02 September 2011
59-14 is about what most of us expected. In fact, it may be a wider margin than we expected. It was a good start. Definitely something to build on as we get ready for a huge one next week. I'm sure the coaches and players will be dissecting film and cleaning things over the next few days. Here are my observations:
On the good side, I think the offense looked sharp particularly at the skill positions. I really like the fast tempo that Mullen runs. This is different from last year. Mullen wants to run as many plays as possible, which is good for a quick-strike offense. You could tell it was effective. Yes, there were a few hiccups but overall Relf executed the fast tempo to perfection.
State's speed was impressive. They swarmed the ball on every play and even the big fellas in the middle seemed to be quicker on their toes. Their receivers looked crisp on their routes and greasy after catching the ball. The secondary was all over the Memphis offense. And the smaller, quicker linebackers were getting to the ball fast. This is a fast Bulldog team, much faster than any we've had in recent memory.
In addition to the speed, State was physical last night. There were some serious licks being passed and I guarantee the Memphis players are feeling them today. Relf and Ballard were both running hard downhill and the Dogs finished every play. Speed and physicality are quite the combination and, based on last night, they look to have both.
I like the depth of this team. There were a lot of Freshmen and Sophomores on the field and they contributed. Relf completed passes to eight different receivers. Tyler Russell looked very good in relief. They shifted a lot of players in and out at linebacker. And the second and third team DBs looked good as well, namely Jamerson Love. Jameon Lewis...wow...this kid is fast. I knew he had speed but I apparently had no idea it was that kind of speed. It's nice to have a player who can break loose for a TD any time he touches the ball. It's even nicer when that player is a redshirt freshman. And apparently PJ Jones will not be red shirting, which is fine with me because he had a good night and looks to contribute a good bit his freshman season.
ATM Helmet Stickers: Chris Relf, a very solid performance. Managed the offense, managed the tempo. Passes were sharp and accurate. Vick Ballard looked to be in mid-season form and I think he's gotten a little faster in the off-season. Keep running the ball like that and he'll be playing on Sunday next year. Tyler Russell filled in nicely. Showed a strong arm and made some good reads. The game looks to have slowed down a little for our future star. And that option run was pretty. Cameron Lawrence made some plays on D at the LB position, we're gonna need more of it. Matthew Wells surprised at the outside LB position, especially early in the game. Seemed like # 22 was in on every tackle in the first quarter. Johnthan Banks was outstanding as usual. This guy is slowly becoming a premier shutdown corner. If he stays his senior season he could be preseason all-American. Nickoe Whitley had a sweet pick and some big hits as usual. Marvin Bure had several tackles on kick coverage and one bone-crushing hit that drew a collective gasp from the crowd.
Now for the ugly. I know it was 59-14 and State had some gaudy offensive numbers. But I have some concerns about what I saw last night. Tops among those concerns is our interior defense. Memphis is not a very good team, yet they seemed to run the ball very effectively between the tackles. Our interior push just wasn't there and neither was our middle linebacker. The safeties were making a lot of tackles last night and that's not good when you play a low-tier Conference USA team. We missed Chris White last night. This must get better or it will kill us next week against an SEC offensive line.
On the offensive side I'm a little concerned about our O-Line. First, the dead ball penalties were bad. Yes, it's the first game and these things are gonna happen but they have to be cleaned up by next week. Also, Relf got hit a lot last night against a mediocre D-line. Our running game seemed to be effective only when bouncing to the outside. While Memphis ran well between the tackles, State didn't seem to have much there. And our average scoring drive was about 60 seconds. Now, this is gonna sound picky, but I'm a little worried that we didn't have a long sustained scoring drive. It worries me because our offensive line worries me and it's the offensive line that produces long scoring drives. Memphis is vulnerable to the big play and we took advantage of that... a lot. That's great. But Auburn and LSU are not. My question is: Do we have the guys up front to produce a 14 play, 80 yard scoring drive, the kind that wins in the SEC?
I don't know. Maybe I'm not being fair. Maybe I'm too used to State's traditional power offense and we're just beginning to see the full effect of Mullen's quick-strike spread. Maybe State simply didn't get an opportunity for a long scoring drive because they broke too many big plays and scored too bloomin fast. Hopefully that's the case. I'll take it.
No doubt these question will be answered against Auburn. We will know a lot more about this team after next week.