The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
Hope everyone had a happy Labor Day, but now it's back to work, and bloggers are no exemption. I'm still trying to figure out how to best wrap up games, which I didn't really do at all last season. Now that I have my feet under me, do a bit more analysis, and have actual, you know, readership, I'm trying to figure out the best way to break down the previous game's action before moving on to next week. I'm looking for something between the incredibly detailed and proprietary UFR on mgoblog and Marco's equally-proprietary although a bit less illuminating reviews.
I'll whip through this one quickly and try to plan out something special and uniquely-House Rock Built for next week's game.
- Atlanta as a host city. In my final analysis, the weekend of hanging out in Atlanta is probably the only part of the game I have no complaints about. My trip kicked off with what I suppose you could call The Nicene Council of the college football blogsphere, as great minds like Orson Swindle from EDSBS, Jay from Blue-Gray Sky, Mike from Fire Mark May (who provided the recap and photos), and Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer author and blogger Warren St. John. Suffice to say, we all got fighting drunk and wrecked the Omni Hotel, because that's how bloggers represent. Hopefully, we can arrange more college football summits in the future, because it was really an awesome experience putting faces to names and names to nom-de-plumes. What's say we organize BloggerCon 06 at the Rosemont Convention Center in Chicago? I've already got my Storm Trooper suit.
Behold, humanity's last great hope.
Tailgating in the ATL was awesome. The first drink when down the gullet at 10 am, and I kept my whistle wet continuously up to kickoff. At Orson's insistence, I choked down an order of onion rings at The Varsity despite being stuffed and overserved with alcohol, then promptly ran back to line for another order. I don't know what deep-fried crack tastes like, but I doubt it's any better than those rings. The city and campus were electric with pregame buzz (first bee pun of the post) and you could just taste the college football in the air. Beer was flowing, BBQ's were fired up, and everywhere you looked, a pasty bespectacled frat boy was trying hard to throw a ten yard spiral (and failing hysterically). Seriously, Tech bloggers, we need to have a talk about your student body's athleticism. I have never seen more universally-girly football throwing since, well, I guess it was the Miami-Florida State game tonight. But, still, get with the program.
- Brady Quinn's leadership. Screw the haters in the media. Yeah, Quinn looked shaky, particularly on the first few drives of the game. A few overthrows and some panicy feet in the pocket were costly in the early stages, but when it was all said and done, Quinn answered the call. 60 percent completion percentage, no interceptions, and four of the ballsiest runs I've seen in a long while. As the game got tense near the end, it came down to which team had a composed quarterback who could sustain a drive when necessary, gut out some tough yards, and make the big first down with the game on his shoulders. There was one quarterback on the field that met that description.
- Travis Thomas. My player of the game. Thomas flew around the field on defense and was always in the mix defensively. His blitz off the edge that resulted in a nearly game-sealing sack was a terrifying display of speed and fury. Thomas was a bright spot in a linebacking unit that, on the whole, was infuriatingly ineffective and needed all the help it coulud get. Then, after fighting it out on a crucial late defensive stop, Thomas trotted back on the field and answered the call to run the ball on offense, grinding out 19 yards and putting the dagger into Georgia Tech.
- The defensive playcall that left Darrin Walls one-on-one with Calvin Johnson. Sweet baby Jesus, you have to be kidding me. Georgia Tech lines up 3 wide in a shotgun with 2 backs. The Irish are in their base 4-3 package with true freshman Darrin Walls playing in his first ever college football game (and fairly well, if I do say so) up against All-American superstar God-man Calvin Johnson. Fair enough, I suppose, provided there is some sort of support over top. The ball is snapped, and it's a blitz! From the very side that Walls and Johnson are lined up, no less, meaning that Walls is completely on an island. Six Irish dive across the line of scrimmage, meaning Ndukwe, the safety help on Walls' side, is now guarding the slot receiver one-on-one with Zbikowski on the other side playing a short zone. You can see from the diagram that this is a bad idea from the start (red arrows denote blitzers, blue arrows are coverage assignments, blue circles are zone coverage assignments):
On the right side of the field, you have two receivers (one of whom is freaking Spiderman himself) and two defenders, and on the left side of the field you have one receiver (whose name isn't Calvin Johnson), a stray fullback, and three defenders. Not surprisingly, Zbikowski and the CLJLB end up double-teaming the fullback (who is strictly a blocker on this play, not a receiver) five yards from the line of scrimmage while Calvin Johnson is running haywire in man coverage 40 yards away. Effectively, the blitz from the overloaded side of the play negated the very existence of Zibby and the CLJLB, and Tech got to play 11 on 9 football for one play.
Not surprisingly, a jump-ball to the sideline results in a 40 yard gain and sets up a Tech field goal. Something went seriously, seriously wrong here or Minter decided that the enormous fat fullback planted a few yards downfield was a much higher priority to bracket defensively than Calvin Johnson. Curses.
- Drive-Murdering penalties and dropped passes. Good lord. The stat sheet shows 80 yards of penalties against the Irish, but when you take into account the yardage lost from the successful plays that were called back, sloppy blocking and leg whips cost the Irish more than twice that. While we can argue the legitimacy of some of these calls (five hundred Tivo viewings and I've yet to see a hold on McKnight on the opening drive), the fact of the matter is that undisciplined play cost us several promising drive. That's why the offense was able to rack up yardage and dominate the game statistically, but were never able to actually put the game away with points.
Rhema McKnight alone had a string of third-down drops that hit him directly in the hands which made me pull my hair out in frustration. Easy catches that could continue a touchdown drive turned into punts and missed field goals. The big guy redeemed himself pretty well by making a clutch grab on third and long at the end of the game, but I'm still a little sore about his early performance.
- Tech fans throwing shit on the field when they disagreed with a call. Nothing gets my goat more than this. From my vantage point, the entire end zone sections began pelting the field with water bottles after the personal foul call. Those of you watching on TV probably saw the ref get nailed with a bottle right after making that call, but after watching Tech tailgaters feebly attempt to pass a football around during tailgates, I can say with absolute certainty that there is no way a Tech fan could have thrown a bottle that accurately. It's much more likely that it was a Michigan fan who snuck into the stadium the cheer against the Irish.
Anyway, it's completely classless and disrespecting your own stadium. My general impression of Tech fans was very positive, but that moment really disappointed me. You're better than that, leave that kind of stunt for Ann Arbor.
- Zbikowski's Mohawk. Good God, man.