Monday, November 15, 2004

ARMY!! Worse, if possible, than Navy?

Our kicking games woes aside, this was a pretty complete effort by the Wave- a solid performance. A key part about learning to get good is kicking bad teams, like the Washington Huskies, down early with a snarl- and whoo- the Wave did some kicking. Don't you sense that something good happened to the Wave at the half of the Houston debacle? You have to admit- over the last ten quarters, the defense has gotten after people.

I think this game confirms what we know about the Tulane. First, it is a very good offensive team if two conditions are met: the quarterback has time to pass and the opponent lacks athletes to cover our wideouts. Second, the defensive front seven is getting better. Try writing that sort of summary about, say, the Saints.

Ricard was very good. Despite the Tulane’s total gaudy rushing number, the Wave did not rush the ball all that well the entire first half against Army’s pitiful rush defense. But Ricard took advantage of the outstanding pass protection, picked apart Army’s hapless secondary and stayed away from the killer turnover- probably the only way Army could beat them. Again, the defense was great against the run all day- and Army’s back Jones is a player. They lost a little focus late, but so did I after Dome victory libations.

Ricard’s season ending injury is disappointing- just as those who supported him were beginning to be rewarded for persevering through his brutal initiation. Lord, remember the Mississippi State game? Shudder. Who was that guy?

Could be worse though. The number one goal this season was to solve the quarterback situation through 2006- and well, Scelfo has taken a huge step in that direction, right? One more four touchdown performance- and our LSU friends were going to be sick over Ricard all off-season.

Plus, I am convinced the team would be well-served by a long-look at Irvin- who is a good quarterback in his own right. In the next two games, Tulane is going to get pressured by the opposition’s defensive front- and every single game Ricard has seen persistent pressure he’s been bad (i.e. Houston and Memphis). Any chance of upsetting TCU or Louisville is going to be predicated on possessing the ball through the air- as I doubt Tulane will be able to consistently run it- and frankly that is Irvin’s game, not Ricard’s. Every time I look at Irvin, he just seems to get just what is going on out there- and he executes the ball control portion of the offense very well. Ricard has posted some great completion percentages lately- but the kind of pressure, say, Lousiville is going to put on our receivers and line is not the sort the service academies’ bring.

To beat Louisville and TCU we probably have to play a game in the 30s. To keep the Cardinals near that number means we need to move the chains a lot- and that means a quarterback going 28-38, 300 yards, minimal turnovers, a key throw or two in tight confines in the red zone. I think Irvin has as good a chance, if not better, than Ricard to do that under pressure.

Now, Mr. Forte did have a very solid game- filling in admirably- particularly in light of the fact he’s a freshman. But no, he is not yet a good college player. Okay, he rushed for 216 yards- but c’mon, this is Army! Don’t you read the program? Or at least my blog? Houston went for 369 on the ground (282 by Edwards). Air Force went for 345 and four touchdowns. USF set a school record- 367 yards- including Andre going 19-for-200 yards. Lousiville went for 270 and six touchdowns. UConn went for over 200. And so forth. Everybody goes for a big number against Army: bad backs, good backs, me. Seriously, everyone. Even Boudreaux broke a tackle!

Forte certainly can catch the ball, doesn’t fumble, knows the plays- and has filled in okay at times, and frankly very well on Saturday. But six TBs in C-USA will get votes for all-conference; he ain’t close to being one of them. He probably could not start for a single team in C-USA- maybe one. Outside of A&M and Army- a I-AA defense and an ipso de facto I-AA defense- he’s probably looking at what year end: 350 yards rushing and 18 catches in nine games? That is not good for a second tailback who does get to play and start some. At this point in his young career, he’s a fill-in player- a well below-average C-USA back- and C-USA is a bad league- who fattened up his stats- but candidly probably not as much as most other teams have.

Plus, just look at Forte play. You can tell why he didn't attract interest from anyone other than Tulane and a few scattered I-AA programs. The kid is a tweener. He's not strong on his feet at all- so he's not a true power back. He's not particularly fast- so he's not a scat-style back. He can catch it- and frankly Tulane has no one else. So he gets to play. But does anyone really believe that right now a key to success against TCU is insuring Forte gets 25 touches? Please.

Bottom line- to their tremendous credit, the Wave is still playing games that matter. They look loose and seem to be having fun. Most importantly, they still have a very narrow opportunity to get to six- which I never, ever thought would happen. They have an okay chance, particularly with the prep week, versus TCU (because they’ll score even if pressured, unlike in Houston, with Irvin in there) and a puncher’s chance (say +18 in Vegas) if Louisville comes in looking ahead. At the very least, Tulane will be the more desperate, focused and loose outfit. C’mon, admit it, if the Wave beats TCU, some people at Tulane might actually go to the game.