Tuesday, October 25, 2005

UCF: Still A Place No One Has Ever Heard of

Clearly the UCF game was the most frustrating loss of the year. It was made worse by the fact Tulane has lost three in a row- but has kind of played a little better each time. Worse, I had the Wave to win five/six games- a winning season, a real achievement in this weird year- and for the first time Tulane lost one of the games I had in the “probable win” bucket.

The game was probably the last real chance for a nice season: a bowl-eligible team, etc. Tulane has four losses now. A winning campaign is probably impossible: this team can’t beat USM away or be consistent enough to sweep the other contests. I also don’t think they can beat Navy away. They’re more prone now to win four than five- let alone six.

Of course, I really thought they were going to win here. Led by a stout emotional defensive effort and a clean offensive performance, a comfortable Ricard would produce Tulane’s most solid effort of the season.

In the end, it was hard to characterize the Wave’s performance. Outside of Ricard. I know what you’re all thinking, Frank is just gonna rip Lester! Just gonna rip’em!

Wait for it.

You can’t throw bouquets at the defense either. When UCF has 34 looking down from the scoreboard at the end of the game, it is hard to say the defensive played well, or did enough to win. I will say C-USA is a weird league- and that against a good League offense 24-28 points allowed is a more-than-credible defensive performance. You can win a lot of games in this League if you defense goes through the season at that level.

But, when your offense hands your opponent five turnovers, is 34 a convincing defensive performance? Probably not- especially when you lose. I don’t know what to say really- except that the defense is sort of a finished product right now. They’re pretty clearly improved over last year- up from terrible against the run to “okay” or “okay-minus” for one thing. But they still can’t carry the team; they need help from the “O” to win. But had the offense not turned it over again and again and again and again and again- maybe you could say the defense did enough to keep us in this.

The offense... You know, I think we all agreed about one thing coming into the season. No matter the perception of individual players and offensive units- whether Forte or the line or the new receivers were a plus/minus- the broad consensus was there was enough here on offense to be successful. If Ricard is successful.

If. Which brings us to the quarterback....

Don’t you get the feeling that the offense might not really be that bad? The offensive line was terrible to begin the year- but since SMU has protected as well as any outfit here in a long time- and the run-blocking is adequate lately. The Jovon & Forte mix isn’t a plus- but they aren’t bad like last year. The wide outs are a solid group- a nice surprise. We don’t normally fumble or take endless penalties. But the quarterback turns it over- again and again and again and again- and can’t complete enough of his throws to make a possession offense based on throwing the ball work.

I'm just, for the first time since Houston last year, down on the quarterback. I can live with either the inability to consistently execute the ball-control passing game or the brutal, will-sapping turnovers- but not both. Put it this way, take away the UAB game (they would have won the 2004 Navy game with me playing quarterback) and there is no way, none, you could say the decision to go with Ricard over Irvin was the right one.

Other than the UAB game again, Tulane would have won every game Ricard "started and won", with Irvin as well: Navy, Army, SMU. But how many games has Tulane left on the table? A chance to switch losses to wins, with consistent, perhaps unspectacular, quarterback play. Both Bulldog games. ECU and Houston last year. And so forth.

They gotta fix the quarterback. The difference last year, this year and next year- between five wins and eight wins is not the coach or the team- but getting Ricard’s gifts in line with his actual performance.

And I want to see Scott some. I know you can’t give up on the season and experiment until that sixth loss. You owe it to your seniors to make every attempt to be bowl eligible. But, I am not sure taking 40 pass attempts away from Ricard will tell us any less about Ricard. But 40-60 pass attempts will tell us a lot more about what we have in the back-up and future starter.