Monday, November 08, 2010

Tolerable? Or Soul-Sucking?

As a Tulane fan, we’re pretty used to categorizing defeat. Be it “soul-sucking” or “irritating” or “bad luck”, we can confidently put it in its proper bucket.

In this way, this week’s loss to Southern Mississippi is more tolerable than most. Most of us had little optimism. Southern Miss has more players, a better coach, a veteran quarterback. The Golden Eagles were just better- and Tulane’s effort was spirited. We even get the special teams woes: Toledo just doesn’t have enough bodies in the down roster spots to play good “teams”.

It is just the repeat return follies that are galling. DJ Banks fumbled punt was the umpteenth turnover in the return game by a reserve, back-up return guy. Seriously, stop it. Minimize these back-up guys impact- not look to encourage them to make plays. Tulane obviously cannot just plug and play with the back-up return guys. One of the dozens of coaching professionals has got to tell Banks, absolutely insist, that he is not to handle a punt in that situation inside the ten. Nothing good can come of it- but easy points, momentum, etc. can come from a turnover in that spot. This team has trouble from its first string return guys- so just stop asking the second options to do anything other than the most rudimentary tasks (“get out of the way”) near the Tulane goal.

Conversely, the first half, and first possession of the second half, were a real nice example of a C-USA attack plan. The run/pass ration was good- more passes than runs- and not surprisingly, the competent Griffin was on his way to a 300-yard winning day. Orleans Darkwa was getting good, helpful numbers is a supporting role. But then this depressing second half stretch, a period where they went from being tied 27-27 to down 37-30. Notice anything?

Possession One:
Tln 1-10 Darkwa, Orleans rush over left guard for 6 yards to the TLN32
Tln 2-4 Darkwa, Orleans rush over left end for 4 yards to the TLN36, 1ST DOWN TLN
Tln 1-10 Darkwa, Orleans rush up middle for 40 yards to the USM24, 1ST DOWN TLN
Tln 1-10 at Usm24 Jason, Payten rush up middle for 8 yards to the USM16
Tln 2-2 at Usm16 Jason, Payten rush up middle for no gain to the USM16
Tln 3-2 at Usm16 Jason, Payten rush over right guard for 7 yards to the USM9, 1ST DOWN TLN
Tln 1-G at Usm09 Jason, Payten rush up middle for 1 yard to the USM8 (GRAY, Anthony).
Tln 2-G at Usm08 Griffin, Ryan middle pass incomplete to Figaro, Devin, QB hurry by LAW, Cordarro.
Tln 3-G at Usm08 Griffin, Ryan slant pass complete to Figaro, Devin for 7 yards to the USM1
Tln 4-G at Usm06 [FG], Santos, Cairo field goal attempt from 23 GOOD

Possession Two:
Tln 1-10 at Tln22 Griffin, Ryan deep pass incomplete to Grant, Ryan.
Tln 2-10 at Tln22 [GUN], Darkwa, Orleans rush draw play for 1 yard to the TLN23
Tln 3-9 at Tln23 [GUN], Griffin, Ryan middle pass incomplete to VAN HOOSER, W..
Tln 4-9 at Tln23 GINSBURGH, J. punt 36 yards

Possession Three:
Tln 1-10 at Tln04 Darkwa, Orleans rush over left guard for 2 yards to the TLN6
Tln 2-8 at Tln06 [GUN], Darkwa, Orleans rush over right guard for 4 yards to the TLN10
Tln 3-4 at Tln10 [GUN], Griffin, Ryan pass incomplete to Grant
Tln 4-4 at Tln10 GINSBURGH, J. punt 30 yards to the TLN40

This three possession period is where Tulane stopped scoring: one mere FG in three possessions in a shootout is problematic. Tulane started running the ball, particularly in good down distance/situations: ten runs/five passes, no first down passes, no second and short passes. Basically, they decide to play to lose.

Take the possession where they score the field goal. The Green Wave runs the ball very well... but again cannot score a touchdown. Toledo is asking an offense, with suspect players all over, to produce eight to ten good running plays a series in order to score. That is eight to ten plays with no turnovers, no bad first down result, no penalties.

It is too much. Tulane cannot run eight good plays in a row. They lack the talent. It is nearly impossible- choosing to lose. Sure, Tulane can run maybe five good rushing plays in seven- but that still equates to stopping themselves somewhere. So in Possession One, Tulane doesn’t get a good result on 1st down just once. Once! It puts the Green Wave in a tricky spot with second/third and long in the red zone- a spot an NFL offense would have trouble in. And that is how, routinely, good rushing totals around here don’t add up to points. It takes too many plays, too many things have to go right in succession. Thus, yet again, Tulane has 60+ yards rushing equaling three points.

Lastly, there was this irritating gem from Coach Toledo- a guy who really needs to keep his trap shut:
“It's just taking us time. We were so far down when I started, and we've progressed steadily. We just haven't turned the corner yet. It's a little better; it's having a few more players. We need more guys who can score touchdowns; we need more guys who can makes plays. We didn't make a bunch of plays tonight."
I would point out that Scelfo’s last team was flat out better than this one: won four games (all I-A), two of its losses were no hope cash road games versus Auburn and LSU, and featured better talent at all key C-USA skill positions: Ricard, Forte, Williams, etc. We’re still two wins away from any of Toledo’s multiple teams getting to the quality of Scelfo’s last outfit.

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