Monday, October 18, 2010

No More Hurricanes

First, I will admit I did not watch the 52-24 Tulsa debacle with my full attention. The Phillies were beginning their defense of the Pennant in full high def, while Tulane was available only via a grainy, possibly illegal internet feed.

No matter. Hard to draw constructive tactical lessons from yet another rout. On the surface, the game was perplexing. As predicted here, Tulane did possess the ball an awful lot, mostly through the air: QB Ryan Griffin was 36-53, 412 yards, 2 TDs; 35 rushes for a decent 117 yards, 36 minutes ToP. Yet, how can Tulane run 91 plays, score 24 points, 527 yards of offense, simply have the ball that much - and still get decked?

Our collective football frame of reference is the NFL and the proto-NFL (SEC)- and the collective associates a three TD loss into one team being dominated. But that is not C-USA.

You have to think about C-USA a little different. Defenses in the NFL tend to fail in stages- sort of a linear progression from good-to-okay-to-bad. C-USA defenses tend to gap down, a geometric reaction versus arithmetic- like a bridge sagging, sagging, sagging, then utter failure. I tend to think that stems from a talent gap factor. There is an ability step down in the NFL from star to starter to reserve. But that gap is miniscule to the step down in C-USA. You can have a pro prospect one place, and a guy who might not start for Harvard at another. In the NFL you might occassionally have one or two defenders who totally can’t handle their assignments. In C-USA, you routinely have three or four guys who are just over matched.

Thus, Tulane’s defense Saturday is explained. Their improvement over last year is tied to a couple of transfers and Shakiel Smith. They can have extended the sag capacity- but total collapse is still possible. Thus, this Tulane gap downward is understandable- decked for 52 points and 350+ yards rushing. Further proof of collapse: ten Tulsa players had double digit rushing totals. Ten! Five of those ten averaged more than ten yards a pop. I honestly don’t know if I ever seen that- even from an option team.

Tulane’s offense, particularly the quarterback, wasn’t terrible. Certainly, the Tulane offense did not deserve to be on the short end of this kind of rout. Ryan Griffin supporters have won the argument at this point. Yet again, he turned in that 65% completion percentage, low turnover day. The big yardage totals surfaced when faced with the typical challenged C-USA secondary.

But Tulane was not able to engineer that same defensive collapse in Tulsa- where 500 yards of offense becomes 50+ points in 25 minutes versus a mere 24 points in 35 minutes.

Frankly, the skill position players outside of the quarterback just don’t give Tulane much of anything “special” right now. I mean, the Tulane offense can’t complete 60-65% of your pass attempts, generate 500 yards of offense, without passable play. Guys seem to be standing in the right places at the right time, blocking the right guys, organized football plays are run competently.

But none of the receivers put pressure on anyone. Robottom is the best of the lot- and he defines pedestrian, competent C-USA wideout. He just isn’t going to blossom into a perimeter attacker, touchdown maker, second team all C-USA star we had all hoped for four years ago. He is a an okay second wide out being asked to play the top spot- but that dazzle you need in this League to generate free scores, that flip the field position talent is just not there.

DJ Banks is the second guy- and I just don’t see what the buzz is about. Ryan Griffin, for all his faults, is distributing the ball accurately- and Banks can’t get anything big going. Double his season totals and you get 50 catches, 480 yards. Those are “so what?” numbers. Here is another problem: together Banks and Robottom have three TD receptions. How many games can you win in this big score League if your top two receivers project to have six TD catches for the season?

And, to reiterate last week, this three-headed Darkwa, Willaims, Jason rushing “monster” is really either two guys stealing carriers from the best one or three okay-minus backs routinely unable to distinguish themselves from even each other. I will also point out this dynamic trio has a terrible 18 catches combined for the season.

Just not a whole lot of juice from the top five (in terms of total touches) skill options. It is hard to win in offense-friendly C-USA when none of your wide outs, tight ends or running backs are better than mediocre. Who is even a third team all C-USA player on offense?

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