The offensive line really did their job. Overrated? Underrated? Who knows? What I do know is that they carried this team throughout the season. They didn’t dominate every game, but Virginia Tech was the only game where they truly were outplayed. This was a nice conclusion to their season. Cherilus and Beekman had a strong day. Ross was really back in form. He was really quick in getting out on the pulls, screens and traps. He also handled his man on the few draws we did. Trueblood and Marten were effective, just not as dominant as their counterparts on the right side. Hall got some snaps for Cherilus again and looked okay. I wish I knew the reasoning on when they pull Cherilus for Hall. In the past I thought it was due to Cherilus mistakes, but he has really looked good the past few weeks. Maybe it is a conditioning thing and they want to keep him fresh. Who knows? The line was the best part of Saturday.
The second best part was L.V. Whitworth. On paper it would look like Callender had the better day, but I think L.V. played better. In addition to his 88 yards on the ground, he also caught three passes for 65 yards. Most importantly, he finally showed some allusiveness and ability to make people miss. And he is seeing his holes much better. L.V. clearly doesn’t have Callender’s speed or balance, but he is becoming the more well rounded back. Callender played well. But I give him bad marks for losing the ball outside the endzone. If I am going to get on other players for their repeated mistakes I have to criticize one of my favorites too. Andre has shown the propensity to fumble. At this point he has to know to cover up in a pile. He also got caught from behind once when the Maryland corner crashed a run play. And he was turning his back into tackles throughout the game. His touchdown run was nice, but there were too many head scratching plays to give him the thumbs up. Mark Palmer was back and made a real difference. Which is surprising since blocking has not been his forte.
The pass catchers were very good. Not many drops. Many clean routes. Will made a great catch on the deep go route. He was falling over, yet still maintained focus and held onto the ball. Miller got open and held onto the ball -- which is nice. Challenger's over the shoulder grab was eye opening…as was Gonzo’s tight rope walk early in the game. Why haven’t these guys got more balls thrown to them? Lester had one grab and gave a half ass effort on a deep go. If he had reached for it, he might’ve gotten the pass interference call. All these guys deserve credit for their downfield blocking. Look at some of these runs and watch what the wide receivers are doing. It makes a difference.
Ryan’s day was weird for me. Watching in the Sports Book, I thought he had a bad day. He made some errors. It seemed like he was holding onto the ball too long. He never saw the linebacker on his INT and he was lucky two others weren’t picked. Watching it a second time was amazing. Maybe because my expectations were lower, but he really played well. The majority of the throws, he would drop, read, plant and throw. No waiting. He threw behind Blackmon on one of the boots, but was accurate on most of his throws. His pass to Challenger was beautiful (the other QB doesn’t make that throw). Yes, he got a little reckless, but I think it speaks more to his football IQ. Look at the dump to Whitworth that was called back because he was over the line. There is nothing downfield, so he starts to take off. Yet he sees L.V. turn around at the last second. So instead of taking it himself, he flicked it to Whitworth who got a big gain. Sure it was called back, but I think it shows that A) he is scanning the field B) looking to get it to the playermakers. It is just the little intangibles that make a difference. One thing is clear -- the deep ball is back in the offense and it opens up the running game. One last thing on Ryan. I think I know how teams are going to defense him. He can handle pressure so Maryland backed off with some success. Ryan had more trouble when there were plenty of people in coverage. He waited on some of his reads and as I said earlier, didn’t even see the linebacker slide over on his INT. It will be interesting to see how teams prepare for him in the bowl game.
Bible called a bad game…again. We were running with relative ease yet he kept going back to things that had less success like the bootleg. Why did we run it 5 times? Does it play particularly well to Ryan’s strengths? No. Does it create big plays? No. Have we done it well with any QB beside Peterson? No. Yet, there it was on Saturday nearly getting Ryan killed. There were some other questionable calls too…the worst was the series before the half. We run the two minute drill really well. Get down to first and goal on the 10 with a minute or so left. First down Ryan throws the ball away and gets whistled for grounding. I would’ve liked a faster developing play and the penalty was borderline, but not a terrible call. 2nd down and goal from the 20. This is how I see it. If you want to run a play short of the endzone you do it here. It makes the 3rd down call easier and a potential kick easier. No we run a heavy protection pass play. Ryan throws the post to Blackmon. Will is in heavy coverage and Ryan puts the ball safely out of reach. There were few other options on the play. So now it is third down and goal from the 20. We throw the damn bubble screen to Blackmon. As I have said, I like getting our best playmaker the ball. But in that situation -- with a short field -- you neutralize Will’s allusiveness. It was a chickenshit call. And we missed the field goal. Our redzone play calling has been bad for years. It has only been masked by Peterson and Toal. Otherwise it is either predictable or idiotic.
The Defense won this game. Credit goes to Dunbar and the three second-team linemen, who I’ll get to in a minute. First Dunbar. He may be our best linebacker. Which in this staff’s tradition, means he only got the fourth most snaps! His pass coverage has really improved. He is much better at dropping and reading than he was at the beginning of the year. His two deflections show the adjustment. Jolonn also is a relentless tackler. You don’t see the misses that you get from his peers. Obviously his fumble return was a heads up play. It wasn’t the only one he made. His only weakness remains reading the option. He blew his assignment twice in this game. But with the way he has improved, I don’t think it will be an issue next year. Ricky Brown had a solid day too. His run down of Ball was a hustle play. Henderson…was coasting towards a day in my doghouse until the interception. I don’t get Ray. He avoids contact at times. Watch how other guys engage their blockers and then release, Ray will wait or run around his. Maybe he gets tired. Maybe he is compensating for lack of bulk. I don’t know. I just know it has been going on all season. On Ball’s big run he was faked out and then slow in getting to the hole. Yet the INT was what he does best -- drop into coverage. Maybe he should have been a safety all along.
The second team D-line deserve a game ball for this win. We were getting killed in time of possession and they kept our stars fresh. But more than that, they contributed. Brace was in on the Dunbar return. Ramella is looking great for a true freshman. Willis was huge on the 3rd and 1 stop from their 11. All played well. Kiwi had some big plays. But there were a few times when he was having trouble with a single blocker. Raji wasn’t as much of a run stopper as in past games, but he got after the quarterback. He and Kiwi forced Hollenbach into the Silva INT.
The DBs played well too. Fans like to get on our corners, but I have to defend Jazzmen Williams. He has become the best corner of the TOB era. He tackles really well. His man coverage is pretty good considering his size and he reads and makes plays on the ball. I know he only got his first INT in this game, but the stats don’t tell what a solid job he did this season. Tribble had a few missed tackles. Silva played well, however, bringing the ball out of the endzone was boneheaded. Glasper was good and Anam played well in his extended time.
I didn’t love the defensive play calling. We’ve used plenty of blitz this year. In the early part of the season it was the occasional corner blitz or Toal from Kiwi’s side. Both were successful. Since the Virginia Tech game we’ve been using the delay blitz from the safety position. It is not working. Our safeties are either too slow or not leaving early enough. It is not causing pressure and leaves us exposed for a big play. We also got cute with a three man front with a blitzing linebacker and safety. No pressure and even worse coverage behind it. I like the variety in schemes, but we need to realize when something is working or not working.
Special teams: C-
Petercuskie is a good recruiting coordinator. He is not a good special teams coach. At what point do we make a change? The guy has been a head coach at other schools, I am sure he can coach numerous other positions on this team. He is not doing us any favors where he is. First we cannot find a consistent kicker, which limits us. Kicking is hard and many good teams have problems finding a kid with a leg who can also handle the pressure. The punt protection is another matter entirely. Why can’t we fix this? On Saturday, the block was on. Instead of our gunner coming over for extra protection, he stayed wide. When this happens, we need to either throw him a pass or call a freaking timeout. Nope. We punt away and it is blocked. Unbelievable. Is there any Top 25 team that allows as many blocked punts as we do? Tribble’s fumble was bad, but I think it was the sun. Maryland had trouble on the receiving kicks on the open end of the field too. Other than the fumble, the returns were improving.
Both teams coughed up chances to win. I guess it is a sign of improvement when BC hangs on to games like these.