Tuesday, October 6, 2009

What we learned: week 5

The Tally: 19-15 overall, 5-9 v. the cartel, 5-7 v. '08 bowl teams, 6-0 v. 2A teams.
(2008 tally: 23-10 overall, 7-5 v. the cartel, 6-5 v. '07 bowl teams, 5-1 v. 2A teams;
2007 tally: 14-16 overall, 5-9 v. the cartel, 2-13 v. '06 bowl teams, 3-0 v. 2A teams.)

Air Force: 13-16 OT loss at Navy. The hex continues-- AFA has dropped seven contests in a row to Navy, most of them by just a few points. As with all narrowly decided games, one could point to just one mistake (usually one of many) and say, "But for that error, the outcome would have been..." And how tempting, but incorrect. One cannot separate one mistake from all the others-- and from the opponent's mistakes, etc. So, for Air Force: its futility converting third downs (just three of 16), and kicking crucial field goals, and play calling, etc... it all haunts in Colorado Springs this week. And what worse time to haunt could there be? TCU comes calling in a few days. Tim Jefferson played some and sat out some, and Asher Clark again wasn't a ground-eating machine. Key stat: Jefferson and Clark combined for only 49 yards on 13 carries. AFA is a wounded bird, when it can least afford it.

BYU: 35-17 win v. Utah State. Question: when does BYU rush twice as many times as it passes? Answer: when Max Hall's TD:INT ratio is 1:1! Or perhaps that's just how it seemed Friday. It appears even Bronco Mendenhall sees the wisdom in the old football saying, "Three things can happen when you throw the ball, and two of 'em are bad." Hall threw three TDs and two more INTs, but the Cougars' lines overpowered the Aggie lines. Harvey Unga ran all over the Aggies, tallying 118 in 21 carries. Utah State managed less than three ypc. Key stat: Luke Ashworth filled in for the injured McKay Jacobson very nicely, netting five catches for 91 yards and a touchdown. The cupboard in Provo is deep, and well stocked.

Colorado State: 29-31 loss at Idaho. Who would have told you, five weeks ago, that this post would include the second "loss at Idaho" for the conference? SDSU's loss was marginally excusable, as a bad habit. But Colorado State? Shelley Smith was back at LG; Grant Stucker had a pretty good game; his receivers were OK (19-35 for just under 300 yards and 4 TDs), his rushers decent (Mosure and Mason ran for 4.6 ypc). CSU's rush defense was good (2.1 ypc allowed). Pass defense was weak-- the top two Vandal receivers turned 18 catches into 282 yards and three TDs. Key stat: Idaho blocked a PAT and kept Leonard Mason inches away from the endzone in a two-point conversion attempt in the game's final minutes that would have evened the score. In the end, it appears CSU hasn't learned to take sufficient intensity with it to win close games on the road.

New Mexico: 28-48 loss at Texas Tech. This fifth loss for 2009 has genuinely redeeming features-- the first of the year. New Mexico held Tech to 7 points for 29:59; third-string runningback A.J. Butler ran for over 100 yards; the offense produced three TDs; UNM was +3 in turnovers. Maybe Mike Locksley has turned the ship around to face winning again. Key stat: ten different Lobos caught passes, six of them multiple times. The spread requires completed passes, and this is New Mexico's first showing that all of its players can do that.

San Diego State: 34-17 win v. New Mexico State. Don't look now, (and apparently nobody in San Diego is) but SDSU is developing a home winning streak. This makes three in a row, for still-dwindling crowds. Ryan Lindley didn't have much to do with it (26% completions); chalk this one up to the o-line (3.5 ypc) and defense: it forced five turnovers and held NMSU to less than 2 ypc. Key stat: Walter Kazee's debut: 22 carries, 101 yards. Brady Hoke has needed somebody to step up on the ground, and Kazee shows he's a winning card in Hoke's yet-too-small deck.

TCU: 39-14 win v. SMU. The Horned Frogs began the game like an unranked, unmotivated, rainy-day squad, giving up the ball twice in the game's first ten minutes (although the first of those is forgivable: the ballcarrier was knocked out cold in the fumble-forcing tackle!) Senior Joe Turner rallied the troops, though, and the tables turned. SMU held the ball less than eight minutes in the second half, and let the Frogs' three-prong ground attack (Turner, Wesley, Tucker) get over 5 ypc. Dalton had his worst game, completing only 60% of his passes and an INT. He threw two TDs, however. Key stat: the Frogs won the field position battle consistently, starting only one drive behind their own 30 yard line, and six of 13 drives in SMU territory. Another key stat: safety Alex Ibiloye led the team in tackles, with eight. His step-up is a key to settling a secondary is still searching for its identity in the wake of personel losses this offseason.

UNLV: 23-68 loss at Nevada. Did anything go right Saturday in Reno? UNLV's alleged defense, which has been highly suspect (at best!) all year, went on strike for the second half against Nevada, giving up 42 points in 30 minutes. The Wolpack averaged over ten ypc. on the night, and despite four turnovers, failed to catch only three of 19 passes. Key stat: UNLV managed only 2.6 ypc. This was a one-sided shootout, and perhaps the lowest of many lows in Mike Sanford's tenous career in Las Vegas.

Utah: bye.

Wyoming: 30-28 win at Florida Atlantic. It is tempting to say Wyoming's ship is turning around-- winning with their new scheme is a critical step the Cowboys took Saturday. But prudence requires one mind the inconsistency that will certainly dog Wyoming this season, and perhaps next. But green shoots clearly were in evidence; Wyoming held the ball ten minutes longer than the Owls; they ran it well and often. But best is this week's Key stat: Cowboys caught twelve of Austyn Carta-Samuels first thirteen passes, and 17 of the remaining 25: verily a solid performance. This is more than a green shoot; it is notice to the MWC: Wyoming is already out of the MWC's basement (see UNLV), and will even be dangerous soon enough. Intermittently, for now, but there is hope in Laramie.

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