These are really just additional thoughts after watching the game a second time. It wasn't easy to look at, but I did it so you don't have to. I really hope this was a fluke performance by our offensive line, otherwise it's going to be tough for us to win anything this year.
We were cycling a lot of linebackers in and out all game, and while that probably was good from a conditioning standpoint. I'm not sure it was great from a gameflow standpoint. Guys tended to take bad first steps on their first plays back in the game, especially on runs off-tackle.
The DTs couldn't disengage on running plays and for the most part were getting pushed way off the ball. That's got to stop before we get to the conference schedule, or teams are going to wipe the field with our defense. Will Pericak saw a bunch of double teams, so I'm not going to get on him a ton, but the other guys need to step up. Nate Bonsu, in particular, was not very strong in the run-game. Josh Tupou at times look good, but he was up and down (as you'd expect from a true freshman) and saw a number of double teams as well.
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Crawley is fearless. He was filling against the run from the first play. And he wasn't getting knocked quite as far off the LOS as Henderson was on those quick WR screens. I'm not going to fault him on the TD pass after the muffed punt to end the half. I don't think it was a zone call, because neither Major nor Smith would've been in the right spot. So if it was man, that means Smith just let his guy go by him, while Crawley was up covering his guy.
On the play that got the Rams out of their own endzone (after we failed on 4th down), Crawley's man caught the pass. But Crawley was giving him a ten+ yard cushion. Less and I don't think the Rams complete that pass., and maybe if the receiver doesn't look so open, we get the sack & safety there.
Otherwise, you saw it. We just couldn't stop them when we needed to late.
You could tell our running game was going to have trouble from the get go. Tony Jones, on his first run had yards to gain through a hole created by Wood, Kasa and a pulling Lewis, but decided to try to bounce it outside, right into a tackler. Instead of at least 4 yards, he ended up with one. And that would be about how the rest of the day would go for us. Tony Jones was a disappointment. He went down on first contact a lot, and he was hit early most times. He also was dancing around way too much, leaving yards out there on the field. It wouldn't have taken much to turn the tide of this game, and his lost yards could have made that difference.
Gus Handler had an absolutely terrible day. From the get-go: on the second play, he allows a guy to ‘ole' right by him, pushing Webb outside of the pocket right into the DE. In addition to the hit he took, Webb was called for intentional grounding. He was getting zero push in the running game, and often got knocked backwards, and his protection calls were off all day. Our line was constantly shifted in the wrong direction, which allowed CSU to easily overload one side or the other throughout the day. And the a-gap between between Handler and Munyer was wide open all game. That's bad. They were able to give Webb a good pocket with plenty of time when they had the right call up front, but they didn't have the right call very often. Someone needs to teach these guys the idea of blocking down.
The entire offensive line looked out of sorts all day. There were only a handful of plays where everyone was doing their job well, and not many more where everyone was at least solid. But there were a ton of plays where at least one guy did something very wrong, and it showed.
And then one of the biggest problems of the day. We all know about the playcalling issues later, but here EB had the perfect play drawn up. The screen pass to Gerald Thomas early in the 1st quarter. It was perfectly executed by the offense. He had all the blocking in the world and no Rams in sight. Unfortunately, Thomas dropped the ball, but that would've been a 90 yard TD easily. When it wasn't playcalling on Saturday, it was the execution. That's a nasty combination.
We were incredibly susceptible to backside pursuit against the Rams. We will be facing much better and faster defenses as the year goes on, so that needs to be addressed immediately.
Nick Kasa perhaps didn't start as solidly as I thought he did. On the first run to his outside shoulder, he couldn't sustain his block and his man made the tackle for a loss. But on that failed 4th & goal, he was actually open, but Webb wasn't able to get him the ball.
Again, early, Jordan Webb was finding open guys. He had only one pass that looked truly off, and a number of them were dropped by the receivers. The problem with him, is that his passes don't allow guys to do anything once they have the ball. Not that we have the most athletic group of wide receivers. But he's constantly hitting guys low (so they have to go to the ground to catch the ball), not in stride (so they have to give up on their route or stop to make the catch) and in ways that got his guys turned around. And it only got worse after he took those huge shots.
Our kickoff return team has a lot of young guys on it. A lot of 1st and 2nd year players. I think the blocking on that unit will improve as the season goes on, and it did even from the first kick return to the third one in this game.
We had a lot of issues last season. A LOT. And there were a few areas where we improved. I know that isn't much consolation, but one unit where we looked worlds better was our punt coverage unit.
And one unit where we had trouble because guys weren't wrapping up was on kickoff coverage. If we're going to be kicking to the goal line and forcing teams to return the ball, we've got to do a better job of wrapping guys up. Our players were making contact, but they weren't bringing the returners down.