Rub eyes, shake head...
I have zero tactical points. The Tulane offense was down three scores after running only twenty plays- not exactly advantageous for analysis. Army exploited our back-up inside guy(s) on defense. But honestly, what could one take from any of it? Is there a coach out there reviewing the game film saying wow, the way to beat Tulane is to have them fumble and fumble and fumble?
It was a stinker. Maybe Tulane was simply unlucky? Maybe the grind of the BCS level schedule caught up to them? Maybe after pitching the A-game three weeks in a row, the Green Wave was due for a letdown? The last chance Tulane had to handle prosperity was last year versus Marshall- they laid down there on Homecoming too. Teams lay eggs: Alabama, Michigan, Miami. It happens. Handling prosperity, playing big again after a big win, is hard. Fans can rail about it, but it seemingly happens to everyone. And Army has that sort of attitude and culture that is going to exploit and embarrass your C-level effort.
My problem stems more from the strategic. This loss brought to the forefront some of the worst game-day aspects of this regime.
For example, for crying out loud, pick a quarterback and play him. Piled on year after year of indecision, this Griffin/whomever occassional duopoly isn’t good coaching, it is just tiresome. Except in a pinch, no one else has a culture of rotating quarterbacks, so stop trying to reinvent the position.
For the umpteenth time, Griffin has turned in the 60+% completion percentage, low turnover game, this offense demands. Be it from way behind, under duress, good competition and bad, every single situation thrown at Griffin this year results in "60+% completion, low interception ratio". When you respond to every stimuli, every situational wrangle, with “60+% completion, low interception ratio”, maybe your quarterback is a “60+% completion, low interception ratio” player.
So let him play. Griffin has shown enough to deserve an uninterrupted shot. He isn’t perfect or real good right now- but he is a sophomore, with obvious upside (who doubts he understands the offense?). He is clearly the best option for position growth right now. I won’t even go in to the fact that Tulane has both a real talent and raw numbers issue at wideout. Putting Joe Kemp at QB, subtracting him as a target, exacerbates that talent situation further.
Do you ever get this impression? Army comes in here and looks like they know how to run this option. Houston looks like they know how to run the spread. Key players get lots of touches, handle the ball a lot. They are not tricky- but execute the given program. Then, Tulane looks like they spend an awful lot of time brainstorming methods to get the third tailback touches, formulating Kemp an interesting package as the second quarterback and a few new end around plays. Five guys have thrown multiple forward passes for Tulane this year- way too much brainpower and limited practice time being spent here.
This emphasis on getting secondary players involved in the offense: the back-up quarterback, the third running back, a crazy DJ Banks play, is suspect to me. I mean, maybe these down roster guys are ready to contribute at a plus level in C-USA. But considering Tulane hasn’t had but one sort of good C-USA skill player since Matt Forte left, I’m doubtful. Darkwa, Williams and Jason probably isn’t a three-headed monster- but rather a couple of guys stealing carries from the best one.
It is problematic introducing these guys. Not to pick on anyone- but take Tyler Helm: fifth year senior, okay-to-good blocker, second TE. Tulane runs him out there as a situational substitution- help block the red zone offense early in the game. He isn’t in the flow of the game like the rest of the blockers (the o-line), it is a big spot, he is amped up- and the fifth year senior jumps off-side. This is not an argument against situational role players per se. But constant exposure to back-ups, third options, etc. leads to this culture: guys asked to do too much, guys taking emotional penalties, guys simply not as good as the vanilla first string alternative. Who is really at fault, what is the real blame ratio, for him taking that penalty?
Coaching is about exposing your best options, not trying to find creative ways to explore your second best players. Case in point- where is Tulane most consistently exposing their third best option? Think...
Kick returns! Were those guys laying the ball on the carpet the best ball-handlers, playmakers Tulane has? Why not? What is Coach Toledo saving them for? Guys like Sullen and Van Hooser cannot have such a large say in the outcome on Saturdays. Tulane does not have surplus offensive assets. So stop pretending Tulane does. Experiment and rest guys down thirty points- put the pedal down now with Army.
College football is not like the NFL. There isn’t endless practice time. Tulane is developing QBs and RBs- and these diversions not only aren’t assisting that process, but in the return game they're helping lose winnable games. Pick a quarterback and play him. Pick two RBs- a main and blocking/scat/ whatever secondary- and play them. Then stop. Have confidence in your talent evaluation and emphasize playing the best players. Trust me, Tulane is not losing much leaving these down roster machinations until spring.