Thursday, October 05, 2006

The big un-easy

I know some of you have been wondering when, if ever, anything would be posted on the blog after the Tulane game. Well, without going into details, this blog doesn’t pay the bills and sometimes the things that do take priority over the blog. And again, without going into detail, some days (or weeks) are better than others. This week began trending downward sometime Sunday afternoon.

Without further ado, I would like to point out the following:

SMU has won three straight;
SMU has won its last four conference games;
SMU has won its last four home games;
SMU won its first conference game of the season for the first time since 2004;
SMU has won six of its last eight games;
SMU has scored 30+ points for three consecutive weeks for first time since 1984;
SMU is 3-2 for first time since 1992;
SMU has a winning record for the first time since it was 1-0 in 2000;
SMU, along with Tulsa and Houston, are the only Conference USA teams with winning records (since Southern Miss lost on Tuesday);

I did review the game on CSTV’s All Access.

First, the All Access feed needs a fast forward and rewind feature. Tried re-watching the fake punt a half dozen times and it was a complete pain in the butt. Finally, like the announcers, I concluded the guy was falling short of the first down marker and even if he caught it, he was going to be down short of the first down marker.

I don’t mind fake punts, but the key is to use them in spots where you can minimize risk. That means you don’t run the fake punt out of your own endzone. Granted, it completely fooled SMU and almost worked (and hey, the fake field goal did work). However, SMU got the ball on the six. Sefko absolutely surrendered the lead at that moment; the only question was whether it would be by three or seven? But that is not the end of the fake punt story:

At this time, I would like to raise the special teams flag for the second time this season. From Tuesday’s New Orleans paper:

Scelfo said the plan to call for the pass on the fake punt was made last week when the coaching staff viewed the SMU film and noticed a flaw in how the Mustangs rushed the punter. After SMU repeated that mistake on Tulane's first punt, the Wave didn't waste time allowing punter Chris Beckman, a former high school quarterback, to throw the pass from punt formation on the next opportunity despite the pass being thrown from the end zone. A wide-open Batiste dropped the ball.

During the North Texas broadcast of the SMU-UNT game, George Dunham said the UNT special teams coach thought they could block a punt against SMU. He said they saw something on the film. Dunham said this 15 seconds before they did it.

So now we have the second instance where a coach has said they saw something on film that they thought they could exploit on special teams. Also, don’t forget that Tulane also ran a fake field goal and that, for all practical purposes, worked.

Put aside the ridiculous swinging gate for a moment; there is a problem on special teams. It is not enough to pat each other on the back when Hendersop or Warren gets a good return or Morstead kicks a long fieldgoal (yes, I know he missed one, too). Someone needs to be accountable for its performance. Someone needs to watch the film with an eye towards improvement. SMU cannot afford to wait until after another screw up to address it. The next special teams mistake may very well cost SMU a game that it cannot afford to lose.

The second thing I noticed in reviewing the game was how much time Ricard (pronounced “Ree-card,” apparently) had to throw the ball. SMU dominated the line of scrimmage, as evidenced by the -33 rushing yards, but more often then not, Ricard had time to throw the ball. Yes, at times in the first half, coverage was blown and Ricard couldn’t connect with his receivers, but, dare I say it, maybe SMU’s coverage in the first half wasn’t terrible.

The second half was something else entirely. That hurry up just destroyed the SMU defense. It wasn’t just the secondary, it was the linebackers and the linemen too. I think it was equal parts inexperience, conditioning, shock and coaching. Hopefully, this is a lesson learned by the defense and not the opposing teams.

Another thing I noticed, is that Tulane did have a spy on Willis much of the game. The spy just didn’t do a good job. I think you have to say Willis is responsible for that. The kid is all right. He has an uncanny ability to make the first rush miss. This is good, because the SMU offensive line needs to play better.

Has everyone learned not to kick the ball to Jessie Henderson? He was averaging 34 yards per return before. Surprisingly, after a 100 yard return, it is only up to 38 yards now. Also surprising, averaging 38 yards per return only gets you to second in the NCAA behind Marcus Thigpen of Indiana even though they both beat last year’s leader by five yards.

Thoughts on Tulane and the crowd:

On Friday, I saw the following evidence in New Orleans that Tulane existed: Moving on…

On Saturday, before heading to the game, I read the paper and a nice full page preview, complete with rosters of both teams, which I think is a waste of space; unless you are going to the game, do you need to know who #63 for SMU is? I saw two Tulane shirts and a weird golf cart thing driving through the quarter playing the Tulane fight song. For the record, I saw them once. While I am aware the Quarter is not the place to look for the Tulane crowd, Tulane ain’t that big a city these days.

I basically got into arguments with people over the Tulane attendance prediction. I am just amazed at the number of people who thought there were going to be 50,000 people there screaming for Tulane. There was nothing to support it. All you had to do was look. But that is not to say there shouldn't have been.

One of the great errors in the game was committed by Tulane when they were not selling tickets to the game for $10, or just giving them away. Seriously. There may have been 21,000 tickets sold, but there were not 21,000 people there. You can sell beer at the Superdome, won’t most people buy at least one beer or the proverbial hot dog?

BTW, I thought there crowd noise was "suspect." I'll leave it at that.

Random thoughts on New Orleans:

I would absolutely encourage everyone to go to New Orleans for the weekend. If you stick to the Quarter, you had to struggle to find signs that there was a Hurricane, except, of course, for the books, signs and t-shirts.

And the “Help wanted” signs that were everywhere.

Five years ago, my wife and I went and we couldn’t even get reservations to the places we wanted to go. Now, we didn’t even need reservations.

And the “For lease” signs were everywhere, too. I think the places that were making it before the hurricane are coming back. The places that were barely making it are gone or going.

Interesting to note that the half-drunk, half-employed, half-crazy people made it back to New Orleans, if they had ever left. Now, they just make up a greater percentage of the whole.

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