Ladies and Gentlemen,
It seems as if Bronco Nation developed a lactose intolerance last night and couldn't keep the Milk Can. So...amid all the complaints, amid all the shouting and nail-biting and weeping and jumping for joy and heartbreak, is the world REALLY coming to an end with this Boise State team? Do we ALL need to jump of the cliff, or stand to the side and let the cliff-jumpers do it on their own? Let's break down the Milk Can War from last night.
Factors that don't show up on stat sheets: Location of Game (Fresno), Emotion (7 game losing streak to Boise, senior laden Fresno team, QB who put family ahead of football six weeks ago), Laws of Averages and Statistics
First, let's take a look at the team stats.
Yards Gained: Boise State 561 Fresno State 522
1st Downs: Boise State 32 Fresno State 27
3 Down Conv: Boise State 11/20 (55%) Fresno State 8/17 (47%)
Time of Poss: Boise State 33:03 Fresno State 26:57
Plays Run: Boise State 100 (!!!) Fresno State 84
Turnovers: Boise State 2 Fresno State 0
When you look at these stats, not ONLY was this game evenly matched, but Boise had a slight edge in every team statistical category except turnovers. Look at that play count. ONE HUNDRED PLAYS. That amounts to approximately one play every 21 seconds (give or take). Oregon isn't even running things that fast this year...though admittedly, Oregon hasn't been in a dogfight yet.
We didn't lose this game because we were outplayed. OK, our defense was outplayed, because they _______ (pick reason of choice). But wait...are we sure?
Yards Gained: Boise State 361 Fresno State 460
Comp-Att: Boise State 33-47 (70%) Fresno State 39-60 (65%)
Yard per pass: Boise State 7.7 Fresno State 7.7
Yards Gained: Boise State 200 Fresno State 62
Rush Attempt: Boise State 53 Fresno State 24
Yards per rush: Boise State 3.8 Fresno State 2.6
We matched Fresno State pass for pass, yard for yard. The difference is that we were able to do damage on the ground, where they had to do most of theirs in the air. Our QBs had a better completion percentage than Carr did. The teams literally picked up the same amount of yards per pass. Carr was not definitively better than Southwick tonight, but the presence of a running game brings Southwick's numbers down.
"Nighthawk, your analysis is flawed! We were outmatched/outplayed/outcoached, and Prince's offense SUCKS!" Quite the contrary. We have our worst team since 2007 (maybe since 2005), and Fresno has their best team since 2001, and they beat us largely on the strength of raw emotion. With the exception of turnovers (which gave them a touchdown), we either matched or beat them in EVERY measurable statistical category.
The new offensive scheme is beginning to pay dividends. "Nighthawk, it isn't Boise State football!! I hate this!" This offense was put into place for a number of reasons, one of which was so that we could generate MORE scoring opportunities. More possessions = more opportunities, which means more room for error by the offense. This is IMPORTANT when you play teams that also move the ball fast. If they can score in three minutes, you can't afford to stall out on a seven minute response drive. This is especially true given our defensive issues this year. We have to be able to match scoring drive for scoring drive, and hope/pray/beg/grovel for just enough defensive stops to let us get ahead.
As for the defense, it is concerning...THIS year. However, there is reason to be hopeful. We've had bad defenses before, and like this year's defense, they've always been due to youth and inexperience. There's a reason defensive players across the country usually redshirt and rarely see the field much before their junior year, and our defensive secondary is a near-perfect example of why. Young secondary players take more time to adjust to the speed of college players and learn the techniques necessary to stick with college-level WRs than offensive players do. It is said that defense always has to play catch-up to offense, and nowhere is this more true than in defensive personnel.
That being said...there has been improvement. Moxey, a true freshman from Florida, is starting to show some good reaction times and cover instincts. Page, a junior who transferred from LA Harbor JC, has shown flashes of being decent in coverage. Page arguably has less of an excuse than Moxey for getting burned, seeing as how he's a JC transfer.
Our LB's are showing improvement. Weaver and Vallejo show good fundamental tackling and a nose for the ball on defense. Our DL did a good job containing Carr to the pocket. As for the lack of pressure on Carr...he has a quick release, and has been sacked ONE time this year. You saw it last night - Beau Martin dropped him from behind.
Our DL is also showing improvement, particularly with the second string. I'm disappointed with the play of DeMarcus Lawrence, and I think he's suffering from the lack of another speed end on the other side of the line. Fresno State frequently double teamed Lawrence.
So...is this defense the way things are going to be, or is there a reason to believe things will get better this year and next year? I'm going to opt for the latter, and here's why: WE HAVE TALENT. It just happens to be YOUNG talent. Look at the defensive personnel we have waiting. We're redshirting Cameron Hartsfield, a CB out of Allen, TX. Moxey runs a 4.5 forty and is showing good reaction time, instincts, and a nose for the ball. Hartsfield runs a 4.4. THe only thing Moxey playing and Hartsfield NOT playing means is that Moxey was more ready for the college game this year than Hartsfield was. We're also redshirting Dionza Blue, who may be even faster based on film.
Our DL is stacked with younger players beyond the two-deep...and they have size. Gaines comes in next year and may not need to redshirt - he's already 290 pounds. Don't forget about Hoyte - he's a redshirt freshman this year. Nick Terry's redshirting this year, and he's at 275 pounds. Robert Ash is laying in the wings, too - he's got two more years after this. DE/STUD is a bit thin, but has young talent. Johnson might play next year as a true freshman - we beat out almost every non-SEC blueblood program in the country for him...there's a reason he had those offers. We're playing Perez and Correa at STUD as true freshmen, and McCaskill's a redshirt freshman. They will only get better. We may still manage to hold on to Hawkins Mann through signing day.
The defense will be OK going forward. They'll show significant improvement next year, and I think they'll be back to dominance by 2015 at the latest. I do believe we've shifted to a base 4-3 from 4-2-5 because of the personnel in our defensive secondary. Expect to see some 3-4 mixed in this year as well. I believe that, given the relative lack of quality rushing attacks we face next year, we'll be back to a 4-2-5 format. It's pretty easy to switch defensive bases, but with up-tempo attacks, everyone has to be on the same page and know their assignments because you're probably stuck in your base coverage. You have to pick the base each game that gives your team the best shot to win. This year, that's a 4-3. Next year could be something very different.
In conclusion, there's a lot for Bronco Nation to look forward to. We're still getting recruits that are overlooked by the big boys. Hopefully, the coaches have learned their lessons from the washout episodes of...oh, gosh...Worthy, Ukwuachu, Plinke, Hightower, Van Ginkel. If they have learned their lessons, then they're getting team players who will work their backsides off to get better this year. I believe we're done with our scholarship penalties, also, so we'll have a bit more margin for error in recruiting. I expect to see us shore up DE/STUD and secondary with the expanded recruiting this year.
This is getting to be rather long, so I'll skip the offense for today.