Weekly Musings – Arizona Edition

Sure, I was feeling the same thing in Q1 you all were. That feeling that the other team is doing whatever they want and your team’s offense can’t do a single thing (flashback: this year’s Washington game) is the worst feeling in football. Fortunately for the Trojan family Saturday night, it lasted just one quarter. The solution to feeling like we are generally in control of a game is a feeling we had for nearly three quarters vs. Utah, throughout the Cal game, and eseentially for three quarters of the Arisona game. And in all three cases that “feeling” was a by-product of two things, the two things I most care about in all of football: (1) A dominant running game on the offensive side of the ball, and (2) A cracy defensive pressure that starts up front. In a perfect world I would love the feeling that our secondary is also untouchable, but I have never really had that feeling, even when we practically were untouchable. Any offense throwing a slew of 15-40 yard passes is likely going to connect a few of them, and any team living off of that is highly iunlikely to do it enough to win. But when the defensive line is winning the battle at the line of scrimmage, and the second level guys are making tackles, and when you see tackles for loss both on the quarterback and the ball carrier, you are going to get the ball back. My comment on the offense is actually more promising for this team because all I meant was that at a team that consistently gets push up front and sees 3 to 7 yard carries in a repeatable manner has an offense that can win; I was not necessarily referring to the breakout run play that can and should come with that. That is just gravy when it is available. And yet, we have that in abundance. And of course we have that more than we otherwise would because of this phenom named Ronald Jones. #25 is a star – a player who is more physical than Reggie (certainly than Reggie as a freshman), and can accelerate through gaps like few I have seen. He doesn’t have the speed in reversing direction that Reggie did (good luck finding that), but it is fair to be excited about all he is bringing to us.

So yes, a resurgent defense that is presuring the quarterback and limiting the other team’s offense on the ground has me excited, as does our own ground game. What has me not excited? I remain concerned with the consistency of our secondary. At the deeper levels we appear to be very vulnerable to effect ball throwers (and fortunately there aren’t a lot of those, but Rosen and Hogan are such). Nobody we play has a receiver of JuJu’s caliber, but nobody really needs that. Most D1 receivers now have the basic athletic ability and often the sheer size to do damage to our undersized corners. I hope to see the front seven make the secondary’s job a lot easier in the final three games of this season, but that remains the spot I feel is vulnerable. Of course, there is no better remedy for another team’s passing game than to go catch one of their passes, and frankly John Plattenburg’s pick the other night may have saved the game! I’ll talk in a moment about the real turning point of the game, but any time you are about to go down three scores and instead get a pick followed by a touchdown (21-3 became 14-10 real quick), you’ve done something meaningful.

I take NOTHING away from this team and their fantastic wins over Utah and Arizona. However, it is noteworthy that the highly touted coaches, Whittingham and Rodrigiuez, really helped us a great deal with truly bizarre 4th down attempts from the 50-yard line, both of which led to scores that put the game away. “Big Balls Pete” was a lot of fun, but he did it at the right time and in the right place (he pretty much always did it on the opponent’s 25-38 yard line; not the 50).

Speaking of big balls Pete, does anyone know what in the world Clay was doing with the onside kick? Crazy. My new rule of thumb: If something you are thinking about doing is generally only done in a video game, don’t do it.

The Pac-12 refs were in all their luster, missing a blatantly obvious and potentially dangerous late hit out of bounds on the sideline (against us), but then flagging the one we did one possession later.

I am really pumped for this football team and proud of this coaching staff. We need to truly take care of business this weekend, and then get ready for the most important two games of our season. That is one of the dumbest things I have ever said in these musings. The most important game of the season right now is Colorado. Period. Next week I’ll update the answer to that. Our team has a reliable and steady quarterback who is a solid leader and as far as I am concerned has played one bad game in his career (Washington). He has made some bad throws (duh), but really not been awful in any game over three years but one. He is solid, and if he could just get better pass protection could be really potent. We have a monstrous running game with the gravy of big play potential. We have an utter stud in JuJu and the added weapon of Adoree (who in my mind should be running 5-10 plays per game MORE on offense). I like this team, and for now, I only say – “Beat the Buffaloes”

Around the country it was a pretty boring week in college football. LSU’s running back was so dominantly shut down by Alabama’s defense that it makes you wonder why Les Miles didn’t throw the ball every single down. I may never watch a game again with Gary Danielson doing the play by play. It is unfair to mute buttons to not use them when he is on. The Nebraska/Michigan State ending was NOT just a really bad call (missed call), but a total indictment on the cartoonishly lame system of instant replay in college football (please, please, please go to the NFL system). There is NO REASON that the fact that player was never forced out of bounds could not be reviewed. With that said, karma said Nebrasks deserved a win. Missouri threatened to boycott playing this week in a mob-like mentality I will defer comment on, but no one seems to be talking about the fact that I thought they had been on boycott all year based on what I have seen. The perposterous love affair some have with Kevin Sumlin seems to be commanding no buzz these days. The SEC-East champion just beat Vanderbilt by a score of 9-7. And just like that, the Memphis hysteria is over. Back to Sumlin: Texas A&M got rocked by an Auburn team that essentially lost to Jacksonville Junior College. Just sayin’. The top teams in the country in terms of who is playing best now are Alabama, Ohio State, Clemson, and Notre Dame, so they have that right, but Stanford is right there (God I want to play them in the Pac-12 championship).

Fight on!