Airing of the Grievances: Baylor vs UCF
I am not even sure where to begin after blowing a 35-7 third quarter lead in our opening Big 12 home game in front of 30 plus 4 star recruits and a cleared out student section. I am feeling so many emotions that I will carry with me throughout the entire week: disheartened, angry, disappointed, sad, hopeless. I feel like I was given something special that was stolen from me before I could even really enjoy it.
How ever will I deal with it? Well, I invited my followers to “air their grievances” yesterday, and boy did they. I decided to do the same! I am letting it all out as my “therapy”. Feel free to comment back and let me know if you feel that I am right or wrong.
This was a chance for a program changing statement game. We had the press there, the pregame atmosphere was amazing, it was a sold out family weekend and we had more than 30 four star recruits in attendance. This was the most talent we have ever had on campus for a game and we had an embarrassing second half performance and unforgettable meltdown right in front of them as they watched over a quarter of our stadium leave at the end of the first quarter. This was our chance as the new guys and we blew it! It’s a carry over from last season and blown chances – see losing the Navy game and a chance to host the Conference Championship Game.
Second Half Adjustments
Against Boise State, Kansas State and Baylor (the only real teams we have played so far), UCF has been outscored a total of 58-30 in the second half. Take out Boise State and its 52-21 in Big 12 play. I believe what we are seeing is experienced Power 5 coordinators adjusting at half time to exploit what they are seeing, while we appear to stay exactly the same. The offenses are exploiting our weaknesses on defense. We are seeing WRs run free, alignment issues, running backs get chunk plays and TEs left wide open. To some extent I put this on a first time Power 5 Defensive Coordinator who is learning on the job with each game and opponent. I truly believe this learning investment will pay off in the long run. It also appeared as though we were more concerned about trying to strip the ball from Baylor in the second half than actually tackling them.
Tight End Usage
Our defense, and more specifically our LBs, cannot seem to account for or cover opposing Tight Ends in the passing game. I am not sure if its scheme, speed, how they read the offense or something else. One fan commented that maybe we have such a hard time covering Tight Ends in the game because we don’t throw to ours in the game or practice. Its frustrating how rarely we use our TEs in the passing game. We had a moment the second where it felt like we remembered we even had them on the field and completed two straight passes to Pittman and Holler. The red zone interception was thrown to Pittman, and he was wide open but the ball was severely underthrown. We will not be able to recruit anything but blocking Tight Ends unless we start to prove that we can and will use Tight Ends in the passing game.
Bounce House Fans
I am so disappointed in our own student section. One whole endzone cleared out when it reached 21-0 in the 1st quarter. They thought it was going to be a blow out and they were in a hurry to get out of the heat and back to their partying. For a stretch, we had one of the loudest and most intimidating home atmospheres in all of College Football (ranking as high as #4). Let’s be honest – we have lost that! I agree with many of you that the players play the game and not the fans. BUT players feed off of fan energy and the fans can create a hostile environment for the opposing team making it hard for them to execute their plays. There is a reason that home field advantage is real and legitimate thing. The Bounce House is no longer what it used to be and that is the fans fault. It is time to start some form of reward system for our students that stay the entire game. Have them scan in and scan out and those fans that stay should get priority access, reserved seating, swag, etc. We also need to adjust some things in the Black and Gold Cabana. I know everyone is there, but it looks empty all the time and on TV. So many fans are in the middle Cabana area and standing up top. Its time to offer something like Standing Room Cabana tickets and sell the seats to people who will use them.
After watching the last two second half collapses – I am not convinced that our starting quarterback for next season is on our current roster. Timmy is talented with some impressive physical gifts, but I expected to see more after a redshirt year to hone his craft. He has made some baffling mental errors and seems like he cannot read a defense. His fourth quarter accuracy has been questionable and misses seeing wide open receivers. I hope that Plumlee is back healthy next week against Kansas and that Timmy takes that time to learn from his mistakes. He has the tools to be our quarterback of the next two seasons but he needs to be better under pressure. It can’t all be backyard ball and bombs if we want to win in the Big 12.
A “fast” team also has to be able to go “slow” successfully. We had a lead for the entire second half (minus the last 81 seconds) and we regularly snapped the ball with double digit seconds on the play clock. Its good to keep the pressure on and not change who you are as an offense, but we needed to milk the clock when Baylor was moving the ball all over us. We could have stayed no huddle and lined up quickly but just not snapped the ball until later in the clock. Many in the stands were yelling wondering what we were doing. Our clock management was horrible.
All of us who have watched Gus’ teams long enough know that his offense has a personality to it with some very well defined tendencies. As one Auburn fan described it to me when we hired him, “Gus is like that DJ in the club that just has the whole place vibing. Every song or mix they put on just hits. But then they can’t help themselves and they put on some old slow song that makes no sense and kills the mood, then they struggle to get it back and they repeat the whole cycle all over again and again until you want to find a new club even if 55 minutes of every hour is great.” I have come to realize that it is very much like that. Nothing has really changed with Hinshaw and most fans including me think that Gus is still dictating the plays. Let me be clear – there is nothing wrong with Gus’ playbook. It’s rather the timing of some of the plays that kill the vibe. Its like marching down the field running the ball and getting to the 10 and calling a trick pass by a RB for a loss of 10. I have never seen a coach so determined to surprise everyone that he outsmarts himself as much as Gus. Don’t get me wrong, I am a huge Gus fan but he needs to do better for us to win. I heard an entire section yesterday yelling “No, not the Wildcat now” when we were in field goal range on 3rd and 5. They knew it was the wrong call in that moment. I knew it was the wrong call in that moment. None of us knew exactly how wrong!
We have the talent and we can be a better team. We can also be better fans. So let’s all do it and keep the 7 year bowl game streak going this year.