The 45-0 final will look great on paper, certainly. Some of my overall takeaways, and feel free to chime in with your own in the comments or diaries (requires registration, which takes 2 seconds and just needs a real email address to prevent spam comments):
- A win is a win, but as I commented in the game thread, Henig was our MVP. Okay folks: if you're Sylvester Croom, and you're bringing in a team with a massive talent and speed disadvantage, and a relatively inexperienced QB opening against the #2 team in the country, wouldn't you try to play things safe and run loads of screens and misdirections, just anything to get the defense to overpursue? Anything to prevent Henig from having to get happy feet in the pocket and make poor decisions like forcing throws into triple coverage at ranges at which he evidently has zero accuracy? It was 45 minutes into the game (last play of the 3rd quarter, an untimed down) before the Dogs ran a simple screen, and by then the game was 31-0, long over. I can only think that Croom must have gameplanned this with a simple philosophy of "Well, the only guys on defense who aren't back are the safeties, so we'll just throw it deep because that's got to be their weakness." And that they continued this nonsense not just till Henig threw three picks, but after his 4th, 5th, and 6th. Zero adjustments. Unbelievable. We may not see this sort of generosity from the opposition for a long, long time.
- DEFENSE: In any event, the D absolutely held up its end of the bargain, even though not a whole lot of those turnovers were really forced. Jackie Sherrill did get it right in his in-game interview: Henig started to press after his third INT and just made bad throws. The part Jackie left out, though, was that Henig was pressing on the first three INTs as well, which weren't particularly good throws. GRADE: A++
OFFENSE: Um, still has work to do? Four turnovers in the first half from Mississippi State and yet still we needed a go-for-it-with-two-seconds-left plunge to at least be up 17-0 at the half. That kind of generosity ought to result in at least 30 points. Flynn wasn't bad or anything, but he certainly did little to impress. Who takes a sack at the two yard line when clearly out of the pocket? An extra second of hesitation made it necessary for him to simply preserve the ball rather than risk getting it swatted by throwing it away. The running game is still unimpressive to me. I've written plenty about this before. It is still a concern. While MSU's defense is no pushover, Va Tech's is on another level. I predicted below that four backs would get 7 carries, and it turned out that four got 6: Hester (14), Williams (7), Holliday (6), Murphy (6). (Holliday rather than Scott was my guess.) Our running game will look great on the stat sheet, as we picked up 194 yards, but because it came on 49 carries it was 2 yards short of a perfect 4.0 yards per carry average. I know MSU's defense is good, but I'd hope for better: odds are we will not get anywhere with that production next week. I'd love to see Williams or Murphy get 20 carries against Va Tech. We'll see.
I can only hope that Crowton and Miles intentionally kept things very close to the vest so as not to show the Hokies too much. I'm inclined to believe that's the case...seriously, can anyone tell me why we run Trindon Holliday on a toss sweep of the non-counter variety, five yards behind the line of scrimmage, giving anyone on the defense plenty of time to catch up to him? I think we even gave it to him up the gut once, too. At least the direct shotgun handoff preserves Holliday's speed advantage a litle bit...but I would have expected a bit more creativity. All told, this was a very vanilla offense that reminded me absolutely zero of the Crowton offenses I've watched in the past. Whether or not that's the case, I'm going to pretend that it is to keep myself pumped up instead of outrageously worried going into next Saturday. So be it; we'll know next week whether it was true, so this grade is - in a one-time scenario this week - dependent upon what we see next week. GRADE: B-.
- SPECIAL TEAMS: Whoa, do we have a punter or what? I think he kicked it seventy yards in the air from our endzone not once but twice. The exact opposite of that oop de oop nonsense we threw out there last year. Having gotten seven turnovers and having yielded zero points, we've got pretty much no sample set to pass judgment on the return game. Heh. GRADE: A++
- OVERALL: B+
Anyway, Tiger fans, before you head off for the Labor Day weekend, be sure to send Sylvester Croom a thank-you note for just about the most horrendous game plan any of us have likely ever seen, and a complete inability to adjust to that adversity. 8 months to prepare and that was the result? Poor State. (You know what hurts? That Croom actually seems like a really good guy; the kind of guy any player would want to kill for. Just seems like he's in over his head here.)