I'm in a state of shock and disgust that threatens to ruin an entire day, so in the hope that venting will relieve some of my angst, here goes. First, WTF?!!!! It seems to be universally acknowledged that FSU has more talent on it's roster than NCSU, we have four and five star recruits all over the place and yet we look clueless when we take the field. This is a coaching problem. Now granted, our coaches have drastically improved the team during their tenure, huge big improvements, but it seems to be a consensus that we are not meeting expectations. And one game in the large scheme of things can be overlooked, the truth is, that most teams will lose this year and that includes some with very impressive talent. Furthermore, the problems that have plagued us for the past TWO weeks, because this is a two week problem, can be corrected. Moreover, the problem on the sidelines isn't everywhere, it really narrows down to an area or two and so that should be reason for optimism if the problems aren't simply ignored.
So for starters, looking back over the past several weeks, let's take a reality check. We have played exactly ONE team good enough to garner national ranking. Our other opponents have been exposed as products of weak scheduling and really aren't that impressive. Yes, our offense and defense are nationally ranked very high, but this has been against two FCS opponents, a Wake team that lost to Duke, a South Florida team that lost to Ball State, and an NCSU team that gave up 50 points to a Miami team that could only manage three against Notre Dame. Strength of schedule absolutely does matter, and we have been lulled by the lack of schedule strength into believing we were better than we are. Having said that, I do think we are deserving of our national acclaim, particularly on defense. Last night our open field tackling was superb. Generally speaking, we covered NCSU's receivers, give Glennon credit, he made some good throws. We were effective against their running game. In short, holding an opponent capable of putting up 45 points the week before to only 17 should be sufficient to win. It seemed like they kept the ball the entire second half, and so I'm going to wave my hand and in my mind, say that the defensive coaches did their job. Yes, there is room for improvement, but our defense played with heart and I'm looking for answers here. I don't believe any change in coaching or philosophy on the defensive side of the ball would improve our team, they seem to be doing well, both in recruiting and training up players.
That brings us to offense. Running back coach, well, Chris Thompson looks to be the best back we've had in years and the statistics and highlight reels confirm it. Likewise, Lonnie Prior. Top to bottom, the running backs as a unit have done well, they catch passes, they make blocks, they make yardage. CT4 rushed for over 100 yards, the running backs did their job, not much more to ask than that, and so I'm giving them and their position coach a pass here as well. Not much to comment on the receiving group, they really weren't given an opportunity to show anything, so I'll abstain from discussing them or the coach for that unit, I don't think the problem lies there. Overall, I think our strength and conditioning is acceptable too, so I'll disregard that coaching unit also, which brings us to the heart of the matter.
One of the key reasons we lost last night, and why the USF game was much closer than it needed to be: We have been unable to do anything in blitz situations. We don't seem to have any plays to counter the blitz. It showed itself against USF, NCSU picked up on it and exploited it the whole game. And we never answered - either time. And to be honest it pisses me off royally because if I could see the problem during the USF game, then the coaching staff (ours, because NCSU's coaches had no problem seeing it) should have developed an answer, and pronto. In my mind, this falls on Trickett, Fisher and Coley. Mostly Coley, although Fisher should have made sure Coley had the problem handled. The bad news is, that BC can rush 7 or 8 all night too, and unless we right the ship like yesterday, this season is going to very long and end on a very bitter note indeed. We need to make finding an answer to the blitz priority one this week, because I promise that every opposing coach can see this weakness. Yes, our O-line is young, but they've had five games experience at this point. NCSU's O-line was makeshift, and they did a better job of protecting Glennon than we did protecting Manuel. Other teams seem to have plays to counter the blitz, I don't understand why we don't. Did the coaches believe the stats ran up on the FCS teams? Did they think that our opponents would ever stop blitzing when the blitzes have been so effective? It feels to me like Coley put his head in the sand on the issue, assuming that the big problem would just go away. NCSU seemed to have plays to counter our pressure. There are teams with worse O-lines than ours that deal with the blitz just fine. If he's at a loss for answers, just go back and rent the game film from the 1996 Sugar bowl and see how Spurrier managed to overcome a relentless blitz of future NFL starters playing for us and score, score, score. If Manuel doesn't know the plays to counter a blitz, that's on Craig. If Coley doesn't have the plays to counter the blitz, that's on him too. Get them and fast!
Trickett doesn't get a bye for his part in this. Somehow he hasn't coached our linemen and blockers on how to deal with blitz either. And if he's responsible in any way for teaching special teams members how to block an opponent, then its double on him, but I'll get to that a little later. Jimbo's part comes down to the fact that he is the boss of those assistants. USF, shame on them, NCSU, shame on us. NCSU was the most poorly called offensive game I can remember by FSU since the Jeff Bowden years. Three runs when the opponent has all the momentum late in the game and we just need a first down? Three runs after they had effectively shut down the run by the third quarter? Three runs by an obviously tired and overworked running back, whose build isn't like Trent Richardson? Three runs of the exact same sort that hadn't run the last three and out when we tried them? CT4 isn't a battering ram. Our play calling has been unimaginative the last few weeks. It looks to me like Coley is believing his own statistics against very weak opponents, opponents so weak in fact, that truth be told, we could beat them simply by our raw talent with no coaching at all. Jimbo's part in this is to have a come to Jesus meeting with Coley and INSIST that some kind of forethought goes into play calling and game management. INSIST that a playbook be developed to counter opposing blitzes. Two plays - run and pass, will not cut it. Use some imagination or for heaven's sakes steal some from somebody. Plagiarism isn't a sin in college football! This is when we find out what kind of head coach Jimbo is. We certainly didn't lack for offense or imagination when he was calling the plays. Part of the HC job is to find and motivate your staff, and if a staff member isn't working out, then make the necessary changes. Coley has done a great job with the tight ends, but for the past two weeks straight, his abilities as OC just haven't cut it and OC is more crucial than the other. Other teams with equal or lesser talent find ways to score, against better competition. Even Miami. So get on the stick!
Another weakness exposed in the USF game that will continue to plague us should we not give it the correct attention is punt blocking. Two blocked punts in two weeks is unacceptable. We need people back there that are capable of stopping the block team. Is there any other team in the BCS with blocked punts in two consecutive games? This is coach Gran and coach Trickett's area. Coach Gran has done excellent in training the RBs, but now he needs to focus a little more on punt blocking and coach Trickett should be there to demonstrate technique. I don't believe we would have lost the game if the field hadn't been shortened by the blocked punt. Talk about a momentum changer. Again, this is an area where Fisher should have a very serious discussion with those in charge of that respective area.
At this point, I'm not advocating a change in any of the coaching staff. But - if our offense doesn't become more dynamic, if we don't learn to play against an inevitable blitz, if we don't learn from our previous week's mistakes and make the necessary corrections, then at the end of the season I think we need a new OC. Jimbo gets the opportunity to make coaching staff changes if necessary before throwing him under the bus. Overall, improvements in every area have been made since he (Coach Fisher) took the helm, but with the talent we have, we should be in the national discussion annually. I remember when WE were the team that pulled the upsets. I don't remember the last time we managed to pull that off, maybe someone can research that and let me know, I'll bet its been over ten years.
Another area that has annoyed me all year is what another blogger referred to as a lackadaisical approach to the games. The "we could score, but we have enough of a lead" thing. I've seen that one in our last three or four games, taking a knee when we could score. I haven't seen that from any other team. Sure, if you get the ball with a minute left at the end, have the qb take a knee if you have the game won, but don't let the other team stick around. We seem to lack that killer instinct, and we desperately need that in order to garner national consideration. Moreover, the kind of conservative, predictable play calling that we've employed can lose games. I think we proved that one last night. We need to come out swinging and continue to swing until the bell. What is ironic, is that we didn't seem to have any moral issues running up the score on the FCS schools. Schools that didn't have a chance of competing with us. Be thankful for Savannah State. WVU would have given us a wakeup call the first game.
There is good that can come from this loss. Perhaps it will wake us up, I swear we've looked (offensively) like we were just going through the motions the past couple weeks. Maybe it will reiterate that each game must be taken seriously, each opponent given respect, and that we are capable of losing. Maybe it will light the fire, the killer instinct. We could learn to play against the blitz, to block for the punter, those would all be positives. Jimbo could remind the staff that they don't hold lifetime appointments, that an offensive game plan (a different one) is required for every game (as a side note, last night I could predict every play we ran just based on formation). We can finish the season without another ACC loss, win the conference which we haven't done in forever, and go on to the Orange bowl. No, we won't be national champions this year. We have at least three very difficult games remaining - Miami, VT and Florida. Don't read the reviews, believe me, all three of those teams can play and they can all beat us (and will) if we aren't prepared. Taking the attitude that we're better positionally is a course for disaster. And we'd better not overlook the others on our schedule either, beginning this week with BC. Just because they lost to Army doesn't mean that they will just roll over for us. They have people that can blitz too. They scored 31 points this week, they are capable of scoring, and they'll be gunning for us, count on it.
Finally, here is my grades for the coaching staff:
Last two weeks/ Season thus far/ Since hired
Head Coach - Jimbo Fisher C/ C/ B
Offensive coordinator - Coley F/ C/ C
Tight ends - Coley B/ B/ B
Running backs - Gran B/ B/ A
Special teams - Gran D/ C/ C
Offensive Line - Trickett C/ C/ B
Recievers - Dawsey B/ A/ A
Quarterbacks - Craig B/ B/ B
Recruiting - Craig D/ B/ B
Defensive coordinator - Stoops B/ A/ A
Defensive backs - Stoops A/ A/ A
Line coach - Haggins A/ A/ B
Ends coach - Elliot A/ A/ A
Linebacker coach - Hudson B/ B/ B
Strength conditioning - Viloria A/ A/ A
Okay, now back to my depression...