Just in case you wanted to chew on the game in Houston a little more, I had a couple more thoughts that I thought I'd throw out...
Of course, we have all been eagerly awaiting the new season and now we finally have something to talk about and lots of it. Like many have said, its only our first game, but its just fun to talk football again (and this is coming from a guy who's always been a bigger basketball junkie). So, I think, in a way, many of the emotions are like a bad case of diarrhea that everyone has been trying to hold in over the off-season which has finally been unleashed. (I know you guys liked that imagery). :)
Anyways, much like the other previous posts, I was surprised in many ways...
Better than I thought:
1. The QBs - Prince just seemed to be getting warmed up when he was unfortunate enough to end up with another concussion and possibly (?) a stinger as well (not sure if that was later denied).
But Brehaut did not fail to impress me on many levels.
Improved passing - After watching several other games or parts of games on Sat, I was actually more impressed with Brehaut's accuracy than I was during the game. Watching other games, there were many a ball I saw that sailed way out of reach of the receivers or out of bounds. In fact, I can only recall one or 2 that had a chance of being intercepted (usually due to tipped balls), but weren't. That in itself was impressive to me.
Running - I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw Brehaut run not once, but several times in a row, and often for good gains, some of which saved our drives! Of course, it did seem that the Cougars did eventually catch on, but I think it caught them by surprise as well. This was a big knock on Brehaut in the past, but he shoved that one in everyone's face (including mine) pretty nicely.
Room for improvement - Of course, there is always room for improvement.
Timing - maybe its just me, but especially on some of the running plays, it seemed like it took a while for the play to develop. I believe that part of the reason of the pistol was to enable the RB to be moving downhill almost as soon as it is snapped, but it seemed like it still took a while for the handoff to occur at times. I think part of it is that Brehaut is still working on improving his zone-read.
Reading the D - Watching Keenum in the game was watching a master. That's what I hope our QBs will eventually be able to do. It was amazing how fast Keenum was able to read the D and take what was given him. Brehaut has improved greatly in throwing to the right receivers, but Keenum was able to do the same thing quick enough to make the play before the D could react (combined with the extra cushion we also gave them).
2. Receivers - WOW! Besides a couple drops or times where the receivers didn't come back to the ball, it really did look like they put glue on their gloves! As has been mentioned many times, Fauria was incredible! I'd heard it mentioned in the fall practice notes, but had to see it to believe it and he definitely proved it throughout the game. Rosario and Embree had some really nice grabs as well and you can see that they are much better at going after the ball rather than waiting for it to come to them. A year ago, I'd say they would have dropped or failed to go after a majority of those passes. Of course, I really think that they performed at such a high level that our expectations are now going to be too high in the weeks to come (ie we will be devastated with any drop from now on). So, as hard as it will be, I'm trying to temper my now high expectations of them.
Room for improvement - I'm not sure the receivers could really catch much better than they did Saturday. Yards after catch will likely improve as the timing between the receivers and QBs improve. The things I'd like to see is more involvement of different WRs - hopefully as we get into the season further, in addition to Rosario and Embree, Marvray and Evans will get more touches than they did Saturday.
3. Balanced attack - I was impressed when I saw how balanced the mix of offensive plays was.
29 Pass Attempts vs 42 Rush Attempts
322 Yards Passing vs 232 Yards Rushing
16 Rushes by Jetski vs 15 Rushes by QBs (13 by Brehaut and 2 by Prince)
Passes distributed to WRs (mainly Rosario and Embree), TE (Fauria), and RBs (Jetski and I guess Derrick Coleman got one too per the stat line)
A year ago, after the novelty of the pistol wore off, people figured out that Jetski would get it most of the time, or if not, we'd miss most of the pass attempts. Now, defenses have so many different targets to worry about it doesn't even compare.
Room for improvement - There was variety in the different targets the QBs targeted, but I hope we can incorporate more short passes and screens like Houston dismantled us with. I suppose part of the reason we didn't this week was because we were in 3rd and long situations.
4. Finishing drives - 5 touchdowns? Really?! That's really incredible. Really it is. I mean, we had drives that really meant something!
6 plays for 68 yards for a TD
9 plays for 80 yards for a TD
11 plays for 76 yards for a TD
9 plays for 95 yards for a TD
(15 plays for 65 yards for a missed FG)
4 plays for 64 yards for a TD
That ain't no joke! A year ago, I'd expect us to march down the field to either kick a FG or expect a turnover. This time, we converted!
Surprisingly disappointing -
1. Defense - I will say that the defense was definitely a surprise and not a good one. However, I do think that this is colored by 2 things: (1) the defense was supposed to be our strength and (2) the offense did so well. Expectations mean a lot and they work both ways.
I will try not to belabor this point, especially since it has been mentioned in all of the other threads.
D-line - I still don't know if it was their game-planning or our ineffectiveness, but I was shocked after all the fall hype that Datone only got TWO tackles and ZERO sacks! Someone please explain this to me. Not only that, but the Run D was like swiss cheese.
LBs - Where were they? It was like they didn't exist. I was expecting to see Larimore put the hurt on them - yes he got 9 tackles, but nothing that stands out for him or the rest of them. I don't recall many blitzes, but maybe its because Keenum was so effective in getting rid of the ball quickly.
Tackling - All you have to do is watch Michael Hayes' TD run to summarize this...
2. Tempo - I was really expecting an uptempo game from UCLA after all the fall reports. However, maybe it was due to the 90-something degree weather and 40% humidity thanks in part to Tropical Storm Lee (as an aside, at least our game wasn't delayed twice like the Notre Dame one), but I was expecting us to be crisp in our execution and executing quickly.
However, to my eye at least, we looked to be about the same speed as in the past, and still had some instances where we were almost out of place - I distinctly remember one time where our D was rushing to get in place before they snapped the ball and luckily they waited long enough for our guys to get set (in addition to the penalty where 2 of our guys on D were unable to get off the field in time for the snap - although I think it was more the coaches fault for substituting them at that time).
A few things were Plus/Minus in my mind -
1. Special teams -
It shouldn't have been a surprise to anyone who has been following the fall camp that Kip Smith had a little difficulty. I was actually really happy that he made the first 4 PATs! The missed FG was into the wind and just missed wide right. I think the missed PAT may have been affected by the previous missed FG. Yes, we expect more, but as many have mentioned, Kai Forbath and Medlock had problems early as well. Give the kid a break and back him up as the rest of the team has rallied around him. He is already hard enough on himself as it is.
I can't remember which game it was (but it was after ours), I saw some punt returner drop the punt and it ended up a TD for the other team. I've heard Embree is in because of his sure hands and he was reliable in catching it again this week. Smith was solid in kickoff returns. On the flipside, our punt and kickoff coverage was fairly solid as well. Locke was his usual self in kickoffs and punts.
2. Play calling - we actually went for it on 4th down twice and converted both times! We have the return of plays with the F-back and TEs, which I liked. On the other hand, I'm still not sure why we had such soft coverage when they picked us apart with the short passes and screens. And whatever the mishap was in the missed play call at the end of the game.
1. Kevin Prince's injury instantly brought to my mind a thought - especially because he went down so quickly, I thought, our backups better be ready. And I wasn't just thinking of Brehaut. I was thinking about whoever is next in line, may it be Brett Hundley or Crissman or... Hopefully, Prince will be ready when called upon again soon, but its just a reminder (not that we need one) that the backups have to be ready at all times.
2. On that note, I have to agree with most who have commented that I agree that Brehaut has played and earned his starting spot in the next game. Even if Prince is able to clear the protocol by Saturday, which will likely take him at least until mid-week, Brehaut was really impressive and deserves a start. Prince didn't lose the job, Brehaut earned it. If Prince IS able to play, he can still come in later in the game if CRN really wants to continue a 2-QB system for now.
3. Lastly, overall, I was as pleased as I could be with a loss. As CRN mentioned in his post-game remarks, we learned a lot from this game (as opposed to if we played some patsy team which might not have exposed our weaknesses, especially as blatantly on display as they were this past week). In my mind, there were many more improvements than disappointments. Not only that, but I think the improvements combined with the expectations magnified our disappointments. Its in our nature to criticize because that's how we improve, but we did make major strides between last year and this year.
What do you think?
ps. Thanks for letting me get this off of my chest and on here. Now I can move on and start thinking about our next game. :)