As you can tell the pace of this game week here on BN is a little different than the usual ones we had to start up the season. Normally by this time of the week we are completely focused on the opponent. This week has been different. Perhaps the obvious explanation is that it is very tough right now to be hopeful about stealing a win this Saturday in the desert. I am going to be watching the game. However, right now I am anticipating it with a total sense of dread with visions of either a debacle or another dispiriting loss in the hands of the Arizona Wildcats.
Another reason, I think it has been hard (at least for me) to get fired up about how our guys match up with the Wildcats is that right now I am not exactly sure what we are going to get from our team this coming Saturday. So perhaps it makes sense to keep the discussion going on what we can expect from our team. We have talked a lot about our defensive issues from last three weekends. Let's talk a little more about the offense. I will specifically try to tie up couple of thoughts I have read this week and then would love to hear what rest of you guys think.
Don't think I have seen any of you flag this yet but I thought a comment Baca made to the local reporter (in this case to Jon Gold in the Daily News) was kind of interesting:
"This offense is built to get first downs," Baca said. "We like to create drives; we're not that explosive offense that, say, an Oregon is. They make big plays. Huge plays. We put drives together and when we get in the red zone we struggle."
That comment kind of stood out to me because it seems like this year except for the Stanford and California game, our offense actually has done ok. Not steller. Just ok. They have been able to drive on the opponent and get down to the red zone. Even against Stanford and Oregon we had the chance of taking control of the game early when we were in the other's team end zone (well knocking on the door for 7 points). The outcomes of both of those contests had lot to do with the goal line dynamics of our offense. Which brings me to the second thought that I will share after the jump.
jtthirtyfour put up a great post on CRN's decisions on 4th and goal. Obviously there are reasonable disagreements on whether CRN should have gone for it in the three situations I singled out from last weekend's game. To me though BruinsRule's thoughts really resonated with me re. what kind of mindset the coaches need to have from hereon out:
Contrary to what Neuheisel said last year, punting is not winning (unless the alternative is throwing pick sixes so maybe for the 2008 Bruins it was true). Nor is kicking field goals. A field goal from inside the red zone as a net loss of 4 points that you had the opportunity to score. With all due respect to our All-American kicker, I don’t ever want to see him run out there to kick a 26-yard FG. I don’t want to see him more than twice in any game. 26-yard field goals lead to losses and exemplify failure (unless in the final 5 seconds of a game with the team tied or down 1 or 2 points). I’ve posted it before, but our biggest problem is not that we don’t score or that we give up too many scores, it’s that our opponents have a normal ratio of TDs to FG attempts (16:9), while we have an inverse ratio of TDs to FG attempts (11:18).
We are the only Pac-10 team with more FG attempts than TDs. We are tied with WSU for fewest TDs scored with 11. No other conference team has fewer than 18 TDs. Just how out of whack is our TD/FG attempt ratio? The median of the other 9 teams is 2.1 TD per FG attempt. The average is 2.2 TD to every FG attempt. Our ratio is 0.6 TDs per FG attempt.
I’ll end with one other chart. If you add up the number of TDs and FG attempts (scoring opportunities) per game for Pac-10 teams, we are in the ballpark of offensive success:
Cal, leading the Pac-10, averages only one more scoring opportunity per game than we do. Cal has had, in essence 1.2 scoring opportunities to every 1 that we have had. Cal has scored 197 points to our 127, for a ratio of 1.55 to 1. If we scored TDs at the same rate as Cal does with its scoring opportunities, we would be scoring an extra 6.3 points per game.
Coach, we have a problem. We settle for too many field goals. Field goal kicking is losing. Punch it in. Do everything you can to punch it in.
Can't agree more with him on this. Of course this all comes back the point about execution:
"It's not about getting angry," Baca said. "We have the potential, we have the talent. When we get down there, on some drives, we just don't do it. One drive, we go offsides on first down. That killed our drive. We can't do those things - we don't execute our plays when we need to."
So what does that mean for our team? What can they do this week and beyond to ensure they are doing a much better job of executing and punching it in against future opponents? Is there a reasonable basis for being being hopeful that our offensive execution will improve dramatically this coming weekend giving our team an early start this weekend? Any more thoughts on the the goal line dynamics around UCLA offense that we have been witnessing during this football season?