So that was ugly. Or at least parts of it were. Let's start with the good stuff. The offense, when it gets out of its own way, looks pretty good. Tulane didn't stop us much. Outside of the turnovers, we looked good. The turnovers were all caused in large part by unforced errors. I mean, the first fumble was a good play by Tulane, but made possible by Thomas holding the ball carelessly. The second fumble was just poor execution and the interception was a horrible decision to throw off the back foot under pressure. That stuff is all correctable. Scoring 31 points on only 11 possessions isn't bad (7 came from the defense, although in fairness 7 were set also set up by special teams so maybe this should be 24). Especially when 3 of those ended with turnovers and another 1 was a missed FG. The make or miss status of the FG isn't on the offense. And the 11th possession was a successful run out the clock possession that ended the game at the Tulane 12 yard line.
After the adjustments necessary to get down to our "real" possessions, we had 6 possessions on which we scored 3 TD's, had 2 FG attempts and 1 punt. Thats 3.5 points per possession even if you assume misses on both FG's. Note that I removed the 3 turnovers because they were caused by self inflicted issues we can fix. I removed the last possession because we were merely running out the clock. And I didn't count the interception we returned for a TD or the touchdown "drive" set up by the blocked punt at the Tulane 1 yard line.
In short this was a weird game to judge the offense, but the bottom line is that Tulane did not stop us much. I know we only had 357 total yards, which seems like a very low (embarassing?) total for a game like this. However, the low number of possessions and short field we often enjoyed meant there weren't many yards to get. In fact we only failed to gain 307 yards. Had we scored a TD every time we had the ball we only would have had 664 yards. Thats a low number for 100% of your yards. Gaining over 50% of the yards available isn't terrible. And again, 206 of the yards we missed came on drives ended prematurely by turnovers. Remove those and the 12 yards from the end of the game, and really we only left 89 yards on the field on drives Tulane stopped us and forced 4th down.
I know thats a lot of adjusting, but an early season sloppy game sometimes requires a lot. I’m adjusting because, right now, I don’t care too much about our mistakes. I would care a lot more if Tulane had the manpower to just beat our blocks and stop the offense.
While we are discussing the good, special teams deserves a mention. For the most part it was pretty good. The blocked punt stands out. Butker made a long FG to end the half, although he missed an easier one earlier. Overall not bad.
As has become customary, the defense has me worried. We forced 3 turnovers but I don't like relying on turnovers to stop Tulane, and anyway they could say the same thing we did. Their QB made a lot of unforced errors. The interception for a TD was comically bad, for example. Just a stupid throw. We allowed them to move the ball too easily. We gave up a long TD drive. We gave up a big play TD. The defense did get a stop after a turnover set up Tulane at our 10 yard line, and almost got a stop the other time that happened.
Overall 21 points on 11 possessions isn't a total disaster. And the run defense was pretty good. I still get the feeling this unit is vulnerable and will cause us problems down the road. But maybe I'll be pleasantly surprised.
As for Georgia Southern, this game should be interesting. I'm still waiting for our first solid performance, without a lot of asterisks and "well except for this and that we looked good" type rationalizing. Maybe we are good team who has played sloppy for two early games. That isn't uncommon. But we might just not be very good. It remains to be seen. Georgia Southern is a team that might be pretty good and certainly won't be scared. They went into the Swamp and beat Florida last year. They nearly (should have) beat NC State earlier this year. Hard to say if NC State is any better though. They don't really look like they are, so far. Unfortunately Georgia Southern's other game was Savannah St, which doesn't tell us much. And our games don't tell us much.
Just like Tulane, we have better talent and so we ought to win. Probably by 20 points or more. And we are at home. But they are a decent team. They have a new coach and no longer run the same offense as us, having installed a new offense, similar to what Nevada used to run, although it still incorporates a lot of option. All of it will be from the pistol formation, and they'll pass a little more, but probably still run 2/3 of the time. Not sure how much has really changed with their “new” offense.
What I’m hoping to see tomorrow is a consistent offense and an aggressive defense. Limited mistakes and much cleaner execution. While this game is losable, we should win, and its the last chance to work the kinks out before we go to Blacksburg for a game that looks increasingly tough all of a sudden. I want us to score early and often with consistent execution. They are a good offense that will likely move the ball, but we need to keep them from scoring touchdowns. Force field goals when they get close and hopefully get some outright stops. We’ll see how it goes.
As always, go Jackets!