Monday, October 10, 2005

Wait til next year Houston!

Have you ever noticed that so much of life comes full circle? Sorting through the rubble of Saturday’s game Tulane game with Houston and the Eagles debacle in Dallas, I was struck by this in the morning papers (excepted below):

The people of Belgium have been left reeling by the first adult-only episode of the Smurfs, in which the blue-skinned cartoon characters' village is annihilated by warplanes. The short but chilling film is the work of Unicef and is to be broadcast on national television next week as a campaign advertisement.

Belgian television viewers were given a preview of the 25-second film earlier this week, when it was shown on the main evening news. The reactions ranged from approval to shock and, in the case of small children who saw the episode by accident, wailing terror.

The short film pulls no punches. It opens with the Smurfs dancing, hand-in-hand, around a campfire and singing the Smurf song. Bluebirds flutter past and rabbits gambol around their familiar village of mushroom- shaped houses until, without warning, bombs begin to rain from the sky. Tiny Smurfs scatter and run in vain from the whistling bombs, before being felled by blast waves and fiery explosions. The final scene shows a scorched and tattered Baby Smurf sobbing inconsolably, surrounded by prone Smurfs.

Speaking of prone little people, if you are truly an observer of the nature and capacity of Tulane football, it was pretty clear this game with the Cougars had real potential to be trouble.

Houston is a team that can competently run and pass the football- with a quarterback that really fits in well with the C-USA concept & style of offense. Isn’t Kolb a nice polished college player? He doesn’t have the physical gifts of Ricard- but he gets how to play quarterback in our league- and so he’s a plus more Saturdays than not.

Now Tulane’s defense has played well this year- but those efforts have solely been against teams that didn’t have any real chance of consistently hurting the Wave throwing the ball. Forced to play more honestly up front yesterday, in particular required to abandon the “stack the line of scrimmage” look they had employed successfully so far, Tulane was hurt. Not killed- they played all right, seven first half points allowed, until they just got exposed a little too much in the second half. Still, Houston definitely got the better of them.

Again, it didn’t help matters much that the offense couldn’t stay on the field. Ricard was, as normal, ineffective outside of a utopian playing environment. I still don’t understand the tailback mix- but they ran it okay- even well. But, you simply can’t win games with a spread offense if your quarterback performs in a sporadic fashion- and has entire halves where he is immature- refusing or incapable of valuing each snap and every throw. To be successful, this offense requires a quarterback to read, react, and complete 60% or so of his passes. That isn’t Ricard right now. (photo credit)

Seriously, I know some of you think he’s a serious pro-prospect. He’s got the body and arm- I agree. But I have been following Tulane since 1987, and no Tulane quarterback in that time threw a worse screen pass. It is like watching a middle-schooler learning to square dance; you can see his lips move as he counts the required cadence. No rhythm, no joy in his touch throws.

Still, I’m absolutely not down on the team. This is still the forecasted six-win team- that has got two wins down in the plus column & still has four very winnable ones left. They’re still a “Ricard goes totally crazy and throws five touchdowns” afternoon away from an upset over Navy, UTEP or USM- and a corresponding shot at seven. No way can you quit on the season.

For whatever reason(s), Houston has recently been a bad match-up for Tulane. They seem to have deconstructed Ricard- and their offense seems to be able to get the four/five scores or so to make it look bad. But they smacked Tulane similarly last year- and the Wave rebounded. Have a little faith: Stout Hearts!

The kids are still on path to have a winning season despite some tough off-field challenges.