This wasn't how it was supposed to start. Nine months of anticipation, hype, and optimism that we haven't seen since Notre Dame destroyed us at home. Yet the team we saw against Notre Dame on Wannstedt's first game is the same team we saw yesterday.
The first drive of the offense was a beautiful piece of work. The line gave Bill Stull time, the running game looked solid, Bill Stull looked like the quarterback we were hoping he would turn out to be. Yet, that would be the last time all game we would see something like that.
Shady was shut down, Hot-rod was hitting the hole and running well, but we didn't use him much later on, the receivers began to drop passes that were hitting them in the hands and face. The receiver(s) were not running their routes well, they were not recognizing the blitz to break off their route early, they were not looking back for the ball until it was too late, and in some cases a receiver just decided not to run hard on plays where he was the primary target.
Joe Thomas decided to let Bill Stull get murdered all game. Once Stull was hit a few times, his footwork became sloppy, he lost zip on his passes, he began to lock in on one receiver instead of checking down on his options and his accuracy decreased.
Our defense was on the field way too long in the second half. That is one of the reason's they looked so tired. You can't expect your team (especially in college) to hold teams to less than 17 points every game. When your defense is struggling with the spread, you make adjustments to correct for those mistakes. If you fail to correct for those and stick with your base 4-3 all game, then you will lose and you deserve to lose. While Austin Ransom played a very solid game for only be playing the WILL LB position for a few weeks, he (like our other linebackers) was caught out of position way too much when he was supposed to be covering the WR or TE's.
The worst part of this was after the game we heard "the defensive line didn't do enough" and "The players need to make plays" we didn't hear anything about not adjusting properly or not game planning like we should have. Instead we saw more of the blame deflected away from what is appearing to be the problem.
At one point in the game as the offense was taking the field I overheard the guys behind me say, get ready for some runs up the middle and a screen pass. Wouldn't you know we ran Shady up the middle twice for a gain of only 2 yards then we went to a bubble screen.
The play calling is too vanilla and is not the type of offense that will win games consistently. To expect your defense to hold another team to less than 16 points per game is completely laughable. A good strategy to win (I know this might seem shocking) is to have your team score a touchdown on every drive and have your defense hold the other team to a 3 and out or force a turnover. In the real world though, this is not a reality. Everyone who has watched at least one football game knows that you will not score on every drive. That is why you have to take the chances to score when you have the opportunity too. When you punt on the 35 yard line twice, in most cases the other team will start from the 20 yard line. I don't think 15 yards of field position is worth sacrificing a chance to put points on the board.
I went from feeling this team could have a break out season to now believing that if we win 7 games we will be the luckiest team in the country.
Everything we had was lost. The team can not feel good about this. The fans we had at that game are now going to be lost. I can't even imagine what it must feel like to be a freshman who went to their first game. In what was supposed to be an opener filled with hope and optimism turned into fear, dejection, and despair.
Last week I asked everyone to come out and support the team. I feel like we accomplished what I hoped we would do. However, I feel like the coaches did not do their part. In my opinion, this team will never amass more than 7 wins under a Cavanaugh led offense. He didn't work out in Baltimore and he's not working out in Pittsburgh. When something is broken you fix it. He is failing to fix his broken system. When you hire someone to fix the problem and they can't, you get a new repairman. Sadly, I believe that the friendships and "buddy" systems we see in place from choosing the starters is the same thing we see with the coaches. I hope Cavanaugh will be relieved of his duties right now, but I don't think we will see any changes any time soon.
I hope I am wrong.
As I wrap this up, I have the Sports Reporters on. Instead of talking about Michigan losing, VTech losing and Texas A&M losing, they are talking about the Dave Wannstedt era potentially being over at Pitt. It's a shame how excited we were and now we appear to be a joke nationally.
I will always have my blue and gold glasses on, so I can only hope this is the lowest point.