Last night I sat in my seat at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium and, apparently, had as many answers as our coaching staff for what I saw happening. The offense managed only 10 points. The offensive line opened running lanes to the tune of 19 total yards. That’s not a typo, 19 yards. Once again our QB was a sitting duck for most of the night while being sacked five times. Bolin had ginormous menacing defenders in his face on seemingly every play, which is a shame, because he's shown that he is capable of making throws when he has time to read the defense and let a play develop.
The narrative of the night unfolded on the first drive when he faked one way and got creamed before he could even get his head around to scan the field. On another play late in the game Bobby kept a RB and a TE in to pass protect and Bolin still had three defenders get to him almost instantly. Clock management and use of timeouts were an issue for Petrino and his offense, again. Maybe he should hook a sidecar up to his Harley and go for a long ride with offensive line coach Chris Klenakis to clear their heads. Because what they’re doing right now just isn’t working. Poor Kyle, he was a good man.
The defense gave up only 20 points and produced two turnovers so it’s difficult to be critical of their performance. However, they gave up over 200 yards on the ground at 5.1 yards per carry and two easy touchdown passes to receivers who didn’t have a defender anywhere near them. There were, again, for the second week in a row, countless missed opportunities to bring a runner down for a loss or no gain. Todd Grantham seemed to have no idea that it was not mandatory to have his defensive backs set up 6-8 yards off the line of scrimmage. Clemson receivers repeatedly caught the ball at or behind the line and then gained 3 yards before being touched by a Louisville defender. You'd think Grantham would’ve seen this strategy coming since Houston did the same thing over and over last week, but to watch it happen over and over again in real time and not adjust is just inexcusable.
Special teams was actually really good last night right up until Wallace’s game tying 38 yard field goal went begging late in the fourth quarter. I thought Josh Appleby had a good night punting, Lord knows he had plenty of opportunities, and for the first time in a long time we saw guys making plays in the return game. Jaire Alexander had a big punt return late in the 3rd quarter and Traveon Samuel’s kickoff return electrified the crowd and tied the game in the 4th when many fans had started to head for the parking lot.
Where do we go from here? Well, for starters, there’s real talent on defense. Again, they did hold Clemson to 20 points and you don’t do that if you don’t have the personnel to make plays. If the mental errors and missed tackles get cleaned up that unit can be a lot better, which is encouraging. As for the offense I have no idea. The young talent at WR is obvious but we’ve played almost three full games without our top two receivers on the depth chart. I can’t imagine we would’ve seen as many dropped passes thus far if that weren’t the case. I hate to beat a dead horse and then leave the decapitated head in your bed, but the real issue for the offense is the O-Line, and, unlike the defense, I don’t see a lot of talent there right now. I expect them to get a little better as they learn to communicate and work together but I don’t expect huge gains.
The team has eight days to get ready for Samford, and God help us all if we don’t win that game by three touchdowns. After that we travel to NC State and FSU in back-to-back weeks. If you don’t steal one of those two games, and at this point a win in either would absolutely be a steal, then you come home to lick your wounds at 1-5 for a match-up with Boston College. If that’s the scenario three games from now I would be just as worried about the mental state of this team as I am about anything else. Even with all of the issues I’ve discussed this season I can realistically say that effort has not been a problem.
Now we wait.