Monday, October 12, 2009

Missed Opportunities

I must admit that when it happened, I was livid. How could you not put the golden child, Tate Forcier, back in the game? After all, hadn't he already led three fourth quarter drives to win or tie games this year? We only had 1:40 on the clock, no timeouts, and we had to go about 60 yards to get into reasonable field goal range. Surely this was the perfect setup for more heroics.
But no, Denard Robinson came back out on the field. Maybe Tate was injured, we had seen him shaking his hand like he had hit it on something earlier in the quarter. But we saw him start to run on the field, as if to say, "I'm ready to go" only to be told to sit down by Rich Rod. This was clearly a decision by Rich Rod to go with Robinson.

After the game, I stewed for a while, thinking about the missed opportunity to steal a game on the road against a top ten team when you commit five turnovers. As disappointed as I was that the game slipped away, I began to mellow a bit, thinking about how good the team had played in certain segments, and realizing that we were a nine point dog in this game and nearly won it.

As I poked around on various message boards, and saw discussions of the game, and of Rich Rod's decision to bench Forcier, I came across a comparison that seem particularly apt to me.
Late in the Big Ten basketball season, with the Michigan hoops fighting for their first NCAA bid in ten years, Michigan was playing on the road against a poor Iowa team. With tough games still to play against Purdue and Minnesota, most people felt this was a must win for our tournament chances. After blowing a large lead late, John Beilein benched his best player, Manny Harris for the overtime period, and we ended up loosing. At the time, many people were upset that the loss had cost us our chance at an NCAA bid. But Manny came out fired up a few days later and we beat Purdue, and then beat Minnesota, and he was the best player on the court in our big dance win against Clemson. In the end, Beilein's decision to bench Manny against Iowa probably cost us that game, but might have been the move that saved our season. We can only hope that Rich Rod's bizarre decision to bench Forcier will have the same consequences.

-Big picture, I'm very pleased with where we are. A year after finishing 3-9 (and being somewhat lucky to get one of those wins), we are 4-2 with two narrow losses, and most of our remaining tough games at home. 8-4 is a real possibility now, and that would be a huge one year improvement
-Boy did our line play look great. I think we beat Iowa on both sides of the ball, and they were supposed to have the best D-line in the league outside of Columbus.
-I love seeing Brandon Minor run downhill. We really need to get him more carries against the big boys. I would love to see him repeat the success he had in the first half against PSU last year against the Knitknees this year.
-I was very impressed with Denard Robinson in the next to the last drive. Everyone in the stadium knew he was going to run the ball, and they still couldn't stop him. I wish he had come in the game earlier. I hope he gets significant snaps in the scrimmage against Delaware State.
-Jordan Kovacs has turned into a serviceable safety. Now if we could only bring Mike Williams along, we might be ok (meaning average) in the secondary.
-Woolfolk also look good. I would guess he's our starting CB the rest of the year, regardless of what happens with Cissoko's suspension.
-Other than Zoltan, our special teams were quite poor. Why can't we find a decent punt returner. Isn't that something that slot ninjas are supposed to be good at?
-If I were the Illinois AD, I'd start raising money for Ron Zook's buyout and would get Brian Kelly on speed dial. The Illini look like they've quit on Zook.
-The Big Ten looks like OSU's to lose. Iowa is good, but not good enough to win in Columbus. While the Buckeyes might trip up once, I don't see them losing twice, and no one else in the league is good enough to run the table. I would put Iowa, PSU, and Wisconsin in the group behind OSU, with Michigan, MSU, and maybe Minnesota a step lower than them.
-Has anybody else in the country played as many exciting games as Washington? (Perhaps us)
-The post game interview with Bobby Bowden was painful to watch. They asked him what went wrong with the game, why they lost, and he couldn't offer much more than cliches. It's pretty clear that he doesn't have the slightest clue what's going on out there. I don't envy the FSU fans or decision makers. It's pretty hard to deal with the fact that the person that basically created your program is now like an anchor around its ankle.