It’s no secret that if the last quarter didn’t happen, fans would be up in arms over how horrible the offense was. But, as horrible as the offense was in the first 3 quarters, the defense kept us in it and something magical happened and the offense started working somehow and ended up scoring 4 straight TD’s to win the game in double overtime.
So, the biggest hanging question is “what on earth happened the first 3 quarters?”. Let’s look at the film and find out!
Passing Game Breakdown
* Ignore my misspeak, Orlando’s last name is of course Brown and not Jones.
1. I knew the first quarter would be tough as it is only the second game, first road game, with a bunch of inexperienced players on offense, and it just happens to be the biggest crowd OU has ever played in front of. Not only that but they broke the stadium record for decibel levels!
So, I’m going to chalk the first quarter up to nerves and really only pay attention to the final 3 quarters. There were only a few passing plays in the 2nd quarter so I focused mainly on the second half. I think that is what really tells the tale of the offense.
2. I will break down the running game in a separate post. I originally was going to do it all together, but through breaking it down I realized that there were really two completely different stories going on.
3. By far the biggest reason the offense struggled is due to the passing game. And by far the biggest reason the passing game struggled was due to the pass protection. And one player in particular…Alvarez at LG.
When I say he struggled, I mean it was an embarrassment. I don’t want to be hurtful to the young man, but as he knows he was thoroughly outmatched. Of the passing plays in the second half where he had to pass block a defender without help, 75% of the time he was badly beaten. 75%!! 9 times out of 12. If you don’t count overtime it was 80%!
(Update: Actually it’s 10 times out of 12! That’s 83%!)
That absolutely KILLED the passing game.
4. Oddly enough, St. John, who I was SHOCKED to learn was actually starting this game despite his struggles against Akron, actually played pretty well. In fact, he might have performed the best out of all the linemen. He wasn’t beaten at all in the second half in pass protection. Orlando Brown does well at LT but he struggles with quick DE’s speed rushing. He just isn’t that nimble. He was beaten twice during the second half, Nila at RG was only beaten once, and Ty Darlington at Center was beaten 3 times. Alvarez was beaten 9 times, which is more than all the other OLmen combined. Actually that’s 50% MORE than all all the others combined.
I don’t know what that means going forward as there doesn’t really seem to be another option. Hopefully he will improve over the next year or two, but he has a long way to go.
5. Adding to the problems in the passing game during the 3rd quarter, two passes were dropped by WRs, and 6 plays were affected by the QB making a mistake. One time he scrambled outside the pocket when he didn’t need to, twice he made a poor decision, and three passes were poorly thrown. And he played even worse in the 2nd quarter, but I also attribute that to nerves and adrenaline.
Another serious issue that was present all throughout the game with Baker was the defense’s ability to tip his passes. It happened several times, and it wasn’t always obvious. Some of the poor throws were actually due to a defender getting a hand on it near the line just enough to change the trajectory. It’s almost impossible to tell without going frame by frame. This is something that needs to be corrected somehow despite his height. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen that many tipped passes in one game.
6. Baker can’t pass the deep fade route consistently and that is crippling the offense! To say that this route is an important part of Riley’s offense is an understatement. In both games so far this season, Riley has basically given up any time the offense gets in a long yardage situation. At ECU he was really good at picking up long third downs through the passing game, in large part due directly (or indirectly) to the deep fade route and being able to routinely get completions despite tight coverage.
It’s so sad watching Riley continually call runs and screen passes on 3rd and 10 after watching his ECU offense. You know that has to be killing him!
7. Baker is really impressive avoiding sacks and keeping plays alive, however he really struggles reading the defense during a scramble. There is often a receiver wide open that for whatever reason he just doesn’t see. It’s like instead of looking at the field he immediately looks for a specific route and focuses in on him. It would have been a different game had he hit the open receivers during his scrambles!
8. And of course, the penalties. It’s no secret that the number of offensive penalties in the first 3 quarters was absolutely unacceptable. I’m sure the crowd had a big impact on that, though. Riley’s offenses at ECU rarely ever got a penalty, it’s really amazing actually. I expect we’ll see a huge improvement in this area over the course of the year and this will actually become a strength instead of a liability.