First, click here to read this Blade game story and click here to read the Blade notebook. Also, click here here to view the photo gallery from the contest courtesy of The Blade's Dave Zapotosky. Click here to read the in-game chat from the contest, and click here to read the BiG Look at the contest.
OPENING THOUGHTS –- Judging by Tweets and e-mail, a lot of fans were distraught over the Falcons performance Saturday. Here’s a few things to consider, especially those who felt BG should crush Idaho: First, let’s give Idaho a little bit of credit. Yes, last season BG won 32-15 on the Vandals home field, but that was due in part to a 30-point blitz in the first half. In the second half, Idaho outscored the Falcons 8-2. Second, a lot has been made of the loss to Eastern Washington. Did anyone notice that EWU nearly beat Washington State on Saturday? My guess is the Eagles are really good. Third, Idaho obviously is a MUCH better team with its starting quarterback; my guess is that the EWU outcome is different if Blackman plays. Having said that …
OFFENSE –- There were some positives from Saturday, including 373 yards of total offense in just 62 plays, which is an average of 6.0 yards per play. There were 16 “explosive” plays covering at least 10 yards, up from nine at Florida the week before. The team was 7-for-14 on third-downs, which is good. When the offense was asked to kill the clock in the final 3:31, they got the job done (yes, it was close, but …). And three touchdowns are three touchdowns, no matter how you slice it. HOWEVER, there also was some ugliness. There were 18 plays that gained two yards or less (not including 11 incomplete passes), including 12 plays that had no gain or less (again, not including the incompletions). A lot of those problems came in the run game, which finished with just 90 yards (including 11 plays that gained two yards or less). Not only did the offense turn the ball over twice, but both turnovers led to Idaho points. And the offense had 10 (TEN!) penalties, including seven by offensive linemen; the breakdown was six false starts, three holds and one personal foul. In short, the offense was good enough Saturday to beat Idaho, and may be good enough to win some other games if it plays at a similar level. But a performance at this level will not result in a victory this week against TSUN.
DEFENSE –- It is too simple to say the Falcons were GREAT against the run and not-so-good against the pass. Let’s start with the pass defense first: BG had never seen Idaho’s quarterback play –- on tape, in person, anywhere –- so that was tough to deal with. Also some of the Vandals’ top receivers did not play against the Falcons last season (Jahree Level, Justin Veltung and Najee Lovett). Still 30-of-37 passing by Dominique Blackman was TOO good, especially when you consider the pass rush he was dealing with –- even though his talent was such that he was originally recruiting by Washington. The good news was that the yards per completion (11.7) wasn’t as good as BG’s total for the game (11.8). Still, 17 plays of 10 yards or more (all passes, as you might assume) underscore Idaho’s success in the passing game. Having said that, BG completely hammered the Vandals’ running game. Even if you take out the four sacks, that means UI ran the ball 16 times for 35 yards, or just 2.19 yards per carry. Seven of those 16 rushes went for two yards or less, and Idaho had eight plays for no gain or negative yardage. Also, BG’s two turnovers led to a touchdown and a close-out of the game, so both were big. A negative is that, for the second straight week, the defense benefited from penalties as Idaho's offense was handicapped by eight penalties for minus-63 yards. Finally, allowing just one touchdown (and two field goals) in four red-zone attempts by Idaho is a plus (it’s a bend-but-don’t-break philosophy). In all, I think it was a solid effort by the defense.
SPECIAL TEAMS –- The BG special teams were better this week, and very good at times. Idaho’s kickoffs were good, and BooBoo Gates averaged 18 yards per return (on returns of 17 and 19 yards). The Falcons had just one drive start beyond the 25 following four kicks, so that’s a negative (but not terrible). The punting of Brian Schmiedebusch was misleading: he finished with an average of 46.0 yards per kick, which seems pretty good. But of his five kicks, FOUR ended up in touchbacks, making his “net” punting just 30 yards per kick. Someone will have to correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t remember any coverage problems that led to a kick that “should” have been downed but wasn’t. Kickoff coverage was generally good, allowing just 15.8 yards per return and allowing just one drive to start outside the 25 (and that was on the 26). I’d rate that a positive. As for punt returns, I thought Ryan Burbrink could have broken the first two returns with some blocking help by his “gunners.” On the third punt, he got that help –- and posted a 24-yard return. And there was one missed field goal –- and it was by the other team, while Tyler Tate was perfect on three PAT kicks.
THE LAST WORD –- Yes, I know there were a fair amount of negatives on all three sides of the ball. But here’s the key to this game in a sentence: The Falcons won a game they were supposed to win. Sure, they could have played better. Yes, a performance like this one will cause them to lose versus TSUN. But they played well enough to win, and they certainly are capable of a better effort. And I think BG will give a better performance against their arch-rivals.