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WMD's Armchair QB: Looking Ahead Edition

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Dawgs Earn Homecoming Win

John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

Peeps, winning Homecoming is always good. It wasn't alway pretty, but we were never really threatened, either. It's a little scary to think we played what might have been one of our worst games and still won by nearly 30 points. To the points:

Defense:

1. To be honest, I was pretty disappointed with the D yesterday. A vastly overmatched UTM offense managed to put up over 350 yards of total offense, over 150 rushing, convert 8-18 3rd downs, and convert 2-3  4th downs. That's unacceptable. I'm less worried about the points given up, especially with one of their TDs being a gift following our lone turnover on a short field against our 4th string. We just didn't play quality defense yesterday.

2. I thought we were pretty sloppy with our tackling. It seemed like we'd have a guy bottled up for a short gain, then he'd break a tackle and get 6 or 8 instead of 3. We tried too much arm tackling, too.

3. Our short yardage D was awful. I pointed out their ability to convert, but that might have been one of the two most aggravating parts of the game for me. We just didn't stay sound in our run fits or let their motion take us out of the play without recognizing it. And Collins never adjusted to the motion. Not to mention the times when we did stay sound, we just didn't seem to finish off the play.

4. We left ourselves on the field wayyyyyyy too long. Another game where the opponent had 35+ minutes in TOP. That's beyond awful and completely unacceptable.

5. Way too many guys open in the middle of the field last night. We decided to go zone all night, but when we didn't generate pressure with our front 4, Dylan Favre had all day to pick us apart.

6. Enough of the bad news on D. The good news is we played a TON of guys. By the final drive, we had guys playing I'd never even heard of, so we really cleared the bench. And as I suspected, we didn't see a whole lot of the 1As, either. Will Redmond didn't play at all. We apparently made the decision to use this game as a scrimmage to build depth, and I can't really find blame with that idea.

7. I thought Curtis Virges had a good night. He was pretty solid clogging up the run, and I saw him get pressure up the middle several times.

8. Stat worth noting, thanks to Matt Wyatt: The Dawgs came into yesterday with 29 sacks. We added 3 more for a total of 32 so far this season. We managed just 20 sacks last season. Drastic improvement up front at generating pressure.

9. Speaking of generating pressure up front, Preston Smith's sack was about as good as you'll see on any level. He got on the LT's outside shoulder, then used his hands to pop the LT, getting the guy off-balance and creating separation. Then he used his quickness to cut inside the LT and finished it off by CRUSHING Favre and forcing a fumble.

10. Torrey Dale's late sack was huge in keeping UTM out of the endzone on their final drive. Nice play by him.

11. We had several opportunities to get turnovers and just couldn't ever seem to make it happen. Jamerson Love can't quite get control on a near pick. Taveze Calhoun has 3 INTs hit him in the hands and doesn't hold onto any of them. Preston Smith hits Favre so hard he fumbled and was driven directly on top of the ball. There were at least a couple others, but you get the point. So many plays there to be made and it just never happened for one reason or another.

12. Redzone D continued to be stellar.

Special Teams:

1. Overall, I thought we were very solid on STs yesterday. Maybe our best phase of the game, surprisingly.

2. Devon Bell's jump pass punt fake was awesome. Gutsy call by Dan Mullen, but it was executed perfectly. I just hate we didn't capitalize with 7 on the drive and wound up settling for 3.

3. Have I mentioned how much I HATE our strategy of trying to hang KOs high and attempt to tackle the KOR man before he gets to the 25? It burns us at least once a game. Just kick it out the back every time. 5 yards is worth the trade to completely eliminate any chance of a return, and Logan Cooke is more than capable.

4. Evan Sobieski continued his good work, nailing another FG. He looked so much more confident yesterday than he has previously. Keep running him out there, even if he misses the next one.

5. Nice to see Nick James blow up UTM's FG unit and block an XP.  He's really turning it on.

6. Glad to see Dan stick Jamoral Graham back there to take punts in the 2nd half. He made good decisions and didn't look shaky. Smokey is going to be a key player for us at some point, so sticking him back there again with a big lead was a nice confidence builder.

Offense:

1. Much like with the defense, it was clear we committed to playing a bunch of guys and developing depth. From that aspect, I'm ok with our offensive performance.

2. I thought our game plan, particularly the 1st quarter, was awful. Way too much passing. Prior to Dak's TD run, we had thrown the ball on 13 of our first 21 plays. And that run was supposed to be a pass, but everyone was covered so Dak ran with it. So make it 14 of our first 22 plays were attempted passes. That's just absolute garbage. We've been a team who runs the ball 60+% of the time this season, and we start the game by attempting to throw it 63% of the time. Completely, totally unacceptable. We finished with 27 pass attempts in 59 total offensive snaps. That's a 55/45 run pass ratio. I expected more passing today, but I thought we'd be more efficient with it than we were.

3. Lots of guys either didn't play or barely played. J-Beast was in for 2 series, had 7 touches, and was done. Bear Wilson only played 2-3 series. Justin Malone didn't play.

4. UTM couldn't handle the speed of Brandon Holloway. He was very good as our feature back. Nice to see him finally pop those long runs he's been so close to breaking this season and finally hit pay dirt.

5. Dak did Dak stuff. We can all stop freaking out about his ankle/foot/whatever. He looked totally healthy.  Best of all, no INTs today. His decision making was pretty solid, but his accuracy was just a little bit off at times. Just another 200 passing yards and 3 total TDs for the #DakAttack.

6. Overall, our line played pretty well. UTM blitzed a good bit, but never managed to generate pressure with any consistency. Also good to see our 2nd team OL man up and get the job done after UTM scored to make it 38-16.

7. Damian Williams had a mixed day. He once again screwed up taking the shotgun snap, resulting in the day's lone turnover, which led to a gift TD for UTM. But he came right back out, marched us down the field, and made one heck of a throw to Smokey Graham for the TD.

8. Gabe Myles role continues to expand. He's a real weapon on the bubble screen. Needs some more time working with Dak, though. They're just not quite in sync on the deeper routes.

9. Ashton Shumpert had a very good game. He led the team in rushing yards, had a long rush TD, and made several big hits on STs. Loved his TD run, as he flashed a little top end speed that I thought he'd been lacking. What impressed me most on that play was how well the OL blocked it. No one came close to touching Shump for the first 8 yards. They blocked that play about as well as humanly possible.

10. Joe Morrow finally gets his long bomb TD. He's really turned it on this season and showed much improved hands (knock on wood).  But what stands out to me is how much he's improved as a run blocker. He's become very physical out there and punishes DBs. I'm almost afraid to say it, but it certainly looks like the light has come on for him and he's stopped being soft.

11. Overall, a pretty efficient day offensively. We went over 500 yards of total offense again, hit some big plays, and averaged nearly 9 yards per play.

12. I want to personally flog whoever can't line up right and cost Blaine Clausell a FAT GUY TD.

Coaching/Miscellaneous

1. There's no way around it: We pretty much sleep walked through this game. There were spurts of good energy, particularly on offense, but it was never sustained.

2. We went back and pulled out the "preseason" game plans this week. Very vanilla, lots of guys playing, and just let superior talent take over. It sucked, but it wasn't unexpected.

3. You could tell Mullen was not very happy with our effort level tonight. And I don't particularly blame him. We were definitely just going through the motions.

4. I thought the crowd was very good. We've gotten very, very good at ringing until the last second then transitioning to yelling. Props to the media department for using the graphic to help out with that effort. And best of all, we've gotten a whole lot better about being quiet when we have the ball (knock on wood aGAIN).

5. We just never seemed to get going emotionally. Never really made that play, whether it be forcing a turnover, getting the Fat Guy TD, etc that flipped the switch for us and got it rolling. It happens, but I fully expect us to be fired up and ready for Bama. If you can't get up for that game, you shouldn't be playing football.

6. Definitely seemed to be looking ahead a little bit to next Saturday. No real surprise there. That game is going to be a WAR.

That's what I saw. You know the drill. Fire in the Hole!

In Mullen We Trust,

WMD