Monday, September 28, 2009

1 & Done in Albuquerque?

First came the sexual harassment allegations. Then came the Lobos' ATROCIOUS 0-4 start that doesn't look like it'll end any time soon. Couldn't get any worse for New Mexico's first year head coach Mike Locksley, right? Wrong.

In a post-game coaches meeting after the Lobos' loss to in-state (should be) whipping boy New Mexico State, Locksley apparently punched one of his assistants. With the kind of tailspin that UNM is in, I can't see this season ending with anything but an 0-12 record. I mean, I just can't see who they're going to beat at this point. With his team's on-field problems being compounded by his off-field problems, Locksley has about as much chance of surviving this season as the American auto industry.

Just for the sake of speculation, I'll point out that a certain former TCU coach who also coached at New Mexico is currently out of work...

Top 25 Dragon Recap

From the looks of things, that whole 10 team spread I’ve picked to preview is a little too short sighted, as top 10 teams like Penn State, Ole Miss, Cal and Miami not only lost but were severely punished for said losses, none moreso than Cal who went from 6th to 24th in the AP Poll. I knew Ole Miss was going to wake up realize that they’re coached by Houston Nutt sooner rather than later, but Cal was supposed to be the big Pac 10 threat and Oregon was, well, not. Regardless, all four of these guys dropped below the Frogs in the polls this week, helping us in our rise to 11th in the AP poll and 10th in the Coaches where we jumped Cincinnati. Take THAT, Big Least. Let’s see how it all went down.

The Good

#6/6 Virginia Tech 31, #17/21 Miami . In what was probably the biggest surprise of the weekend for most people, except for maybe Oregon beating Cal, Virginia Tech absolutely unloaded on Miami, rushing for 272 yards and returning a blocked punt on their way to dismantling this year’s upstart BCS NC team. Virginia Tech has been known for more for its defense this season, but apparently they can move the ball on the ground a little as well despite losing their starting RB before the season began. Miami QB Jacory Harris looked terrible, going 9/25 for 150 with an INT. Virginia Tech is now the hands down ACC leader and looks to stay high in the rankings for a long time as that Alabama loss doesn’t look bad at all.

UR/UR Florida State 7, USF 17. In other, “no one saw this coming” news, the Bulls rode their freshman QB BJ Daniels to a HUGE win over the Seminoles in Tallahassee. Filling in for the injured Matt Grothe, Daniels threw for 2 TDs and rushed for 126 yards to win a game that was never really in question. After losing Grothe it looked like South Florida had no chance in the Big East, but they are definitely still in the running with this one. Despite the tepid preseason outlook, the Big Least race is shaping up to be the most interesting in the country that no one will give a shit about at season’s end.

#20/21 BYU 42, Colorado State 23. In an interesting rankings twist, BYU won but still dropped a spot in both polls, losing their spot to the suddenly good Georgia Bulldogs. Colorado State really beat themselves in this one, despite the lop sided score, as BYU scored touchdowns on 2 INTs and a blocked punt. However, CSU did close to within 28-17 in the second half before BYU took care of their business. A week after a defensive flat line against Florida State, the Cougars gave up 372 yards passing to the Rams. Isn’t it hilarious that your returning Heisman winner couldn’t put up more than 10 points against this defense? Last week it was the run that foiled the Cougars, so I’m listing their defense as “suspect” at this point in time. Max Hall threw for 2 TDs and Harvey Unga rolled up 113 yards and 3 scores to lead the Cougars. I have no fear of this team, especially with these home performances. Good thing they aren’t coming to Amon G.

The Meh.

#10/11 Cincinnati 28, Fresno State 20. I didn’t see this game, but apparently the coaches did as they deemed the Cincinnati performance worthy of a drop in the rankings behind the Frogs. This game wasn’t necessarily as close as it looked, although Fresno did roll up 443 yards of total offense, but Cincy QB Tony Pike continued his run of big performance, throwing for 300 yards and 3 TDs. In an interesting stat – Cincy only had the ball for 16 minutes. Quick striking offense, indeed.

#14/12 Oklahoma State 56, Grambling State 6. So Meh. Next.

The Bad.

#7/7 USC 27, Washington State 6. …and USC’s ascent back up the rankings begins. While it looked like this weekend’s Cal/USC match in Berkeley was going to be game of the year-worthy, both teams had to come out with weak performances, none more than Cal. Matt Barkley threw 2 TDs and racked up 247 yards in the win. It should be noted that Wazzu is a really, really terrible football team and deserves to be in the Pac 10 less than Baylor or Iowa State deserve Big 12 status. Told you guys about that high spread.

#9/9 Ohio State 30, Illinois 0. Good work, Schultz. 170 yards of offense. Earn that paycheck, big boy! This one will have bucknasty absolutely ecstatic. In a Clemson-esque downpour, OSU RB Dan Herron ran in 2 TDs and Terrell Pryor tossed another as the Buckeyes rolled. A repeat of 2007 was not in the cards.

#5/5 Boise State 49, Bowling Green 14. So much for that pick. Also, you are reading that ranking correctly – The Broncos are now ranked 5th in the country. FIFTH. Just goes to show how much those pre-season polls skew the system, especially when you get early season upsets as we have this year. Regardless, the computers don’t lie and I would hope that if we both win out the Frogs would get a huge boost due to strength of schedule… but I definitely don’t feel great about those chances, especially with that Oregon win looking REALLY good right now for Boise. Kellen Moore tossed 2 TDs on 17/21 passing and the Broncos rolled up a 43-0 lead before going on cruise control in the third quarter. Thanks a lot, BG.

#12/15 Houston 29, Texas Tetch 28. In one of the more exciting games on the day, Houston QB Case Keenum drove the Cougars 95 yards in the final minutes to take a 1 point win over the Raiders. As much as I hate it from a rankings stand point – we’re going to have a hard enough time overtaking Boise, not to mention having these yahoos nipping at our heels – this is just fantastic. Can you imagine what it feels like to be a Tetch fan right now? They whined all week about how they would’ve beaten Texas had the officiating not been so one sided, and then they go down to Houston and get beat by the CUSA all stars? I love it. I’m gloating. Unfortunately, as Houston rolls on, so does their climb in the rankings but circle October 10th on your calendar as that’s when the Cougars travel to Mississippi State. You might laugh at pinning your hopes on a Bulldogs team that also falls into the WSU/ISU/Baylor category, but they hung with LSU this weekend only to fall on a late goal line stand. A win there, and there are no forseeable losses for Houston. Despite their CUSA status, the voters would be hard pressed to keep a team with 3 wins against BCS competition out of a BCS game.

Great week for the Frogs as we make our biggest rankings jump of the season. A 3-0 SMU team would look better than their current 2-1 for our strength going forward, but you can only take what they give you. Each week you keep thinking that the non BCS teams will reach a ceiling and start falling, but based on Boise sitting nicely at #5, it’s hard to say what exactly that is. Either way, this speaks volumes about how the voters feel about the non BCS teams and looks a lot more promising when we’re talking about a potential National Championship bid. With Tim Tebow looking like he could miss some time with a concussion coupled with the Gators having to go into #4 LSU - albeit an LSU team that is amongst the most overrated in the history of ranking things - in a couple of weeks, look for that spot to open up. Before we can even begin that chatter though, we have to take care of our business and really hope that Houston and Boise don’t take care of theirs. Go Frogs!

Strength of Schedule Watch: Week 4 recap

While the Frogs helped themselves immensely with the win at Clemson, with their new loftier ranking comes loftier importance on strength of schedule. It was another weekend of mixed results from TCU's opponents.

Let's start off with what went right:

Utah 30, Louisville 14
-This game was big for two reasons: the Utes badly needed to bounce back after the loss to Oregon, and it was the only regular-season meeting between the Mountain West and the Big East. While I don't think Louisville is quite the burgeoning program they were just a few short years ago, notching a win over the Big East is still important for the MWC. The Utes dominated this one, running up 416 total yards and a Dalton-esque performance from QB Terrance Cain. It looks as if they may have lost star RB Matt Asiata for the year, but his replacement Eddie Wide ran for 129 yards.

BYU 42, Colorado State 23

-I suppose this game's effect on TCU's strength of schedule is fairly moot, but considering BYU is still in the Top 25, Frog fans should root for the Cougars to claw their way back up the rankings. The Rams actually outgained the Cougars 438 to 373, but BYU took advantage of turnovers and coasted to the win.

Air Force 26, San Diego State 14
-The Aztecs were able to move the ball fairly easily on the Air Force defense, but the Falcons controlled the game by forcing SIX turnovers and using their running game to eat up a ton of clock. Air Force is now 3-1 heading into a big two-game stretch with a road trip to Navy and the Frogs coming to Colorado Springs in two weeks.

Texas State 52, Texas Southern 18
-The Bobcats moved the ball at will against the "other" TSU, and absolutely stuffed the Tiger's running game allowing only 4 rushing yards, showing that the domination showed by TCU's offensive line was pretty impressive.

....and what went wrong:

Wyoming 30, UNLV 27
-UNLV really looked like they might be one of the middle-tier MWC teams that could pad the conference's profile with a break-out year in '09, but instead they've slid right back into their old inconsistent ways. Four Rebel turnovers helped fuel the Cowboys' comeback win, as did their new QB Austyn Carta-Samuels, who threw for 234 yards and 3 TD's despite having a name that makes me think he's the adoptive son of two lesbian college professors.

New Mexico State 20, New Mexico 17
-Piss poor. Just piss poor. The Lobos look like they're in danger of going 0-12 this year. Makes you wonder if new UNM coach Mike Locksley might be one & done in Albuquerque.

Week 3: Clemson Tiggers.

Whew. That was WAY too close. It was a game that we all knew we would be tight, butI think it was still a tough thing for most of us to witness given the opening two games, and especially after it was made painfully obvious that CJ Spiller is really, really fast. Big props to Daryl Washington for making that stop though. Anyway, we’re 3-0, we’re ranked 11th and 10th in the polls, we’re $1 million richer and, to top it all off, it’s annual SMU hate week. At home! I don’t know what else we could really ask for. I don’t know about you guys, but if I have to witness another game in ESPN 360 format, I’m doing whatever it takes to attend said game because, yeesh, what a miserable experience. Let’s just say my ESPN360, which had worked flawlessly leading up to the game as I obsessively watched every single bit of programming on it to assure myself of its availability, decided to crap out right as our game kicked off. Was it the karma gods forsaking me for choosing to travel to Colorado instead of Clemson? Possibly, but when all was said and done, I got it all put together and only missed Clemson’s opening drive – the worst one our defense would have all game. Enough chit chat though, let’s get to it.

Offense – A-. Alright, alright, I know it’s hard to fault our offense for being a little sluggish considering the conditions and the defense we were facing, but entering the fourth quarter, despite all my outward assertions to the contrary, I was afraid Dalton wasn’t going to be able to put the ball in the end zone. Fortunately, Big Red and Antoine Hicks made the hook up of their lives, with a big assist from the Tigers D back’s ass, and put the Frogs up for good. Until then though? A few questionable play calls, most notably the failed fourth down conversion. Now, I realize hindsight is 20/20, and that’s pretty much where I’m sitting right now because at the time I thought we’d for sure get it, but I mean… I think you have to let Evans put some points up there, especially with a slight lead and being on the road. Although, Sir Shanksalot lived up to his billing later in the game, so perhaps the OCs knew something we didn’t at the time, but, regardless, you can’t argue with the end result. That being said, I’m going to argue with our last offensive play of the game – not the kneel – when we had the chance to ice the game, and instead ran the most bullshit outside handoff ever called in history. I know Turner didn’t get you the first earlier in the game on 4th and short, and I know the Clemson D did a fantastic job of shutting him down the entire game… but that Clemson defense was WINDED after spending so much time on the field late in the game, so you have to feel like we could’ve gotten enough of a push to get 4 yards. I don’t know, even by armchair QB standards I’m a low round draft pick, but I just don’t think you run THAT play in such a huge moment. Enough complaining about a win though – is this what it feels like to be a UT fan?

Needless to say, and regardless of the final stat line, the night belongs to my namesake Andy Dalton, who had a man game if there’s ever been one. I try not to read too many pieces about the games before I do my recap so I’m not just regurgitating previous information, but I did check out Lebreton’s article in the S-T where he suggested that Dalton played the best game of his career Saturday. Now, most of us will remember last season – the Wyoming game in particular – and say that this one, statistics wise, wasn’t even close. However, from a leadership, getting the damn thing done perspective, it’s a hard opinion to argue. Through the air, Dalton went 17-26 for 226 yards and two TDs which is thus far his biggest producing game of the year, and it couldn’t have come at a bigger time. When you consider the TDs he threw, you could definitely get your Lebreton on and suggest they were the most clutch of his career.

After a magnificently fluky near interception turned 58 yard gain from Dalton to Wesley, Red threaded a 6 yard TD between several defenders into Curtis Clay’s hands in the middle of the end zone for a TD. That sentence doesn’t offer a whole lot of proper English, but that’s the only way I know how to describe it. It may not have been the prettiest TD drive – penalties, the tipped pass – but considering it followed Clemson’s opening scoring drive, and it went 91 yards – 96 if you look at penalties – this will definitely be one that we as fans will always remember. Doubly for me as it occurred simulatenously with me getting my 360 working before nearly tossing my laptop through the window of my parent’s home. One of the most impressive things about Dalton’s day, though, would obviously be what he accomplished on the ground. Clemson must’ve watched their film from last week, because they were not interested in letting us run the ball, notably Joseph Turner whose final tally was 9 rushes for 25 yards. Unfortuntaly for the Tigers, they must not have noticed the one thing we all have in the first two games- that being Red’s shockingly increased speed. He ended up leading all Frogs rushers with 19 carries for 86 yards and it wasn’t even close as Wesley was the next closest with 8 for 43.

At some point I’ve got to stop this Dalton adoration and move on to another point, but before that I obviously have to mention his second TD pass, which ended up being the winner. To that point I, like most of you, was considerably worried about our chances in this game. Not because I didn’t think we had the ability, but mostly because they were stopping our run so it was obvious we’d have to get the passing game going and that was going to be no small feat given the conditions. Also, with the previously mentioned fourth down failure in lieu of a field goal, I just thought we were going to be punished in the end for not taking the points - thank you Richard Jackson for missing an easy one late. Then, like I said, Dalton had his, “screw it, we’re winning this game” moment and threw what will surely be remembered as the best TD pass of his career thus far. With the Frogs finally pushing the ball deep into Clemson territory early in the fourth quarter, Dalton took a shot at Antoine Hicks running down the sideline. The pass initially looked like it was going to be no good as Hicks was well covered and bobbled the ball, but he came down with it as the ref signaled a late TD. Looking back on the replays, though, it was shown that there was NO way he would’ve caught that ball had the coverage not been so tight, as the ball stuck between himself and the Clemson defender when he came down, so, when you also think of the Wesley tipped pass, it looks like someone wanted us to win this game. You always hear that great teams catch a few breaks along the way so perhaps this is our year? The story remains the be told.

Quickly running through the rest of the offensive highlights, Turner, Wesley, Matthew Tucker and Ryan Christian combined for 76 yards on 21 carries. In the air, Kerley looked every bit as good as we hoped, catching 5 balls for 63 yards while looking very, very acrobatic in the process. Bart Johnson, after his big game last week, came through with 4 catches for 23 yards, while Ryan Christian had 3 for 21, including a nice looking 14 yard gain on third and 17 late in the game that almost kept a drive alive. He did fumble said ball though, so there is room for improvement. Beyond that, Jimmy Young had 2 catches for 27 yards. Funnily enough, the three guys who only had one catch on the day ended up making the biggest impact – Wesley, Clay, and Hicks. The O-line didn’t dominate as much as we’d hoped, but they got Dalton decent enough protection, although they did give up a sack and coverage broke down a few times and forced Dalton into rushed passes. Also to be negative but fully disclosed, Dalton did have 2 fumbles, although with the rainy conditions, that ain’t all bad, and it should be noted he recovered both.

Final Numbers – 388 yards (226 passing, 162 rushing), 20 first downs, 3 fumbles-none lost, 11 penalties – 106 yards, 5-13 third down conversions, 1-1 red zone, 1 sack allowed, 31:20 TOP.

Defense – A-. Like the offense, it’s hard to criticize a defense that held an opponent to 10 points in their home stadium, but there are a few things to nitpick. First off, I didn’t see the opening drive, but when was the last time we let a team methodically move the ball down the field on us without it being the result of our shooting ourselves in the foot? Utah comes to mind, and that was a TERRIFYING thought, although GP himself put it best afterwards, ""But we did two things different from that game," Patterson said. "On our final drive, we went and scored, and on theirs we stopped them.". Fortunately on said opening drive we stopped them cold on the 8 yard line and forced a field goal, but that’s still not something that happens to us very often. Also, the huge Spiller pass play would be such a huge complaint from this section if not for Daryl Washington recovering enough to catch him and the fact that it never happened again. Seriously, you hear that D Wash is the best athlete on the team, but did anyone realize he had wheels like that? Sure, Spiller had to slow up a bit to catch the pass, but I mean, he had plenty of time to turn it back on and Washington didn’t allow it. Nice work, sir. Also, the D gave up 309 yards of total offense, but 144 of those came on two scoring drives, so that’s 165 for the rest of the game, including a complete destruction of the Clemson offense after halftime.

Since we’ve already gotten the hyperbole train rolling, should I say that Clemson’s second to last drive was possibly the most unnerving defense stand we’ve seen as Frogs fans under Patterson? In all fairness, we’ve had higher stakes as recently as the Poinsettia Bowl and the Hughes sack, but forcing the Tigers into a fourth down turnover was HUGE. After driving the ball into the TCU red zone, helped along by a big penalty, Clemson had four shots to put the ball into the end zone…and lost 3 yards total to turn the ball over. Good work, D. Great work. Clemson QB Kyle Parker had so much pressure on him he had to force that fourth down throw and it had absolutely no chance. In fact, Clemson was 0-3 on fourth down conversions in the game, each being huge, although the last one was a hail mary that wasn’t going to pan out. Just a great second half for the defense. CJ Spiller may have rushed for 112 yards and a TD, but he didn’t have near the impact as expected. The stats won’t knock anyone out, but the bottom line is, the guys got the job done and earned a huge victory.

Out of the entire defense, Daryl Washington was easily the standout, recording 13 tackles, including 8 solo, as well as a QB hurry. Alex Ibolye and Wayne Daniels also had huge games, both recording 8 tackles, including one for a loss from Daniels. We didn’t force any turnovers, but that might be alright given the collective effort the defense gave. This should pop out at you – Jerry Hughes was 10th on the team in tackles with 2 and no sacks. Yes, he was double teamed on nearly every down, but it looks like the Clemson D assumed they could stop Hughes and the rest of the guys would falter. This was obviously not so. I think the fact that our hands down best player can have a pedestrian game, yet the rest of the team can step up and fill the void speaks volumes about what this defense can accomplish this season. We’ve known there were going to be opportunities to exploit with entire sides of offensive lines focusing on Zilla, and this week we finally figured it out.

Running down the list, Tank Carder had 7 tackles, followed by Sanders with 5 and a pass breakup and Kelly Griffin had 3. Lastly, a big shout out to Freshman Jeremy Coleman who may have only recorded one tackle, but it was a big one as he stopped Kyle Parker on 4th and 1 deep into TCU territory to give the Frogs the ball back. Looks like he’ll fit in nicely in cowtown.

Final Numbers – 309 yards against (192 passing, 117 rushing), 0 sacks, 17 first downs allowed, 0 INTs, 28:40TOP, 7/17 third down, 0-3 fourth down, 0 sacks.

Special Teams – C+. Per usual, the special teams unit was the weakest on the afternoon, although it’s hard to keep up with our offense and defense on most days. First off, Ross Evans, you are fucking fired. Sure, it was rainy conditions and a 42 yarder, but that thing had the distance and no chance. I thought you’d learned your lesson, but dude plays with inconsistency like it’s going out of style. On the other hand, he only kicked one of his 3 kickoffs out of bounds, although none went too deep. He needs to be down on his knees in the showers in front of our special teams coverage for not allowing any big returns from Spiller and Co. Same goes for Anson Kelton who punted 6 times for a paltry 31.8 yard average, but our punt team was on him quick enough not to allow any return yards. He also had a few go out of bounds, including one that went an astounding 15 yards. Like I said though, Spiller never had a shot at returning any of them, so the results are hard to argue with.

In the return game, Kerley still didn’t break one, although I don’t think anyone expected it this week. He only had 2 punt return opportunities, tallying 8 yards, but he did return all 3 kick offs for 52 total yards. Nothing special, but nothing terrible.

Final Numbers -0-1 FG, 6 punts- 31.8 average, 1 downed in the 20, no TBs, Kick offs – 3-66.3 yard average, 1 OOB, no TBs, 2 PR - yards, 3 KOR – 52 yards, long of 25.

Overall – I think I’ve pretty much said all that can be said about this game. The defense was lights out in the second half and Dalton made things happen when he needed to. It wasn’t pretty, but no team has played to perfection in all games this season, so it’s not like we’re alone. The fact is, we went into Clemson as an underdog and slugged out a win in terrible conditions against a great defensive team, not to mention an offense with one of the best RBs in the country. They aren’t all going to be 56-21 finals, and as fans we just need to be prepared for a few close ones along the way. We left town without any injuries which is more than Florida and Baylor can say this week, and we’ve got our biggest rival at home this weekend. Oh yeah, and there’s rain in the forecast. Stanford part 2? We can only hope. Until then, Go Frogs.

Morning Dump

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Daily Herald