28 September 2010

Bringing Their "A" Game

On a short week the Cougs must prepare to face the Aggies friday at 6 pm in Logan with ESPN giving the tv coverage. The play by play analysis will be provided by Joe Tessitore and Rod Gilmore giving his game analysis. Fridays matchup sports both teams trying to make sense of their seasons with identical 1-3 records which began playing each other back in 1922. Over the years the Aggies have their own storied tradition as well. Names that stand out include Chris Cooley, Eric Hipple, Rulon Jones, Kevin Curtis, Phil Olsen and of course the legend himself Merlin Olsen. The field itself is played on SprinTurf and was named in his honor. Romney Stadium stadium seats 25,513 and includes their own student section named "The Hurd". Utah State last win against the Cougs came in a shootout back in 1993 58-56. The aggies this season will be sporting new uniforms as well even helmet stickers by a 71 honoring aggie great Merlin Olsen who passed away back in March.

Utah State's engine begins with Diondre Borel a senior QB and sociology major who last season led the aggies to an all time high of 3,343 total offensive yards overall. On the season Borel is 63 of 116 for 832 yareds 4 TDs and 4 INTs. The dual threat quarterback from Oakley California needs 393 total offensive yards to reach 7000 career yards. Borel has some weapons of his own and names that Cougar fans will likely hear often on friday. In the backfield is powerful senior RB Derrvin Speight from Irving Texas who has 54 carries for 221 yards with 2 Tds. On the ground the aggies are ranked 49th in the nation at 168 yards per contest.

Through the air, Utah State's attack is ranked 65th averaging 211 yards. So yes the aggies have the ability to stretch the field and move the ball. Diondre's receiving corps consists of sophomore Dontel Watkins (6.2/193), Xavier Martin (5.11/195) a junior from Baltimore and Eric Moats (5.11/182). Both Watkins and Martin are JC transfers with some wheels. Watkins apparently ran the 40 in 4.25 while Martin posted a 4.33. Dontel has 18 receptions on the year for 242 yards and 2 TDs. Xavier has 10 catches good for 133 yards and 1 TD. Moats has 9 catches for 108 yards with 1 TD. While the game has the Cougs slightly favored it still looks like it could be a solid matchup with both teams bringing their "A" game.

27 September 2010

Picking Up The Pieces

With the Cougs limping away from its 3rd loss in 4 games the jerseys in blue are still looking for answers trying to put the puzzle pieces together. The Cougs will also be without the services of junior Romney Fuga who is done for the season injuring his ACL and LCL. Absolutely no clue and appalling how an entire officiating crew could miss that one. Considering as young as the jerseys in blue are and have the fourth toughest schedule in the nation can only help ease the pain so much. Some positives from saturday? Holding a team that averaged nearly 51 a game to 27 for starters. The cougs also only had one penalty and had no turnovers. It was nice to see Hoffman seeing more looks. Also a beautiful site was having "Juice" getting more involved. Hoffman and Quezada by all means should have outstanding careers and those need more touches. The Heaps era is also officially underway and the passing game is starting to take shape with 229 yards against the wolfpack. Lets remember that Heaps is only beginning to get the necessary full time reps to learn his receivers. In the last three previous games the Cougs only mustered 115 yards against FSU, 73 yards again Air Force and 131 with the Washington matchup. So yes the air attack is making strides.

Whats missing though from the passing game are the tight ends. Through the first four games the TE position has only 7 catches. By comparison in the Oklahoma game last year alone there were 10. Got four freshmen at the position in Austin Holt, Devin Mahina, Richard Wilson, and Mike Muehlmann who were all great recruits. The tight ends must get more involved. Someone has got to step up for the air game to be complete and keep defenses honest.

On defense the secondary has been solid considering both Logan (was even a gametime decision) and Rich were banged up. Apparently junior linebacker Jameson Frazier even broke his thumb in the Nevada matchup but returned to action and is not expected to miss any time against the aggies. Andrew Rich on the season is the second in the nation for solo tackles with 30 and 47 overall. Unfortunately, that is not a good sign. Stopping the run has got to be a priority when seeing the Cougs are currently ranked 112th against the run. Keep in mind Nevada went for it on almost every fourth down definately not showing the Cougs defense any respect. Pendleton is clearly a presence who makes plays but somehow others must begin to step up especially with losing Fuga. Stout and Van Noy need to find a way to get on the field more. The potential is there and with more reps understanding the schemes and the execution at a higher level will happen.

In every game there will always be some questionables. Back the truck up what did I miss. Those kind of things. Not sure how the Cougs can only find a 2 yard punt and on a fourth and four calling a sweep. With the schedule beginning to "lighten" up things should begin to improve for the Cougs being a 6 point favorite. Although, this week will be a short one as the Cougs travel to Logan matching up against the Aggies.

23 September 2010

Keys To The Game

No question the Cougs will have their hands full on saturday. Currently USATODAY has the wolfpack favored by 4. A few keys to the saturdays matchup could include the following...

-Limit Nevada's possible "activity". Take away their chances and opportunities. Gotta play keepaway. This means total ball control (time of possession included) as well as penalties.
-Figure out schemes regardless of position. Last few games have seen far too many missed tackles, lack of execution, blown secondary coverages or even simply looking completely lost out there, etc.
-Chemistry and coming together. Gotta get into a groove. Handing the reins over to Jake should help considerably developing a rhythm with the receiving corps. The defense stepping up playing as one. The sum is greater than its parts in finding the teams identity.

OC Downtime?

Heading into saturday's game newly announced starter Jake Heaps will have one less weapon to work with. It was announced late wednesday that O'neill Chambers has been suspended for two games as well as all practices for disciplinary reasons. On the season the junior WR from Harmony FL has 5 catches for 48 yards, 8 kickoff returns for 17.8 yard average, and 4 punts for 11.2 yard average.

21 September 2010

No More Carousel

Stunning news earlier today for cougar fans. Any quarterback controversy that may have existed is over. Riley Nelson will have season ending surgery on his non-throwing shoulder to repair damage sustained. No question injuries can be expected as it is a part of football. His anticipated recovery is approximately 4-5 months. It is rather unfortunate circumstances though to end any quarterback carousel this season. The junior quarterback ends the 2010 campaign 20 of 40 for 205 yards and 2 TDs. On the ground Riley ran for 148 yards on 31 attempts with a solo TD. His grit and ability to improvise will be missed and look forward to his return.

Week Three Power Poll

Week three power poll rankings as I see it.

1. TCU (3-0) The horned frogs just look simply solid across the board. The 14th ranked offense overall is scoring 45 on average per game while the #4 ranked defense holding steady only allowing opponents 12 per matchup. Overall, TCU is ranked #4 in the AP25 poll and #5 by the coaches poll. Shouldn't be losing anytime soon in conference. Matchup to watch Nov 6 when they travel to Utah.
2. Utah (3-0) Yes, the team up north might have a glossy schedule thus far (per Sagarin #96 toughest schedule). However, they have also been dropping on average 40 a game on opponents. Definately be interesting to see where things stand after Nov 13th of three solid consecutive matchups (at Air Force, TCU and at Notre Dame).
3. Air Force (2-1) Coach Calhoun clearly has the falcons building upon last years 8-5 team and in the right direction. Last week the nations top running team piled up 351 yards against the historically tough then ranked #8 Sooners. The team from Colorado Springs is definately a force to be reckoned with.
4. BYU (1-2) Still many questions remain yet to be answered. With the reins having been officially turned over to Heaps now its a question of when will the rhythm and team chemistry begin to come together? If things don't mesh quickly another consecutive Las Vegas bowl trip may not be even close on the horizon and the slide could continue even farther.
5. San Diego St (2-1) This season the Aztecs are averaging 237 yards a game on the ground while only giving up 94. With the Aztec offense it's very reasonable to expect possibly a winning season in Brady Hoke's second season. Last week showed some of that grit in a tough loss at Missouri 27-24.
6. Wyoming (1-2) The cowboys have a brutal first half of the schedule ( Southern Utah, at Texas, Boise State, Air Force, at Toledo, at TCU, Utah, and BYU). Coach Dave Christensen and his sophomore QB Austyn Carta-Samuels will clearly have their hands full this season.
7. New Mexico (0-3) One can only wonder with last seasons 1-11 performance another rebuilding year and more off the field distractions how long can 2nd year coach Mike Locksley last?
8. UNLV (0-3) The rebels are rebuilding again with new head coach Bobby Hauck (who took Montana to 3 Football Championship Subdivision title games in seven seasons). Can Omar Clayton stay healthy all season? It could be an long season and uphill battle for the rebels.
9. CSU (0-3) In its first three games the rams have only averaged scoring 6 points. Yes 6. Until an offense gets clicking on all cylinders dropping 6 on an opponent won't help a team win many games anytime soon.

Are You Ready To Rumble

Former cougar Jan Jorgensen will make his MMA debut against former UCLA defensive lineman Jerzy Siewierski in orem on friday. At 6.2 and 296 Jerzy is by no means a slouch. The former bruin from Sparks Nevada was a history major and likely is looking for some historical payback of his own. Last time a bunch of bruins were in happy valley it wasn't a pleasant outcome when considering 59-0. The Janimal back in high school won the 3A state championship as a senior in only his first year of competitive wrestling and eventually found his way to the cougs DL graduating in social studies education. He started all 52 games in his outstanding collegiate career finishing off as the conference all time leader in 44 tackles for loss. Jorgensen is also tied with former TCU defensive specialist Jerry Hughes for the MWC all time sack leader with 28.5. Rushing quarterbacks and stopping the run might be one thing but this is the MMA. Welcome to the bigtime. Tickets on sale at smithtix.com for those interested.

20 September 2010

Wolfpack At A Glance

Things don't any easier saturday with the Wolfpack coming to town. Nevada comes into the game 3-0 averaging over 50 a game. USATODAY does have the pack as a 3.5 favorite as well as the cougs playing the 5th toughest schedule in the country. Quarterback Colin Kaepernick could very well be among some of the better signal callers in the nation this year directing an offense. Colin has thrown 81 times connecting on 57 for 728 yards and 5 TDs with no INTs. The senior quarterback from Turlock California is also one of their leading rushers with 39 carries eating up 369 yards and 7 TDs. In the backfield is Vai Taua a bruiser who has piled up some impressive numbers as well. Vai has accumulated 320 yards and 4 TDs on the season. Nevada is ranked first in the nation currently averging nearly 345 yards of rushing offense. Definately scary offense. By comparison the cougs have only averaged 147 yards on the ground and 155 in the air. Oh, how times have changed. The jerseys in blue has taken some lumps and that learning curve must happen soon.

Tallahassee Tutorial

Saturday's matchup was frankly a tutorial in a 34-10 smackdown. The seminoles attack dominated the Cougs up and down the field with Christian Ponder throwing for 149 yards and the Seminoles grinding out 278 yards on the ground. Its definately not a positive sign and is rather concerning seeing so many missed tackles when Chris Thompson hauls off for 123 yards while Ty Jones scampers for another 95 yards. Often in games as such I do believe that those are more about our personnel, our matchup and our instruction. Yes, essentially learning experiences and teaching moments. Losing as much experience as the Cougs did the jerseys in blue will be expected to go through some growing pains.

Were the keys finally and officially handed over to Heaps? That remains to be seen and lies in the hands of the coaching staff. On the other hand, it is clearly a step in the right direction. Only with a leader firmly in place can a team begin to find its chemistry and rhythm giving it a better sense of direction. Heaps finished 15 of 31 for 114 yards while posting his first offical touchdown connection to Cody Hoffman who had 5 catches for the day. The OL must begin providing much better time and protection for whoever is calling the shots behind center. Pretty much any team that allows 8 sacks will lose a game at this level and clearly must be improved upon. It was rather enjoyable seeing DiLuigi step up yet again posting 18 carries for 93 yards. The learning curve will happen. Those jerseys in blue will come together. Yes, the future is bright with the pieces in place. Although, that learning curve must happen and quickly considering the dangerous wolfpack rolls into town saturday. The schedule might not get any easier this upcoming week but its always nice to be at home.

17 September 2010

Bush's Fumble

Named after the former Brown University and Georgia Tech football player John Heisman the trophy is awarded annually to the most outstanding football player in college football. In 2005 Reggie Bush was awarded the trophy. However, on September 14th , Bush who had apparently received payments from outsiders revealed that he would return his trophy. The Heisman Trust also announced that the award for that season would remain vacant for the first time in the trophy's history.

Although, the star running back gave up the presitigious award voluntarily it is rather obvious that he would have not given it up if those allegations wouldn't have become public. Bush knew he had agreed not to make money nor to accept it, yet he chose to do so anyway. Taking money for one's labor and or services itself is not wrong. Being paid for the use of one's name or public persona is not wrong in itself either when those opportunities arise. However, it is wrong to say one thing and the other when a promise has been made in principle regardless of what level from a handshake, verbal or written agreement.

This incident as well as other numerous examples bring up a slew of unanswered questions. Should Reggie and other athletes as well as coaches be punished for their actions? Is stripping the Heisman from Bush an appropriate coarse of action? Should college athletes get paid? Would it give new meaning to a "full ride" scholarship? Could it be said that college athletes are actually getting paid with a free education? Who do we celebrate and choose as our heroes? The answers to these questions remain yet to be found but all have compelling arguments and likely won't be found till as a society we take a hard look ourselves at what those core values are. Thoughts?

16 September 2010

Sunshine State Square Off

This week the Cougs travel across country to Doak Campbell Stadium (seats 82,300 and is the 14th largest stadium in the NCAA) to square off with the Seminoles who are looking to bounce back from a thrashing at the hands of Oklahoma on saturday 3:30pm ET on ESPNU with the call from Pam Ward (play by play) and Danny Kanell's analysis. Last meeting between the two wasn't exactly pretty 54-28 for the jerseys in blue. Presently, Sheridan's odds at USATODAY has FSU favored by 10. Gone from the Seminole equation is longtime coach Bobby Bowden after 34 years. "The traditions and values of things aren't going to change. But the approach we take is going to change some" as quoted by new headcoach Jimbo Fisher.

On offense the Seminoles seem to be stacked and return what many teams across the country would truly desire. At the helm is a three year starter and NFL prospect in senior Christian Ponder with his entire OL returning. With only 12 carries junior RB Ty Jones spots a 10.3 avg for 124 yards and 1 TD. At the other slot fellow junior RB Jermaine Thomas has 19 touches for 89 yards and 2 TDs this season. The receiving corps both juniors include Bert Reed with 8 receptions for 81 yards while Taiwan Easterling from Hattiesburg MS isn't shabby either with 7 catches for 120 yards and 2 TDs. By comparison, on the season the Cougs two returning starters Chambers has 3 catches for 21 yards while Jacobsen also only has 3 for 33 yards. No question both coug receivers needs more touches and whoever is behind center for the blue jerseys must make that happen.

As the new head coach of the Seminole's one of Jimbo's first moves was luring Mark Stoops from Arizona who has since setup a new defensive scheme of zone coverages and blitzes. Unfortunately, one of those individual's involved who FSU was hoping to be a shutdown corner was sophomore Greg Reid who has seem to have struggled. Last week sooner QB Landry Jones spotted 30 of 40 for 380 yards on the Seminoles. It will be interesting to see if the Cougs can take advantage of that. The jerseys in blue definately need to somehow begin to find some offensive and defensive rhythm. Despite a possible cougar rebuilding year it will be interesting to watch to see how things play out.

14 September 2010

Two Road Identity

There comes a time when an individual cannot contain their silence any longer. Cougar nation just witnessed a game where the jerseys in blue were systematically dismantled. Yes, losing might be one thing if it is to a team you really shouldn't be on the field with or to another team where it was a close loss. Here's the problem. That was a game that the Cougs should not have lost in a manner which they did. Why then? Well lets look at its history briefly. The jerseys in blue have such an amazing rich tradition and identity. Names like McMahon, Young, Detmer, Shiede, Bosco, Nielsen, Wilson, Sarkisian, Feterik, Doman, Walsh, Beck and Max have helped tremendously in giving the Cougs such an identity as a quarterback factory. Cougar fans would love to know who's next. I'm among those. Currently the program is at a crossroads. Which path does it take? Nelson Street? Or Heaps way? When an entity goes into battle it clearly must have a leader. As the situation stands the tough decision has not been made of choosing one over the other. That choice needs to be made soon. In fact, should have been made long ago. Long before the first gametime snap. What is clear to the cougs that this is a rebuilding year. I'm fine with that. Every team across the nation will have its lumps here and there.

Our identity has been even inscribed and etched into our own scoreboard. The answer is not far. Tradition, spirit and honor. McMahon. Detmer. Bosco. etc. Its not that hard to figure out our tradition. You don't change an identity of an entire program of over 25 years for one player. The cougs hauled in an expectional recruiting class to get an education and play some football. If some of those student athletes are really that good by all means get them some playing time. If you have some Ferrari's or BMW's sitting in garage you don't drive the VW Bug. By not making those choices you don't give that team a leader and can certainly hurt your recruiting in the future. I'm sorry Coug nation but two quarterbacks equals no quarterbacks and typically incurs terrible results. The choice is yours in a two road identity.