The NFL/NCAA Weekend In Review:
Every weekend during the Fall is eventful and the days that follow are often spent talking about happened and what it all means. We live in a society that is infatuated with putting things in the proper context. Rarely do we investigate, honestly, why something happened. Somethings things are just exactly what they are, and the why is simple, sometimes its not.
The big college football game of the weekend was Oregon and Michigan State. The storyline going into the game was about Oregon's flashy transfer quarterback Vernon Adams, and Michigan State seeking to claim a spot as a national power by beating Oregon. Last year Michigan State appeared to have Oregon on the ropes with a two score lead, yet when Oregon stepped on the gas, Michigan State fell apart and ended up getting blown out.
The game followed a similar path as the previous year, with Michigan State building a two score lead before Oregon roared back. With the ball and a chance to ice the game, Michigan State imploded and failed to gain a first down. Oregon roared down the field and had a wide open receiver down the sideline, Vernon Adams overthrew him. Two plays later, Oregon turned the ball over on downs and Michigan State won. Now Michigan State is considered a national power, if Oregon completes that pass, the story would be about how Michigan State can't win big games. Such is the razor thin margin between victory and defeat.
This brings me to Vernon Adams. Adams transferred from Oregon to Eastern Washington so that he could wreak havoc on Pac 12 defenses 9 games out of the year instead of just once. He is a great athlete, but is loose with the ball and has faulty mechanics, and bad mechanics rear their ugly head at the worst possible team. Adams doesn't have a set throwing motion, sometimes its high and tight, sometimes its 3/4, often its almost sidearm(think Dave Krieg). He lacks consistency in his mechanics and that killed him on the overthrow, and the missed comeback route on 4th down two plays later. Both plays he didn't get his hand over the ball and his throwing motion wasn't tight enough. One pass sailed on him, the other pass lacked tight enough rotation and tailed on him. Against inferior competition in FCS, these kind of lapses don't matter, but Oregon is going to need to tighten his fundamentals if they want to run the table from here on out.
Elsewhere in college football, Cal Poly pushed Arizona State to the limit by running the triple option. I love the fact that Cal Poly still runs the triple option, and I am horrified by the fact that Arizona State didn't change a damn thing about their scheme or alignment from their usual base defense going into the game. They stuck with a standard 4 man front, with the defensive tackles over the guards. For a triple option team, this is an invitation for fullback dive and trap plays. Sure enough, the Cal Poly fullback averaged nearly seven yards a carry. Arizona State adjusted in the fourth quarter by pinching their line in to nullify the trap and bringing the safeties up to thwart the outside runs and won 35-21. Fun game to watch.
Everyone loves to second guess in the NFL. It is a bevy of results based logic. If a team passes and throws an interception, then people will say they should've thrown it. If they run and fail, then obviously they should have passed it.
The Giants, because Tom Coughlin is a damn wizard, were in position to ice the game against the Cowboys last night. On 3rd down, they elected to pass and threw incomplete. If they had run it, the Cowboys would have only had 1 minute, rather than 1:45 to score. The Cowboys drove down with ease and scored. Sure, the clock management wasn't ideal, but it would all be irrelevant if the Giants had put up even minimal resistance. Instead they sat back in Cover 2 with man underneath and the Cowboys relentlessly picked on the Giants backup middle linebacker all the way down the field. The Giants thought they could catch Dallas with their pants down, throw a touchdown and put the game away. Dallas was ready and the gamble backfired. They knew the danger, it rains, you get wet.
After last year's Super Bowl, the Seahawks were condemned for their terrible play call from the one yard line. So, naturally when they lose running the ball on 4th and short, everyone calls it a terrible play call. The call yesterday wasn't terrible, the execution was. Below is a screenshot of what Russell Wilson was looking at presnap.
There are seven guys in the box, and the Seahawks have six blockers. Typically the zone read leaves one guy unblocked, in this case, Chris Long, he is who Russell Wilson should be reading. That leaves it 6 on 6, offensive line coaches will take that number. The Seahawks just needed two yards, you only need a tie up front to get that much with Lynch. The ball is snapped, Chris Long sits on Wilson, Jimmy Graham goes to get the safety. There is a huge alley for Lynch to cut and run through. On the zone read, this is where the majority of the yards comes from for the Seahawks, in that hole in the screenshot below.
As you can see, Gary Gilliam gets blown back into the backfield, right into Lynch, and the game is over. Was it a bad call? No. The play was open, there was a huge hole and Wilson made the right read to give it to Lynch. It was poorly executed.
Football is a beautifully merciless game. Any weaknesses, lack of depth, faulty mechanics, one loss by one offensive linemen on one block, it all adds up.