Obviously, defense was the major question mark before entering this game. For starters, our defensive line was manhandled by OU's OL. When a QB has that much time to read the defense, there is no chance at stopping him. I would have liked to see more zone blitzes earlier in the game, as it was evident that we could not pressure Jones when rushing just 4 guys. It was also evident that our young CBs were still adjusting to the zone scheme. OUs offense also appeared to key in on Reid's lack of size and inexperience. Reid appeared to play worse and worse as the game progressed. I don't think he is yet ready to become a starter at CB, which shows how thin we are in the secondary in terms of older, quality players. This is not Jimbo's fault. It is a direct result of our former defensive coaches' inability to properly recruit and develop players. Mike Harris should see a bit more time at Reid's position later in the season as he becomes more familiar with the scheme. Reid, currently, is a liability in run defense. All OU had to do to successfully move the ball was swing passes to Reid's side; Rhodes did a much better job at shedding his blocker IMO. I don't have much to say about our LB unit. They had a very forgettable performance. They did a good job in run defense, but they didn't really stand out. I think the fact that Bob Stoops knows our defensive scheme so well greatly hurt us. He was able to attack our inexperience because he knows what you can /can't implement in just one year, and he knows what the players have a hard time learning. Furthermore, our D's inability to stop OU, put our offense in a very bad position. Stoops new that Christian Ponder would have to shoulder the load; consequently, he came at Ponder with everything he had.
OU did an excellent job at putting pressure on Ponder. I was disappointed at Zebrie Sanders' performance. He made a couple failed attempts at chop blocks that gave the SDE a free shot at Ponder. I think he was also called for a false start, although i can't be sure. I think part of the reason our OL looked so bad in pass pro was because Ponder held onto the ball too much, which has always been a problem for him. However, that may have been due to the receivers not being able to get open. To me it seemed Ponder was indecisive, at first, taking much too long to go through his progressions. Later on in the game. he almost stopped going though the progressions all together, trying to force the ball to the first read. His terrible completion percentage was not completely his fault: there were several dropped passes with a few inaccurate throws by Ponder at the beginning of the game. As the game progressed, however, the number of errant throws increased. I believe Ponder became frustrated, and that frustration compounded with every incompletion/interception he threw, resulting in his bad performance. Pundits always say that a QB needs to have the ability to forget a bad play and come back on the next drive and perform as if its the first drive of the game. Ponder did not do this. But have no fear, this problem has plagued many great QBs. Just look at Peyton Manning's playoff performances against the Pats the years before he won the Super Bowl. Hopefully Ponder can learn from this experience, and play the next big game with more confidence; however, hopefully the rest of the offense can elevate their play so that Ponder will not have to shoulder the load by himself. It's easy to stop an offense with better than average running backs and first-year receivers that can't get open, especially when they are playing catch up.
One thing I would like to put out there for debate: can Fisher shoulder the responsibility of calling plays and fulfilling his role as a micromanaging head coach? Is he dividing up his attention too much?
Yesterday's game was yet another embarrassing performance for ACC officials. They were a complete laughing stock, and exposed for their terrible performance on national TV. To me, although I am biased, it seemed that OU's defenders got away with a lot of contact, that our D did get flagged for. Also, I am still convinced that the goal line run for OU's touchdown at the beginning of the game, was not a TD.
It is very nearsighted to condemn this coaching staff for yesterday's performance. I believe part of the reason for this is because of the unrealistic expectations many in our fanbase have, which I blame on the feel-good, optimistic writing FSU put out there on this summer's practices. I do have to admit that I did not forsee how much our offense would struggle, but what we saw yesterday was growing pains of our very young receiving corps. Ponder cannot get all the yards by himself. It is unrealistic to expect us to be competitive with a potential NC contender. Maybe next year the game will be more competitive in Tallahassee, when our defense has commanded a full grasp of the scheme Stoops wants to implement.
So to all you Nole fans out there, wait till the season has played out to even begin to form an opinion. He must be allowed to recruit his own players on D, and given ample time for his recruits on O to fully mature. It is simply unrealistic to expect Jimbo to undo 10 years of damage in just one year. Remember the goal for this season is to win the ACC, and that is still a possibility.