Thoughts From the Florida Game

Keke at Florida

Before I get into the write up of the game I have a couple of housekeeping items.  First, The Swamp reminded me of a blue and orange Kyle Field before renovations.  It’s a big stadium but kind of piecemealed together with lots of concrete.  Sure, one of their end zones is what we copied ours from but the rest of the stadium reminded me of old Kyle.  Cramped concourses and limited bathroom facilities for 90,000 people with no frills at all.  While there are some things I wish they’d done differently at New Kyle the more I visit other stadiums the more thankful I am for New Kyle.  In addition to the physical structure it reminded me of Old Kyle in their fans knew when to get loud on defense.  A lot of other places can be loud but it’s this constant roar most of the game.  At The Swamp there were definite moments when the fans knew when to get loud when our offense was on the field.  Definitely a good football experience.

As for their fans other than the jerkwad that ripped the rea r wiper off my rent car they were very hospitable.  All very pleasant and I never heard anything bad said to us.  They were all very polite.  As for the ripped off wiper, the guy at the rent car return was REALLY confused when I explained what happened.  I handed him all the parts that were still there including the spring to hold it all in place that was screwed up.  He didn’t even say anything about The Association sticker on the window he was so confused by what happened.  He charged me 18 bucks and some change and off I went.

My other personal favorite moment from the game was coming back from the bathroom at halftime I had an Aggie fan ask me what my MAFGA hat and shirt meant.  I looked at her confused like someone had ripped a wiper off my rent car and said, “It’s mostly a joke.”  She looked at me and said, “Okay, but what does it mean?”  I said, “It means we suck and need to get better” and walked off.  I wasn’t sure what else to say because it’s five simple words that couldn’t be clearer – Make Aggie Football Great Again.  I don’t know how to say it any clearer.

As for the game it was a definite tale of two halves.  We looked like crap in the first half.  The defense looked somewhat respectable but the offense was wretched.  In the second half the defense cranked it up to another level and the offense finally moved the ball enough to let Mond score a touchdown in addition to three clutch kicks by LaCamera.  The way things are looking Kevin Sumlin is going to owe John Chavis and LaCamera new cars for Christmas.  Those two guys are single handedly saving his job.  Kellen Mond might deserve a big fruit basket which I’ll get to in a little bit.

Normally I start with the offense first on my team analysis but not this week.  That’s for a reason.

Defense:

Dear Chief – I’m sorry.  I’m so very sorry.  I’m back on the Chief Train and I’m sorry for ever getting off.  I’m not going to say you’re perfect but these last three weeks reminded me of how much you mean to me.  I missed that snot slinging defense but it looks like you have them back.  I’m fully buckled in so let’s take this Chief Train to wherever it is you want to go assuming the snot keeps getting slung.  I’m on board for the rest of the season.

In all seriousness another valiant effort by the defense on Saturday night.  While it’s not without fault as they gave up over 200 yards to a suspect Florida offense in the first half.  The defense took The Swamp singing Tom Petty’s Won’t Back Down to start the 4th quarter to heart.  If you were there you know what I’m talking about.  The offense was struggling to keep the ball moving which left the defense on the field way more than they should have but the defense never quit fighting.  The best example was on Franks’ long “scramble” in the 3rd quarter.  While plenty of Aggie defenders missed tacking him Kingsley Keke stayed focused on made the tackle 79 yards down the field.  Keke is our defensive tackle which means he ran over 79 yards to make sure Franks stayed out of the endzone.  That’s pure heart.  Lots of guys would have quit.

As for the entire unit I have to start with the “Front 6” which is whoever is playing the four down linemen along with Alaka/Dodson.  We rotate the down linemen so much it’s an unheralded effort for everyone doing their job for the rest of the defense to make plays.  As it should be in a game like this Alaka and Dodson lead tackles with 12 and 11 respectively.  Keke came in at third with 8.  Alaka had a solo sack and Dodson was in on one himself.  Right now these 6 “guys” are the MVP of the entire team.  You can’t say enough about how these guys are playing and have been playing since after the Arkansas game.  Crazy to think this is the same defense that gave up 43 points to Arkansas.  Not sure it stays like this but with the effort they’re giving it sure looks like this defense can stay at this level.

Looking at the rest of the stat sheet it’s pretty clear it was a team defensive effort.  After Keke’s 8 tackles we had 10 defenders credited with each individual having between 3 and 6 tackles.  That’s a nice spread and to me tells me we had lots of guys on defense making plays at times.  Outside of the long run by Franks I can’t recall too many mis-plays by the defense.  Seems like assignment football where everyone is doing what they should be doing.  In addition to having 13 guys with at least 3 tackles the defense had 5 sacks and Florida only converted 4 of 15 third downs.  Those are outstanding stats even if Florida is not a potent offense.  The defense stepped up and did what they needed to do when they needed to do it.

Had the offense been able to sustain more drives or even put more points on the board in the first half this might have been an even more impressive performance.  I believe at half Florida had around 100 more yards of total offense and 8-10 more minutes of offensive possession.  The Aggie offense certainly didn’t do the defense any favors in the first half.  Even with that the defense came out in the second half and simply applied more pressure and basically shut the Florida offense down except for one play.  I don’t care how bad the Florida offense is as the Aggie defense was on the road in a tight game and didn’t back down as Tom Petty would say.

It’ll be interesting to see what happens as this defense won’t see any true high powered offenses the rest of the way.  Auburn might be the toughest but LSU may have cracked their offensive code this weekend.  The way this defense has played since the second half of South Carolina there’s no doubt in my mind they’re playing well enough for A&M to win every game if the offense can produce points.

Offense:

As good as the defense was the offense was the opposite.  They looked like crap in the first half.  They only mustered 3 points against a pretty good Florida defense but they had no identity and no clue of what they wanted to do.  It was just random ass plays that never got anything going and no plan of where to attack anything on the Florida defense.  Even in the second half they didn’t look much better other than Mond finally making some plays with his legs.

It’s no secret I’m no fan of Noel Mazzone as an offensive coordinator.  He continues to prove to me he’s just a play picker and never has a plan to attack.  He never seems to attack any part of the defense, string plays together with some plan, or use plays to set up other plays.  It’s just some random ass plays in hopes they work.  Against good defenses like Florida they rarely work and it showed all night.

The offensive line was playing with a couple of backups but the unit was pretty wretched all night.  There’s no doubt this is the weakest link of the team right now.  I’m a big fan of Jim Turner but what I’m seeing right now is making me question his worth.  I know there’s some youth on the line as we were missing a couple of guys so I guess you could say it’s partially on Sumlin and not totally on Turner.  Either way this line is not working as a unit at all.  Koda Martin and Erik McCoy are far and away the best two guys on the line and then everyone else doesn’t do much.

If you want proof look at the running game against Florida.  They’re a good defense but we ran Trayveon and Ford 19 times for a total of 40 yards.  That’s a little over 2 yards per carry.  Their longest runs were 6 and 4 yards.  That’s terrible.  Absolutely terrible as we all know Trayveon and Ford are MUCH more talented than that.  So who’s to blame?  Our offensive line is the key to how many games we win the rest of the way.  There will be some defenses we can run on but these guys are going to have to step up and work as a unit if we’re to win out.  If not we stand a strong chance of losing to Auburn and LSU as they’ve got defenses that can challenge this offensive line.

At receiver it was more of the same and actually had an oddity.  Kirk had by far his worst game of maybe his career dropping I believe 3 easy passes.  He had one catch for 40 yards and then another for 4 yards.  That’s it.  2 catches for 44 yards.  He dropped some sure passes for much bigger gains.  Damion Ratley had a better game catching 2 passes for 72 yards.  Props to Ratley as he keeps showing up as the clear Number 2 receiver behind Kirk.  The worst part about this receiving corps and Mazzone is the continual call for fade routes in the red zone.  It’s maddening because there’s no separation from the defender at all but yet Mazzone keeps calling for the route even though it’s not likely a high probability of completion.  I don’t even think Mazzone is using it to set something else up or keep a defense honest.  I think he really feels it’s a play with a high percentage of scoring a touchdown even though nothing we’ve shown in games say it is.  It’s like he thinks we still have Josh Reynolds on the team.

Then there’s Kellen Mond.  I can’t decide how I feel about him.  He’s a true freshman that’s poised for the most part but his passing this game left a LOT to be desired.  Some of it is receivers dropping the ball or not getting separation but he threw some bad passes.  He was 8 of 24 for 180 yards.  I’ll take the 180 yards against the Florida defense if we had established the run better but we didn’t.  We needed the pass against Florida and Mond was not completing passes.  Our longest pass was 42 yards and we averaged 22.5 yards per completion.  Based on those numbers and what I saw if a receiver wasn’t wide open due to busted coverage we didn’t complete many passes.  It’s great taking advantage of busted coverage but at some point you have to dictate your passing game no matter the coverage.  I wouldn’t say Mond is truly not developing as a passer but it’s not just on him.  The line and receivers aren’t helping him.  Still, he could certainly be developing better.

What Mond has been nails at is making plays when it matters most with his legs.  His ability to escape and run is part of the difference in wins against Arkansas and Florida.  Likely against South Carolina too.  I honestly think if Starkel hadn’t gotten hurt we’d be 3-4 right now and Sumlin CLEARLY fired.  It’s hard for me to determine that because there’s so many variables but what Mond has done late in games with his legs and poise is impressive.  It’s like Tim Tebow with the Broncos when they went to the playoffs.  Tebow would look like crap for 3 quarter but his defense would keep him in the games and he’d make some plays in the 4th quarter to win it.  What matters is how you finish and if you win.  Right now Mond is making plays when it matters most late in the game.  I’ll take that over someone that fades when it matters most.  Mond has a LONG ways to go as a quarterback but his moxie is clear.  Kid loves to play and doesn’t back down at any point.  He actually gets better when it matters most.  There’s a long ways to go in Mond’s development but his intangibles are really solid right now.  There’s a good chance we’re 3-4

without his legs so Sumlin owes him a fruit basket.

Based on our offensive line I tend to believe this is going to be the state of our offense the rest of the way.  We won’t dominate anyone and we won’t continually sustain drives.  With our defense though I think we’ll hang around and continue to make plays in the 4th and win more than we lose the rest of the way.  If I’m a defense I only rush four guys the rest of the way and spy Mond so his legs don’t beat me.  We’ll see what happens but outside of Mond’s legs and Kirk’s ability when he’s not dropping balls there’s not a whole lot of positives from this offense.  If it weren’t for Chief’s defense in the last three games we dogging this offense really bad and calling for Sumlin’s head.  As it is we focus on the positives of this offense.  Funny how winning changes perspective.

One more thing from the game that was COMPLETELY frustrating was the “TD pass” to the tight end.  We FINALLY use the tight end in the red zone and he scores a touchdown.  We executed it perfectly but Kirk was lined up incorrectly.  That’s inexcusable.  As a receiver you have to know the play and if you’re supposed to be lined up on the line or off the line.  That was a poor mistake by Kirk.  Even worse though Mazzone totally went away from that play even though we executed it perfectly.  He got gun shy thinking it was a pure surprise play and never called it again from best I can tell.  I would have called the same play with a different option for Mond if the tight end was covered.  Make them stop a play that works.  That’s what the great offensive coordinators do.  They figure out a play that works and call it until the defense stops it.  They don’t get scared to call it again like Mazzone does.  I don’t get why we’ve just seen it once this season.  It’s a great play assuming Kirk lines up right.

Special Teams:

Daniel LaCamera is the man.  Dude was 4 for 4 on the road with every kick being crucial.  His first two field goals were 46 and 43 yards.  In The Swamp those are tough kicks.  His third kick was for 25 yards in the 4th quarter and his final kick with the game on the line was 32 yards which is no gimmie in college football.  LaCamera has been perfect this year for field goals under 50 yards.  He’s one hell of a weapon and a key reason we’re 5-2 and not 3-4 as well.  He’s been big this year.

As for the rest of the special teams they were pretty solid.  Tripucka averaged almost 50 yards per punt with half his punts being over 50 yards.  He didn’t have any stinkers from what I remember and in a defensive battle that’s huge.

We didn’t return any kickoffs and Kirk returned 3 punts.  On his first two he got around 10 yards each so not terrible but he saved his best for last.  He got 43 yards on his final punt return which was HUGE setting up LaCamera’s final field goal.  I’m not sure if we’re sand bagging or we got lucky but Kirk has had some big returns in special teams when it was needed most.  It’s just kind of frustrating we can’t do anything during the game.

Maybe Jeff Banks knows what he’s doing but the final punt to Kirk was more returnable than execution in my mind.  Florida’s punter didn’t kick it very high or far and Kirk was able to get to it with space.  To Kirk and the special team’s credit there was a wall set up and Kirk knew to run to it.  It was well executed on everyone’s part but that’s 1 out of 8 punts.  I don’t think it’s sand bagging and more luck than anything.

I say this because if you watch the blocking by the punt return team it’s pretty bad.  They don’t hold the punt team at the line at all and the opponent’s punt team will release on the snap.  They’ll have 3-4 guys heading straight down the field which is why Kirk fair catches so much.  It’s not just the punt gunners getting down the field.  It’s 2 other guys heading straight up the field.

We’ve got some great individual talent on special teams but as far as all 11 guys executing as a unit I think it can be much improved.  Our goal really should be to have Frank Beamer or Alabama like special teams play.  It’s a crucial component of every game and especially when you have a great defense and mediocre offense.  If it wasn’t for Kirk’s raw talent returning kicks we likely lose to Arkansas and Florida and be 3-4.  Glad we have the talent because for much of the game the units aren’t doing much.

Going Forward:

Unless Sumlin just falls apart like he’s done in the past this is EASILY an 8-4 team.  We’ll beat New Mexico and the Mississippi schools.  At least we should with the effort we’ve given the last three games.  That leaves Auburn and LSU which I think we can split if not win both.  I just don’t know if we’ll get enough consistency to run the table the rest of the way beating both of those teams.  I think the defense will be there because they’re truly playing as a unit and not relying on individual stars like we might have done last year.  This defense is playing like they have something to prove.  All 11 guys on the field are playing smash mouth defense.

If Sumlin wins 9 he’s clearly safe.  I’m not sure he’s still the long term answer to win a national championship but you can’t fire a guy that wins 9 games with this team.  It’s a remarkable effort.  If he goes 8-4 with losses to Auburn and LSU you have some serious thinking to do because we’ll be fourth in the West yet again.  Despite the effort and youth of this team wins still matter more than anything.  I don’t know the appetite for those making the decisions but at 8-4 with losses to Auburn and LSU there will be some serious debate.

You never know what the final 4 SEC games can bring.  While we could have easily beaten UCLA we could have easily lost to Arkansas and Florida if not for a late special teams return by Kirk and key kicks by LaCamera to win those games late.  The point is there’s no givens for this team over their last 4 SEC teams game.  Anything can happen in those 4 games just like last season.

If Sumlin does survive I think he has to get rid of Mazzone even if we go 10-2.  Defense and individual efforts on special teams will be the main reason why we have that record.  I know a lot of people are concerned about replacing another offensive coordinator but think about this – great teams lose their coordinators ALL the time.

Nick Saban is now on his 6th coordinator in his 11th season at Alabama.  That’s less than 2 years per each.  Yes, Steve Sarkisian counts only serving one game but its proof offensive coordinators change.  Saban had Major Applewhite for one season and then had Jim McElwain for four season which was his longest tenured guy.  Doug Nussmeier then took over and only had the job for two seasons.  Saban ran him off after the second season after they lost the last two games of the season to Auburn and Oklahoma.  Yes, Nick Saban ran off his second year coordinator after an 11-2 season.  Dead serious.  The great ones are always striving to be great over being content.

He then brought in a guy that NOBODY would have thought about hiring in Lane Kiffin.  At the time he hired Kiffin he knew he would be a 2-3 year hire but still hired him anyway because he’s an outstanding offensive coordinator.  He hired Steve Sarkisian last season knowing he’d likely be the replacement for Kiffin.  Sarkisian was the OC for one game but then took the OC job with the Atlanta Falcons.  Saban went and hired a guy from New England who’s proven to be pretty strong so far this season.

The point is great coordinators move on for the most part.  You want someone coming after your coordinators or something is wrong.  Someone like Chief is an anomaly for the most part.  Content and complacent with your staff is not a good place to be as a head coach if you truly strive for greatness.  If Sumlin gets to 8 wins I’m fine keeping him provided he’ll go get a great offensive coordinator.  He has to go get someone great.  Hell, I’d go hire Mike Sherman as my offensive coordinator.  I wasn’t a fan of him as a head coach but his offensive design and play calling is just fine.  Sumlin will need to do something out of the box in my mind to take a leap from where we are.  It starts with getting a really solid offensive coordinator because Mazzone is not the answer.  He’s just not.

I’m fine with Sumlin staying with 8 wins as he will have earned it as this season was on the verge of collapse after UCLA.  However, there are still major holes in this team and he really needs to fix them going forward or it’ll just be more of the same.  If there are no changes we’ll just be wondering if he can get to enough wins to keep his job every season.  I want out of that cycle and I hope he would too.  At some point there has to be a clear direction to Make Aggie Football Great Again.

#MAFGA

Advertisements

The Greatest Game in Astros History

2005 NLCS Champs

It’s no secret the Astros don’t have a storied baseball past.  They’ve been a good team at times and have seen a reasonable amount of post season action.  This season marks the 11th time in team history the Astros have seen the post season.  11 times in 55 seasons is not great but it’s not terrible either.  There are a lot worse franchises to be a fan of but there’s a lot better.  That’s assuming you’re an actual baseball fan and didn’t just buy a t-shirt for a winning team in the last 10 years.

Through those 55 seasons there’s one clear great game in Astros history but most fans can’t name it.  They really can’t.  Baseball is a team sport where the main focus should be on winning a World Series.  Because of that there’s one clear greatest game in Astros history but everyone has forgotten about it.  Astros fan’s memories tend to focus on the negatives.

Ask them the memory of their worst Astros game and they’ll immediately bring up Albert Pujols or if they’ve been a fan long enough they’ll tell you about Game 6 of the 1986 NLCS against the Mets.  That game truly hurt if you’ve been an Astros fan long enough.  It was 16 innings of back and forth baseball with a trip to the World Series on the line.  Mike Scott was waiting to dominate Game 7.  Every fan watching knew Game 6 was basically the final game.  Mike Scott wouldn’t have lost Game 7.  No way.  Some fans may even mention the Braves in the late 90s who were a playoff nemesis.

Ask an Astros fans the greatest game in team history and I bet they give pause.  If they’re old enough they’ll probably mention Mike Scott’s no hitter to clinch the 1986 West division title.  While an amazing moment in Astros history it’s not the greatest game ever.  The greatest game ever is obvious but everyone has forgotten because they can’t shake the game before it.  The greatest game in Astros history came 48 hours after Albert Pujols put that indelible mark in Astros fan’s brains.  The greatest game in Astros history is Game 6 of the 2005 NLCS.

That game sent the Astros to their first ever World Series.  The only time the Astros have ever been to the World Series.  The game that launched the Astros to their one and only World Series has to be the greatest game ever.  Most fans forget Roy Oswalt put the entire franchise on his back for 7 innings.  After Pujols hit that mammoth shot to win Game 5 the majority of Astros fans assumed they’d lose both games in St. Louis.  For 2 days everyone talked with a defeated attitude because every Astros fan assumed the Astros stood no chance in St. Louis after the Pujols blast.

Everyone forgot Roy O was taking the mound in Game 6 and everyone forgets about him now.  Roy O didn’t care about the Pujols home run in Game 5.  It meant nothing to him.  He simply took the ball and dominated the Cardinals for 7 innings.  He gave up 3 hits and 1 run over 7 innings.  He struck out 6 and only walked 1 over those 7 innings.  Sure, it wasn’t a no-hitter or even a complete game shutout but if you watched the game you saw Roy O dominating from the start.  When the Astros got 2 runs in the top of the 3rd inning you had an easy feeling.  It felt different.  It really felt like the Astros were going to do it.  Roy O was a bulldog that game working both sides of the plate.  He even came inside on Pujols causing him to dance in the box.  Roy O wasn’t backing down from anyone.  That was his game.  For 7 innings he put the entire Astros franchise on his back.

He handed the ball off to Chad Qualls and Dan Wheeler to close the last 2 innings with no runs.  When Jason Lane caught the final out in right field the Astros had finally won their first National League pennant in 44 years of existence.  44 years is a long damn time.  Game 6 of the 2005 NLCS ended that drought.  The World Series finally came to Texas.  Roy O put an entire franchise on his back and made it happen after one of the worst moments in franchise history.

The next time you think about the Pujols homerun think about the game 48 hours later instead.  Think about how for 7 innings Roy O wasn’t going to let the Astros lose.  He just wasn’t.  In the grand scheme the Pujols homerun actually meant nothing.  Roy O made sure of that.  He took the mound and put on one of the greatest pitching performances in Astros history.  Not the greatest pitching performance but considering what was on the line it was the gutsiest.  Most fans didn’t believe it would happen going in but Roy O made sure of it coming out.

There’s no doubt the greatest game in Astros history is that game.  Let’s all hope that game is replaced this season with a World Series title.  Let’s hope this year’s team channels their inner Roy Oswalt.  This franchise is due to win it all and it’s time for someone to be the Roy O in a World Series clinching game.  Let’s earn it.

If you need a reminder to smile just watch this and remember where you were:

Thoughts from the Bama Game

Saban at Kyle

While I’m not really into moral victories what we saw on Saturday night at Kyle Field was not at all what I expected going in.  Alabama was coming in having trucked their previous two SEC opponents 49-0 and 66-3.  I didn’t expect the Aggies to even cover the 26.5 spread but they did more than that.  While they came out flat at times they continued to get off the mat and trade punches with Bama.  So much so that towards the end of the game it was the Aggies delivering the blows but it was too little and too late.  It was a Moral Victory Saturday but moral victories only go so far in the SEC.  The question remains how do the Aggies respond from this?  Do they carry it over to Florida next Saturday or do they forget all about it?

Before I go any further I have to say my moment of the game was seeing Gene Stallings on the field with the 1967 team.  The man is 82 years old and had a heart attack last weekend and was on a ventilator last week.  I’m sure at some point last week someone asked him if he wanted to make the game and his response was, “Yeah, I’m going to be there.  Why are you asking?”  A Junction Boy at his finest.

Overall I thought the defense was TREMENDOUS but the offense still has a LONG ways to go.  You know Alabama is going to score points and our defense held them to 27 points while our offense turned the ball over 3 times.  The defense gave up a couple big plays that lead to touchdowns.  Most notably was the 75 yard touchdown run after we went up 3-0.  The other was to open the second half when we had Bama at 3rd and 4 on their opening drive and they completed a 30 yard pass to Calvin Ridley.  Had we done a 3 and out on their opening drive to the second half then Kyle Field might have erupted.  They weren’t perfect but they were pretty damn good against a damn good team.

Because of the defensive effort against Bama I think this is a 9-3 team right now IF they build on Saturday’s game.  If that was a one-time effort then I still think it’s a 7-5 ball team.  Part of why I think this is a 9-3 team is because the teams left on the schedule outside of Auburn don’t look good at all.  If this defense shows up the rest of the way and our offense makes some improvement then Kevin Sumlin is going to be our coach again next season as he shouldn’t be fired if he wins 9 games.  Insane to think we’re sitting here after the Bama game thinking this could be a 9 win football team.  UCLA seems so far away right now.

Offense:

Dissecting the offense is really strange because of the emotional component of the moral victory.  It seems like the offense did pretty good but in reality it was pretty pedestrian.  Sure, it was against Bama but we turned the ball over 3 times.  308 total yards of offense is pretty good but it seemed to come in spurts through the air.  Mond passed for 237 yards but 127 of those came on 4 passes.  He was pretty accurate at 19 of 29 and had some great scrambles so he kept drives alive but I still question the consistency of this offense to maintain drives and really contribute to winning games.

The kid is developing but my issue is with the coaching.  I still contend Mazzone is simply a play picker.  He doesn’t know how to call a series of plays or set anything up.  Our best plays seem to be when the athleticism of our talent is able to make something happen.  It’s not necessarily a consistent offensive scheme or game plan based on attacking the weakness of a defense.  Mazzone isn’t terrible but I still think this is a haphazard scheme that is going to have a few stinkers in the second half of the season.  I like Mond and how he’s developing but I don’t think Mazzone is a superior offensive playcaller.  This offense can and should be better.

The other thing about coaching is our wide receivers.  Christian Kirk we all know about but to me the clear number 2 receiver is Damion Ratley.  I have to give Ratley mad props because he’s really developed this year but he’s not Josh Reynolds.  Outside of Kirk and Ratley nobody is really doing anything throughout the game.  I know the other guys are young but outside of raw physical talent I’ve not seen much out of the receivers as far as superior routes and getting separation.  If we could get more consistent play from our receivers this offense could go.  This goes back to what we saw out of Ricky Seals Jones and Speedy Noil.  We don’t have consistency at receiver across the board when it’s supposedly a strength.  It’s a lot of talk and much less action.

At running back this game I felt we should have used a lot of Keith Ford coming into this game.  After the game I thought Trayveon had a lot more carries but he had 15 carries where Ford had 11 so they were pretty equal.  Trayveon got 38 yards and Ford got 20 so Trayveon was definitely the better running back this game but not by much.  Trayveon had some nice catches out of the backfield so looks like he was the right choice.  I still prefer the idea of trying to establish the run with Ford between the tackles and then use Trayveon as the homerun threat but let’s face it against Bama there was no homeruns to be had.

As for the offensive line they’re doing okay but they’re not dominant by any stretch.  If it wasn’t for Mond’s athleticism there would have been a lot more than the 4 sacks.  We definitely couldn’t establish the run either.  I know it’s Alabama but still would like to see our offensive line establish a bigger presence at the line of scrimmage.  This is just a decent but not great offensive line.  I was hoping more out of Jim Turner at this point but we’ll see what happens the rest of the season.  There’s a LOT of improving to be done here.

One key play that didn’t matter in the grand scheme now but proves this offensive staff isn’t thinking 2-3 plays out is when we got the late pass to Buckley to the 1 yard line.  We had no timeouts and there was about 40 seconds left on the clock.  We’re done two scores.  We call a run play that wasn’t successful and there’s another 20 seconds that ran off the clock.  We scored on a Mond run the next play but it was down to 19 seconds.  We should have ABSOLUTELY called a pass play with 40 seconds left if we’re thinking about what would be needed to win the game.  At worst a roll out by Mond so he can throw the ball away to save clock.  We were out of timeouts partially because we couldn’t get a play in on time in the THIRD quarter.  There is NO reason where a timeout should ever be used because you’re late to get in a play in third quarter.  But yet we’re not using the clock with any consideration for what’s going on in the game.  It’s minor but it shouldn’t be.  Thinking small is going to cost us in a game that we can actually win.  It already did with UCLA.

Defense:

Remember when I got off the Chavis train after Arkansas?  Well, um, I’m checking departure times and locations because I’m SERIOUSLY thinking of getting back on.  Outside of maybe 3-4 plays, that was an AWESOME defensive effort for 4 quarters against a great offense.  I mean it was outstanding.  Now, Bama did play into our strength of stopping the run as Bama ran twice as many times as they attempted to pass.  Bama was hell bent on running the ball and we didn’t back down at all.  We traded punches all night with Bama so kudos to the Chief and company.

If I have to give an MVP for this game it’s to the Front 6 of our defensive line and Otara Alaka and Tyrel Dodson.  Those guys took shots from Bama all night and never backed down and traded punches for all 4 quarters.  I mean that looked like real slobber knocker football and A&M stood their ground the whole damn game.  We sacked Hurts 3 times which is pretty remarkable as it takes more than one guy to sack Hurts because of his scrambling ability.  It takes linemen and linebackers keeping containment and basically corralling Hurts.  Hurts still ran for 76 yards but the dude is an underrated runner so he’s going to get his.  You take away Damien Harris’ 75 yard run and Harris and Scarbrough got about 100 yards on 28 carries.  That’s freaking remarkable.  Our defensive line and linebackers were just outstanding all game long.

As for everyone else it was pretty much Armani Watts and nobody else.  Bama was attacking our front so the defensive backs and other linebackers didn’t get many opportunities but Watts was his usual self being all over the field making stops.  He had 7 solo tackles which is pretty impressive.  That is his specialty though of playing forward but he still showed up.

As for what else to say about this defense you saw it.  Alabama walked into Kyle Field wanting to establish the run and we shut them down for the most part.  Coming into the season outside of the defensive tackles I didn’t think we had the talent at defensive end to do what we did against Bama.  Durham and Johnson at defensive end deserve major props for filling in for Garrett and Hall.  These guys have really been the difference in this defense.  Bama only converted 4 of 14 third downs which is also remarkable.  That’s less than 30% which you can’t ask for much more.

If we can keep up what happened against Bama for four quarters there’s no doubt we can win 9 games.  The Chief will basically save Sumlin’s job.  I think at this point Chief just keeps the defense’s ears pinned back and utilize the strength of this defense which is the defensive line and the linebackers.  I won’t call them the front 7 as outside Alaka and Dodson there’s not a clear third linebacker to me. Whatever you want to call it those 6 guys are pretty damn good.  Not many teams can trade punches with Alabama for four quarters and keep delivering blows until the end of the game.  Our defense did that on Saturday night and that’s pretty remarkable.

Special Teams:

Special Teams had two big key moments.  The first was LaCamera’s 52 yard field goal to get the first points on the board.  That was nice shot to show Bama we came to play.  The second was the punt block by the 12th Man.  It was a short punt so it wasn’t difficult but glad we were able to get back there.  We actually might have been better off letting them punt it out but if you can block the punt you block it.  I just wish we tried more punt blocks since we’re not returning any.  Our punt return team remains horrible.

Other than those things special teams was it’s usual not special self.  Nothing of great memory.

Looking Forward:

Coming into the season I thought the Florida game would be a loss but was winnable.  At this point I think we beat Florida.  I really do.  I think our defense brings the pressure and shuts the Florida offense down.  I think our offense does enough big plays to score the needed points to walk out of The Swamp with a win.  I’m not sure 20 points are scored in that game but I think A&M can win.  Hell, I think A&M might actually blow Florida out so don’t be surprised by that.  If I had to pick a score I’d say 23-9 Aggies.

That will put us at 6-2 because we’ll beat New Mexico and we’ll have games remaining against Miss St, Auburn, Ole Miss, and LSU.  I think at worst we’ll split those which will put us at 8-4 on the season at minimum.  Based on what I’ve seen I think there’s a strong chance we can beat every team but Auburn.  Auburn is absolutely beatable at Kyle even though Sumlin has never done it.  This could actually be a 10-2 team and be the second best team in the West.  Crazy to think but based on what I saw on Saturday night it’s possible because I think the Aggie defense might have just figured things out.

Now, if we lose to Florida everything I just wrote is off the table as I think we’ll do our usual late season swoon.  We’ll have a good idea of where things are headed with Sumlin by the end of the Florida game.  It could be post Bama or post UCLA.  I have no clue but I do think we win the game this weekend.  Maybe we swoon after that but I don’t think so.  This team fought too hard on Saturday to make me think they swoon one final time for Sumlin.

Thoughts from the South Carolina Game

Keith+Ford+South+Carolina+v+Texas+6zk2o_ZRhCSl

Before I get to anything on Saturday’s game I have to commend the 12th Man.  They were OUTSTANDING on Saturday night.  I wouldn’t call it the greatest performance ever but it was as solid as it comes considering the opponent.  Kyle Field was rocking and especially after the targeting call.  Kyle was buzzing most of the game but that targeting call turned Kyle into an all-out roar and one I think factored into the win.  If Fran was around every person in attendance would be receiving an MTXE t-shirt in the mail.  That’s Mental Toughness, Xtra (sic) Effort for those of you that have forgotten some of Fran’s greatest “motivation” tactics.  I still miss Fridays with Fran and Kim’s Corner.  Always nice to know what was going on with the coach and his wife since we weren’t winning.

This week’s write up is going to be shorter than normal because what happened on Saturday was what we’ve seen the last three games.  A8M came out lethargic and with no real plan or purpose.  Why that is I have no idea.  The 4th quarter has a lot of people excited for the rest of the season but let’s pump the brakes a tad.  We were down at half in a home game against a pretty pedestrian South Carolina team.  A South Carolina team that I’d say has a MUCH worse offense than Arkansas and slightly better defense.  There was NO reason to go into half down 10-7 but yet we did.

Coming out of half it was the same thing.  No sense of urgency and no real plan.  We punted on our first two possessions of the second half while SoCar scored on their first possession of the second half to go up by 10.  A&M kicked a field goal towards the end of the third quarter to make it a 7 point game but there was still no sense of urgency.  Kyle still had a decent buzz but there was no urgency or apparent desire to impose our will.

That seemed to all change early in the 4th quarter when Camron Buckley was ejected for targeting.  Per the letter of the rule the refs made the right call.  Buckley wasn’t intentionally targeting I don’t think but when you’re leading with your head towards higher up on a person and you make contact with their helmet you’re more than likely going to get called.  It’s a gray area for player safety but it’s the rule.  Ironically I think his ejection was the difference in the game as Kyle Field turned into an all-out roar and the A&M team all of a sudden had a sense of urgency and purpose.  Sad that it took that to get the team a sense of urgency but I really think that changed the game.  We scored two plays later to tie it up and then dominated the rest of the game but still only won by 7 so the final emotion everyone felt hides the reality of the game in my mind.

Offense:

For three quarters this offense looked really ho hum.  No real plan and no sense of urgency.  After three quarters at Kyle Field against a decent but not great SoCar defense we had 10 points.  TEN POINTS.  Against a decent team we’re not down just 7 in the 4th quarter and we don’t score 14 in the 4th quarter to win the game.  At least I don’t think.  The offense seems to respond to the defense’s effort and that needs to change at some point.  The offense needs to have its own urgency and plan.  The end result was fine with 24 points and a 7 point win but the complete game picture still creates cause for concern from an offensive standpoint.

Kellen Mond from a passing standpoint was fairly accurate completing 19 of 27 passes but he only passed for 159 yards so he wasn’t exactly lighting it up with deep balls.  A lot of smart passes from him which was good to see but despite the 70% completion rate I wouldn’t paint this as a dominant passing effort.  It almost seems SoCar played a solid defense to keep him contained through the air knowing where he would go but maybe I’m wrong.  Will Muschamp isn’t a great head coach but he’s still a pretty defensive guy so that SoCar defense kept Mond contained for the most part since we only scored 10 points through 3 quarters and no big passing plays through the whole game.  Our longest passes were for 26 and 21 yards with no other pass over 20 yards.

Mond did have an outstanding day running the ball rushing 15 times for 106 yards if you take away the sack.  That’s about 7 yards per rush and even more impressive was his longest run was only 19 yards so he was pretty consistent running the ball.  You’d like to see him break one for a long run like Johnny or Trevor but he doesn’t have their breakaway speed and was taking what the defense was giving it seemed.  Mond was pretty consistent running and only getting sacked once so it says he was making decent reads.  Not dominating but he’s still a true freshman playing behind an offensive line that isn’t exactly dominating either.

Keith Ford was our best back for the game rushing 12 times for 71 yards and two touchdowns.  He was great in the red zone scoring our final two touchdowns to put us up.  Trayveon seemed a little hesitant at times as I think he kept waiting for bigger holes to develop that never did.  He and Ford are different backs where Ford hits the hole immediately like a singles hitter just wanting to get on base.  Trayveon waits a little longer to see if something bigger develops as he likes to hit for extra bases and especially home runs.  They’re great complements to each other assuming Mazzone or Sumlin is using them based on how the game is being played.

In the 4th quarter for whatever reason we finally decided to pound the ball.  We ran 20 plays in the 4th quarter with 15 being runs and 5 being passes.  The passes were solid completions but I don’t think it’s a surprise we scored 14 points on back to back possessions down 7 because we decided to commit to the running game.  I get having balance so the defense doesn’t focus on stopping one aspect but at some point its okay to go with what seems to be the strength of this team which is running the ball.  We run the ball much better than we can pass and I still haven’t figured out why we’re so afraid to use the run game to set up the pass.  Had we committed to running against Arkansas and SoCar in the 1st quarter and all game I don’t think those are close games in the 4th quarter that we win by 7.  We beat UCLA as well if we keeping running the ball in the second half.

Receiver and offensive line was more of the same from the ULaLa and Arkansas games.  Pretty consistent play but not dominant.  The worse move was they once again went with a true freshman offensive line early in the 2nd quarter I believe.  They accounted for 2 incompletions and a sack.  I hope that grouping of offensive linemen never sees the field together again as they have accounted for three and outs the last three times they’ve seen the field.  We’d be better off kneeling three times and punting to let the clock run and minimize contact on our offensive players.  I don’t understand it at all.  We hear it’s for conditioning but if 1-2 series a game is supposed to pay off in November we’re in bigger trouble than we think.  We’re bringing them in when the game is in question and continually wasting a series with that grouping.  It’s maddening and at this point its insanity doing the same thing expecting different results.

I’m still not sure this offense takes a leap from what we’ve seen the last three games.  There’s promise but there’s still just so much inconsistency in the play calling and execution.  I’m not sure we see a dominant game from start to finish unless we commit to the run much earlier and stick with it.  I have a feeling against Bama we’re going to have to go away from the run as they shut it down and get ahead so we have to play catch up through the air.  Not sticking to the run against Bama won’t help us against Florida which I’ll get to in a little bit.

Defense:

Other than a few plays this was an outstanding defensive performance.  Without a doubt our best effort all season but make no mistake South Carolina might be the worst SEC offense we see all season.  I’m dead serious.  That was a REALLY bad South Carolina offense.  Every SEC team we play from here on out will be better than this one.  South Carolina was missing their starting right tackle and starting right guard.  In addition they were missing their best offensive player in wide receiver Deebo Samuel.  Jake Bentley is a decent quarterback but he’s no world beater for sure.  Ettlinger at LSU might be worse but he has a MUCH better supporting cast.

With that, the defense still deserves credit for playing 4 quarters of really good football.  We held SoCar to 256 yards and they had four plays that accounted for 131 yards.  That’s over 50% of their yards in four plays out of roughly 56 offensive plays.  So for 52 plays they averaged less than 2.5 yards per play.  That’s DAMN good.  Even if the SoCar offense isn’t all that great that’s a defense that stepped up and dominated when opportunity presented itself.  That’s way better than the Sex Panther defense I thought this group was.  93% of the time our defense worked every time.  Kudos to the unit as if they don’t step up and dominate those 52 plays there’s a good chance we lose this game.

As for individuals our defensive tackles took care of business like always.  They were excellent.  Their play allowed Alaka and Dodson to have outstanding games.  Alaka had the game of his life with 7 solo tackles and 2 assisted tackles including 2 sacks.  Dodson was our second leading tackler with 4 solos and 1 assisted.  That’s awesome when our linebackers are our leading tacklers as opposed to our defensive backs like last week.  Landis Durham continues to show up giving a presence at defensive end I didn’t think we’d have coming into the season.  He got two sacks which so he continues to bring pressure to the quarterback.  In total we had 7 sacks so even if that was the worst SEC offense we’ll see all season we took advantage and brought big time pressure.

No defensive back really stood out.  Kind of surprised we didn’t pick a pass off but that’s okay.  Bentley completed a little better than 50% which isn’t bad but pretty obvious we had decent coverage all game.  Other than the 45 yard touchdown which was a broken play we had solid coverage all night.  This wasn’t really a game for the defensive backs to stand out considering SoCar ran the ball 26 times and passed 30 times so they were balanced and got nothing on the ground.  I would have liked to have seen a lower yards per completion but this is an era of college football where teams are going to get yards through the air.  This was a game for the front seven to shine and they definitely did that.

I’m not back on the Chief Train yet but I am at the station wondering if he’s gonna get the thing chugging along again.  I know this goes against what I said earlier but at this point in seeing the defense I think he just needs to channel his inner Wade Phillips and dial up pressure after pressure.  If we give up big plays so be it.  I think this defense plays best with its ears pinned back.  Might as well pin them back and see what happens.  With Durham, Alaka, Dodson, Pryor, and even Jarret Johnson stepping up we might as well see what we can do.  It won’t matter against Bama but we don’t need to get dejected if Bama trucks us and get back to bringing the pressure when we roll into Gainesville.  We should pin our ears back against Bama but if we aren’t successful we shouldn’t change the approach.  Just know it’ll get easier against teams not named Bama.

Special Teams:

Once again nothing special here.  Kirk had a botched punt but other than that he never attempted a return.  He never had a chance to make a return so we’re not getting any return blocking at all.  I still contend we need to attempt a block just to keep their punt coverage team honest in staying home.  It looks like they’re releasing multiple guys down the field and we’re having problems blocking them.  For the last 14 punts we’ve had ZERO attempts at a return.

South Carolina had a couple decent kick returns against us so we didn’t execute on those two kickoffs.  We had one return were Christian Kirk took it out from the end zone and only got 10 yards so we started an offensive drive at the 10 yard line.  That’s not good.  Night and day from Arkansas.

I thought Tripucka had his worst game this season as he had a chance to pin SoCar inside their 20 yard line but instead kicked it into the end zone.  He did get the 3 punts inside the 20 but his specialty has always been his ability to pin an offense inside the 20.  He failed twice this game which isn’t terrible but we should really be perfect never kicking a punt into the end zone.  He was 60% pinning teams inside the 20.  Know what is also effective 60% of the time?  Sex Panther.  We don’t need our punter turning into a Ron Burgundy bit.  Just pin the opponent inside the 20.

Going Forward:

Despite what happened in the 4th quarter I expect Bama to truck us.  They’re flat out rolling right now.  They beat Florida State 24-7 to open up the season and then in their last two SEC games have won 59-0 and 66-3.  I know that’s Vandy and Ole Miss but let’s not kid ourselves we’re light years better than those teams.  We’re definitely better but those are ass kickings.  Bama is firing on all cylinders while we’re playing inconsistent football.  Nick Saban doesn’t have let down games and I expect them to throttle us 44-10.

They’ll get a least one defensive touchdown and one special teams touchdown I think.  Our defense will do an admirable job for a portion of the game but Bama will just wear us down.  Our offense will completely sputter other than a couple of drives.  I know anything can happen but this is Bama up against a lesser talented and less consistent A&M offense from last year.  We didn’t do so well last year when it was all said and done.  Our only chance is having a plan to give Keith Ford the ball at least 20 times this game.  If we don’t do that that tells me Sumlin and Mazzone can’t make honest assessments of our offense and opponents from film.  Normally I’d say you have to take to the air against Bama and play tempo but I don’t think we have the quarterback and receivers to do that.  Just pound Ford and see what happens.  Maybe our defense can hold and Ford can wear down the Bama defense.  Even if he doesn’t it’ll be good practice to practice a focused runing for the remaining games on the schedule.  Yes, I’m serious about using a Bama loss to benefit the rest of the season.  Challenge our offensive line against the best defensive front in college football.

After Bama the only other sure loss I see on the schedule right now is Auburn.  Malzahn appears to have that team rolling as well.  Anything can happen but that’s a talented Auburn team that seems to be playing up to its potential.  That puts our ceiling at 9-3 in my mind needing to get wins over Florida, Miss St, Ole Miss, and LSU.  Those all look like winnable games right now but I still feel we split those or at best go 3-1 which will put as at 8-4.

We’ll just have to see how we respond in Gainesville after Bama.  If we can squeeze a win in Florida which is entirely possible then 9-3 is a lot more possible.  Even though Florida doesn’t look like a great team that won’t be an easy game going on the road the week after Bama.  Both Mississippi schools look very beatable so I’d say 7-5 is our floor right now.

The wild card is obviously LSU because they look terrible right now.  I mean they just look terrible.  They still have plenty of time to get focused and that’s a talented team.  I FULLY expect Ed Orgeron to coach every practice shirtless from here on out threatening to whip every Tiger player’s ass that doesn’t give max effort.  I really do.  No more mumbling and eating gumbo during practice.  It’s Shirtless Ed threatening to whip the ass of every Tiger player that’s not focused on getting better.  I’m kind of hoping he might even coach shirtless but I don’t think the NCAA will allow that happen.  I’d love to see Ed Orgeron shirtless on the sidelines in a game.  I think the NCAA needs to rethink that rule about coaching attire.  College football needs Shirtless Ed.

Thoughts from the Arkie Game

texas-a-m-kirk-football-28787-jpg

If you watched the game on Saturday you were fortunate enough to watch paid professionals fail miserably at their job for around 4 hours.  This includes the highest paid people in Kevin Sumlin and Bret Bielema down to the refs.  Fortunately for the Aggies, Bielema is a bigger moron than Sumlin.  As for the refs, in the end they kind of balanced out their terrible calls.  Kind of.   They were still pretty bad.  It wasn’t a pretty game to watch from a competence standpoint but from a sheer entertainment it was pretty good.

I’ve been telling you this Aggie football season is like the 2016 Presidential Election and Saturday was a perfect example of that.  The two candidates showed their incompetence time and time again and in this game the moderators also showed off their incompetence with repeated bad calls.  I wish I had the time to go back and log every dumb decision but I don’t have the time since nobody pays me for this.  Just know it was sheer incompetence.

To me the most glaring three examples were late in the game when Arkansas kicked directly to Christian Kirk and he promptly took it back to the house for the Aggie lead.  I mean they kicked it right to him.  After taking the lead to go up by 3 with three and a half minutes left and A&M with two timeouts Arkansas decides to sky kick just on the other side of midfield giving A&M a short field only needing a field goal to tie.  It was such a moronic call.

A&M then promptly drives down and sets up a game tying field goal but Kevin Sumlin then calls timeout with 8 seconds left.  In the end it didn’t matter but why Sumlin didn’t wait until 3 seconds left to call the timeout is beyond me.  That would have ensured the field goal attempt was the final play of the game.  Now, the odds of Arkansas returning the kick for a score are miniscule but anyone that’s watched football remembers the Music City Miracle and the Stanford/Cal game where strange things can happen on kick offs.  There was no need for that to even be an option as Sumlin should have just let the clock wind down to 3 seconds and call the timeout.  Good or bad the field goal would be the last play and Arkansas would only see the ball in overtime if it got there.  I think it just goes to show Sumlin is not fully aware of the entire game situation.

It’s still a win for A&M and six straight for Sumlin over Arkansas including yet another overtime “thriller.”  If this was going to be Sumlin’s last game against Arkansas it’s only fitting it went to overtime.  It may not be pretty but it sure was entertaining when all of the smoke settled.

Offense:

My main takeaway from this game is how inconsistent this offense still is.  Some of it is play calling but some of it is execution.  Kellen Mond was 14 of 27 passing which is the model of inconsistency in my mind.  50% isn’t bad but it’s not exactly great either.  He had some good passes but also had some stinkers along with guys dropping a couple passes they should have had.  He did enough to win the game so there’s something to be said for a true freshman that seems to be growing each week.  Still a long ways to go but needless to say Arkansas Kellen Mond is light years above UCLA Kellen Mond.  He’s going to face defenses a LOT better than this Arkansas defense so we’ll see how much further he can develop.

Something else on Mond is he’s not the running threat I thought he’d be.  I know he’s young but speed is speed.  Based on his long run against Arkansas on Saturday if you lined him up with Johnny and Trevor in a 100 yard dash he’d get smoked.  He really would.  He’s a decent runner but I don’t think he’s as strong a runner as Jalen Hurts was in his true freshman season last year.  I think Mond is the better passer than those guys not named Manziel but I thought he’d be faster based on what was said when he was recruited.  Just don’t expect him to have the long runs those guys have had.  It’s not who he is apparently.

For the rest of the offense I thought they looked decent but I don’t think the Arkie defense is that stellar.  50 points is 50 points but I don’t think there’s going to be any games left in the SEC where we score 50 points and with our defense we might need it.  We ran the ball decently but I didn’t think we were dominant by any stretch.  It certainly wasn’t as strong as we did against UCLA in the first half.  We got good push on most plays and had some really decent runs but I don’t feel we were blowing holes open like we could have.  This was not the dominant run effort we had last year against Arkansas and I was surprised by that.  If Mond hadn’t had some decent passes we walk out of JerryWorld losers no doubt.  Not dissing Ford or Trayveon at all as it wasn’t from lack of effort but I’ve seen better run games the last two years.

At receiver it was much like Mond where there were some good moments and some not so good moments for people who don’t have the last name of Kirk.  Kirk is a bonafide stud.  End of story.  Surprisingly Damion Ratley appears to be the second best receiver on the team right now.  He’s made some solid catches and this is a guy I didn’t trust to catch balls coming into the season.  The true freshmen are progressing but still inconsistent which is too be expected.  I think this Arkie defense is pretty bad and the receiving corps is going to find it much tougher sledding as we get through the rest of the SEC schedule.

The OLine looked decent except for the true freshman offensive line they ran out there twice which I believe resulted in negative 9 yards of offense and two punts.  Supposedly Sumlin’s justification was that he wanted to keep the starting offensive line fresh.  Um, do what?  Didn’t we hire the most awesome conditioning coach in the universe this offseason?  Did they really get that big of a rest considering the results?  This is a decision I don’t get at all.  It’s basically raising the white flag on two offensive possessions in a back and forth game.  I’m sure our defense loved seeing those guys go out there knowing the starting offensive line was getting some “rest.”  The defense got minimal rest with that unit in there.  Sumlin can’t allow that the rest of the way.  I swear he’s an idiot for touting conditioning all off season and then running a spare offensive line out there because the starters aren’t in good enough shape.  You can’t have it both ways, Kevin.

The other thing that really bothered me about this game was the backside defensive end was making a lot of plays during the game.  He’s the guy we’re supposed to be reading and what I noticed him doing quite a bit was crashing to Mond and not to the running back.  When Mond would see him coming directly at him Mond would leave the ball with the running back and then the defensive end would adjust and tackle the running back for no gain or a slight gain.  It didn’t always happen but it happened quite a bit where I’m now worried Arkie put on film a way to confuse our read game.  Now, this is also the reason Mond had his long run because Mond was able to get around him when he couldn’t hold contain from crashing but it was still a pretty effective move to basically crash to Mond so that he handed the ball off rather than hold.

It’ll be interesting to see what happens the rest of the way with this offense as I think Mond will continue to develop but I don’t think his ceiling is much more than what we saw here.  He’ll make some smarter decisions and likely get better passing but it’s not going to be what we’ve seen happen in the ULaLa game and continue in the Arkie game from an improvement standpoint.  He’s going to face tougher and tougher defenses and his development is going to slow quite a bit.

As for the rest of the offense I still believe this will be an offense that can’t continually sustains drives.  That’s just not how Mazzone is.  Case in point the continual deep ball on first down to open up a series where the ball wasn’t even close or the receiver had no separation.  There was no check down if the receiver was covered.  Just gun it down and hope for the best.  I believe there were at least 4 of those including the 4th quarter where I thought he should have just lined up and leaned on Arkansas.  Not once in that game do I think we really tried to lean on Arkansas and impose our will.  If Mazzone doesn’t think we can do it against Arkansas he’s not going to think we can do it against anyone else on our schedule.

Defense:

I officially got off the Chavis Train on Saturday.  Now, the train is at the station just stopped and I can still get back on but what I saw on Saturday really bothered me.  That wasn’t a great Arkansas offense and we continually let them back in the game.  It wasn’t just a couple of series.  We continually had chances to step up as a defense and we didn’t do it hence why we went to overtime.

What happened is very confusing to me.  It’s total inconsistency.  About 60 percent of the plays we’re a damn good defense.  I mean real good.  We had 6 sacks so we were bringing pressure which is great.  They also only converted 5 of 13 third downs which is also pretty good.  However, the other 40 percent of the plays we give up way too much.  While Sex Panther is an outstanding cologne for a date it’s not an outstanding strategy for a defense.  That’s an Anchorman movie reference if you’ve never seen it.  What’s even more maddening is it’s the same issues over and over again.  It just seems like feast or famine with this defense and teams exploit the same thing over and over again.

The most maddening thing is the failure to account for the running back flaring out of the backfield.  It’s not even a true wheel route.  A lot of times they’ll just release the back into the flats and nobody at all accounts for him.  The QB will spot him and dump him the ball and off he goes for a pretty decent gain.  They also used it to score a goal line touchdown.  This has been going on since the Tennessee game last year and at least once a game it bites us if not multiple times a game.  How we lose awareness of the running back when he’s not blocking is beyond me.  Yet it happens time and time again.

We gave up 451 yards to what I feel isn’t a very good Arkansas offense.  It was equally split so it’s not like they exploited us through the ground or air.  The just had a fairly consistent attack that leveraged weaknesses in our defense.  I really think it’s time for Sumlin to do an honest assessment of Chavis and give him more direction of what to do in the game.  Sumlin doesn’t like doing that especially to someone of Chavis’ caliber but from what I’ve seen since the Tennessee game he’s not always on his game.  He’s still really damn good most of the game but it’s clear offenses know when to pull out plays that our defense won’t be prepared for or exploit our aggressiveness.  Chavis is getting the better of offensive coordinators most of the time but when he’s not it’s pretty bad.  He hasn’t called a complete defensive game since his first season in my mind.

From an individual standpoint our safeties Watts and Pryor led the way in tackles.  Watts is a total stud and Pryor is playing great but it’s becoming a bit concerning when both of our safeties are our leading tacklers.  Behind them our corners of Myles Jones and Debione Renfro led the team in solo tackles.  That’s not a good thing when your secondary is 4 of the Top 5 tacklers.  I want the front 7 making more tackles than my secondary and especially my corners.  Credit to the corners for making lots of tackles on outside running plays where Arkansas was blocking our front 7 but you’d hope a linebacker has more tackles than a corner for a team that was running as much as Arkansas.  They attempted 45 runs and 27 passes so our corners were very involved in stopping the run.  It shouldn’t be that way.

Outside of the secondary I thought Tyrel Dodson had some nice stops at times but he also gets sucked in places where he shouldn’t be and gets taken out of plays.  Kingsley Keke and Landis Durham were our best defensive linemen by far and Durham looked really good at times with 2 sacks.  Durham has really impressed me this season.  Daylon Mack got credit for no tackles including not even having an assisted tackle.  That’s really bad.

If Arkansas can score 43 points on this defense I shudder to think what some of the more “explosive” offenses in the SEC can score on us.  By explosive I mean quarterbacks that can both run and pass.  Austin Allen isn’t a running quarterback at all but yet Arkansas was able to rush for 265 yards against us and this isn’t even close to one of Bielema’s best offensive lines.  In fact I’d say it’s his worst in the 5 years he’s been at Arkansas.

I don’t know if it’s a talent issue or a coaching issue but Chavis’ defenses have gotten progressively worse since he’s been in Aggieland.  I still want to believe in Chief and get back on the Chief Train but right now I think that train is broke down in the station and it’s not leaving anytime soon.  Well, other than at the end of the season which will make me sad as I’ll miss hearing from Chief.  I won’t eat until the prey is dead Chief.  I promise you that.

Special Teams:

Before I get to anything else on special teams the decision or lack of execution to kick to Christian Kirk was one of the bigger moronic decisions I’ve ever seen in a football game.  It reminded me of when R.C. kicked to Wes Welker with a 4th quarter lead and Welker ran it back.  Some people are just electric and you don’t give them a chance late in games when you’re holding a lead.  Thank you to whoever on Arkansas was responsible for kicking to Kirk.  The amazing thing on that return from what I’ve seen is there was no real blocking scheme to open up a real hole.  The other kick return guys did an outstanding job of just engaging everyone from Arkansas on that side of the field and Kirk found a seam and turned on his jets.  That play was 50% Arkansas brain fart, 10% Aggie return team blocking, and 40% Christian Kirk just using his God given ability.  The dude can fly.  Did you know that was Sumlin’s first kick return for a touchdown since he’s been at A&M?  That’s pretty unreal.

I’ve said it all year but our special teams don’t impress me as a unit.  There’s some fine individual players but as a unit I still don’t think the special teams is all that great.  LaCamera was 3-3 so that was solid.  Sure, they were shorter kicks but he did his job.  I think Tripucka had one short kick off his foot but for the most part he was his usual solid self.

The most frustrating part about the special teams in this game was the punt returns.  For the most part Arkansas was punting to Kirk but they did an outstanding job of getting solid coverage before Kirk caught the ball.  Kirk didn’t attempt a single punt return all day because Arkansas guys were running unblocked down the field.  Kirk either let the ball go or fair caught it.  He never returned a single ball because he couldn’t get to it with any space from an Arkansas defender.   7 times Arkansas punted and not once did we get any kind of return.  Their punter averaged 43.9 yards per kick and punted two over 50 yards so they were kicking to Kirk with space but their coverage was outstanding.  They were getting generous rolls when Kirk didn’t field them but they weren’t punting away from Kirk.

How we couldn’t get any blocking on punt returns is frustrating.  If I were Sumlin or Banks I would have loaded up 10 guys on the line and gone for a blocked punt while telling Kirk to fair catch it if he safely could.  We weren’t returning any kicks so might as well go for a jailbreak block to see what happens.  I haven’t seen us block a punt in I don’t know how long.

There were a few other special teams mishaps here and there as well.  We have some solid individuals on special teams but I still feel our special teams units under perform when it comes to all 11 players executing.  Christian Kirk isn’t running back kicks against every team this season.  Either way that was an awesome return and if an NFL scout was watching that just confirmed his next level speed.  He’s got it and thank goodness on Saturday he was wearing maroon.  If Kirk played for Alabama he’d likely be a Top 5 Heisman candidate right now.  He really is that good from a physical talent standpoint.  I just wished we were able to exploit that talent more.

Going Forward:

I still think this is a 7-5 team mainly because this team is so inconsistent.  There’s some potential to win 8 games but I don’t see it happening.   I think we beat South Carolina this weekend to get to 4 wins and then there’s the New Mexico game which will get us 5.  We’ll lose to Alabama which will put us at 5-2 with games against Florida, Mississippi St, Auburn, Ole Miss, and LSU.  I see us going 2-3 in that stretch but it’s really possible to go 3-2 if we get some consistency on offense or defense especially.  I don’t see 4-1 or 5-0 against those teams right now but could be wrong.  While there’s some promise the reality is still that we’re coming off a 50-43 overtime win against Arkansas.  If Bret Bielema has any real brain cells the Aggies lose that game.  Kevin Sumlin was able to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat simply because Bret Bielema is a moron.  I mean it takes a special kind of moron to kick to Christian Kirk late in the 4th quarter when you’re trying to protect a lead.  Congratulations Bret.  You gave us Aggies hope.

Thoughts from the Games and Arkie Look

MAFGA at Rose Bowl

We are now 3 games through what I still feel is Kevin Sumlin’s Farewell Tour.  After the second half of Saturday I’m not entirely sure it’s his Farewell Tour like I was coming into the season and especially after the UCLA and Nicholls St games.  If I were a betting man I’d still wager on a 7-5 season but what I saw in the second half of the ULaLa game made me pause my certainty.  Couple what happened in the second half and watching the Saturday games of the SEC teams left on our schedule this could be a 10 win team.  I put that at about 5% but if that team that showed up in the second half of the ULaLa game continues to show up and even better progresses they can possibly beat every team left on the schedule not named Alabama.  I truly believe that.  Will it happen?  I truly doubt that.

Based on Sumlin’s tenure there is no way this team consistently puts together 16 halves of football against the remaining teams not named Alabama.  We have a sample set of six halves so far and there’s been 2 really good halves and 4 absolute stinkers.  I don’t think the light went off for the rest of the season but if Sumlin wants to keep his job the light is dim and flickering.  I don’t think Sumlin has the ability to figure out the power source and wiring to light it up and keep it lit for 14 halves of football to save is job.  14 halves because he needs at least 9 wins to guarantee his job for next season so he needs 7 more wins.  He’s going to have some stinkers along the way so I don’t see how he wins 7 more but we’ll see.

This is still the guy that had an AMAZING first half against UCLA and then a COLOSSAL collapse in the second half followed by a full game nail biter against Nicholls State.  He then followed up that performance by trailing ULaLa 21-14 at half before absolutely blowing the doors off ULaLa in the second half to win walking away.  We’ll find out this weekend how much this team has really progressed and if Sumlin has any chance of keeping his job.

Let’s take a look at the various components of the units for where we are:

Offense:

Had the second half of ULaLa not happened I would have really thought this team had a best case scenario of going 6-6 right now.  What I saw in the first half of the ULaLa game and then especially in the second half gives me some real pause as to what’s going on.  Kellen Mond looked really solid at the QB position.  Even in the first half he looked really poised in the pocket and made some really solid throws.  Especially the deep ball to Ratley in the first half.  That was a beautiful ball.  Mond threw for over 300 yards which even against ULaLa is no small feat.  Prior to that game Mond looked like absolute garbage.  He really did.  He couldn’t throw a ball to save his life.  Maybe he just calmed down.  That ULaLa game could be Mond’s coming out party like Johnny Football in the 2012 SMU game or it could be like Kenny Trill against Arkansas in 2014 where it never got any better than that.  I think it’ll be somewhere in between because Mond is a true freshman and showed solid progression but it wasn’t a breakout performance like Johnny against SMU.  I think the rest of the way Mond’s going to have some solid games and then some stinkers which is why I still contend this is a 7-5 team.  Either way I think this is no doubt Mond’s team going forward unless he just really struggles.  If he struggles we’re hosed because I do think Mond has highest ceiling of any QB on the roster including a healthy Starkel.

For the rest of the offense the running backs have been the saving grace of this team.  They demolished UCLA in the first half and then didn’t get a real opportunity against UCLA in the second half.  They rushed for over 300 yards against UCLA despite barely seeing the ball in the second half which is just insane.  It really is.  They rushed for almost 200 yards against Nicholls St and the efforts of Kendall Bussey is likely the reason we won that game.  They rushed for over 200 yards against ULaLa which allowed Mond to have some success passing as ULaLa was doing what they could to shut down the run.  The running backs are no doubt the strength of this team as Bussey and Kibodi have stepped up with Williams and Ford banged up.  We’ve got some real talent at running back.

I have no clue what’s going on with the offensive line.  There’s so much shuffling I can’t keep up.  They flat out dominated in the first half of the UCLA game but then fell off big time.  I don’t know if it was because of the shuffling or defenses figured out how to attack each lineman.  It seems like the shuffling is over with McCoy back at center even though his snap issues continue.  Maybe they keep shuffling but headed into SEC play they better set what they think is their best 5 guys and let them work as a unit.  The strength of an offensive line is trusting the guy next to you to make the same reads as you so there’s no major whiffs.  That only happens with repeated work together to establish familiarity.  Jim Turner of all people should know this.

At receiver this crew other than Christian Kirk looked like warmed over death before ULaLa.  They couldn’t get separation and if a ball came near them or even hit their hands they couldn’t catch it.  However, against ULaLa these guys started catching balls.  I think they’re going to be extremely inconsistent in SEC play but it was good to see them actually catching balls against a team even if it was a non Power 5 conference team.  Seems like there’s a lot of young talent but we’ll find out how much as we enter SEC play.

I still don’t trust Mazzone against great defensive coordinators which is part of why I’m leaving my prediction at 7-5 and for now.  There’s going to be stretches during games where our offense does nothing.  It’s just the way it is with Mazzone.  However, I did see some promise in the second half against ULaLa to make me think we’ll split our SEC games at 4-4 as there will be enough offensive firepower to win half of those SEC games but it’ll be inconsistent to not win enough to save Sumlin’s job.

Defense:

Defensively this squad has been the exact opposite of the offensive having played 4 great halves of football and 2 stinkers.  I remember sitting in the first half of the UCLA game thinking John Chavis was a damn genius.  I mean we were taking it to UCLA and Josh Rosen with pressure all over the place.  Then the second half happened which I don’t need to re-hash.  Despite the fact it was Nicholls St they actually played pretty damn good football most of the game but just had some brain farts in the passing game.  Same thing in the first half of the ULaLa game but played lights out in the second half against ULaLa shutting them out.

What I see is a John Chavis defense that is going to focus on shutting down the run and bring pressure because that’s what he likes to do and I’m okay with that for the most part.  The problem is we’re going to give up a big play here and there as we miss a coverage assignment or one of our guys just gets beat one on one.  It’s a defensive scheme that rather than give up yardage during the entire game the defense is going to look to shut down an offense knowing they could have some busted plays for big yards and likely touchdowns.  In this day and age offenses are going to get yards and scores so you just hope a defense steps up when it has to.  They didn’t do that against UCLA obviously but did do it against ULaLa in the second half.  This also leads me to believe the defense will have some stinker games and some solid games.  Kevin Sumlin just better hope they’re lined up with his offense having good games.

The defensive line has been tremendous.  We knew the defensive tackles were going to be good but the defensive ends have been way more impressive than I could have ever imagined.  They did a tremendous job against Rosen in the first half and then have shut down the run against Nicholls St and ULaLa which honestly was not the strength of Hall and Garrett last season as they tried to tee off on quarterbacks.  It seems these defensive ends are playing to their strengths rather than be something they’re not in pressure defensive ends.

Linebacker play has been really solid for the most part.  Having talent and experience in Alaka and Dodson is nice with them leading the way.  Anthony Hines showed some promise against ULaLa so maybe he keeps developing.  It looks like Larry Pryor is going to play that Safety/Linebacker position Chavis likes and looked tremendous against UCLA and ULaLa.  He’s probably been the biggest surprise so far.  Maybe he’s playing the true strong safety position as I haven’t been paying attention to where he lines up but I know the dude is making plays on the field.

Losing Donavan Wilson was big especially with the way Pryor has been playing as having Watts, Wilson, and Pryor would be pretty damn devastating.  Capers-Smith has stepped in for Wilson it appears and hasn’t been horrible other than letting the interception go through his hands at UCLA but we won’t talk about that.  Armani Watts has been Armani Watts.  He’s going to play on Sundays.  The dude loves to play football and knows where the ball is going.

Our corners of Priest Willis and Myles Jones have looked pretty good.  Similar to Pryor I haven’t counted specifically who’s lining up where on each play.  I just think those two guys have looked the best in coverage with Charles Oliver doing okay.  They’re not perfect but they’ve been on the good side of coverage a lot more than they haven’t.  Myles Jones is a true freshman and showing lots of promise.  Nick Harvey may never see the field again and I’m not sure that’s a bad thing.

All in all this defense has looked better than I thought they would.  I expected a fall off like from 2012 to 2013 and that hasn’t happened yet.  We also haven’t seen this defense against SEC teams but we’re about to see that.  In my mind the jury is still out on Chavis as he has some brain farts but in my mind he has this defense playing above talent and my expectations.  Not perfect but this looks like a decent enough unit right now.

Special Teams:

I think our Special Teams has really been below average.  They’re not terrible but they do little things here and there that make me wonder how focused they really are on Special Teams as opposed to just an afterthought.  I think there’s been at least 2 kick offs out of bounds.  One is excusable depending on situation but at least 2 in 3 games boggles my mind.  I think it’s actually been 3 which makes it even worse.  It tells me teams are looking for it and if they see the angle is steep then let it go out of bounds.  Heady play by opponent’s special teams on our lack of execution.  I’m not even sure why we’re doing it if we can’t execute it.

Tripucka has done an excellent job with long punts and pinning punts.  He’s definitely the bright spot on special teams.  LaCamera has been pretty solid with 5-7.  Ironically enough had he been healthy enough to kick the final field goal attempt against UCLA we might have won but that’s the breaks.

The worst thing I’ve seen on special teams was the called fake field goal against ULaLa.  I don’t like exposing wrinkles against “inferior” opponents.  Every kick block team is coached to look for fakes.  Or at least they should be.  I don’t like putting that stuff on film when it’s not needed.  Even worse we couldn’t even execute it against ULaLa.  That was terrible.

I have faith in the individuals of Kirk, Tripucka, and LaCamera but as a whole unit I don’t see the Special Teams doing anything special to win games but maybe I’ll be wrong.

 

We’re about to find out what’s going on with this team starting this Saturday as we enter SEC play.  Based on what I’ve seen in our games and our opponent’s games I think we beat Arkansas and South Carolina and then lose to Alabama and Florida although Florida is VERY beatable.  For right now though I’m going to put it as a loss as I think the Florida defense will shut our offense down and they’ll win with defense and special teams while our defense holds their offense to a couple of field goals.  It’ll be an ugly offensive game for sure.  If we split those games that will put us at 4-3 with remaining SEC games against Miss St, Auburn, Ole Miss, and LSU.  We’ll have a gimme with New Mexico which is 5 wins so Sumlin would need to do better than split those final four SEC games to potentially save his job.  Sweeping those would save his job and 3-1 might save it depending on how they look.  I’ll leave my prediction at 7-5 for now but let’s worry about Arkansas first.

 

Arkansas:

Although Arkansas has played us close since going back to JerryWorld (yes, even last year was close until mid-way through the 3rd) I think we win again this year for the following reasons:

  • Arkie looked TERRIBLE at home against a solid but not great TCU team. I mean they looked bad.
  • Bret Bielema is a bigger moron than Kevin Sumlin at game planning and in game coaching.
  • Arkansas is a worse team than last year.
  • Our defense has looked good for the most part.
  • Mond’s passing gives me hope we can keep Arkie from solely focusing on our running game.
  • Having played at 11:00 a.m. last week will help A&M.

In my mind unless we come out totally unprepared Austin Allen will have to channel his inner Josh Rosen to beat us completing passes like crazy over the middle and hitting his running backs flaring out of the backfield.  Austin Allen is a damn fine quarterback but I don’t think he has the offensive line and skill position guys to score a lot of points on our defense like Rosen.  At least the defense I’ve seen this season.

If I’m Bielema I use the entire bye week going back and watching film of A&M since the Tennessee game and installing offensive plays that worked against us.  That’s basically using the middle of the field  in the passing game as well as using running backs out of the backfield to take advantage of our aggressiveness.  You can bust those for big yards if you have the patience to set them up.  Instead though, I think Bielema will run his traditional offense of wanting to establish the run to set up the pass and it won’t be effective.  We’ll have more talent on defense than they have on offense and we’ll be prepared for it.  At least that’s the way I see it on that side of the ball.

On offense I think Mazzone’s traditional read based offense will be fine as we have more talent on offense than they do on defense.  If I’m Arkansas I definitely come out looking to stop the run and make Mond pass to see if the second half of last week’s game was a fluke.  If Mond can pass we’ll win this game walking away I think.  If Mond can pass they’ll have to adjust to defend the pass which will open up our running game or they’ll choose to dare Mond to continue to pass which he’ll do.  If Mond can’t pass then A&M could be in trouble but I think Mond has made a quick adjustment to the college game.  I think he’ll be fine against defenses where A&M has more talent on offense.  I definitely think Arkie’s defense is worse than last year’s defense.

I think we’ll see A&M up at half like 17-10 and I think the final score will be 30-16 in favor of the Aggies.  If that happens it’ll look great on the scoreboard but I’m not sure how much that will tell us because I do think Arkie is that bad.  If we do lose to Arkie look out as we could go 0-4 against Arkie, SoCar, Bama, and Florida.  If that happens I don’t think Sumlin will survive the bye week but I don’t see that happening.  I think he beats Arkie this weekend making us wait a few weeks longer to figure out his true fate.

I believe it’s his Farewell Tour but you never know for sure until the Fat Lady comes out on stage.