We knew very little about the Bobcats coming into this game and while they were better than I expected this was not a pretty win. There were some disappointing things we saw, but at the same time we did enough to win the game and end result is that we are 3-0. We will need to continue to get better cause the effort and execution we saw today will not be enough to get it done in the Big Ten.
I think Brewster said it best in his post game press conference.
"We are pleased to be a 3-0 team. Obviously there is some disappointment there in that I'm not sure we improved as much today as I wanted us to improve. I thought we improved greatly from week one to week two, I don't think we improved as much today from week two to week three."
Overall the offense lacked crispness and confidence today. It felt like they were sleep-walking through the first half and then started to execute in the second half. As I watched the game I felt we had two positives and two negatives.
First of all our offensive line is a serious issue. Injuries are one thing but there have been very few series where we have controlled the line of scrimmage. I was hoping that facing an FCS team would give this line a chance to figure some things out and gain some confidence by dominating the line of scrimmage. We did not at any point and then our best remaining lineman, Dom Alford, went down.
Although our offensive line wasn't great, it was nice to see a good rushing game from DeLeon Eskridge. 119 yards and three touchdowns was exciting to see. He may have had a lot more if he had some holes. I don't think we got as much out of him in the passing game as we did with Bennett, but he had a good day running the ball.
Weber was OK statistically and he didn't turn the ball over but it is becoming more and more obvious that he needs to find another receiver. Decker is getting great opportunities to make plays and he is a great reciever, but Weber is staring at #7 from the snap till he catches it. If we can develop another receiver where Weber can look at Decker then look back to another weapon this offense could grow in it's explosiveness.
Finally I love how we are scoring at key times and taking care of the ball. Three games complete and one offensive turnover. This offense is not turning the ball over and when the defense gets the ball back for them, they score! The turnover margin is one thing but taking it and turning it into points is taking an extra step.
A couple sacks and a few interceptions highlighted a solid day by the defense. Willie VanDeSteeg and Lee Campbell both had solid games and led the defense. This defense is not dominant so if there isn't much to say about them then it was a good day. Big Play Traye came up with a key first half pick which led to seven points three plays later. Theret and Sherels each had fourth quarter interceptions to hold off any rally the Bobcats had in them.
Statistically it was an OK game. The defense only gave up 16 points, they allowed 356 yards which isn't good but we have seen worse, they got MSU off the field on six out of 17 third downs and forced six punts. None of those numbers jump out at you as dominant but we can handle those kind of numbers from a young defense.
Top 5 Observations
1. So far this season Decker has been the recipient of 41.67% of Weber's completions. Bennett has 20%, Kuznia has 11.67% and three are tied with 8%. The Weber/Decker combination is exciting but it getting more and more predicatable with each passing game (pun not intended). The tight ends were very involved in the NIU game and hopefully we'll see them getting the ball thrown their way a bit more as we inch towards Big Ten play.
Someone please send a text to Bryce McNeal, we need some big play help at the receiver position. Michigan is terrible, they have no quarterback now or in the near future. Come to Minnesota, be the second option for a year then spend the next three breaking Decker's records!
2. That Crawford kid is FAST. He racked up a few yards and the kick return for a touchdown, but it was nice to see that he didn't have the same kind of day the last FCS running back had against our D. Tyler Roehl's 263 yards rushing was embarrassing. It should be noted that we have given up only 113 rushing yards per game so far in 2008.
3. Look out top 25, we are coming. FOUR VOTES received in AP poll. Someone should really take Sid's voting privileges away.
4. Troy Stoudermire is averaging 8.1 yards more per kick off return than did Harold Howell a year ago. He was one cut away from housing one in the third quarter. How he let the kicker tackle him, I don't know but I am eagerly awaiting his first return for six.
5. We lost some significant commits from the 2008 recruiting class but those who are still here have contributed greatly. On offense true freshmen have accounted for 26% of our scoring and 44% of our rushing. Defensively there has been very little contributions from freshmen but the JUCOs have helped in tremendous ways. Brock is our leading tackler, Lawrence has 1.5 tackle for loss and a forced fumble, and Simmons has an intercpetion and four pass breakups through three games.
You can question how prepared we were and poorly we executed to start the game. But in the final three quarters we 35-17, the defense only game up 10 points and we did what was necessary to win the game. Next Saturday's game is another statement type game for this program. Nobody believes we are ready to compete with the best of the Big Ten, but starting the season 4-0 and beating the team that torched you for 580 yards a year ago would continue to demonstrate how far we have come in just a year.