1. This loss bothered me more than Louisville. Much like Rutgers bothered me more than USC. When a team gives you a win, even a mediocre team needs to accept that gift. I apologize that I cannot be more positive for most of this. I see no real reason to be positive. Narrowly beating Rhode Island and Toledo is much easier to swallow when you think of us as being injured back then and needing to improve. Well, we have gotten healthier and yet regressed.
2. After 3 years of the HCDM era, I think I have it figured out. Teams that are finesse.... we will play smashmouth football and have a real good chance of winning. See West Virginia, USF, and Cincy last year. Teams that play a pro-style or run the ball are going to beat us at our own game. See Louisville, UConn, and Pitt. Rutgers last year had no offense at all, but this year reverted to more of a power game...therefore, the win. I guess that makes this week a very important game for us.
3. Said it before. This teams needs to score 30 points to win. When you lose 7 seniors on defense, your offense needs to carry the load. Unfortunately, our offense just cannot do that. We have had two decent offensive games... Tulane and West Virginia. We have had two others where we had decent portions of games... Wake Forest and Toledo. Otherwise, the offense has let this team down. Not sure whether that is the fault of the system, HCDM, the O.C., Nassib, Bailey, the offensive line, or what. All I know is that it is not working very well overall. The offense should be the strength of the team... not the biggest concern going into every game.
4. Hackett. I really do not understand what we do sometimes. We design longer passes on first down, but then run the ball on second and short. Sometimes I almost think he outsmarts himself... as in "I know people ordinarily pass here, but the countervailing wisdom is to mix it up here and go run... but since they will expect us to run, let's pass." And so on. All I know is that our team does so much better when we can avoid third and long. We have a lot of plays in our arsenal to pick up 4 or 5 yards. Maybe it's just me, but those slant passes on first down seem like a good idea. Get a 2nd and 5 and go from there. So much better than a slow-developing run with Bailey.
5. Nassib. It's looking more and more like the WVU game was the anomaly. Rutgers, Louisville, and UConn all were successful at really taking him out of his rhythym. More concerning is that we have to sit through one or more quarters of him "getting his touch." The fact that he CAN be accurate for long stretches doesn't do us much good when we squander 3 or more drives in most first halves and are playing catchup. There are worse offensive lines and receivers on teams. At some point, it falls on him to make the good decisions and then make a good pass. Too many passes are to places where the receiver has to make a good play to catch it.
6. Rest of offense. Bailey is not DC3. In this offense, we may need a North-South runner more than anything. Smith seems to be developing into a guy that can get that tough 2 yards. That is huge. We need someone who can get the tough 7 yards now. Bailey gives us a great chance for 47 yards... but we need a few more yards out of his runs. Not sure he does a great job reading his blocks. A lot of runs you are left wondering why he didn't bounce it out or why he did bounce it out. With Lemon, Chew, and Graham, as well as Provo and Stevens, there is enough to throw to for this offense to be successful enough.
7. Defense. Tackling has been getting worse lately. And not the CBs, but the safeties and LBs (other than Spruill). You can't win in this defense with poor tackling. All we needed to do was tackle well in the second half and it was a different game. The fact that UConn was one-dimensional and unstoppable is beyond disappointing. All you can ask for is one-dimensional. Hard to be disappointed with 5 turnovers, but all they needed to do was stop UConn twice. Iowa friggin State and Vanderbilt did. Unreal.
8. Special teams. This continues to perplex me. If HCDM does not prioritize this, then my unwavering support for him will start to erode. Regardless of everything else he brings in, he needs to go find someone who can kickoff this offseason. Junion college. Whatever. I know Krautman was hurt, but this has gone on all year. We need someone who can get kickoffs that are high enough to allow our coverage to get down field and deep enough for it to matter. And perhaps that person will be able to punt more than 20 yards. Just pathetic. Every once in a while, you are going to have a good return against you. But you CAN control the depth of the kickoffs and punts.
9. HCDM. At the time he did it, I was unhappy. 7 seconds left in the first half. Either (a) take one shot at the end zone; or (b) have Nassib take a snap and line the ball up in the center of the field. I just don't get not using all of your time there.
10. I am really beginning to question whether this style of offense works in the college game. I think we need a mobile QB who is a threat to run. We may not put said QB in the NFL, but I am not sure we are putting Nassib or Loeb there anyway. We saw how important McCummings was for UConn's offense. We KNEW he was going to run and couldn't stop it. 11 on 11 when the QB can run. We can't do anything about it now, of course. But methinks that we should really embrace what other colleges and high schools are doing so successfully. I am sure a pro style offense can win championships in college--but I also am sure that it will be a football factory doing it (USC, MIchigan, etc.), not a school like Syracuse.
11. Good news. We are still 5-4. We have lost a few games that we feel like we should have won (Rutgers, UConn). We have won a few games that we probably should have lost (Wake Forest, Toledo). So it goes.
12. Better news. My feeling going into the season was 6-6. But I also expected the next three games to be USF (very tough), Pitt (tough), Cincy (hopeful). Now it looks like the opposite. Who knows. No matter how bad we have looked in Big East play, there is no reason we cannot beat anyone left on the schedule.
13. Best news. Game on Friday! No need to wait until Saturday....