Monday, September 24, 2018

Deja Vu all Over Again?

Sadly, this is not about that Deja Vu.

Saturday sucked, huh? I had this one penciled in as a loss at the beginning of the season, but after the delicious turtles got raced by something called Temple, I moved it to a toss up. Never again he says to himself again.

It wasn't so much the loss that got to me. I'm pretty used to losing and, with a team comprised mostly of dudes who are no more than 16-months removed from their senior prom playing on the road for the first time, it was not unexpected. The thing that gives me pause is Saturday's performance looked *a lot* like what we saw from our team last year.

The 2017 narrative in a sentence is "we looked decent in non-conference, then we were unable to consistently move the ball and had a massive propensity to give up brain melting 40+ yard TD plays on defense." The 2018 narrative in a sentence, after one week in conference play is "we looked decent in non-conference, then we were unable to consistently move the ball and had a massive propensity to give up brain melting 40+ yard TD plays on defense." One of these things is like the other.

(Yeah, yeah, small sample size for the current season, but football statistics are are shit and piss (+) anyway.)

Let's be clear at the outset: one game does not a season predict and I'm not turning negative on the coaching staff. There were just some things that left me remembering not-so-fondly the months I spent ridding myself of the facial tic I acquired after going scoreless in the last two games of last season.

Like, how is it possible we still can't block a tunnel screen? TyJo and Douglas aren't straight off the football turnip truck, but either through lack of effort, poor leverage or both, they left poor Bateman to be dusted by the Maryland DBs. Given our need we to get the ball to our playmakers in space, it seems like blocking in those situations would have been a pretty important skill to nail down in the offseason; but we've looked no better this year than we did in 2017 when we more or less had to abandon those plays due to inability to execute. Not great.

On defense, I wondered whether our LBs and DBs were staring into the sun in the huddle given their missed assignments. Yeah, Matt Canada runs a lot of relativistic-jet-shooting-from-the-event-horizon-of-a-supermassive-black-hole motion, so it's possible the gamma rays melted their faces. But this failure to maintain key integrity nuked us repeatedly last season and feels all too familiar. And it happened prior to TWAN going down, so wasn't just due to having a walk-on red shirt (#WORS) on as his backup. No matter how good everything else is going, if you give up 21 - 28 points on 3 -4 plays, you're going to have a bad time.

The thing that's frustrating here is these aren't talent issues. Guys aren't getting beat, they're just not where they're supposed to be. It's literally blocking and tackling - as fundamental as it gets. Unfamiliarity with scheme was a viable reason for these things last season, but, man, it's tough seeing the same stuff this year and attributing it to youth. It's execution, plain and simple.

It's far from the end of the world, I know. Program builds aren't linear and we aren't as bad as we played on Saturday. Bateman, CAB and Coughlin are great to watch and with two weeks to prepare for an equally-stultifying Iwoa offense, hopefully we'll can all go to the Vu with a pig in the trophy case.

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