I’m a process kind of guy. To me, football comes down to three things: scheme, personnel, and execution. If you are good in all three, then you’re likely to be pretty good. If you’re good in two out of the three then you’ll probably be good but you might have some issues. If you only have one out of the three you better hope you’re playing a team that’s easily beatable. And if you have none, then you’re totally screwed.
So that’s how I’m going to try and break stuff down today. As always, please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments
Will Rogers told @colecubelic the only film he watched on A&M was last year's A&M-Miss St. game, and then A&M just went and did the same thing, and MSU was prepared for it. (that's me paraphrasing). So that will make A&M fans feel better— Alex Kirshner (@alex_kirshner) October 3, 2021
I’m sure this is an oversimplification but it has a lot of truth to it. Last year we were able to beat Miss St with a three-man rush and the occasional LB blitz to the tune of 6 sacks. Problem is that we were playing against Kevin Costello who finished the game 15/22 for 99 yards. Will Rodgers came in late and carved us up a bit in garbage time going 15/18 for 120 and 1 TD. Rogers was back in Kyle Field and picked up where he left off because we didn't give him anything new to think about. When we did blitz, we didn't get home and left wide open gaps in our defense.
Mixed bag. Rough night for Jaylon Jones who got picked on a lot. But Tyreek Chappell flashed, and our defensive line did some good things as well. Call this one a wash
As flawed as the scheme was (basically running a prevent defense all game) we executed it well enough. I don't know if us not getting home on blitzes is a scheme or a personnel thing so you tell me in the comments. Mississippi State had 26 points, 5 of which came from offensive mistakes (more on that later). We gave up a ton of yards, but ultimately we were down 4 going to the fourth quarter and later down 2 with 3 minutes left. The defense didn't play great but they did their part to give the offensive the opportunity to win the game. Have to clean up on penalties too.
I thought our scheme was pretty solid in this game. For all of his faults, Jimbo seems to be trying really hard to give Zach things to work with. We rolled the pocket some which left Zach less time to really think about stuff and throw on the run to where he didn't have to have his feet set. The scheme was good enough to rack up 162 yards on a defense giving up an average of less than 80. As we move into the latter part of the season, I’d love to see us get Calzada on the run more.
Zach is a talented kid who can make some phenomenal throws. I know he wants to win and I know he's playing his heart out. But he’s struggling with some of the basic things we need him to do to win, make the right calls to get us into plays, make the right reads, set his feet, trust his eyes and make the easy throws. Three quick examples:
1) The deflected INT should have been caught but it also should have been a better-thrown ball. Velocity is one thing but the ball needed to be out in front of Demas.
2) Drive 2, ball 1: Demas has a free release off the line and the corner comes crashing towards Ainias basically leaving Demas wide open. Demas is the correct read, but the ball went to Ainias. Fortunately, Zach followed up on that drive with a GORGEOUS pass to Wydermyer for a TD. Zach has talent. It’s just not enough.
3) Ainias was wide open for the game-winning score and the ball was 2 feet out in front of him.
Let’s move on.
I still maintain that Isaiah Spiller is the best offensive player we have and needs a minimum of 25+ touches per game both rushing and receiving. He was at 16 for this game.
I don’t know what’s going on with our OL but we’ve got some serious communication issues. Too often we see two guys blocking 1 dude with a free runner coming in. I can handle us getting beat 1:1, as Fatheree did a few times and as Bryce did on the safety (got beat by a spin move, and the ball should have been tossed at that point) but it’s these communication issues where we’ve got the personnel and just need to talk more that really bug me. As I mentioned last week these issues cause a QB whose head is already spinning to lose trust and bail before he needs to. We had a 3rd and 18 late in the game with a clean pocket...but Zach heard footsteps and took off to his right basically walking right into the pressure.
FOLLOWING GOOD PLAYS WITH BAD
We have difficulty stringing together two good plays. In the second quarter, Zach sat in the pocket and made a beautiful pass to Preston who took off for a long gain. We should be able to generate some momentum based on plays like that...but we followed it up with a bad toss play to Spiller and quickly went from 1st and 10 to 2nd and 14. Similarly we had another play where Zach kept his eyes downfield almost too long but found Achane for a big gain........and then we had a bad snap which took us from 1st and 10 to 2nd and 26. This is an obvious silly statement coming but you can't win games where you continuously shoot yourself in the foot over and over again.
I struggle with sharing this video because it’s a pretty intimate moment for Zach but I think it illustrates an important point
Want to know how much winning and losing means to these players? Check out Zach Calzada walking off Kyle Field this evening with tons of emotion. And what a leader Ainias Smith is by going to talk with his QB. #GigEm pic.twitter.com/2hpOjBe2oO— Justin Woodard (@KAGS_Justin) October 3, 2021
That video breaks my heart. Anyone who thinks Zach isn’t trying and doesn’t want this more than all of us combined is lying to themselves. Too often we think of college football players as nameless faceless drones, but that’s not the case and this kid is struggling right now. Fortunately, the dude in the black shirt is Dr. Ryan Pittsinger, our Director of Counseling and Sports Psychology, so I feel confident that Zach has the right people around him right now as he goes through the many ups and downs that this season has brought for him.
Critiquing how players play is fair game. There’s nothing that we can say that they don't know, or haven’t heard from their coaches. But we, as fans, can make a choice to not be dicks to players—on social media, on message boards, etc. I don't know that I’ve seen anything over the top about Zach, I think all of us recognize the difficult position he’s been put in so don't take this as a lecture or chiding...I just feel for the kid because it’s obvious that his past three games as a starter have taken a toll on him.
We lost by 4 and our offense gave up 5 points. Right now the only thing we can do is be patient and wait for Haynes to heal. QB in this offense isn't just about making plays, it’s making reads, being consistent, and putting the rest of your team in a position to be successful. Even if Haynes struggles with the other parts he’s good at getting guys where they need to be. Kent State and New Mexico are similar teams defensively. We had a 300/300 game against Kent State and we were 275/150 against New Mexico primarily because Haynes can get us into the right plays. Get through Bama, and then we have two winnable games before the bye. Hopefully, then we have Haynes back and it’s a 4 game sprint to the finish.
There’s still a lot to play for and a lot on the table. Let’s hope “We ain't done yet” is more than just a catchy slogan to be used in the good times, and can be used as a motivator to help this team look towards putting our best foot forward for the last few remaining games.