[This is a slightly modified repost of my comment in the post-game thread, per N's suggestion and in case anyone has any response now that that thread is closed; a lot of it is along the same lines as N posted on the front page this morning, so apologies if it is overly duplicative]
I am not sure whether the naysayers were reacting yesterday to DCBruins' notes of optimism, and after 9 months of anticipation people may have been a little overhyped, but I want to respond to some of the totally disproportionate anger and invective in the game and post-game threads.
There were some good things to say about yesterday. The primary thing is that even with a fraction of the OL personnel we might have hoped to have for this game when last season ended, our newly installed pistol offense allowed us to run the ball. This is GOOD COACHING. This is what CRN and CNC are paid to do. Some of the nonsense in the game and post-game threads about offensive play calling is unbelievable. Having watched us struggle to run the ball for 2 years, the run game today looked significantly better.
What killed us yesterday was our inability to make plays in the passing game. Two factors: receivers dropping catchable balls, and Prince looking pretty rusty (his stats would have been improved by receivers catching balls, but some of the throws and decisions were terrible). I am surprised Brehaut did not get at least a series or two. CRN showed a willingness to pull Prince last year, and by all indications Brehaut is in comparatively better shape to perform this year. Could it have made the passing game perfect with the way the receivers were playing? No. Could it have been an improvement on a fairly below par performance from Prince? Maybe. Seemed worth a shot to me.
On a separate subject: comments on Prince not being quick enough for the pistol also seem nonsensical. Is he a dual threat QB who is as good a running option as a running back? No. Is he a decent enough runner that defenders have to account for him? Yes – and if you don’t, he can run in a touchdown. The success of the running backs would not be possible if defenders didn’t have to respect Prince’s threat to run.
(much more after the jump...)Overall on our offense, the receivers and Prince were not at all in sync, but our backs, our OL and our scheme appeared to be good. I have optimism about being able to correct some of the mental errors in the passing game – if I had the option of a strong run game and poor passing performance, or a weak run game and a good passing performance, I think the first option gives much more cause for optimism in the future.
The other thing that killed us today was the untimely penalties. With the passing game struggling, there is a big difference between 2nd & 6 and 2nd & 11. Occasionally people make split second decisions that lead to avoidable-but-understandable penalties; what is upsetting are penalties like having too many men on the field (for which I blame the coaches); illegal shifts or illegal motion or any other pre-snap brainfart; and penalties for ill-discipline. Making mistakes at gamespeed in a maelstrom of activity under pressure from opponents is one thing – a big problem today, but we will have better days – but making stupid mistakes before or after the play is really aggravating.
Don’t know what to say about the defense, other than we missed the guys we lost from last year’s front 7 when facing this power run team; but they were good enough that we could have won today. And Bullough seems uninspired. And that not having Datone on one end of the line makes it easier for offenses to key on stopping Ayers from being a disruption.
Overall, I was thoroughly frustrated to see us lose a game that we could easily have won, and found the failures of the passing game inexplicable. However, the invective above seems totally out of proportion. We didn’t just lose at home to Jacksonville State, we lost to a well-coached KSU team with a stud running back and a powerful experienced OL. Some things functioned well, some did not. Our OL exceeded expectations, our receivers fell way below expectations; Prince was off his game and could have been pulled (but maybe we are more concerned about him getting in the time before Stanford?). Schematically we looked good on offense. Our special teams were good as ever. None of that overcomes the fact that the overall performance was disappointing – but the lynch mob above are either delusional or haven’t been paying attention.
For what it's worth, and to give some perspective on my expectations going in to yesterday, this is what I said in response to N's pregame thread (in which he was "not feeling all that great about how today is going to go"):
I am excited to see what CRN and CNC have cooked up on the offensive side, after 2 pretty vanilla years with underwhelming and inconsistent talent on offense.
I’m looking forward to seeing whether Ayers and Moore can step up and lead the defense and prevent too much drop off from previous years.
I’m intrigued to see what the frosh and other first time players can bring to the table.
I’m really pumped to root for a group of seniors across the O-line coming together in adversity with no-one believing in them and giving it their all.
The only thing that scares me right now is the prospect of injuries. If we can get through this game healthy in those positions where we are thin, then I am sure there will be enough positives to build on going forward.
I am no Nostradamus, and from an analytic standpoint I would not have expected Rahim to impact the game much if I had paid more attention to the KSU offensive strategy - he will have plenty of work to do against Stanford and (particularly) Houston in the next 2 weeks, but against a dominant run team there's only so much impact you have from the FS position. Nevertheless, I thought our offense looked like we were a work-in-progress with some significant uspide potential, compared with what we saw the last 2 years. First time players like Jones and Smith looked exciting. Our OL was one of our strongest and most consistent units all game. As far as I am aware, we had no serious injuries in our less-deep positions and so we can learn from this and move forward.
We come out of yesterday's game with some positives to build on and a lot of eminently correctable mistakes to work on. We looked like we needed an extra week of healthy preseason for Prince and the WRs to work together. If this is what we still look like by the end of the season, then people will have some justification for the "wailing and gnashing of teeth" that filled the game and post-game threads, and for directing significant hostility at coaches. But right now, it is totally premature and a little ridiculous in the unforgiving light of the morning after. Back the players, back the coaches, and get down to the Rose Bowl next Saturday to give them the sort of support K-State enjoyed yesterday.