There was so much wrong with this loss. Sure the odds were against us with our third string guy getting his first start, but it seemed like on some level we should have been able to "out talent" Louisville and come away with a close win. But coaching, execution, and personnel decisions from months ago just wouldn't let that happen. Hats off to Louisville. They dominated the line of scrimmage for the most part and Lamar Jackson is a future star. Their offense is designed superbly to showcase his talents (insert wistful sigh here), and they did what they needed to do.
The easy thing here is to put all the blame on Jake Spavital. And sure he deserves a lion's share of the blame for the way this season has gone. But Dave Christensen has proven to be equally inept at his OL/run game coordinator position. Our OL had a horrendous game this evening. Despite making some line up changes by inserting Jermaine Eluemunor, the OL struggled to get a push off the ball and on many occasions hung Jake Hubenak out to dry. So back to the original point, it's hard to get a sense on how bad the offense really is when the OL never gave it a chance to work.
What's the fix here? Beats me. It's both a personnel issue and a coaching one. Guys like Eluemunor, Lanfear and Sutherland seem to have a decent amount of talent--but do we have the coaching to put them in position to be successful? Where do we go next year now that Mike Matthews is gone? Kevin Sumlin has been pointing to 2016 as THE year everything clicks, and I'm having a hard time seeing it with the way the line performed tonight.
Rest of the Offense
I can't really fault Jake Hubenak for anything. After settling in, he played a decent game (except for that one INT). I don't know if he's a longterm solution at QB...meaning we still need to bring in at least 2 more guys to compete for that gig, but he did a decent enough job given the situation.
Tra Carson put in a workman's effort, but it's hard for him to get anything done when he's getting hit behind the line of scrimmage, or when our OL can't get a 2 yard push. This offense desperately needed a home run threat to supplement the ground and pound game. I also don't know why we didn't see Christian Kirk in the wildcat more than once given that he picked up a quick 9 yards on his lone carry, but I've long given up on trying to figure out Spavital's philosophy on play calling.
WRs played their asses off I thought. Josh Reynolds is a star and he makes his QBs look better with every play. Christian Kirk is one of the most dynamic playmakers to ever put on the maroon and white. Just wish we could put them in position to be more successful.
The game was kind of par for the course for our defense. Struggled early against a running QB (reminded me a lot of Auburn), gave up points, and then made some adjustments and stymied the offense the rest of the way. Problem is that with our offense being as anemic as it is, we can ill afford to give up 20 points right out of the gate. We're just not good enough to come back from that kind of deficit.
I have a gigantic man crush on Myles Garrett as do many of you... but he's got to get better against the run. Time after time he got upfield and left wide open rush lanes for the QB to take off. I'd love it if we had a lot of quality linebackers to fill those gaps, but we don't, so sadly Myles has to do it all. Linebackers have to get better. Not much more to say than that.
As I'm looking at the box score I see that Louisville only had 226 yards rushing. Felt like twice that much. Felt like they had WRs running wild all game long... maybe they didn't other than their TE getting 100 or so yards in the first quarter. So maybe our defensive backs played fairly well. You tell me.
I hate that the seniors went out like this. Absolutely hate it. Guys like Tra, De'Vante... they deserved better than this showing. That breaks my heart.
There's this metaphor...the parable of the boiled frog. The story goes that if you throw a frog into a pot of boiling water, it will immediately jump out because it recognizes that it cannot survive in that temperature. But if you put the frog in a pot of lukewarm water and slowly increase the temperature over time until almost boiling...the frog will die having not recognized the life threatening changes going on around him.
That's an overly dramatic way of saying that Kevin Sumlin is on the hotseat. We needed to have shown improvement this year. Winning this bowl would have done that--- we were 8-5 last year. Going 9-4 would have at least been progress. But we're back to 8-5 this year. With 1 scholarship QB and an offseason of impending change. We're moving into year 5 of the Kevin Sumlin era with very little reason for hope that he can get us to where we want to be--- competing for if not winning an SEC West title.
It's hard to call for the head of a guy who's averaged 8-9 wins a year, but it doesn't seem like we're moving forward at all. I think Kevin Sumlin is good enough to put together an offensive gameplan to beat a number of teams on any given day. I think he's a good in-game decision maker...but I don't think he's good enough at the managerial stuff to get us to that proverbial next level. I don't think he's good at roster management or coaching personnel decisions. Can he change and get better? Maybe. But I'm not really holding my breath.
So now we wait on pins and needles to see who the OC hire is and hope that it give us some juice on the recruiting trail to get the talent we need at a few spots to fill our roster holes. I don't want to care about this... I don't want to care about National Signing Day and whatnot, but I can't help it. I'll be stressing out along with the rest of you.
Thanks for reading all of my postgame reactions this year and sharing your feedback.