 yards on 31 carries for Aggie Sean Smith). When the Lobos' passing game finally showed signs of life (first TD pass this year), UNM gave up a last-second game-winning toss to NM State. Key stat: New Mexico converted only three of 12 third downs. That's moribund, and sadly, familiar. And to top it off, Coach Locksley added dark clouds to the general heaviness by punching one of his assistants in the face. It may not be mathematically possible for things to get any worse, but there's little reason to expect improvement soon.

San Diego State: 14-26 loss at Air Force. It's a simple formula, really: go minus-six in turnover margin, and manage only 1.6 ypc, and you'll lose. Every dang time. This was no exception, and until SDSU protects the ball better and gets more push for its runners, it'll keep competing with New Mexico for a long list of last places. Key stat: you've already read 'em, and probably wept. Here's another: SDSU sold less than 10,000 season tickets this season. The Aztecs have killed whatever buzz hiring Brady Hoke created.

TCU: 14-10 win at Clemson. In the end, probably the best analysis of the Frogs' win in Death Valley was that the Frogs' better array of weapons slowly overwhelmed the Tigers' reliance on the very remarkable C. J. Spiller. TCU stopped Spiller just enough to keep Clemson's tally at ten points, and fielded just enough fresh legs and brilliance in the air to tally 14 points. The difference was most obvious in the one scoreless quarter-- the third. TCU out-gained Clemson 98 yards to eight, while holding the ball for over ten minutes. Clemson's d-line never recovered. Key stat: Dalton ran for 62 yards and three first downs in the second half. His "inverted veer," run off audibles, was the x-factor, similar to Jeremy Kerley's Wild Frog plays against BYU last year. Clemson couldn't stop it, and now Frog fans are clamoring to know what else TCU has up its sleeve for tight games.

UNLV: 27-30 loss at Wyoming. UNLV lost its second game this season (see Oregon State) more by turnovers than bad performances elsewhere. The Rebels slightly bested the Cowboys in nearly every other phase of the game; but UNLV fumbled away its first possession, leading to Wyoming's first field goal, and Tashaun Gipson snagged an otherwise-UNLV-touchdown at the Wyoming one yard line early in the second half. Gipson got another INT later the game, leading to a Wyoming field-goal. Key stat: UNLV gave up two field goals to Wyoming off turned-over drives, and lost six more with the goal-line interception, and lost by three points. That's living too close to the edge.

Utah: 30-14 win v. Louisville. Utah hasn't lost at home since... since at least 2007. The Utes continued their winning ways at Rice-Eccles with a characteristic win over a shaky Big East team: forcing turnovers, good rush defense, and some striking pass plays. Terrence Cain was ultra-efficient (over 77% completion), and Eddie Wide filled most of the gap created by Matt Asiata's season-ending knee injury. The Utes will face much tougher defenses in conference play, and won't be able to depend on Cain as successfully as they could against the Cardinals. Key stat: even without his longest carry (25 yards), Eddie Wide still averaged 5.8 ypc. He's not an every-down back, but he'll carry the Utes further than dismayed Ute fans give him credit for.

Wyoming: 30-27 win v. UNLV. Are these green shoots? Three passing touchdowns and no interceptions for Carta-Samuels? Or is that the happy coincidence of a beleaguered offense and and equally-beleaguered UNLV "defense"? Because UNLV slowed Hawaii's defense appreciably last week, one may be forgiven for thinking Wyoming's reconstruction is proceeding with some visible result. Don't expect consistency in Laramie, however, for another year. Away from it: perhaps yet another year. Key stat: true freshman Alvester Alexander led the Cowboys on the ground, netting only 42 yards. Minus his longest run (10 yards) he averaged less than three per carry. Passing attacks need viable rushing correlatives, kids. Wyoming won't really fly until it can grind out a tough yards on command (or something like unto it). Wyoming has done neither for a long, long time.

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