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Game 1 thoughts and feelings (What the HELL was that?!?!?!)


Okay, I am trying to think of some positives to take from this. It is, afterall, just one game. Let's list the positives:
We scored more points and actually won.

So we're still waiting on that one. I will give credit to Indiana State. They came out and hustled, played like they had nothing to lose, and generally flat outplayed us. I felt their offensive line did a great job of blocking and executing, as well as their wide receivers doing an outstanding job of blocking downfield. Honestly, we were the bigger, stronger, more physical team, but as far as fundamentals, they had us whipped. Their quarterback did an excellent job of getting the ball and getting rid of it, rather than waiting for the play to develop. When you combine all those things, I can understand why the managed a score or two.

That being said, I cannot help but have the sinking feeling that unless we see a drastically improved team next week, we're in for an even longer year than last year. Defensively there seems to be no hustle or sense of urgency. There were a number of times where Indiana State was in a three wide set on the right side, and we would leave the inside receiver uncovered. There was no linebacker sneaking over to cover, nor were they blitzing to create pressure. I honestly question where our linebacking corps was all day.

I am troubled by our inability to get a definitive stop all day. The majority of our third down stops came on incomplete passes that were way out of reach, more attributed to a bad throw than a good defense. It's almost like the defense simply seemed uninterested all day, like the win was already expected, so they didn't try. I can understand giving one big play, even to Indiana State, but one big play, and two solid drives?

This needs to change. Now. Not in practice, not in a game, now. Just from watching other games today I can see where an intense defense, even one lacking in playmaking ability, can make a defense just from focus and intensity. This has to be stressed this week.
The loss of William certainly hurts, but we have to adjust. We didn't have him last year, and I honestly think if it were not for certain elements we would have been fine. Would Williams have made the one play we needed against Minnesota or Northwestern in order to make those wins? Doubtful. We simply must adjust instead of whine and moan; there's no other choice.
While the secondary certainly had their questioning moments, I am more trouble by our lack of a pass rush and inability to close holes in the middle of the field against an obviously inferior opponent. I know I was not the only one that, when ISU was faced with 4th and inches early in the third quarter and only down five, was concerned that they would go for it and likely get it? My question to ISU is why not go for it? What do you have to lose? You've already won by keeping it a game that far, If you get it and drive for a TD you're suddenly leading, if you don't, no one expected you to even compete anyway. I find it even more troubling that our front seven grossly underperformed, as even last year we were serviceable against the run.
Special teams was jekyl and Hyde, respectively. Yes, we gave them two of their five TD's with horrible punts, but if they are as bad as they are expected to be then our defense should have at least held for a field goal after the bad snap instead of quickly giving up a TD. Chris Summers was solid in the kicking game, missing only one PAT and had a great kickoff deep into the end zone. Our kick return game was good, but the punt return game did little. Essentially, we're two very bad plays from a 60-21 game, but it needs to be noted that if Indiana State makes those plays, everyone else on our schedule certainly can.

Now on to our offense. I was impressed, but not really, as I feel we didn't do anything that was expected, and we may have underachieved a little bit. Painter had some solid throws, but he was consistently long on his deep ball and I am troubled that we didn't spread the ball around more. Only four first team receivers caught passes, and Keller seemed to be forgotten in the passing game like Davis was several times last year. Painter did all right, but seemed to not go through progressions well and spread the ball around. And how many times was Selwyn Limon either open or in a gross mismatch height-wise with his corner, only to never get a look? I know Tiller said he would be brought along gradually, but only one pass his way all day?
The option game worked very, very well, and I honestly think this needs to be our strength this year. I would have been perfectly pleased if we had stuck with it all day and simply used our O-line to punish them on the ground. What would the harm have been in that?
I felt Joey Elliott had a solid game as well, with a good TD drive. He look to be a little more sharp throwing the ball than Painter, and seemed to have a solid rapport with Desmond Tardy. He even used his tight end as an outlet and release valve, something that Painter did not do. This needs to be a key part of our offense. I felt we went for the big play today too much, instead of sitting back, taking what they gave us, and methodically grinding the ball out. Perhaps the talk of 60-70 points got to their heads too much.

Again, I must give credit to Indiana State, as they were well coached and played with a ton of emotion. They had nothing to lose, and I think they showed they were obviously better than everyone thought. They were quick and for the most part fundamentally sound, and it was enough for them to hang around for awhile since we had some big mistakes.

I think we as fans should be even more nervous, but not in full-fledged panic mode just yet. We played this game almost exactly like what we thought it was: a glorified scrimmage, while Indiana State played it like it was their championship game. Our intensity was lacking almost the whole day, and I think it was pretty much gone after we jumped up 16-0. There will be improvement. It's time to watch tape, relax, and see what happens next week. We can go either way from this. We can either take this as a learning experience that we at least need to have intensity, move to the ball, and be active at all times, or we can sit back and learn nothing.
Next week is another chance. Maybe Indiana State will turn out to have a very good season after this, and it won't look as bad in hindsight as we thought. Maybe this will just be an aberration and a necessary wake up call. We must remember that we essentially gave them 14 points. It is not to late, and we can't give up yet. We have two weeks to go, and if we take things one game at a time we can still at least make a bowl. One down, seven to go in that respect.
There are two winnable games next. Two more chance to improve on defense and gel together. Regardless of how bad it looked, we still won today. That is the important thing. It doesn't matter if it is by 1 or 100, it is still a win. I am more nervous than I was before today, but I am not panicking yet.


FINAL GRADES:

OFFENSE: B-, A solid game, but the second quarter was just horrible.
DEFENSE: D-, No QB pressure, no activity by linebackers, open receivers, porous run defense, and just a general lack of intensity. Only the two INT's were a bit of a saving grace.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B, Not fantastic, but aside from the two bad punts, they did exactly what they needed to do. Considering it's an entirely new unit playing their first games, that's not bad, but there's plenty of room to improve.