Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Miami Game Review

I sucked it up tonight and re-watched the first half of the Miami-A&M game from last week. As often seems to happen, it wasn't nearly as horrifying as I remember. The loss still stings, but the whole season isn't for naught just yet.

Coach Fran has taken a ton of heat this week for his light use of Jorvorskie Lane, but I can honestly see what he was thinking. In the first quarter, Lane was very effective as a decoy. Unfortunately Miami adjusted and A&M didn't. Still, for all of A&M's bumbling, the game was 14-0 with around 30 seconds to play in the first half. By the time they slunk off to the locker room, it was 24-0. Those 10 points absolutely killed any momentum that A&M had built with a missed Miami FG and an Aggie defense that was showing some signs of life. Some unit by unit thoughts:

The Offense
I suppose that Lane and the WR's are pretty blameless, what with the whole never touching the ball thing, but pretty much everything else went wrong at one point or another. The offensive line was terrible for most of the first half. Miami's defensive lineman held a significant quickness advantage and used it well. It was rare to see members of A&M's backfield with time to make plays. The pass blocking has become a huge liability and is probably my greatest concern going forward.

When McGee did have enough time to throw, he rarely seems to have a progression. On the play that Joey Thomas laid a wicked block on Calais Campbell, a McGee scramble, Kerry Franks was open near the sideline. On the interception intended for Martellus Bennett, Earvin Taylor came free across the middle. McGee is tremendous runner and a gutsy leader, but perhaps it's time to face the fact that he has serious limitations as a passer and the offensive line isn't helping.

The Defense
Watching the game live, I really thought A&M's poor play was making Kyle Wright look good, but on review I probably wasn't giving him enough credit. Wright played a good game and he was very accurate in the short and medium passing game. Watching him throw a deep ball is still painful, though.

The real story of this game was Miami's ability to convert on a number of 3rd and longs on the first drive of the game. A&M's run defense was generally good on 1st and 2nd down, only to let Wright make the 3rd down conversion look easy. Sometimes it was soft spots in the zone between the linebackers and safeties and sometimes it was shoddy tackling, but Miami converted a half dozen 3rd downs in the first half that should have been stopped. If the pass rush ever comes together, I have to believe it well help greatly here.

In the secondary, A&M's safeties never seem to rotate well. It's been a weakness all season and I'm not sure if it's personnel or scheme, but it needs to get fixed before A&M faces anymore deep bombs that hang up like punts. Both of those plays really hurt.

The Coaching
There has always been a vocal minority of online-Aggies calling for Coach Fran's head, but I was astounded by the number of people calling for him to be fired following this game. I've always believed in supporting the current coach, but I'm just not sure that I have it in me to argue for this coaching staff anymore. This is where things get ugly, when the majority of fans start to fall silent and the loud fringes begin to call for a change. And, perhaps as a sign of my own discontentment, I'm alright with that.

The announcers pointed out that the coaches should have talked to Cody Wallace after he tried to return one kick and before he fumbled the second. This, to me, is ridiculous. If you are going to use lineman at all as kickoff blockers, the coaching staff had damn sure better drill "FALL ON IT" into their heads long before they ever see the field. Then, when Wallace returns the first one, you take him off the return team for not following explicit directions, end of story. Instead Miami cashes in for another 3 points.

I'd really like to see A&M get extra LB's on the field earlier near the goal line. I understand the concerns about a pass, but Miami's wildcat formation was very effective. On the first Miami TD, Jordan Pugh was actually in good position to string the play out, but was held something fierce. If a stronger player is in that spot, he can work enough separation to make the holding penalty obvious and get a call. This is minor compared to the first couple of points, but it bothers me nonetheless.

A&M's second drive looked like it might be going places until they ran into a 3rd and 13 just outside of FG range. In an attempt to get the 1st down, the Aggies ran a play that involved two receivers running past the 1st down marker and 3 running short routes. Play designs like this seem inexcusable. If you aren't going to send those players out on reasonable routes, at least use them to block and try to keep McGee from getting killed.

The thing that really bothered me about Coach Fran (and what has caused me to be so laid back about the possibility of regime change) actually happened in the post game press conference with his statements about Miami just being a better team. This struck a nerve with me and deserves some discussion, but I really don't have time to go into it, so I'll save it for later. In the meantime I need to get some sleep. I have a hot date tomorrow with a cruel mistress known as proper orthogonal decomposition. Plus, if all goes well, I intend to do a bit of wrestling with LaTeX. (Ironically, only nerds can read that last sentence and think, "I've been there," rather than thinking something dirty. Grad school is fun.)

Here's hoping for a better all around effort against Baylor this week.


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