Last week San Jose State lost 48-3 to Alabama, so 27-14 seems less impressive. You have to consider who you are playing. If you know what you are looking for you can see issues that will be more apparent against tougher opponents.
Quarterback: Scott Tolzien (16) was okay. He has fairly good pocket presence – at least twice he understood the pocket was breaking and scrambled for yards before it was too late. He did fumble two snaps (one on fourth as short) – not sure whose fault that was – and had the ball knocked out of his hands by a rusher from the blind – that was the right tackle’s fault. His interception was ugly and he missed an open receiver or two. He is more of a game manager, when they ran the two minute drill at the end of the first half it was clear he’s not the type who can throw it all over the field in a shootout. The passing game is fairly basic – it is not a prostyle offense.
GRADE: B/B+ He did what the offense calls for him and played smart
Runningbacks: I heard all about John Clay (32) and how he was a stud and had great backups. Well you know what? He’s not. Yes he picks up yards, but that is the offensive line. He put no moves on guys and broke no tackles until the last drive of the game when the fight was out of the Spartans. All the backs are doing is running through big holes. None of the backs were making people miss – Montee Ball (28) looked absolutely average. James White (20) fumbled out of the endzone for the a touchback, but that was more a great play the defensive back who knocked it lose.
GRADE: C An average grade for average backs
Receivers: The #1 receiver Nick Toon (also #1) was out hurt and the #2 guy, David Gilreath (85) got knocked out (literally) on a punt return. So the backups got some time and did not look too bad. Jared Abbrederis (4) looked okay. Kyle Jefferson (3) made a quality play – but he’s a senior so he’s not going to be a future star.
Tight end: If John Clay did not live up to the hype Lance Kendricks (84) did show up with two big plays and was open another time on a bad throw. It’s tough though because they did not throw that much – he’s a fifth year senior so you do expect him to make plays. Jake Byrne (82) came in to block quite a few times.
GRADE: A Had the two biggest receptions of the game. And helped open big holes for the running game.
Offensive line: Did a great job opening holes for the running game – although got stuffed once or twice on short yardage – but San Jose did get some pressure in the passing game now and again. The right tackle, Josh Oglesby (67) was the weakest player. He was being pressed by his backup according to sports radio and given he went on to get hurt, he might be replaced by Ricky Wagner (58).
GRADE: A- They did really pushed the DL around.
Special teams: Blocked a fieldgoal attempt (I think by JJ Watt), gave up an onside kick (called back for offsides), nothing much happened in the return game besides Gilreath getting hurt. Not many chances on punt returns because their punter was absolutely horrific – worst college punter I have ever seen. Phillip Welch (18) blasted a 45 yard field goal and appears to be real weapon.
Defensive line: They did not get much passrush given that they were playing a WAC team. The big name DE JJ Watt (99) did get some pressure and disrupt a few passing plays (causing one of the interceptions), but that was it. They did shut down the run save for their QB scrambling.
GRADE: B- Have to consider the competition.
Linebackers: They played pretty well and were missing their big name in Chris Borland (44). Blake Sorensen (9) had a pick and made some plays elsewhere. No one else was especially noticeable. They deserve some of the credit for the tough running defense and blame for the soft pass defense. At least one backer was one of the four missed tackles on their first touchdown.
Secondary: When a WAC team lights you up for 250+ yards you’ve had a bad day. Listen to these two stats: San Jose only average 2.8 yards rushing – but had twenty-eight minutes of possession. That means bad pass defense. Their interceptions were more throws into coverage than great plays and they had a terrible pass interference in the redzone (by Antonio Fenelus (26) I think) when they just clubbed the receiver on a throw that was well off target. They were also beaten on several passes that were open but the ball was off target (most noticeably on the lateral to a WR who chucked it). San Jose did hit one deep one over the middle when safety Jay Valai (2) let the play get behind him.
GRADE C- There is going to be trouble against good teams.
Coaching: If there was a game plan other than just beat up an inferior team I did not see one. There were no tough decisions to make. The team was a little sloppy at points.
Bottom line: Unless they get better quickly forget about the Rose Bowl. You can say it is the start of the season, but at some point you have to make those plays. If you can’t make them against bad teams, how you expect do you expect them against good teams? These games can be very indicative, trust me I have been doing this for a while. Everyone seems a little too calm about this, you don’t win titles by not addressing glaring failings.
Player of the game: the offensive line from left tackle to right guard
Play of the game: the Kendricks touchdown was a beautiful design. The whole offense moved to the right, the TE Kendricks blocked for a moment and then ran from the right of the line across of the flow of the play and was wide open for an easy throw.
Not the play of game: On San Jose’s first touchdown a short pass became a 37 yard touchdown pass as their receiver broke FOUR tackles on the way. It was a pretty for them as the Kendricks touchdown.
Football 101: A prostyle passing offense is one that passes around at least half the time. Rather than being an offense that throws an occasional pass to keep the defense honest or try for a big play, the offense uses passes to constantly test the opposing defense – uses passes to set up later passes or runs, etc. A prosytle offense (rather than prostyle passing offense) refers to the formation, personal, and playcalling.
Fan experience: This was my first Badger game. Other than the Swamp I have only ever been to Division I-A home games for Navy and Central Florida. I went with someone who’d seen plenty of games at Penn State. First off all Camp Randall Stadium is pretty nice – nicest college stadium I have been in. It’s smaller than the Swamp, Mr. Internet says it still holds 80,000. The student section (mostly just the endzone) is smaller (and season tickets cost $150) and is first come first serve. You get in with a voucher and they give you a ticket but then you just stream in and take the closet seat in the section. I like this – hardcore fans are close, fans who show up late get nosebleed. I’m willing to show up earlier to get good seats. Everyone also just immediately steps up on the seats.
They also have a ton of cheers – they wave keys for kickoffs, they rock back and forth and clap when they score then count off as the mascot (Bucky the Badger – good dancer) does pushups. If the opposing team gets a penalty they chat “you fucked up” if they score they chat “you still suck” there were several songs that they all sang along with and knew the words (“Build me up Buttercup,” etc), they have some basic movements for several of the songs the band plays, they do the chomp sometimes (not sure why), they form their arms in an “O” (think YMCA dance) when they yell on defense. They also have chant where the spirit squad holds up signs for them to chant “We want more” and then they add “beer” – that’s by design, there is no other sign. They also have little chants they add when the band plays quick melodies. They kowtow to big name people they like (Barry Alvarez). They shout “First and Ten Wisconsin” for every first down – which is even more annoying than it sounds. At half time they put their arms around each other and sway for the Varsity, the band takes the field for the 5th quarter after the game. They have a classy tradition of shouting “Eat Shit” and “Fuck you” back and forth in the student section. It’s almost as classy as well some people shouted “Shoot him like a horse” when a Spartan was injured (to be fair more people clapped when he got up). If this sounds like a lot of activity it is – they don’t actually watch the game that closely. They shout maybe half the time when the other team has the ball, often make noise on offense, sometimes pay more attention to these various activities than the actual game, and are just not the most football savvy crowd in general. They’ve made it an experience, but too much of one so it detracts from football.
Their most favorite moment is when they play “Jump Around” at the start of the 4th quarter (they have shirts for it). They just sort of bounce around and occasionally fall off the benches. It sounded lame to me play a standard stadium song, but I was told it was cool. It’s not. They do however have the coolest wave ever. They do it super slow, then fast, they reverse its direction, and then split so two waves go in opposite directions that hit each other. But they only do it once, so it gets lost in midst of their general lameness.
GRADE: D+ Everyone says it is the best fan experience. It’s not, it’s just a lot of activities. I would call it the best non-football fan experience you can have at a football game because if you are just there to socialize and know nothing about the game there is always something for you to do.
Final notes: the Spartans were feisty. They AND their coaches danced around to Jump Around and there were close to half a dozen times their coaches jumped (and I mean JUMPED – clearing a couple of feet) when they made a play. Also, SEC teams are noticeably a little sharper, crisper, quicker.