We're not who we thought we were. This isn't a nine win team, this isn't an eight win team, this is a mediocre at best team. We were fooled into thinking this would be a good team by what seemed like an extremely talented defense, but if anything, our offense without any returning skill players has been carrying us through our four game season. You can't be angry at them for underperforming - this team just isn't as good as we thought they'd be, and we have to reconfigure our hopes for this season accordingly.
First, the positives:
- We criticized the offensive playcalling in the first two weeks because it was sooooooooooo boring, but it's been fantastic the past two weeks. Our pass plays are crisp, perfectly executed, and get about six yards a completion at the least, our rush plays are good pace changers, and we take sufficient risks to keep the defense off-guard - see the deep pass to Sid Stewart across the middle Kafka left just a little to long and the Brendan Mitchell touchdown grab on fourth and short.
- With Stephen Simmons, we might actually have a pretty sweet offense: Kafka and the receivers are clearly on the same page, and the other backs have been good in short bursts. And pretty much every receiver besides Brewer had a career day today, so there's that.
- Sherrick McManis actually did return our secondary to decency, holding Weber to 186 yards and picking him off. Eric Decker only picked up 89 yards - actually not bad after what we saw from Mike Williams - although he was inexcusably being given like a 20 yard cushion by Jordan Mabin on his first touchdown. Pretty reasonable, all things considered.
- I spent the afternoon as an "o" in a chest-painting line that said "WOOOT-TANG CLAN", an homage to Corey Wootton and my favorite rap group. (I downloaded an Inspectah Deck album the other day. Yeah, I'm hardcore.) Surprisingly, considering how much I write about rap, I wasn't the one who suggested we paint our chests that, but I was really glad we did. On the flip side, the amount of paint on my hands and the fact that I figured nobody was commenting because everybody was at the game prevented me from checking the website on my iPhone, so I wasn't even around for the game thread. (Luckily, nobody commented anyway - that will change next week. Or else.)
- The scoreboard operator is really optimistic. He put up scores of "Wildcats 7, Minnesota 3" (it was the other way around) after the first quarter, and, somehow, "Wildcats 38, Minnesota 21" after Brendan Mitchell's touchdown that actually made the score 24-21.
Now, the longer list: negatives.
- Run plays are supposed to be conservative, but when you give up 4-6 yards every time the opponent runs the ball up the middle, not so much. First off, the holes Minnesota's offensive line was opening up were big enough to fit a small Mack truck or a large hippo into. Then, when guys got to the running back - be it Duane Bennett or Kevin Whaley or any person wearing red and yellow - was good for a spin move out of a tackle and then good to ride a linebacker for about two yards. The tackling we've witnessed on this team is abhorrent. It's a team-wide epidemic, and it's not the type of thing that seems fixable, and it's not the type of thing you can win football games with.
- I forgot how depressing Ryan Field is. Jeez. Don't get me wrong, the student section is awesome, 5,000 people pumped and really into the game - but looking out onto the rest of the field is hurtful.
- Did I mention how bad our run defense is? It's even worse than I made it sound.
- Mike Kafka only threw one pick, but there were some more that were easy picks for defenders that they flubbed. His decision making was pretty good throughout the game, and it's clear to me he's a good passer - it's just one in every 30 throws he uncorks a throw that you wouldn't expect in a co-rec IM game. Also, when Kafka does run with it - which seems few and far between now, and that's not necessarily a bad thing - he seems much less explosive than he was last year. He couldn't outrun DT's today and when you're slower than DT's, you're going to get sacked and pick up intentional grounding penalties. Not sure why, but he seems slower than last year.
- Did I mention the run defense? It was that bad.
- I'm starting to think maybe Andrew Brewer should return punts? Not that Smith has been bad in his career, but methinks he's caught a bad case of the dropsy.
So that's that. What we need to do is forget about what we wrote and read back at the beginning of the year and remember that we can still enjoy this season if we give the Cats more reasonable expectations. I'll get at you guys tomorrow.