Shannon didn't sound very optimistic about having Kyle Wright under center Saturday against N.C. State despite his return from his ankle injury. Shannon said Wright was back out "practicing a little" on Sunday when the team regrouped after three days off. He said Wright "moved around" and will do some indoor drill work this week. Shannon said Wright "needed to complete a practice" if he was going to play Saturday. My sources told me last week Wright would be out this week and would not return until the Virginia game. I don't expect him to play this week. Look for Kirby Freeman to be the starter.
Cornerback Randy Phillips didn't seem too impressed with North Carolina State receiver Donald Bowens, who caught 11 passes for 202 yards and two touchdowns in last week's upset of Virginia. He shared ACC player of the week honors with Boston College quarterback Matt Ryan. But after watching film, Phillips said it was more of the Virginia secondary making mistakes. Phillips then implied that it wasn't a "Darnell Jenkins 200 yards," meaning Jenkins usually earns his yards.
How Phillips could come to that conclusion, I do not know, as Jenkins has never had a 200-yard game in his career.
-- The News & Record's Rob Daniels clarifies the rule regarding that bizarre Darrell Blackman play:
When an offensive player -- a quarterback, running back or wide receiver operating from scrimmage -- loses the ball and covers it in the end zone, a safety is awarded to the defense. So why isn't that the deal with the dropped punt?
The answer has to do with "impetus," the principle that explains why the ball is where it is. On a play from scrimmage, the impetus is the burden of the offensive team because a play begins under the assumption that the offense is in control. But a punt, if not cleanly handled, falls to the ground because of where it has come from -- namely the sky and that thing called gravity. The impetus is not with the receiver but with the kicking team until the receiver catches and firmly secures the ball. Any loss of possession thereafter is a fumble.
The Wolfpack's Darrell Blackman muffed a ball into the end zone, picked it up and successfully ran back out. What if he had failed to cross back into the field of play, you ask?
"He can field the ball, run and get tackled back there (in the end zone) and it's still a touchback," said Doug Rhoads, the ACC's supervisor of officials.
-- Because I just know you were wondering, "what was the Red team's turnover rate?"
eFG% TO% OR% Off_Eff Red 54.5 35.6 40.0 99.3 White 45.6 18.7 26.9 88.1
-- Storming The Floor previews Wolfpack hoops here. They have optimistically pegged us at #12. Eric Byrnes Tries Hard (it's true!) previews and ranks the bottom half of the ACC's point guards. No Quentin Thomas to be seen, so I can only assume he will be somewhere in the top half.
Dumb coach of the year award goes to Tom O'Brien of NC State. You voluntarily left BC to go to NC State. You went from Matt Ryan to some kid named Daniel Evans. Idiot.
Yes, sometime last December, Tom O'Brien said to himself, he said, "self, I am going to give up the culmination of my professional life's work and take a job at this other place, not because there are a number of off-field factors under my consideration, but merely because I am daft."
-- Wow. [Update: the original video was taken down, but it's since been re-uploaded.]
-- 431 yards of offense. It's almost two years to the day since we last broke 400 yards.
-- Virginia's offense:
Poss Plays Yds Punts First Half 6 49 261 1 Second Half 8 39 102 6
-- Written on one of Darrell Blackman's gloves is "WWJD." Here's what Jesus would not do, Darrell: Jesus would not attempt to field a punt inside the five yard line. He also would not attempt to give 55,000 people a heart attack by muffing the ball nine yards into the end zone, miraculously avoiding a safety, and fumbling at his two yard line. I didn't know it was possible to dodge a bullet that large.
[Update: A reader points out that it would not have been a safety had Blackman been tackled in the end zone. I didn't know that, and neither did Darrell, apparently. My bad.]
-- Donald Bowens: size, speed, hands, athleticism. When he puts all of those things together--hey, you saw.
-- I couldn't help but appreciate the perfect form tackle that UVA kicker Chris Gould put on Donald Bowens during a second half kickoff return. Gould's hit sent the ball flying out of bounds.
-- This is the sequence at the end of the Wolfpack's second-to-last possession:
N 1-10 V33 Eugene, J. rush for 1 yard to the UVA32 (Nate Collins;Byron Glaspy). N 2-9 V32 Timeout Virginia, clock 02:23. N 2-9 V32 Eugene, J. rush for loss of 2 yards to the UVA34 (Jermaine Dias). N 3-11 V34 Evans, D. pass incomplete to Bowens, D.. N 4-11 V34 Pierson, B. punt 19 yards to the UVA15, downed.
At the start of the series, Virginia had two timeouts and this was the now-or-never point at which they had to start using them. Groh used one of his timeouts after our first down run, but then chose not to stop the clock after second down, preferring instead to save the TO so he could stop the clock after third down. This is a fairly common tactic in this situation, and it's a pet peeve of mine because it's a mistake.
If we get a first down here, we can run out the clock, the game's over. So Virginia cannot afford to allow a third down conversion. Obviously, this being a 3rd-and-long situation, we're far more likely to convert by throwing the ball rather than running it. And had Al Groh used his last timeout after second down, you can bet that we would've run the ball on that third down to burn clock; at the same cost in elapsed time, Groh would've increased the chances that we would fail on third down and his team would get the ball back.
Instead, he did just the opposite by keeping the timeout in his pocket, removing all the incentive from choosing to run. Groh made a move that encouraged his opponent to select a more optimal course of action, which is not something you ever want to do. Dana Bible is a smart man, and he recognized the situation: Virginia's going to stop the clock after a run, so we might as well pass; with the outcome of a failed conversion here--in terms of the clock--now equivalent regardless of whether a run or pass is called, it makes sense to do what gives us a better shot at a game-ending first down, which a pass does. The pass fell incomplete and Virginia got its stop anyway, but that's not the point. As a good poker player will tell you, it's about decisions, not outcomes. We should never have been given good reason to throw the ball in that situation. This was an incredibly important moment totally mangled. UVA blew it and got lucky.
Rob Mahini writes about Virginia sports at The Good Ol' Blog, and below he's answered a few questions about the Cavaliers. You can find my responses to his questions over at his place.
1.) What has the good start done for Al Groh's popularity among the fan base? Are UVA fans feeling a little more patient these days?
The fan base has gone from painting "Groh Must Go" on Beta Bridge to talking about him as a potential ACC Coach of the Year candidate. The debacle in Wyoming had many fans itching for a change, but now Wahoos are upbeat and dreaming of a division title. Of course, if Virginia loses the rest of its games, you can kiss that patience good bye. However, I think that Groh has convinced the decision makers -- AD Craig Littlepage and President John Casteen -- that he deserves to stick around for a while. There's no hot seat anywhere near the ol' curmudgeon.
2.) Statistically, Virginia isn't a whole lot different this season than it was last year (bad offense, good defense), but the results are vastly different. Is the turnaround mainly attributable to good luck in close games, or do you think there's more to it?
I think good luck is a part of it. A number of wins could have been losses with a bad bounce here or a couple inches there. But a number of other things is making a difference too. Last year's team was young and lacked depth. The experience on this team is allowing it to pull out games that it was losing last year. Increased depth is allowing Virginia to deal with injuries and fatigue better. And, of course, Chris Long is absolutely destroying offenses with one arm held behind his back (usually by the offensive tackle).
3.) Chris Long is a scary man. How does a team go about slowing him down? Will Virginia move him around on the defensive line?
I'll tell you if you promise not to tell Tom O'Brien. Seriously, it's very hard to game plan for Long. Sending additional bodies against him helps, but he can work around double teams and pass protecting running backs. Also, Long does move around the line enough to make it harder to account for him (especially when he stunts). I'd say the best way to play Long is to employ a quick and accurate passing game that gets the ball down field before he has a chance to light up the QB.
4.) What are your thoughts on Jameel Sewell's performance so far this season? Is he getting better?
He's definitely getting better. Last week's game against Maryland was quite possibly the best of his career. I think his wrist (which he had surgery on in the offseason) was bothering him a lot more than he or the staff let on earlier in the season. As the season has progressed, he's starting to improve his comfort level. He still has accuracy issues at times and doesn't work through his progressions as much as I'd like -- but the bad play to good play ratio is inching in the right direction every week.
5.) I swear, Virginia has had a running back named Pearman for like the last seven years, and this season Virginia has two! You can admit it, it's okay: you're just changing Alvin Pearman's first name every year. I mean, "Andrew" Pearman? You expect us to buy that?
Yes, we do expect you to buy it. Hey, it's working so far! And just wait, next year we'll be playing a true freshman defensive end named "Craig" Long.
ACC offenses are on the whole right alongside those of the SEC as the most conservative, run-oriented attacks in the country. It is, in short, college football's most NFL-like environment, where the line between measured competence and rank mediocrity is virtually nonexistant. This perfectly suits Virginia's philosophy under Groh, and is probably why you're complaining when ABC gives you the ACC game on its regional options.
So we have Virginia sitting on seven straight wins, at 4-0 in the league very largely by not completely screwing up and responding with necessary - not that there's anything wrong with that. No, no, of course not - and with three more very winnable games (at NC State, vs. Wake Forest, at Miami) before it hosts Virginia Tech, a finale that in all likelihood will decide the Coastal Division. I think Wake Forest and Georgia Tech adequately proved this last year, with their horrid offenses and opportunism: in the ACC, it's not always about being good. It's just about hanging around.
Not a bad theory; I agree that the ACC's conservative bent means Al Groh is in his NFL-bred comfort zone every week. Whether that actually matters, I don't know, but perhaps Groh really is better at being a conservative curmudgeon than the rest of the league's coaches (the curmudgeon part certainly). Virginia's conference brethren--or at least those on their schedule--either lack the personnel or the preference to step on the gas pedal, and that definitely plays into the hands of a team that features stout defense and a run-yawn-pass offense (as opposed to our yawn-yawn-TURNOVERS ARE THE ADRENALINE RUSH I NEVER ASKED FOR offense). Groh's got this market cornered, and everyone's willingly playing his game.
Team(s) Likely to Improve: Virginia and NC State The Cavs were a very young team in 2006, but were still actually about average. Expect 2007 to be Groh’s best in Charlottesville. NC State finished 2-6, but they were much closer to Maryland in terms of SDPI than either of their basement brethren on Tobacco Road. Tom O’Brien was a great hire and NC State will contend for a bowl game in 2007.
Hey, one outta two's pretty good, Matt.
Getting back to the ACC on whole--just how lame has the conference become? Pretty damn lame. Only three schools are passing the ball more often than running it.
Pass/G Rush/G Pass% NC State 39.0 30.0 56.5 BC 44.0 34.6 56.0 Duke 32.1 32.0 50.1 Clemson 36.0 38.4 48.4 FSU 32.4 36.0 47.4 UNC 29.6 35.6 45.4 Virginia 31.6 38.4 45.2 Virginia Tech 26.6 36.0 42.5 Wake Forest 30.9 42.4 42.1 Georgia Tech 27.4 43.4 38.7 Miami 23.5 38.9 37.7 Maryland 23.3 45.1 34.0
Three yards and a cloud of let's-go-back-to-the-tailgate.
Despite my best attempts at pessimism, I suspected the game would at least be close since ECU is not any good (94th in total O, 103rd in total D), regardless of what their record or Trev Alberts might try to tell you. (Note: I am assuming Trev said something along these lines, as I was at a bar and couldn't actually hear Trev, which was a tremendous disappointment.)
But, like, jumping up 21-0? After little more than a quarter of play? Did not compute. Do I...what do I do here...high five? fist pump?...that's what people do when their football team has more points than the other football team, isn't it? I imagine there was smoke escaping out of my ears as my brain ground to a halt while trying to come to terms with what was going on. So wait a minute--we forced a turnover, and blocked a kick, and took immediate advantage of both? Where am-- what day is it?
-- There were a couple of guys at the bar sporting a Wolfpack hat/Red Sox shirt combo; I thought, they're in for a really bad day. Oops on both counts. But it's a good oops.
-- I told my dad, who is in Atlanta this weekend, that he has to stay down there for the rest of the season since his venue change obviously gave the Pack the edge it needed to beat a I-A team. I don't like him much anyway, so it's win-win.
-- So many moments to savor... DeMario Pressley sacking Kass with a forearm (not pictured: him demanding Kass's lunch money directly afterward). Kass donking a pass off his center's noggin, the ball landing in Pressley's waiting arms (some good fortune, finally). An exquisite touch pass to Jamelle Eugene running a perfect wheel route.
"The conference asked us to fly to UTEP and then come back and play this game and that's what we have to do," Holtz said. "I'm certainly not using that as a crutch, but I would've loved to have some time to get the players' legs underneath them but we didn't have that. We just have to line up and play."
I'm not using that as a crutch, so I'm bringing it up because...? I'm sure he didn't see a need to mention the turnaround from Morgantown to Houston after the Pirates beat the Cougars.
"I never have been a part of this before," O'Brien said. "It is what it is. We probably won't have anybody hurt the rest of the year and next year. We've had all of ours added up in three short months."
It's kind of frightening that we've had this many injuries and we're only halfway through the season.
Coaches Chan Gailey of Georgia Tech and Tom O'Brien of N.C. State are demonstrating their knowledge of auto racing with their picks in NASCAR.com's Nextel Cup Celebrity chase.Gailey is tied for third and O'Brien fifth among 36 celebrities, including actor Carl Weathers and New York Yankees outfielder Johnny Damon.
O'Brien said he's received help from an assistant on his staff and son Daniel, a Dale Earnhardt Jr. fan. O'Brien said he picks Jeff Gordon to ratchet up his father-son rivalry.
"As long as Gordon keeps winning, I'll be doing well, I guess," O'Brien said.
The football season isn't going so well, but he's out-NASCAR-pickin' the hell out of Hanson.
It's worth noting, too, that Fuel sucks at picking NASCAR races as much as they suck at playing their instruments.
"Their defensive front is very good. I think they have lined up and played with every team on their schedule."
It's clear what Holtz means, but it's more amusing to pretend like he meant that in the literal sense, like lauding the fact that they participated in every game of the season was the only compliment he could manage. "That defensive front, let me tell you, they've done a good job showing up in uniform at the previously agreed upon time."
Remember when the East Carolina-N.C. State football rivalry was fun?
Well, no, actually. My earliest NC State football memory is of the '92 Peach Bowl.
[begin tangent] How traumatized eight-year-old me was. After that...nothing 'til the '95 Peach Bowl (I probably swore off football in the intervening period). And then nothing until the Carolina game the following season. Then another gap until Mike O'Cain...brass balls...time out, Pasqualoni, time out! (I probably swore off football in the intervening period.) By the way, do you remember the O'Cain motivational technique that got all sorts of attention during that Syracuse game? Every player wore a rubber band. You can break a single rubber band, but when you put them all together, not even the strongest players on the team could break them. There's no I in huge ass ball of rubber bands. Whatever happened to Quinton Spotwood, anyway? And that McNabb guy. Wonder what he's doing.[/tangent]
For the next seven months, exclusively on GoPack.com, college basketball fans can relive the magic of the 1982-83 season, as it happened a quarter century ago, by navigating to this special section of the school’s website. The “Relive the Magic of 1983” button on the top right-hand side of the page will remain on GoPack.com throughout the coming basketball season.
Read about Valvano’s thoughts on the preseason, his expectations for the team and the roller-coast ride that took the Wolfpack from a 9-7 record in the regular-season to the pinnacle of success on a cold and windy night in Albuquerque, N.M., as it slew Houston’s Phi Slama Jama giant.
As if this Fox baseball broadcast weren't painful enough, Tim McCarver has to chime in with nuggets like this one:
I'm watching Game 4 of the ALCS right now, and after the Indians led off the 5th inning with a home run, Tim McCarver said something along these lines:
"We did some research, and it's kind of surprising: a team is more likely to have a multi-run inning when they lead off with a home run than when they lead off with a walk."
In no way is that surprising. And this isn't even the first time he's pointed this out on air.
Here's the handy 2007 expected runs matrix. A team can expect to score 0.93 runs on average when it has a man on first with no outs. With none on and no outs following a solo homer, the run expectancy is 1.54 runs.
This is, if I may oversimplify for a second, how you leverage turnover margin. NC State could take a lesson. Fumbles are the source of ECU's gains in this department: they've forced 16 fumbles and recovered 10 while only fumbling six times themselves, losing one. So they've recovered 15 of 22 fumbles on the season (68.2%), which is just slightly fortunate.
Opponents are averaging five more points, 12 more plays, and 120 more total yards per game...and the Pirates are 4-3.
Since we turn the ball over three times before breakfast, I wouldn't expect anything to change on Saturday.
-- Via Aaron Gleeman comes this bit of PR brilliance from Michigan State. The Spartans invited the local media to participate in a full practice so they could get a taste of the major college athletics they write about. The media members practiced and played, and the MSU players took the role of journalists, conducting interviews afterward. All I can say is, if Sidney Lowe ever did this, this is a comedy I'd pay to watch.
Erik Cole scored twice and Chad Larose had three assists, helping Carolina end Ottawa's season-opening five-game winning streak with a 5-3 victory over the Senators on Thursday night.
Cam Ward stopped 27 shots and Matt Cullen and Rod Brind'Amour also scored for the Hurricanes, who improved to 3-1-1 overall. Carolina, which missed the playoffs last season, is 2-1 midway through a six-game road trip that included Monday's 7-1 win in Toronto.
When a season goes south as precipitously as ours has, motivation can become a complicated challenge for the coaching staff. They've no doubt pushed a lot of buttons, probably in some cases without having any idea what the button does.
Tom O'Brien has for a month been telling his team that it isn't very good. This has not helped them play less not good. But if the reality of their true talent level didn't hit home for the players after the UCF game, it certainly has by now. They've been broken down, and so now the coaches work to build them back up.
As we approach a potentially soul-crushing game against East Carolina, to whom might we turn for thematically appropriate words of encouragement?
Each off-season, Leach picks something he is curious about and learns as much as he can about it: Geronimo, Daniel Boone, whales, chimpanzees, grizzly bears, Jackson Pollock. The list goes on, and if you can find the common thread, you are a step ahead of his football players. One year, he studied pirates. When he learned that a pirate ship was a functional democracy; that pirates disciplined themselves; that, loathed by others, they nevertheless found ways to work together, the pirate ship became a metaphor for his football team. Last year, after a loss to Texas A.&M. in overtime, Leach hauled the team into the conference room on Sunday morning and delivered a three-hour lecture on the history of pirates. Leach read from his favorite pirate history, "Under the Black Flag," by David Cordingly (the passages about homosexuality on pirate ships had been crossed out). The analogy to football held up for a few minutes, but after a bit, it was clear that Coach Leach was just . . . talking about pirates. The quarterback Cody Hodges says of his coach: "You learn not to ask questions. If you ask questions, it just goes on longer."
Hodges knows - the players all do - that their coach is a walking parenthesis, without a companion to bracket his stray thoughts. They suspect, but aren't certain, that his wide-ranging curiosity benefits their offense. Of all the things motivating Texas Tech to beat Texas A.&M. this night, however, the keenest may have been the desire to avoid another lecture about pirates. Even now, their beloved coach had his left arm in the air, wielding his imaginary sword.
"SWING -YOUR - SWORD!"
Swing your sword, fellas. You might even hit one of the bad guys.
Don't get too carried away with the notion of a new-look ACC. It's not out of the question that UNC and Duke will be at the top conference again. It was easy to kick the Blue Devils while they were down last season, but their struggles were deceiving and they bring in one of the best freshman classes in the nation this season. Wright will be tough to replace at UNC, but the Tar Heels return every other player on last season's talented roster. Therefore, it's hard to imagine them having to share the regular season title again.
2007 Pythag % Returning 2008 Team Wins Minutes Prediction North Carolina 13.2 70.4 13-3 Duke 9.7 82.4 11-5 Clemson 7.2 81.8 10-6 Maryland 10.0 48.1 9-7 N.C. State 4.5 81.4 9-7 Georgia Tech 8.5 60.7 9-7 Virginia 8.9 71.9 8-8 Florida St. 8.3 74.6 7-9 Miami FL 4.3 68.9 7-9 Boston College 8.7 50.0 6-10 Virginia Tech 8.3 39.2 4-12 Wake Forest 3.9 70.0 3-13
Ken makes good use of the pythagorean standings, which hopefully look familiar.
We didn't expect N.C. State to pull off the upset at Florida State, but did the football gods also have to claim Andre Brown (broken foot)? Pack coach Tom O'Brien is starting to wonder whether they built the Murphy Center on top of a Native American burial ground.
All I know is that we are owed something fierce. I think the basketball team should be allowed an ACC championship en route to the final four. It's only fair.
"You moved the cemetery, but you left the bodies, didn't you? You son of a bitch, you left the bodies and you only moved the head stones. You only moved the head stones. Why? Why?"
Through six games there is, somehow, a team that has turned the ball over more often than we have. Giveaways:
But whereas the Beavs have redeemed themselves somewhat by taking the ball away 14 times (21st nationally), we have not been so fortunate. Takeaways:
We haven't so much as forced a fumble since the Wofford game. That's also the only game in which we have a fumble recovery. UCF fumbled three times and recovered all of them; BC, Clemson, Louisville, and FSU did not fumble against us (Xavier Lee's botched RB pitch in the first half apparently didn't qualify).
NC State forced 13 fumbles in 2006 and is on pace to force 14 this season. What is the deal? Lately this has been as frustrating to me as the offense's problem. Talent on the defensive side doesn't seem to be the issue; the two most talented defenses in recent memory--and perhaps in Wolfpack history--were the 2004 and 2005 units, which forced 14 and 17 fumbles, respectively.
Between 2000 and 2003, our lowest single-season forced fumble total was 20 (2001). In each of the other three years, we forced at least 26 fumbles and averaged at least two forced fumbles per game. From 2004 onward, that rate is 1.2 per game.
So for some reason, the defense's FF rate tapered off in the post-Rivers era (right when we could least afford it to do so; eventually, we as an institution are going to figure out this timing thing). Regardless of the overall quality of the defense on the field, the last four years have borne the same poor results. Trying to makes sense of this is probably of no use.
FF/G Rivers Era 2.1 Post-Rivers 1.2
Anyway, back to the offense. Twenty-two giveaways in six games puts the Pack on pace for, natch, 44 giveaways on the season. The highest single-season giveaway total in the NCAA database, which goes back to 2000, belongs to the 2003 Army team, which turned the ball over 44 times. Generally over the last seven seasons, the most turnover prone team in I-A has given the ball away 38-42 times in a season. Hawaii miraculously fought through 41 giveaways in 2002 to manage a 10-4 record, but the other schools in this neighborhood were terrible, as you might expect.
Most giveaways, by year:
TOs W-L 2000 La Tech 41 3-9 2001 Rutgers 42 2-9 2002 Hawaii 41 10-4 2003 Army 44 0-13 2004 Washington 42 1-10 2005 NMSU 38 0-12 2006 La Tech 37 3-10 2006 Army 37 3-9
[5:16PM] You gotta think FSU will tighten the screws on our screen/draw game at the half. But they were still blowing those plays late in the second quarter, so perhaps not. It'll be our ball to start the third quarter. I need another drink(s). -- Steven
[5:34PM] Just a quick warning that I might go MIA for extended periods of time once the clock hits 6:00 and the Cubs games starts. Always fun to try to watch a team hit with both hands around their neck. -Austin
[5:36PM] Andre Brown is out with a fractured foot. You probably need your feet when you're a running back. Fan-f***ing-tastic. -Austin
[5:41PM] Yeah, I need another drinks. -- Steven
[5:43PM] To reiterate:
[5:47PM] Hey, nice kick, Pierson. Let's see if the defense can help us out here. -- Steven
[5:51PM] A nice tackle by DaJuan Morgan brings up a fourth down for FSU. Come on, good field position. -- Steven
[5:54PM] It's all Jamelle Eugene now. Evans completes a pass that takes us across midfield and brings up and important third down. -- Steven
[5:55PM] Another good kick by Pierson. What's lost in all the talk about the offense committing turnovers is just how few turnovers the defense has forced the year. One of those would be real helpful right about now. -Austin
[5:57PM] Evans pegs official; there's something fitting about that. Come on XL, time to screw up. -- Steven
[6:02PM] Lightning delay. First time I've ever been watching a game where they've done that.
[6:03PM] Lightning delay--maybe this is what we need right now. The defense is getting pushed around. And it's just in time for Austin to flip over to the Cubs game. -- Steven
[6:10PM] And Rich Hill looks awful... what an awful sports day. --Austin
[6:12PM] Not a good start at all. Sorry, man. -- Steven
[6:22PM] We had a lightning delay my sophomore year against New Mexico. I think I'm gonna hold onto that pleasant memory for the rest of the evening. -- Steven
[6:22PM] Alright sorry everyone but I'm going to have to head out. Thanks to Steven again for letting me do this and hopefully the Pack turns this thing around post-delay.
[6:49PM] We're 'bout ready to get rolling again, finally. -- Steven
[6:53PM] Nice work by the defense getting pressure on Lee on that third down...so the Noles go three-and-out right after the break. -- Steven
[6:55PM] Delayed handoff brings a predictable loss of yardage. I don't get that at all. They're expecting run, so the delay is counterproductive. Evans is sacked on the two yard line. Sigh. -- Steven
[6:59PM] Third down coming up for FSU to start the fourth quarter. Lee looks like he's lost whatever groove he was in prior to the break. -- Steven
[7:03PM] Officials miss a face mask, so of course we hit the punter and give the Noles an automatic first down. Fuck this. -- Steven
[7:05PM] Okay, that wasn't offensive pass interference? Sure, right. Thank you so fucking much, selectively blind ACC officials! You gift them a first down; that wasn't enough?
[7:08PM] Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! I want to cry.
[7:11PM] Holy fucking shit, I am about to blow a goddamn gasket. YOU DO NOT TOUCH GREG CARR. Incidental contact? Not Greg Carr's fault. Greg Carr pulling down a DB? Not Greg Carr's fault. Holy horse shit, Batman. I am going to step outside.
[3:20PM] Hello and welcome. We're fifteen minutes or so from kickoff and I'm already depressed because Carolina has looked like a real football team today. -- Steven
[3:25PM] Holy crap, crazy lateral play by Miami if you happen to be watching that game. Of course Carolina still leads by 13.... -Austin
[3:26PM] Oh and hello. Thanks again to Steven for letting me hang out on his blog this afternoon.
[3:29PM] Indeed that was a crazy punt return, which now sets up Kyle Wright's 23rd INT of the day. Also, boo on your late game play calling, Chan Gailey. -- Steven
[3:33PM] "Emotions are running high in Tallahassee, and for one man in particular." -- Steven
[3:38PM] That, uh, that didn't take very long, now did it. Greg Carr. Xavier Lee had all day to throw. -- Steven
[3:38PM] Yeah, I mean, this NC State team doesn't even bother with giving its fans hope. I can't decide if that's better or worse than losing at the very end. 7-0 FSU.
[3:40PM] I knew that damn QB draw was coming, and once Greg Carr went in motion back towards the middle of the field I thought it was obvious. Didn't matter, though, clearly. Damn hell ass. -- Steven
[3:43PM] We've got John "Deep Threat" Dunlap, who is averaging 10 yards a reception. Nice opening sequence by the offense; Brown gets five yards on a run out of the gun, then gets 10+ on a screen (!). -- Steven
[3:43PM] New strategy, just give the ball to Brown and Eugene. So far so good as the Pack has 1st-and-goal. -Austin
[3:47PM] This is incredible. Nice, easy passes, and the running game is rolling. Guess those injuries along FSU's line are significant. -- Steven
[3:50PM] Yeah, buddy! Dunlap wins the one-on-one battle easily and Evans puts it on the money. -- Steven
[3:52PM] Just a great, efficient drive by the Wolfpack. If this keeps up I think Harrison might want to take his sweet time in healing up that shoulder. -Austin
[3:53PM] We just had a shot of the Florida governor in his office reviewing paperwork. Compelling, ABC. Compelling. -- Steven
[3:53PM] For some reason the governor announcing the starting lineup creeps me out. I can't explain it. -Austin
[3:57PM] It's that measured politician's tone, I think. He might as well be discussing tax policy. -- Steven
[4:00PM] Can't complain so far. Holding penalty helps us get a stop defensively and it's Wolfpack ball on our own 30. -- Steven
[4:04PM] Hey, what do you know, a third down screen pass...for a first down! Thanks for reading, Dana. -- Steven
[4:06PM] The 25-second clock is broken. I've never understood how its hard to make a digital clock work, but it seems to happen all the time. How can you spend millions on a stadium and not build a more reliable clock system? --Austin
[4:07PM] Beautiful job by Danny there on third down. FSU was in man coverage as per usual and Dunlap was wide open. False start on Kushner though...d'oh.-- Steven
[4:11PM] Dear lord, this clock thing is annoying already. Are we doomed to another four hour game? -- Steven
[4:11PM] Run up the middle on third down, and the thing is, I was happy to see it. It says something about your season when your fans are happy because the team didn't turn the ball over on 3rd-and-goal. Field goal good, 10-7 NC State. -Austin
[4:16PM] My sentiments as well. Evans had opportunities on first and second down, so the run there is fine. We have ten points in the first quarter. This is such a shock to the system. -- Steven
[4:17PM] No, let's not use our arms to tackle the fullback. Why would you need those to tackle a large man? -- Steven
[4:25PM] Pass interference on FSU, run on first down nets five. Quite an encouraging ground performance so far. -- Steven
[4:28PM] A sixteen yard punt shifts the field position back in FSU's favor. Joy. -- Steven
[4:28PM] Whoops--sorry about that, Austin. I meant to refresh before I posted. -- Steven
[4:28PM] Not a problem. Its really easy to erase each other's post on this thing. --Austin
[4:38PM] Big third and goal here after a terrible pitch by Xavier Lee. Come on, fellas. -- Steven
[4:39PM] The Pack defense holds, and Cismesia misses a chip shot! Wow, two missed kicks for FSU and the Pack maintains its lead. --Austin
[4:40PM] Rock on. -- Steven
[4:43PM] More man-to-man from FSU, another penalty on the secondary. Evans was looking for Blackman, who's been quiet today. -- Steven
[4:43PM] Our punter is not having a good day, as he shanks another one to give FSU great field position again. You can only get away with giving the 'Noles a short field so many times... --Austin
[4:48PM] Jesus fucking Christ this is unbelievable. But, hey, 20 yards this time! That's an improvement! Pierson is now averaging 18 per punt. You got one job. One goddamn job. -- Steven
[4:50PM] Crap. Good job by Lee there with a man in his face. -- Steven
[4:48PM] Yeah I'm not a fan of how poised Lee is looking. Shouldn't he start making terrible decisions and forcing things at some point? --Austin [4:53PM] Wow, the PBP guy just said, "Several BC tacklers" referring to our last defensive stop. And yeah, it would be great if Lee could start being terrible. He's really not helping. -- Steven
[4:56PM] Cismesia finally puts one through from 39 yards. I was really hoping he would shank that one and get to walk off the field to a reign of boos. --Austin
[5:00PM] Damn the holding. Awesome run by Jamelle. -- Steven
[5:04PM] Another third-and-long screen pass goes for a first down, as FSU foolishly brings the blitz. -- Steven
[5:06PM] Dunlap hauls one in for a big gain and all the sudden State is threatening to put points on the board before the half. -Austin
[5:07PM] Darrell Davis! He rebounds! He catches! -- Steven
[5:13PM] Ugh -Austin
[5:13PM] Fuck, Danny, that was terrible. No points for us at the end of the half; it's 10-10. -- Steven
Q: You never thought you’d be back in Tallahassee: A: "No. I mean, cause I thought I was going to be the way things were going and nobody knew more than me that we had to make – something had to be done and I knew what had to be done and, but, the recruiting, the recruiting, we would have knocked ‘em out, the recruiting, given the kind of year we had, was an outstanding – we were going to have an unbelievable recruiting class."
Q: What do you think you learned that makes you a better coach and person now?
A: "But I think just, I learned the fact of being media-friendly, and I was media friendly up there. In fact, I was too friendly. And there was one group that knew I wasn’t, because they were not. And I didn’t come into it that way. I mean, some of the things that were put in the newspaper – if I was a vindictive person, I would have sued them. I mean, people called me up and said you ought to."
My thanks to Bill from ScalpEm.com for taking the time to answer the questions below. You can find my answers to Bill's questions here.
1. Is it Xavier Lee's show now, or is that still yet to be determined?
It's the XL show, for now. Everyone is quick to jump and hail Xavier Lee's performance as his coming out party. He sparked FSU's offense, yes, but we've seen this before. Let's not forget he was ineffective last year in that Wake Forest debacle in Tallahassee. That said, I expect him to be the starter for the rest of the season barring injury. I think he gives defenses something else to prepare for, and right now the FSU offense needs all of the help it can get. Kudos to Weatherford too, who is an awesome teammate from what anyone can tell and will have his head in the game regardless of whether he plays a down the rest of the season.
2. Despite the struggles with moving the football, have you liked what Jimbo Fisher has done with the offense so far? What (if anything) has been the biggest difference this year?
Interestingly enough, I was never that impressed with the Jimbo Fisher offenses that I watched at LSU, mostly because it wasn't a flashy system in my opinion. However, I realize now that was wasn't impressive was methodical, creative and exploited weaknesses of the opposing defense. It's the same reason I like to watch the New England Patriots, they boring sometimes but they win a lot of games. I like what he's doing and I REALLY like how he adjusts at halftime. Fisher and the coaches are making a big difference, the last part of the equation, talent should hopefully roll back in over the next couple of recruiting classes.
3. What's been the biggest problem on the defensive side?
Stupidity. When the FSU defense looks bad, it because of blown assignments. The other issue is depth. We have a lot of tired guys in the 4th quarter. It's getting better, but we need to be 2 deep again at least to really own the 4th quarter like the dominant defenses of the 90's. With the parity in college football these days, I'm not sure if that will ever happen.
4. What's Chuck Amato doing these days, besides, you know, telling the players how to properly organize their lockers? Has his presence been noticable in any tangible way?
He's doing a lot of the administrative stuff for Bowden, as the assistant head coach. He's also in charge of discipline (let the Geno Hayes jokes start), but all in all we're happy to have him back. He brings a tough attitude to the linebackers and seems to have put aside any rumored issues with Mickey Andrews.
5. Be honest: the tomahawk chop, the song--that gets old even for you guys, right?
No, it never really gets old. It's our "thing" and we're proud of it. I just wish that other fans understood that it's not our fight song (we have a really cool original one of those) and that it has it's appropriate times. I also wish the Marching Chiefs would slow it down a little, every year they seem to play it faster and faster. But no, we love it, and we love that it annoys other fans, and we love that there haven't been too many good ways to try to make fun of it.
On responsibility he's given Chuck Amato: He's ideal. Another words, in my years of coaching I really never had but two coaches that the more you piled on, the more they liked. I never had but two like that and Chuck is one of them. Really, coaching the linebackers is really is second duty which he does an excellent job on but his other duty is, if I'm gone, I'm not at the office, it's in his hands. You take a lot of the administrative things in our office, that was he does. Now Mickey Andrews is our Associated Head Coach but Chuck, we call him Executive, to help handle the problems, the discipline, the liaison in the lunch room, the liaison in housing and things like that. He does a good job on that. You give him a job and you can count it done.
Chuck Amato, Chief Meatball Apportionment Equity Officer. There are a couple of other questions about Chuck as well. Number of times Bobby says doggone during press conference: 3.
Junior running back Antone Smith, who has waited three years to be the Seminoles' featured back, is struggling to get going this season. After gaining just 15 yards on 12 carries this past Saturday, Smith is averaging 3.6 yards per carry.
FSU offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher acknowledged that Smith isn't running great, but he suggested that most of the tailback's problems stem from a lack of push from the offensive line.
''Antone's not playing poorly,'' Fisher said. ``I mean, we're not totally just knocking guys out of there. We're not disappointed in Antone, we just have to function better as an offense and get him the ball in some different ways and get him out there and get him going.''
They began by downloading plays -- about 180,000 -- from every NFL regular-season game from 2002 through 2006, then creating an "objective analysis" for predicting what percentage a team has of winning on every down during a game.
Included in the complex formula, which can be applied to college and pro games, are seven key elements -- game score, line of scrimmage, time remaining, down, distance, timeouts for the offense and timeouts for the defense.
Example: Five minutes into Sunday's Cleveland-Baltimore game, the Browns had the ball, third-and-goal at the Ravens' 2-yard line. At that moment, Cleveland had a 69 percent chance of winning, Baltimore a 31 percent chance.
Over the course of a football game, situations arise in which coaches are made to choose between the aggressive long-odds course of action and the conservative one. And, far too often for my tastes, particularly in the too-conservative NFL, they take the conservative route. In certain contexts, this is understandable, maybe even justifiable. But oh how I loathe those decisions.
When Virginia was in Chapel Hill a few weeks ago, the Cavs found themselves in a couple of 3rd-and-long predicaments on the same possession--one near midfield, the other in Carolina territory. UVA called a give-up screen on the first occasion and a give-up running back draw on the second. That those calls netted first downs both times is irrelevant as far as I'm concerned; it's the spirit of the calls, indicative of the typically defeatist play calling I see every week, that causes me to chafe regardless of the outcome. Despite themselves, and courtesy a sympathetic Tar Heel defense, Virginia would score on that drive. (Kind of like how the Wolfpack baseball team will manage a multi-run inning despite a foolish early-inning decision by Elliot Avent to sac bunt. Success despite self-defeating aims.)
The 3rd-and-long screen or draw--these plays are the bane of my football existence. If you're going to call these plays--which you certainly don't expect to gain you a third down conversion--why not go ahead and punt? (Syracuse actually did punt on 3rd down while deep in its own territory against Washington; I cringe at the memory.) For every time they improve your field position incrementally for the subsequent 4th down punt, it seems they're swallowed up for nothing.
Understand, then, just how difficult this is for me. Maybe... maybe we should run more screens/draws on 3rd down.
NC State quarterbacks have thrown 12 INTs this season; take a look, below, at the situational breakdown (thanks to cfbstats for the numbers).
Att Comp Pct Yds INT TD Rating 1st Down 64 37 57.8 399 2 0 103.93 2nd Down 68 42 61.8 428 2 2 118.47 3rd Down 61 30 49.2 270 8 3 76.36 3rd Down, 1-3 To Go 11 7 63.6 40 2 1 87.82 3rd Down, 4-6 To Go 18 9 50.0 77 0 0 85.94 3rd Down, 7-9 To Go 11 6 54.5 42 1 1 98.44 3rd Down, 10+ To Go 21 8 38.1 111 5 1 50.59
Eight of the 12 have been thrown on 3rd down, and six of those eight have come on 3rd-and-7+, which are the obvious passing situations. Those six have come on a mere 32 attempts, or one for every five 3rd-and-long passes.
Att Comp Pct Yds INT TD Rating 3rd Down, 1-3 To Go 6 3 50.0 10 1 0 30.67 3rd Down, 4-6 To Go 15 7 46.7 61 0 0 80.83 3rd Down, 7-9 To Go 8 4 50.0 18 1 0 43.90 3rd Down, 10+ To Go 15 6 40.0 98 5 1 50.21
Six INTs on 23 3rd-and-long attempts.
Perhaps conservatism is prudence in our case. Beck has had, at least to this point, a tendency to force the issue on 3rd down. If this is one way we can cut the ridiculous rate at which we are turning the ball over, then it's something the coaches need to consider. I don't have to like it, but I can accept it.
[Update: And now I see Beck's out for the FSU game. I'm nothing if not late to the party...]