Yesterday I vented about my frustrations with the coaching staff. Today I will focus on the players. Like you will read on the message boards, the coaches don't run the ball, they don't pass the ball, and they're not the ones who are making the tackles, that is why the players can not be excused from this one.
While it's easy to criticize the coaches for not knowing their limits, the players are exempt from that area of criticism. The reason for that is, even if you have the least talented player in the league, every player wants to be on the field to play. If you have a player who is wishy-washy about playing, then he is in the wrong business. As a competitor you want to be out there for every single play. Knowing where your limitations impact you most should change the way you play to hide those weaknesses. Think about this, Scott McKillop was not the fastest or most physical, but he made up for that by having the best football IQ and best fundamentals possible. That is what made him stick out and be such a great player. Our players need to learn where they are weak and find a way to address that in whatever way possible.
1. After this loss I don't want to hear anyone on this team talk about how great our defense is and how our line is unstoppable. You have been stopped, and now everyone in the world knows how to beat you. The only player that we have seen real consistency from is Mick Williams. He comes to play everyday and is cementing his status as an NFL player. Greg Romeus is simply getting eaten up off of blocks. I still say he should not have been all Big East last year. He had a good season, but it was nothing spectacular. This year with the added hype and pressure, we are seeing him come back to earth since there is more attention on him. I also feel like Jabaal Sheard must not be fully healthy. He is playing tentatively and is not aggressive as he was last year. I felt that Sheard would end up being the better of our two DE's, but now it's looing as if they are equals.
2. We are lucky that the offensive line has been consistent and strong this year. They have allowed Dion Lewis to use his great skills to be a tremendous bright spot for the team. Despite that, we are seeing the offense sputter out from having consistent success in the 2nd half. While it is partly a coaching problem, our offense does not have any consistency and does not perform well in the 2nd half of games. Dion Lewis is a fantastic runner. He hits the hole hard, always keeps his legs churning, and runs the way you teach backs from the moment they learn the position. Without Dion and the Line playing well, we are in a much worse situation.
3. Bill Stull is hurting this team. Through the first 4 games of this season Bill Stull has played tremendously in terms of what is asked of him. We are using him to manage the offense, make the screen passes and short yardage passes. Cignetti has done a terrific job in terms of putting him in position to succeed. Where it is killing us is that we do not have the ability to open up the offense and use the mid/deep pass to put a game away or comeback when needed. I would like to know what his longest completion was minus the YAC (yards after catch) in the last 2 years. I imagine it's the Kinder touchdown against WVU last year. Outside of that I can not think of any other true long bombs that didn't have a large YAC attached to them.
4. The second problem that we see from Stull is something that we don't see from anyone else on the team. This team tends to tense up in major pressure situations. I'm sure part of that is due to coaching, but at the end of the game you need to be able to make plays. This means hitting Dorin inside on those H-Back delay passes so he can catch it on the run, it's hitting the receivers on the screens so that they can run as soon as the ball gets there instead of adjusting first, and mainly it's getting the ball to an area where a player can catch it to win the game. Stull's 4th down pass gave neither team a chance to catch the ball which does not help on the last play of the game. I might get blasted for this but Bostick hit Baldwin against ND last year to make it count for an OT touchdown, he also hit Turner for a game winning TD that was called back on a b.s. pass interference call. Like I said, this is more than just on Bill Stull, we need players to make plays when it counts. We're not going to let Dorin slide by for dropping that 3rd down pass that could have been a td or Ray Graham for tripping when he could have extended the drive by another set of downs. Players need to make the plays when they are called on.
5. While we can all scream about dropped passes, DiCicco missing tackles, Fields being out of position, and the corners playing terribly in many aspects of the game, there is one major thing missing from the team. We all thought we were in good shape with Lewis and Mason/Gunn filling in very well for the superstars they were replacing. The one area where we have not seen anyone fill those open shoes is with leadership. You don't see any of the players showing the same passion and drive for ensuring accountability for this team. When a player misses a tackle, drops a pass, or makes a play that hurts the team, the leader needs to be there to bring everyone back together. The leader needs to be there to rally team to put the ball in the endzone when its 1st and goal from the 8. It seems as if we were a bit too quick to claim the open vacancies were adequately filled. I just hope that this loss can get someone to step up on both sides of the ball to be the leader that we so desperately need right now.
So where does this take us? Well even though we're not in the top 25 like we could have been, maybe we can use this as some strange motivation. We haven't gone undefeated in non-conference play in such a long time that this could have been expected. Now that we have this loss out of the way, let's regroup and get to where we need to be. With this loss we can all stop dreaming about that 1 or 2 loss season and start focusing week by week like we should. Overall record should be the last thing from the team's mind right now. Instead we me focus on opening up the Big East Conference on a strong note by beating Louisville. We just have to play to the best of our ability and hope that if the players do that, the coaches don't hold us back to the point where it costs us another game.
The coaches must be accountable, the players must be accountable, but most importantly we shouldn't lose all hope. The easiest way to get this bad loss out of our mouths is to beat Louisville. It's funny how there was little talk about the Bowling Green game last year after we beat South Florida. Where we go from here is directly in the hands of everyone on the team. Let's see where we end up from here.