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So yeah…FAIL

October 12, 2009
Ugh. Let’s just get this over with.

Reasons we lost:

1. Defense, defense, defense. Where was it? It certainly wasn’t on the field Saturday. I’ve been hemming and hawing about whether I felt Mike Archer’s system could work, but after two weeks of watching a good quarterback pick it apart, I’m convinced that this bend-don’t-break, umbrella, soft zone, whatever-you-want-to-call-it defense will not work on a consistent enough basis to stick with it for the long haul. The reason is simple: Good quarterbacks can pick it apart. We’ve seen it two weeks in a row now. And if State wants to reach the level of an ACC title contender, they’re going to face plenty of good quarterbacks along the way. If we have to bank on beating only the teams with young/subpar quarterbacks, you can forget about any title aspirations.

2. Abandoning the running game at key times: More specifically in the fourth quarter, down two scores, when State elects to pass on 2nd and short in two possessions that ultimately result in 3-and-outs.

With 11 minutes to go in the game, on 2nd and one, with State averaging over six yards per carry, Dana Bible dials up a pass play that results in a nine-yard sack to Russell Wilson. State can only get four yards on 3rd and 10, and needing two scores to tie the game, State elects to punt instead.

On the following possession with 7:17 on the clock, State gains eight yards on first down, then instead of turning to the ground to pick up the remaining two yards, State goes back to the air. The pass is incomplete, setting up third and two. State gains one yard on third down and is then stoned on fourth and one to seal the deal for Duke. Is there a chance that Duke stops State all three times on the ground? Sure, but in a 2nd and short situation where you’ve shown a willingness to pass, my guess is the likelihood of converting there is greater when your offensive options are more varied.

If you have 2nd and one and are gaining huge chunks of yardage on the ground, there’s no reason to try and pass the ball in those situations. Passing on 2nd and short can yield some big plays if the defense is geared up to stop the run, but typically those are gambles you take when the game isn’t hanging in the balance. If you take a sack on 2nd and one in the first quarter with the score tied, so what. Big deal. Down two scores midway through the fourth, however, you take two or even three cracks at getting those few yards on the ground and keep the drive going.

Credit the Blue Devils for stopping the run when it counted, though, in the obvious running downs.

3, 4 and 5: Special teams gaffs, poor tackling and lack of pressure on Thad Lewis.

There’s probably a handful of others, but I don’t really care to relive this game through the box score any more than I have to. Now it’s on to Boston College in the “Battle Of Teams Who Got Humiliated The Week Prior.”

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