Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Tulane vs. Southern Miss Wrap Up

Since I am usually the “Prince of Darkness”, I am surprised that I am a bit more optimistic right now than most folks- although I frankly don’t disagree with the tenor of most of the press concerning the game. Tulane deserved this whipping; USM is better than the Wave right now.

But don’t you get the impression, aside from the QB situation, that we just might be making a little progress. First, those kids can flat out block the run. Period. USM was totally loading up to stop the run, and our kids buckled their helmets and ran it successfully anyway. USM has a very solid, big for C-USA, front seven- and we competed up front as well as any Tulane team in a long while- even had a big play in the running game. While he might not be in Anthony Harris’ league, Jovon is a quality C-USA back, we seemingly block the plays correctly- and despite a determined effort by USM to shut down our rushing attack- we ran the ball well. It gives me hope that we’ll be able to run it against Navy and UAB- games we’ll need to make a run at 4-5 wins. If we can rush the football for 150 yards- I guarantee we are in the game against, say, Houston or UAB. And the pass protection was pretty good as well. They only asked Ricard to throw three balls down the field- and all three times he did not have guys in his face.

And I think the defense is more than a little improved from last year. Okay, they clearly still wear down- but USM and MSU are two of the bigger teams we’ll see this year. But teams don’t run totally wild on us anymore- at least early. And while the USM quarterback did not play particularly well- part of the reason was that we generated- sit down for this- a pretty consistent pass rush against one of C-USA better offensive fronts. I am still not really sold on the back seven on defense- but Cannon hides some flaws among the LBs- and our defensive front is much improved from the utter disaster it was last year. It is so obvious to me that some of these freshmen DL have good motors and real potential.

Look, we are still a long way from eight wins. But they are still on target to win the three games they should win: Army, A&M and ECU. I am increasingly confident they can sweep that slate- as Army and ECU are truly horrible- and I don’t think either can score 17 against this defense (I cannot believe I just wrote that). They could steal a game or two from the rest of the schedule: Houston, UAB and Navy- they could definitely get one of those, right.

For me, the utter frustration is that if they could get anything other than brutal, crippling turnovers out of the QB position, coupled with this better than average rushing attack and defense that can play a little, they could get near five, maybe six, wins.

Still, I’m sticking with four wins- and with all the young players we are playing and returning- that is not a hopeless result. I guarantee you this- if this mob can win four games, they will be Bowl eligible next year.