Bumped. Always room for reasonable disagreement in our community. GO BRUINS. -N
Last week I wrote a post after the Arizona game saying that I was optimistic because of the significant improvement I saw with our offense. I also said that I thought that our offense has been our main weakness over the last three years and that I wasn't concerned about our defense.
I was at the game today, and that had to be one of the best and most enjoyable and satisfying games I have ever seen. The positives I thought I saw last week were confirmed in my mind with one qualification which is that the pass protection which seemed much improved last week still isn't there. The offensive line still isn't giving Brehaut enough time to throw, and consequently our passing game still has quite a ways to go. On the positive side Brehaut looked very good overall and showed that he can really run the ball as well as showing the intangibles of being able to improvise, poise under pressure, and team leadership. He's the big difference in this team now. Many of you saw that potential, but I have to admit that I didn't see this coming. What a pleasant surprise!
And the other big positive was the defense which I thought played great. Frankly I just don't understand all this talk about getting a new defensive coordinator. I think this is missing the big picture, and by that I'm not just talking about the future, although that's part of it. Just what is the main purpose of a defense? It's to keep the other team from scoring. Therefore it would seem logical to conclude that the most important defensive stat would be scoring defense. And how have we done this year in scoring defense? Let's take a closer look after the jump.
Oregon St. - We just held a very good Oregon St. offense to 14 pts. easily the best that any defense has done against them all year. And where was their running game which features one of the premier running backs in the nation? They just scored 35 on Cal, they scored 29 at Arizona. Most impressively Oregon St. played the #3 and #4 ranked teams in the country. They scored 21 against TCU who is the #1 ranked defensive team in the country and 24 on Boise St. the #2 defensive team in the country. We held them to a touchdown less. (If any of you think that those two teams are overrated because of the conferences they play in, well I think you're totally wrong. I'd like to see who else in the country could go up to Utah and win 47-7. If either of those two teams just happens to play a team from the overhyped and overrated SEC in a BCS bowl game I'm immediately calling my friend in Las Vegas to put money on them for me. I think TCU would absolutely crush Auburn even worse than Utah crushed Alabama two years ago).
Texas- They play in a premier BCS conference, and we held them to their lowest point total this year even though we had to play in their stadium. Our defense outperformed both Oklahoma and Nebraska.
Houston- We held them to their lowest point total of the year, and that's when they had their Heisman candidate quarterback still playing for them. Everyone since has played against their third and fourth string quarterbacks, but still no one has held them to as few points as we did.
Stanford- The least points they scored all year was 31 against Oregon. We gave up 35 which was second best, but our defense actually held them to 28, since 7 points were given up by our offense.
Arizona - We gave up a respectable 29 to a highly ranked Arizona team. Iowa gave up more.
That leaves Oregon who killed us but who does the same to every team they play. Kansas St. was a so-so performance but was the first game of the year. That leaves Cal as our only definitive defensive breakdown. That's one bad game, and Cal is a weird team who plays great at home, and who also scored 52 on a pretty respectable Arizona St. defense.
I'd say that overall this is a pretty impressive record. And keep in mind that this has been achieved with mostly really young players and a lot of starters out with injuries. This defense is already good and is only going to get better. I say just leave that alone. It isn't perfect but it's fine. Why do we need a new defensive coordinator? Do you think we can find someone who will hold Oregon St. to 7 or who can shut out Texas? And not to mention that they would be starting over with a whole new system and would not have any ongoing relationships with our players? To me saying we need a new defensive coordinator is looking at the trees and not seeing the forest. Oregon St. got 14 points today. That's the forest. And I'm betting that's how Rick Neuheisel sees it.
As for Norm Chow being too conservative well that is certainly a very valid perspective to consider, but I don't happen to agree with it. I see it as all coming down to probabilities. You have to go with the highest probability, and with our team at this point that is mostly running the football. At this point our quarterback isn't getting adequate protection and usually has to throw on the run. That already cuts the probability of success down significantly while increasing the probability of a loss of yardage with a sack. That was especially true today, because Oregon St. had both good pass coverage and a good pass rush. We did best running the ball. I have to confess that sitting there in the Rose Bowl every time we had a second and 3 or 4 I was actually hoping we would run the ball. And the reason I felt that way was because it seemed like we had a really good chance to get another first down with two running plays and could keep the drive going, but if we passed on second down and didn't gain anything then the drive itself would all come down to one third down play and might very well stall.
Don't get me wrong. I'd love to see us pass more. In fact I'd prefer we were more of a passing team than a running team. However at this point given our personnel in this particular game in terms of the relative strengths of our offense and Oregon St.'s defense I think it made sense to run in that situation. Furthermore when we had a first down in great field position in Oregon St. territory Chow went for the touchdown pass on first down (looked like an interference penalty) which certainly wasn't conservative. But it did wind up costing us. We had to pass after that in that series, and I think that's when we took the sack that resulted in either a punt or a long missed field goal. If we would have run the ball we would have had a likely sure 3 and wouldn't have needed a 51 yard field goal to win the game in the last second. As far as going for it on fourth down and more than 2 given that we have the best field goal kicker in the nation, are in a close defensive game, and we don't yet pass well, I'll take the 3 points any day. We attempted 3 field goals today, and given who our kicker is the probability was that we would get 9 pts. We only made one, but Oregon St. didn't attempt a field goal, and that was the margin of victory and the difference in the game.
I'm extremely optimistic about our team going forward into the future, and this game reinforced that. We already are beginning to get there. You have to be a good team to be able to perform as we did today against a team like Oregon St. I really think it's starting to all come together, and we just need a little more patience.