Monday, November 29, 2004

Froggie Stompin'

Well, who’d have thought the Wave would be here? Three wins as a double-digit underdog- in one campaign? One more win, and I might have to start apologizing to those “idiots” that predicted the Wave would get to seven. It is a shame those finks at the New Orleans Bowl couldn’t find it in their heart to screw someone other than Tulane for a change. It is okay though- sets up this Louisville clash as an ipso de facto Bowl game.

Thumping the Horned Frogs was pretty clearly the best win of the season. It confirms that while the Wave is still a clear step behind Memphis and Louisville, Tulane is a pretty solid middle-of-the-road C-USA outfit- with room to improve next year. Yes, Texas Christian may have manifest faults this year. For example, it perhaps says a lot about TCU’s defense when adding Tulane corners to your secondary probably would noticeably help. Nevertheless, TCU is an organized outfit that features, unlike the military academies, I-A players across the board. Subsequently, to whip the Froggies, with a little style and panache, on the road, is outright impressive. Particularly in light of the Frogs betrayal of the shining light in all of our lives: C-USA.

It is hard to find fault with anyone on the offense. Quick: name an offensive line that blocks the pass better than the 2004 version? Are you really sure the 1998 version was better? At tackle maybe, but in the interior? The wide receivers continue to catch the ball, etc. But undoubtedly, this day belonged to Richard Irvin- the greatest living American next to Jim Thome.

Irvin! Those of us boosting this young man since last spring surely had a great afternoon. Other than a huge run by Forte in the clinching drive, Tulane could not run the ball a lick. TCU jammed the box- and dared Irvin to beat them. Ha! The Cardinals probably won’t make that mistake. The redshirt freshman played an excellent road game- and except for a shaky third frame- exhibited the ball control passing this offense demands.

It looks so easy to play quarterback in the spread offense when the quarterback “gets it”. None of the throws are hard; no one is asking a quarterback to throw a deep out. People are seemingly always open- or at least covered man-on-man. But the premium is on a quarterback who can “read it and throw it”- again and again- without a mistake.

Since he showed up in the spring, Irvin has been the best “executor” on this roster. This is what the offense is supposed to look like: 32 minutes time of possession despite an inconsistent rushing attack, 100% execution in the red zone, 11 completion in 12 throws to start the game, five touchdown passes to multiple wide outs. Irvin kept them in the game early, cashed in TCU’s brutal turnover, picked them up down ten points and threw “two” touchdown passes in the clinching 99-yard drive. In his first start!

I have, even after the UAB game, said both that Irvin ought to start but that supporting Ricard’s elevation was not stupid. I don’t imagine we’re ever going to truly settle this question. It sort of depends on your philosophy on quarterbacking. Clearly Ricard has ample physical tools- and is increasingly grabbing the nature of the offense. But equally open, Ricard is never going to be the sort of player who completes a high percentage of passes. In Irvin, you have a quarterback who manages a football game like a senior today- but never is going to throw those gorgeous, gun it in there, downfield balls that Ricard can generate. I don’t think Irvin could have won the UAB game; and I don’t think Ricard can play the kind of measured road effort Irvin exhibited Saturday against a defense say, better than Navy’s. But at least now our quarterback controversy is centered around two guys who can play- as opposed to the spring where the quarterback play alternately was “bad” to “sort-of-mediocre”.

Some folks are throwing props to the defense. I don’t know. The Wave did play well in the second half, but Tulane did allow a ton of points again. TCU did have 500 yards of offense- so our performance was not superior. I also thought TCU did the Wave a favor keeping Gunn on the bench for large stretches. Hassell does not scare me. Gunn does.

Tulane is still awful young up front and not too solid covering folks. We needed every one of our 35 points; it’d be nice to absolutely not have to all the time. The trick to getting this team to eight wins next year isn’t going to be the offense; it is going to be getting better, rather bigger, play from our front seven and finding some folks who can cover people.

Lastly, it is pretty obvious that if Scelfo has a free afternoon this week, he might be well-served to park himself on Butler Quad- and grab every single undergrad that goes by and invite them to try their hand at place-kicking. Seriously, maybe LSU has a fifth string PK they don’t need.