WMD's Armchair QB: Hope Edition

Thomas Campbell-USA TODAY Sports

What We Learned From Dawgs Near Comeback

Where to begin this week? Yes, we lost. And I hate losing. It makes me angry and frustrated just like it does most of you. But for the first time this season, I actually feel a lot better after watching yesterday's game. There were a whole lot of positive things to build from these last 3 weeks. Here's what I saw:

Defense:

1. Overall, I thought the defense played pretty well, considering the opponent. aTm has scored 40+ for 13 straight games now, twice against Bama during this run. Any other time, I'd be livid at giving up 51 and rip every player and coach on D to shreds. Not so much this week, especially after the way we just laid down against the same offense last season.

2. We stuffed aTm's run game and made them one dimensional. That's the positive. The problem is that they have the best QB and WR in the nation and can beat you even being one dimensional. And that's exactly what happened.

3. Our DBs are getting crushed, but I thought they actually played well for the most part. We picked off Manziel 3 times, twice on potential TD scores. That's 14 points kept off the board by our DBs.

4. Justin Cox needs to sit. He totally blew the coverage to free Evans for the explosive play at the end of the 3rd Quarter. That was HUGE turning point in the game. Either move him to S where he's comfortable or sit him. Because he's been a liability all season at CB.

5. Props to Nickoe Whitley for the pick. I've ridden him hard all season, but he actually was an asset for the first time this season yesterday. And the way he went and got the ball looked a whole lot like the old playmaking Nickoe.

6. Jamerson Love is nasty. He's very fast and almost always has good positioning. His second pick was beautiful. He's easily our best CB this season. Look for his Draft stock to start rising quickly if he keeps up his current level of play.

7. Our depth really showed up at LB. We didn't have Skinner, but the Browns stepped up and played well. I didn't notice any significant drop off in play. The future is in good hands with those two at LB.

8. DLine did a heckuva job containing Manziel and generating pressure. We had 3 sacks. Yes, I know one got taken off the board on Manziel's grounding call. Don't care, our guy got there and made the play.

9. Too many breakdowns cost us. But that's what Johnny Football does to everyone. You can't cover those aTm for 9 seconds while Johnny is scrambling around. Virtually every explosive play they had came off the JF ad lib stuff. Example: aTm's first TD was a busted coverage by Bernardrick McKinney when Manziel scrambled outside the pocket. B-Mack left his guy and started to come up to help on Manziel. JF sees the wide open TE that B-Mack just left and hits him for an easy TD.

10. We've got to stop giving up points right before the half. Giving up the TD right there was a killer. And that's one of the things I'm actually really upset about defensively, because it wasn't a JF ad lib play. It was us totally busting the coverage. That just can't happen, aTm is too good offensively.

11. Chris Jones played well yesterday. He was consistently drawing a double team and still got pressure. I continue to be beyond impressed with him.

12. We stopped aTm about 4-5 times, which is what I was hoping for. That's about the same number as Auburn, who beat them. The difference was the explosive plays and breakdowns we had and Auburn didn't.

Special Teams:

1. Mullen has GOT to hire a real STs coach. This area absolutely killed us yesterday and is a glaring weakness right now. Total fault is at Mullen's door for that.

2. Tubby Lewis was a step away from breaking it all day long. If he'd gotten loose, I feel confident in saying we'd be a much happier fanbase today.

3. The blocked punt was another one of the huge turning points in the game. One of our OL goes the wrong way and the literal 12th Man comes through unblocked. That's an execution error that can't happen.

4. Devon Bell once again punted extremely well, other than the block. But as I just pointed out, that was a missed block and not on Devon. He continues to be solid on KO, too.

5. The blocked FG was highly disappointing. Just when I think we've found something in Sobiesk, he kicks one too low and aTm manages to get a finger on it. Gotta get that shored up. That's 3 of the 10 points we needed yesterday.

Offense:

1. Dak is an absolute warrior. He outrushed Manziel by 100+ yesterday and averaged over 9 YPC. He had a couple of misfires in the pass game, but nothing that isn't correctable. His pick was an experience issue. aTm lined the OLB up on the edge of the DL, then dropped him into the fire zone. Dak never sees him and hits him in the numbers. But it was the right read, as Morrow was open behind the LB. Dak just has to know the LB/DE is going to be there in that situation. Fortunately, that's a fixable error. What he showed is he has the heart and guts you can't teach. I'm beyond excited about the next 2 seasons with him at QB. He's going to be a very special player.

2. JRob has GOT to get more touches. His 51-yard TD run was our only explosive play all day. He continues to display toughness between the tackles and falls forward for extra yards at the end of his runs. His hands are pretty good, too.

3. Bear Wilson may have had his breakout game yesterday. He looked like the WR I've thought he could be all season. He used his height and fought for the ball well. The only complaint is the dropped TD. Gotta make that catch at this level. Very excited to see how he plays the next 3 weeks.

4. Thought our OL held up well yesterday. aTm didn't get very much pressure and we dominated them in the run game. Very physical effort by our big guys yesterday. One knock is that I didn't see much of Jamaal Clayborn. He's too good to not play more. We've burned his RS, so let's use him.

5. Once the shootout started in the late 3rd, we went score-for-score with the best offensive team in the country. That's encouraging. The downside is that we aren't getting any explosive plays offensively. Brandon Holloway letting the ball go right through his hands untouched on a sure TD was a big missed play and another turning point in the game. We've got to get faster on the outside and make the plays when they're there to be made. Until we can hit the homerun, we're going to have a hard time beating clubs with an offense like aTm.

6. Props to Tubby Lewis on his 3rd TD pass. That throw was a dart downfield. He's becoming one of the elite multi-purpose talents in the SEC. Easily our biggest threat offensively right now other than Dak.

7. Also need to give credit to Joe Morrow for actually making the catch on Tubby's throw. He's another guy I've been after all season for his poor play. Hopefully he's starting to figure it out a little at WR and is about to turn the corner.

8. Ashton Shumpert looked very good yesterday. His runs were all power and aTm struggled bringing him down. He's going to be really good in the very near future.

9. I thought our overall gameplan offensively was solid. We ran the ball and kept JF off the field as much as possible. We outrushed aTm by 200+ yards. If you'd have told me that before the game, I probably would have said we won the game.

10. The three wasted possessions with TR in the game hurt badly. When you play an offense like aTm, you can't afford to waste even one possession. I understand why Mullen started TR and what he was thinking. Dak hadn't practiced much this week and he was trying to protect him. I just strongly disagree with the decision. It's not like Dak is a first year player. He's been in the system 3 years. Missing a few days of practice shouldn't be a big deal at this point. Go with the guy who gives you the best chance - Dak.

11. Only one pre-snap penalty that I remember yesterday. Big, big improvement from the previous weeks.

12. I really liked what we did in the inverted wishbone yesterday. It plays to the strength of our team, QB and RB, and lets us do some creative things in the pass game. Now we just need to actually hit some passes out of it and we'll really have something.

13. We took some shots downfield yesterday. That's another encouraging sign for me. Didn't hit any, but we at least tried. We've got to keep doing that.

14. When the D gives you the ball inside the opposing 40, you've GOT to cash it in for a TD. And that's especially true if you want to pull off the upset against a Top 15 team on the road. That was another dagger to our chances and wound up in the blocked FG.

Coaching/Miscellaneous:

1. I won't re-hash the wasted possessions with TR early in the game. C'mon, man!

2. Special Teams - 'nuff said.

3. We played with relentless effort for 4 Quarters yesterday and took a Top 15 team to the wire in their place. I kept feeling like we were one explosive play away from winning. We just never made the play.

4. We coached hard to the end, too. Used the TOs to get the ball back at the end and tried to stick it into the endzone. I liked the aggressiveness.

5. The first two point conversion: What were we thinking?! If we're going for it, just GO for it. none of this swinging gate BS. I repeat: C'mon, man!

6. I continue to struggle with some of our personnel decisions, but it's improved the last few weeks. Just wish we'd make a few more changes.

7. We were put into a position to win, we just couldn't overcome a couple of key mistakes. Plus, aTm has a QB and WR that's going to be too much for almost anyone.

8. Overall, I thought yesterday was by far the best, most complete game we've played all season despite the loss. In the end, it played out about like I expected - too much Johnny Football ad libbing and Mike Evans combined with a couple critical mistakes by young and/or inexperienced players.

9. If we bring it in these last 3 games the way we did yesterday, we WILL beat Arkansas and the Bears to be bowl eligible. Tremendous heart and fight yesterday. No one quit, no one hung their head and got discouraged. We played as a complete team and almost pulled off the upset.

10. I absolutely cannot stand Johnny Manziel. It's all Johnny Football all the time with him. Instead of congratulating our guys or finding Dak, he runs off to the fans and proceeds to mug it for the cameras. Total dick with no class. I can't wait for some NFL DE to break him in half.

That's how I saw it, anyway. You guys know the drill by now. Fire away!

In Mullen We Trust,

WMD

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