When it comes to previewing games against non-league opponents who are figuratively, in the case of ULM, or literally, in the case of Portland State, not in our league, I sometimes like to take the opportunity to think outside the box a little on these previews. Oh, I'll talk about the game, but not necessarily in the most direct sense. Fortunately this week I got the added bonus of kerley's highlighting probably the only two ULM players you will ever need to know, as well as lyle breaking down the stat battle from the Fightin' Jindals opener against Florida State, the most direct correlation to our game tomorrow. I personally don't believe we're the same caliber team as the Seminoles at this point, although Oklahoma could go a long way in proving me wrong Saturday night, but I agree that game is the most apt comparison.
I'm glad they made this one the home opener. Had it been Portland State, the prospect of crawling of crawling out of bed before 11AM on a Saturday to go watch TCU Football outdoors would've likely been too big a burden for the majority of our lackluster fanbase to bear. I'd be lying if I said seeing the new stadium live and en vivo wasn't at least 50% of my reasoning behind attending this game; had it been Portland State, that number would've effectively increased 49%. To be honest, until a lot more recently than I care to admit, I just assumed we were playing the Ragin Cajuns as opposed to their directional pals to the northeast. It's not that I'm not afraid of ULM - that 28.5 pt spread is WAY more terrifying for a newly minted gambling man such as myself, but I'll be honest and say I slammed the hell out of it so GO FROGS OFFENSE - but... ok, I guess it's that I'm not afraid of ULM.
No, as it has been in both games this season and will continue to be, I'm far more afraid of us, and what we lack. How are we going to progress as a team given our injuries and inexperience? Will Pachall remain a 70% passer for the remainder of the season? Does Ed Wesley even have a shoulder at this point? We'll take a look at a few of these issues in a realistic light and toss in a little twist as well. I figured since last year's transcendent season ended just outside of Hollywood with an ending so perfect it was almost as if it was scripted, perhaps the screenwriters can lend us a hand once again this season? So with my deductive reasoning, along with the help of a little Hollywood Magic, I think I have some answers to our questions.
Will our secondary live up to the standard set before them at any point this season?
What Would the Coaching Staff Do?: For some perspective, last year's top ranked passing defense gave up 126 yards per game; this year's guys gave up 167 yards... to Air Force. Air Force has averaged 79.9, 82.3 and 119.5 passing yards per game the past three years. So, clearly, this unit still has a lot of work to do. The staff already took a proactive approach last week following the torching at Baylor by inserting Kevin White into the starting role over Jason Verrett. Based on week one, I'm pretty sure all the talk about Verrett this summer was mostly influenced by the hair because, seriously, if this were a video game, dreadlocks should automatically add 5 points to any players overall rating. It's really the only logical next step for Casey Pachall to make the jump to elite status.
An easy way to look at this problem is to suggest that losing Chad Glasgow as safeties coach is a much bigger loss than we could've ever anticipated. I'm one of those guys who believe Tommy Tuberville is a pretty durned good coach, so the fact that he chose one of our lesser known assistants to teach Texas Tech to play defense for the first time in decades speaks volumes. But a closer look suggests the safeties actually haven't played that bad. Tekerrin Cuba has been the most solid figure in our defensive backfield thru two games, Johnny Fobbs bounced back big time after a poor outing in Waco and has emerged as a team leader, and younger guys like Trent Thomas, Sam Carter and Elisha Olabode are going to come on strong.
No, the biggest issue has been Corner, an area where we all just kind of assumed we were set with Greg McCoy and Travaras Battle returning. Of course, as we're all well aware, Tra Battle hasn't started a game yet on defense for an undisclosed reason and while I'm not one to doubt the coaching staff, I can't help but think his absence has been a HUGE detriment to this defense. I hope the punishment of losing to Baylor fits the crime. For Greg McCoy, I'm not sure what the staff will do. He's a second year starting senior so he knows the defense. Clearly he improved as the year went on last season, so let's hope he does the same, but for a guy who is supposed to be the fastest on the team, he's looked a bit flat footed at times this year. As for the new guys, I have to imagine they're going to use these next two games to teach them to stay in their assignments rather than get cute and jump routes/chase runners in the backfield they have no chance of tackling any way. The improvement between weeks one and two was evident, although you hate to see Air Force score on the same trick play as Baylor. They should be able to get it together this week as the ULM passing juggernaut is the exact opposite of that.
What Would Hollywood Do?: Well isn't it obvious? Call up Bradley Cooper, his permanent 5 O'clock shadow and his greased coif and have him dish out some of those drugs from Limitless. I'll be honest, until a slow, boring, pre-football season midweek evening this summer, I had never heard of this movie until I saw it pop up on DirecTV cinema. And while I'll never get those 90 minutes of my life back, the premise works pretty swell for our secondary. If you haven't seen it, all you need to know is Bradley Cooper finds a stash of drugs that are basically all the good parts of cocaine, ecstacy and a shitton of adderral rolled into one pill which gives the user superhuman mental capabilities. Cooper uses it to anticipate market trends before they happen and makes a buttload of money in the process. So why not apply this to our D-backs? Imagine, with the ability to watch hours upon hours upon hours of film with a photographic memory, no offense would be safe. They would literally know every single play that was about to happen based on formations and would make tackles so quickly and efficiently it would almost be like they were using teleportation. They could make Kellen Moore, one of the most efficient QBs in the game today, throw LIMITLESS interceptions. They could make SDSU Running Back Ronnie Hillman question why he ever considered playing the game in the first place. It's brilliant. And somehow I don't think it'd ever fit into the NCAA's policy on performance enhancing drugs. Next question!
If this or any other game comes down to kicks, should we just forfeit to spare embarassment?
WWCSD?: Well clearly the coaching staff should never forfeit a game like Coach Taylor did at East Dillon... but in this situation you'd have to think it would cross their minds at the most subliminal of levels don't you? Evans' career is bizarre if you look at the numbers. Overall, he's quite good - hitting 44/55 FGs, and he's quietly threatening to become TCUs all-time scoring leader over one LaDainian Tomlinson. Put THAT in your pipes and smoke it.
However, there are two areas where Ross is lacking, and those are PATs and, BROADLY overgeneralizing two games, clutch kicking. He gave us a pretty good tease of what he's capable of in 2009 when we made 61/63 PATs and fortunately, if the trend holds, he should be great again this year. Pretty interesting progression - his Freshman and Junior years he was 91% on PATs; His Sophomore and current Seniors years? 96%. However, continuing the trend, the Utah game happened in 2009; the Baylor game happened in 2011. For the season he's 2/4 on FGs and 7/8 on PATs. Let's hope he continues one trend while reversing another.
As for how the staff will handle this, I'm not sure and I don't think they are either. They thought they had a replacement this off-season before said kicker who I do not care to look up his name decommitted for Wake Forest. They have TWO kickers lined up next year for when Evans is gone, which is clearly a product of fear, but this season it looks like we have what we have as current backups Ryan Denucci and Hans Ingold have apparently not done enough to get on the field. I'm not sure how they practice with Ross, but however they can up the pressure, it needs to be done and quick. Play loud music. Have everyone yell. Heck, promise him a night with the Showgirl of his choice if he makes 5 in a row from 40+. Just do SOMETHING.
I'll be the first to admit that Ross Evans is the most unfairly criticized player on the team because the margin of error for kickers is INSANELY slim. But the fact remains he played a big role in our last two regular season losses.
WWHollywoodD?: If the first one wasn't obvious, this one should CLEARLY be. Get him an appointment with Henry Rowengartners orthopedic surgeon! SURELY we've all seen the classic from our youth Rookie of the Year. Where the kid breaks his arm, has surgery and all of a sudden has the ability to throw 100MPH fast balls? Well, why can't this work for kickers? And Henry was only 12!!! He was in Little League!!! Ross at least understands the nuances of being a kicker at the college level; shouldn't he theoretically be even better? With a few tweaks of those leg muscles couldn't he be the next Sebastian Janakowski booting 60 yarders, albeit with more accuracy? And the best part? It works for PATs too! You'll recall the ending when poor Henry reinjures his arm and essentially becomes a little league caliber pitcher again. So what does he do since he can't throw the heat? He floats the ball! Why do kickers miss PATs? Because they kick it as hard as a normal kick which doesn't allow the ball any movement; if you start it the wrong direction, there's no way it's going through the uprights. That's why, if I were a kicker, I'd always kick a PAT as soft and high as I could, just to ensure it wasn't blocked and that I didn't push it left or right. Seriously, Disney. We need that number.
Can The O-Line make it three in a row?
WWCSD?: Clearly Line Coach Eddie Williamson is worth every penny they pay him and we hope and pray his heart issues are behind him, and I don't say that only because I want him to Coach. Come on now, guys, I'm not SOLELY about football. But seriously, what he has done this year is nothing short of amazing, although strength and conditioning coach Don Sommer clearly deserves credit here as well. He's taken a walk on tight end and made him a starting Right Tackle. He had to do this because his projected starting LT for the next few years flunked his way off the depth chart, which was another storm he had to weather weeks before the season. His offensive line, which features only one returning starter, has given up 2 sacks in two games. His offensive line suffered no drop off last week when two starters were suffering flu like symptoms. In other words, this guy is good and although you can't give him ALL the credit, you have to give it where it is due.
So what will the staff to do keep the line rolling against a defense that is stouter against the run than the two we have faced already this season? I think this is definitely a situation of, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. And you have to think the staff does, too. I wouldn't expect any changes, and if they can bang open holes against ULMs beefy D Line they'll have passed yet another test.
WWHollywoodD?: So if our line is more physical than theirs and seems to be pretty technically sound, what else do they need? A little intimidation, of course.
We should be fine without Tanner Brock and Ed Wesley this week, but what if these injuries linger into Conference play?
WWCSD?: I'll be honest - I'm a lot more scared of Brock's absence than I am Wesley's. This isn't to take anything away from Ed, but the way Waymon James and Matthew Tucker have been playing, plus the availability of Aundre Dean - not to mention Casey Pachall's arm - eases his loss substantially. But losing our leading returning tackler? THAT has been problematic. As bad as our passing D has been, the run D hasn't been much better, having given up 399 yards on the ground in two games this year. Yes, one game was Air Force and the thing is liable to average out, but it's a far cry from the 89.2 per game average of last year. Kenny Cain and Kris Gardner have filled in admirably, and you're likely to see more of Deryck Gildon should Brock's injury linger much longer, but I think we can all admit it just isn't the same. I think Kenny Cain has what it takes to be the Robert Henson/David Hawthorne/Tanner Brock third LB that comes in and makes his mark, but that's the thing about those guys-they were the third option before they were the starter. But, for the time being we don't have a choice, so let's hope I'm just being overly pessimistic. On the bright side? Carder, Cain and Gardner shut down the most threatening rushing attack we'll face all year before their backups came in and grew up substantially from week one to week two.
WWHollywoodD?: I've racked my brain for the past half hour trying to come up with some sort of cinematic answer to this quandary, but have come up short. To be honest, Hollywood hasn't done much good when it comes to solving injury situations in a football movie: Either the scrawny kid on the end of the bench gets his shot and becomes a hero - something that happens in real life once in a NEVER - or the eeeeeeevil coaching staff goes for the quick fix with a shot in the knee that results in said player ruining his career. For some perspective, Hollywood has TWICE attempted to trick you into believe Adam Sandler is an elite football player. Yes, Billy Madison himself. Feel free to make your own suggestions for this one, but I think we're going to have to rely on the knowledge of our own coaching staff in this instance.
Well that was fun and useless, wasn't it?! For the 4 of you who made it through that little self-indulgent diversion, I think we can all take the Terrance Ganaway stance that the game is already won. Sorry for the gut punch there. I understand if you need time to regroup.
I don't THINK it will be a complete cakewalk and it may not be 21-0 in the blink of an eye like last week, but it'll be a good chance for the coaching staff to continue to see how the new parts fit. It will also give them a chance to get the young guys acclimated to what should hopefully be a boisterous home crowd in the first game at the estadio nuevo. Get there early to avoid traffic related to everyone finding their new locations and consider wearing a hard hat as the stadium is still technically an open construction site. Three home games in a row starts tomorrow. 4-1 should be the result at the end. Go Frogs.
Prediction: Frogs 41, ULMs 14.
Weekly Discussion Question: I recently read a Forbes article regarding the highest paid entertainers of the past year and shockingly enough the most well paid was Tyler Perry, making somewhere in the neighborhood of $120-$130 million. This struck me as strange because I know next to nothing about Tyler Perry and have never actually heard anyone suggest they watch any of his programming. I have just always assumed he is Larry the Cable Guy, but instead of wearing camo and embracing stereotypes that disparage his own race, Perry dresses up like an old woman and embraces stereotypes that disparage his own race. More or less, least common denominator humor for mouth-breating middle America; Kellen Moore is probably a HUGE fan of Madea. With that being said, my question is this: Next season TCU goes undefeated and wins the National Championship in football. However, you cannot in any way be involved - you cannot watch or attend any of the games, although you can watch the highlights. Instead, during the 3-3.5 hours that TCU is playing, you can only watch Tyler Perry created programming. You'll still be aware that TCU wins the Championship and you can celebrate accordingly; you just won't see it in real time as it's happening. Would you do it?"