By JD

Well, the crew has given me the keys to the site, so it’s time for my first post. It seems only fitting that it is in reaction to yet another early season meltdown by the Beavs. On Saturday, I had that sinking feeling that I have witnessed no fewer than a hundred times in my life of being a Beaver fan. Every year I think things will change. Every year, I have the hope that THIS is the year we will finally break out and are mentally tough enough to claim a victory (or at least keep the game close!) in one of these out-of-conference road games. Alas, even with the regime change from Riley to GA, the results stay the same.

If I had written this post on Saturday or Sunday, it would have been pretty much a long-winded rant. I had so much hope going into this game and this season, but that second half took it out of me. I was ready to vent. However, thanks to the guidance of the ever calm, cool, and collected Con, I was advised to take a more positive approach. After a good day-and-a-half of cooling off, I am ready. I like to think of this as the “good dad” approach. I’m not going to gloss over what went wrong, but I’m going to follow what went wrong with positives/areas of improvement. Just as this is the best way to raise a child, I believe this is the best (and most sane) way to try and be a Beaver fan. If you get over-the-top upset at each of these games, it’s going to be a long, miserable life.

Jake Luton

-What went wrong: It was quite the roller coaster day for Jake. It started out with the return of “Live Arm!” I thought this would be done and gone with Garretson off the field, but unfortunately not. After sailing it over Hodgins when he had a wide open TD on the opening drive, he proceeded to sail a couple more passes before making the safest throw ever to make sure he didn’t do it again to a WIDE OPEN Timmy Hernandez (I commented real-time that even Con could have thrown that TD). Things went well for the most part after that, until the back foot throws came out. If I am not mistaken, each of his picks came off of his back foot when there was pressure. I’m no QB (except for a few glorious year in Oregon State IM’s), but I know that is exactly what you are taught NOT to do (unless you are amazing like Aaron Rodgers). They were also usually thrown into double coverage, which adds to the recipe for disaster. That pick-six essentially ended the game.

Positives: As we heard from camp, Jake can make all the throws with ease. It’s nice to see someone who can sling the ball again. He doesn’t have to put all of his body into just throwing a slant route to the outside. While he did sail a few at the beginning, he settled in nicely and was quite accurate on his mid-range passes. There were some nicely thrown timing routes (the timing was on for those routes about 50% of the time, but to be expected for his first game). He does have a great connection with Togiai, which was on full display all game. His scrambling ability was very impressive. Numerous times he was able to avoid a costly sack and throw the ball away to save a drive. The most impressive plays on the day were by far the two TD’s to Togiai (yes I said two, because that’s what it was, despite what any garbage replay official says). The scramble to get to the sideline, and then the beautiful sidearm sling perfectly thrown so Togiai could come down in bounds with it. The wheel route to Togiai was a perfectly placed over the shoulder so that Beaverton HS alum (shoutout) Even Colorito couldn’t get to it. I expect Jake to improve in the decision-making department because, in terms of skill, he is what we have been sorely missing since the departure of Mannion.

Defensive Front Seven

-What went wrong: Everything… For most games this would be an exaggeration, but this may be pretty accurate. What was the most disappointing in this was that the two veteran leaders of the defense, Bright and Manase, had pretty terrible games. Bright was over-matched all day. He was continuously getting destroyed on outside run plays. He would kind of seal the outside, but would get blown back toward the sideline so much that his outside contain wasn’t worth much. He just kind of folded to the blocker and didn’t hold his ground. I noticed one time he was tired of getting destroyed attempting to keep contain, and instead jumped inside the blocker. This resulted in a 30-or-so yard touchdown run on that play. Manase seemed to take poor angles a good chunk of the game. What was worse were his multiple blatant missed tackles. The most embarrassing was on the fourth down play where he came up and kind of whiffed on the QB, allowing him to get the first down. Manase came up off the ground doing the “didn’t get it” crossing the arms back and forth motion when coming off the ground, only to notice that he did indeed get the first down. The last thing overall was the lack of effort in the second half. It seemed like the defense kind of gave up, which is pathetic. I get that the offense didn’t do you any favors, but you can at least finish the game out and keep from embarrassing yourself.

-Positives: Titus Failaluga was a bright spot on the day. He was getting after it, and had our only negative yardage play of the day. He was going so hard that he cramped up, got taken off on a cart, rode the bike for a few minutes, and then got back in the game. More players need to follow his example. There was also the perfect hit by Hughes-Murray that took all the wind out of the QB and resulted in a pick. We need more plays like that to get the 30 sacks and 30 turnovers GA wants this season.

For Bright and Manase, I think it may just be the “first game syndrome” (I just coined that). Remember how many missed tackles Bright had in the first game last year? I couldn’t even keep track of them. He went on from there to have a great season (before injury), so I think he will get it together and be one of our best defenders. We know Manase is legit. After the game, he talked about how the communication was poor on defense. As the leader of the defense trying to make all the calls and adjustments, maybe he was thinking too much instead of just playing. As he gets more comfortable with the calls and schemes, I believe he will get back to his old self. Another thing here: I hate making excuses, but the heat, altitude, and time of possession did look to take their toll on this unit. I don’t know why we agreed to move this game to August, but it looks like a huge mistake now. I hope that bye week in September is worth it!

Play Calling

-What went wrong: The play calling/RB substitutions seemed suspect most of the game. We finished last season steamrolling people on the ground, while throwing when necessary to keep the other team from stacking the box too much. This game deviated a lot from that strategy, especially in the second half. I get throwing more because they are loading up against the run, but completely abandoning the run game? We weren’t getting the greatest YPC (except for Nall being Nall on the TD), but it’s all a part of wearing them down and winning time of possession. It is by far our strength, so even if the other team tries to take it away, we shouldn’t just give up so easily. Our defense kept having to come back on the field with little to no rest in that second half, which compounded their failures. I think part of the reason for this is we were running spread option plays with Luton! He is not a threat to keep the ball at all, so those plays are totally worthless and destined for failure because the only way they even work are if the defense has to play the QB honest. We need to change the running calls with the QB we have this year, which seems obvious. When we do pass, why do we have to throw 40 yard bombs into double coverage? The short to mid-range passing game was working well, but we seemed to stray away from it for some reason in the 2nd half. Part of that is Luton’s decision-making, but, as GA says, the coaches need to put the players in positions to succeed. Also, as Con pointed out on Twitter, a few RB screens might be a better idea than the ones to Bradford and Hawkins that were total failures (or even the legendary tight end middle screen).

Another troubling part of the offensive coaching was the RB substitutions. There were LONG stretches of the game where Nall didn’t sniff the field. He is by far our best player. That is unacceptable! The TD came after he was out for like an entire quarter, so no wonder he was so jacked and ready to run. I understand getting him rest, especially with all the great backs we have, but why do they have to go with only one back per possession? It gets them all more involved, warm, and focused on the game if the substitutions are quicker and more regular. I hope this trend doesn’t continue. Nall needs his carries!

PS: No more fly sweeps to people who don’t know how to run in traffic.

PS, PS: Why the heck aren’t we going for it on 4 and 4 when it is a 52 yard field goal from the hash? We should have run Nall on third and fourth down and get those four yards.

-Positives: Our mid-range passing game was effective. It can definitely get better, but we picked up major chunks of yards and got key first downs with the 8-12 yard crossing routes and outs. I also loved the Ryan Nall wheel route. He catches better in traffic than most of our receivers! Another positive was the focus on Togiai. We need to keep feeding him (despite his unfortunate fumble) because he is currently our best receiver, and linebackers are no match for him, as we saw on Saturday. We also converted a third and short with a run (what a concept), thanks to Nall taking upon himself to make it to the marker. I think the coaches will (hopefully) look at what worked and what didn’t and game-plan accordingly. There were things that were working on offense, and Nall is still Nall. The Beavs just need to focus on those good things and remember what their strengths are.

O-Line

-What went wrong: As with Luton, it was a very up-and-down day for the O-Line. The real negative was the inability to get a great push up front for the running backs. There were multiple times where the running back was met in the backfield right after receiving the hand-off. The running backs were doing their best, and made the most of openings, but there was not a ton to be had throughout the day. There were also times were we got overpowered in pass-protection and let Jake get pressured into a bad throw.

Positives: I was very pleased with the pass protection in the first half. It seemed like Jake had all day to throw and had a huge pocket, which led to success. I’m thinking that fatigue caught up with them in the second half, especially as we stopped running as much and the defense could pin its ears back and go full out pass rush. Even still, we only gave up one sack on the day, which is solid. There were flashes of opening up holes in the run game. Nall’s run (obviously), but there were a few nice Pierce runs, and a Tyner run as well where there was actually some space to work.

DB’s

-What went wrong: My issues were with the huge cushions and the blown assignments. As a PAC 12 team against a MWC team, it was sad to see the huge cushions we were giving most of the game. They could throw a 5-yard slant/out/hook any time they wanted with ease. As a team that is supposed to have better athletes, that was unfortunate to see. It seems like it was kind of necessary too, because we still got beat deep multiple times. However, I do think that was mostly due to the second issue: blown assignments. The key 3rd down we gave up in the fourth quarter, the almost touchdown where the QB overthrew Gallup, and the walk-in touchdown on the crossing route all looked to be caused by missed assignments (especially by safeties) There is no reason for the safety to be behind a receiver in the middle of the field. On the 3rd down and almost TD, it looked like Moore realized he was out of place and kind of threw up his hands in frustration after each play. After the game, Crawford talked about communication and missed assignments (probably related to the 3rd down play where he had no safety help) as being a huge factor. One more thing I would like to see is getting off blocks better. The WR screen passes were way too effective, and there was one TD in the 4th quarter where the DB’s got ran-off and then blocked into the end zone for an easy score.

-Positives: We did get a pick (should have been two Brandon Arnold) which is somewhat of a good sign. Interceptions have been few and far between the past few seasons, so hopefully this is a sign of things to come. The safeties seemed to tackle better and give bigger hits than the LB’s on Saturday. It’s never good when your safeties are leading your team in tackles, but it is good to know that they are there, take good angles, and won’t give up big runs.

Atta-boys

Time to give some extra props to what went well on Saturday:

-Vitamin J is alive! He had good hands all day, seemed to be running pretty crisp routes, and was more of the Villamin we saw two years ago. Still needs to work on timing routes with Jake, but there were some well executed ones on Saturday. Looking to see his resurrection continue as we progress through the season, which will be a huge key to success.

speaking of keys…

-Kee Whetzel was playing with a purpose. There was one kickoff where he absolutely destroyed someone. It reminded me of Brandon Arnold a few seasons ago. He also got in on quite a few plays on defense. He is someone I know is not going to give up and will go hard every play.

-Loved seeing Trevorris Johnson as our 2-minute offense pass-blocking specialist. He did a great job picking up rushers, and even caught a key pass on the end-of-the-half TOUCHDOWN drive.

-Ryan Nall, of course.

-Sumner Houston: Didn’t notice any bad snaps or weird snap count procedural penalties. Great job for his first college game at center after switching from defense over the summer.

-Seth Collins was as fired up as ever on the sidelines even though he was hurt. Love seeing him lead with energy, and can’t wait to have him back.

 

Well, I will be watching next week’s game on DVR because my sister is getting married and all the family is in town. Hopefully it will be more of a pleasant experience with many more positives than this week.

It was still only the first game. No reason to give up hope yet! If we play like this in week 9 or 10, then I will be worried. For now, let’s all channel positivity and constructive criticism towards the Beavs so we don’t have to suffer through another long, painful season.

Go Beavs

-JD

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